The Lady of the House


I once sat next to Neil Gaiman in a convention bar. There – that’s disclosure. Okay, it’s not that impressive but even in 1998 the man was becoming a force to be reckoned with. His writing was the first I ever heard of being discussed by adolescent girls in a comics shop – entirely without irony. But I remain undecided about Gaiman; I have three of his books and have finished only one of them, and that was twenty years ago. Love his lifestyle, envy his talent (and his library) though. He’s unconventional as a ‘traditional’ writer roped into doing Who in that he doesn’t come from an easily-defined genre – no sci fi, fantasy or horror, as we’ve had in years gone by, but is pretty much his own man. The closest you might come to pigeonholing him could be, what – magical realism? Fairy tale? The latter of course is very post-RTD new Who. Gaiman’s also a honing great fan of the show, as evidenced in his Confidential, and frankly, who else but a fan would not only feel chuffed putting a TARDIS within a TARDIS within a TARDIS, but also set most of his story in a junkyard, in a quarry? Seriously, why has it taken us this long to get here?

 The Doctor’s Wife is therefore a very obvious love letter to the classic series from an ardent and talented fan. Its dialogue sparkles as good texty dialogue should, it has visuals that look like theyw ere written by the writer, rather than approximated by a wardrobe department. Its very own unique TARDIS console was designed by a viewer, and as befits the writer’s vision for the revived show, it seems entirely fitting that the episode’s producer was once, like the Blue Peter winner, a twelve-year old girl. A miracle of casting, Suranne Jones inhabits the personified TARDIS with nothing to draw on; no precedent exists, not even the rumoured and dreaded rapping lips on the time rotor of past TV Movie Production Hells. Yet it’s an interesting facet to Moffat’s vision that of all the stories Neil Gaiman offered for the series, he opted for the ‘love story’, albeit fitting an incarnation of the Doctor studiously dodging the romantic lead angle ( bar maybe one subplot – I write this having not yet seen A Good Man Goes to War, so any revelations about the good Doctor and bad Professor Song can rest for the mean-time, thanks.) It’s tempered here as being a very ‘masculine’ love story – a man and his vehicle. Jeremy Clarkson could watch this episode and probably get weepy too. The past romantic, hitherto buried under a shuffling and awkward debutante remerges as a very Moffat-ish male parody, emotional over gears and levers and given extra sensitivity by Matt Smith and the aforementioned Gaiman. It’s a lovely, contradictory metamorphosis, and perhaps as well-timed as it could ever be, the Doctor’s wilful surrendering to his ‘better half’ the keys to the family car, as it were; but we know it can’t be as simple or as lovely as that forever.

 I’ve written this far without even mentioning the villainous House, Amy and Rory’s on-going trust and guilt issues manifest in the creature’s nasty games, and as effective as they are they are perfunctory – there’s simply so much going on that while they’re not entirely lost in the plot they are certainly surrounded by a  lot of distractions. Well made as it is though, The Doctor’s Wife is very much replay-Who, a story to be rewound for the little details rather than out of confusion or sheer fangeekery. And of course you want to be able to rewind to the best of these moments, in life as much as fairy stories, because you know that happy endings are rare things indeed.


3 Responses to “The Lady of the House”

  1. Thad Ritchards Says:

    For one moment, I read that as “the bald Professor Song”… wah!

  2. Paul Scoones Says:

    The episode’s director was once a twelve-year old girl…? I’m sure that’ll be news to Richard Clark!

  3. Peter A Says:

    Now you’ve just ruined it.

    Of course I was thinking of the story’s producer. D’oh!

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