Series 2, Story 4 (Overall Series Story #171)
Coming as it did after "School Reunion," another story of loss I think may have been dulled a little bit by the "here we go again" effect. And, silly me, I watched "School Reunion," just before watching this one, so same deal. I think I needed to switch the order of viewing to get a different perspective and denied myself the opportunity. Even with the last story fresh in mind, both the Doctor and Rose both had scenes where they were absolutely gutted and, to the credit of both Tennant and Piper, they conveyed the emotion exquisitely.
|The sinking feeling the Doctor just left to rescue |
another woman thinking he had no way to get back.
But the key thing for this episode to work was an extraordinary performance would be needed to make us believe the Doctor could be so enchanted by Madame de Pompadour. Sophia Myles turns in one of the series' truly remarkable guest turns here. Which is saying something considering she followed performances by Anthony Head and Elisabeth Sladen just the week before. Moffat may have overwritten her just a tad with all that lonely angel stuff, but Myles absolutely sells it. When wasn't getting too purple, he's giving Ms. Myles some great lines, like: "So impertinent a question so early in the conversation. How promising!"
This episode, like one Doctor Who story seems to each year, won the short form Hugo Award, and Myles may be the biggest reason why. Moffat's writing was strong as it almost always is, if verging into the florid. But any story he writes in a given season is bound to be contender for some award or other. The Clockwork Droids, both masked and un-masked are, well, the Doctor said, "Oh, you are beautiful!" (His typical reaction to an intriguing new threat. One of these days I'll see if I can compile all those moments into an essay about aesthetics in the series.)
In addition to remarking on the beauty of a some new species or bit of alien hardware that's about to try to dissect him, there's another element that's popped up several time before and since: some hint that the Doctor's name is significant. Moffat, long before "The Name of the Doctor" was seeding references to the Doctor's name be some great mystery. Here it happens when the Doctor does a bit of the ol' Vulcan mind meld on Reinette to figure out why the Clockwork droids are out to decapitate. She gets a peek inside his mind and mentions that his name is more than just a secret. Hmmm ....
Oh, and speaking of recurrent elements, you'll remember what dancing stood for in the Moffat-penned "The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances" story. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Y'know what I mean? Watching this story so soon after that one, I almost needed my fainting couch when Madame de Pompadour rather forthrightly asked the Doctor to dance with her. With those ... dance floor ... eyes. Moffat, or whoever gets credit for transition form the Doctor being led by the hand to dance to Rose and Mickey about to get chopped up for parts, created some pretty complex tension there.
So while the Doctor's living it up with one history's most famous courtesans, Rose is strapped to table listening to the whirring of a spinning saw Perils of Pauline-style. This story is full of that. Reinette loves both the Doctor and Louis XV, giving them some undercurrent-laden scenes. Rose, Mickey, and the Doctor are another triangle of relationships with conflicting emotions. Every push in one direction is a pull in at least one other, the strengthening of any one bond strains another. Moffat weaves a rich tapestry.