The Girl in the Fireplace (2006)

The fourth episode of this second series sees what I think would be called a Pseudo-Historical story. Part of the story is set in 1727 Paris where a group of robots seem to be interested in Madame de Pompadour (the mistress of King Louis XV). The other half of the story is set on a spaceship which has no crew except for the same robots. Written by the ‘Grand Moff’ Steven Moffat, this story is perhaps the most complex story that I can remember perhaps since watching Ghostlight. You know when you get a Steven Moffat story then it’s not going to be dull. But what you also get is something not straightforward.

The story starts off with a bang. There is a lovely pan down to a mansion where there seems to be a party and everyone is screaming and running. Meanwhile a woman falls to a fireplace and shouts ‘Doctor’. There was something mysterious and sets the episode up quite well in the space of a few minutes. When the titles finish the story moves 3000 years after the fireplace woman. This story is Mickey’s first adventure in the TARDIS.

The reason why the Clockwork Robots are after Reinette is that the ship they are on is not working and they think that by using Reinette’s brain that the ship will be back up and running. As the ship is 37 years old, the Robots believe that they have to wait for her to be 37 before she is ‘compatible’. The reason why they have chosen her ahead of anyone else in the history of humanity wasn’t made clear until the very last shot where the ship is called SS Madame de Pompadour. Very clever Mr Moffat.

The story is essentially a love story. Mickey & Rose take a back seat in this episode. The romance between the Doctor and Reinette slowly builds and there are some lovely moments between the two. There are some tender moments like when the Doctor is trying to read Reinette’s mind and it was quite a powerful moment. The fact that the Doctor is willing to be stranded in 1727 for Reinette is quite a surprising moment. It seems like that the Doctor is about to spend the rest of his lives in Paris. However when he realises that he can get back to the spaceship his attitude suddenly seems to change. He promises to come back and when he does he discovers that Reinette has died, King Louis XV gives the Doctor a letter which is from Reinette. It was a really sad moment with the music and Sophia Myles’ voice echoing out.

The Clockwork Robots are wonderfully spooky. The fact that they always had a smile on their face (all be it a mask) was quite chilling. Also the clothing that helped add to the uneasy feeling I had about them. The first time that we see one in Young Reinette’s bedroom was handled well and every time they were on screen they were enjoyable. They were effective and despite being quite stupid they were still something was scary and had a menace to them.

The blend of humour with the dark tones makes this quite a different type of episode. Such dark moments that I thought worked quite well was the fact that the robots are trying to fix the ship and used the crew to try and fix the ship but using body parts. There was an eye as a camera lens and a heart beating in a part of the ship. The humorous parts included the horse leading up to one of the funniest line between the Doctor and Mickey when Mickey says “What’s a horse doing on a spaceship?” with the Doctor reply with “What’s pre-revolutionary France doing on a spaceship? Get a little perspective!”

The Girl in the Fireplace is a clever and smart episode that did requite a second viewing before I fully understood this. Noel Clarke and Billie Piper did have some funny moments but were effectively in the background as far as this story was concerned. David Tennant was brilliant in this story and had some nice moments. I think that his Doctor had well and truly settled. Sophia Myles was very impressive in this story as Reinette, it’s quite a difficult job to come in for one week and get the character right and have instant chemistry with the lead characters. The Girl in the Fireplace is the sort of story that Doctor Who should be doing more often. The setting(s) were brilliant, the amount of humour and darkness was pitched just right and the characters were spot on. At the end of the day, The Girl in the Fireplace is one of the strongest Doctor Who stories that the new series has produced.

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