The Doctor, Rose and Mickey explore a strange, unoccupied starship, sitting at a dead standstill in deep space – with its engines operating at full power to punch several holes through the fabric of time. Several chambers within the ship open into pockets of Earth’s past, specifically the history of France. The Doctor quickly discovers that the ship’s occupants, elegant but deadly clockwork robots, are interfering with the history of a young girl who, in exhibits chronicling her young adulthood, becomes known as Madame de Pompadour. The Doctor repeatedly interferes with the robots’ attempts to alter history, and unwittingly goes from being Madame du Pompadour’s imaginary friend to her savior at several points in his history. But to save her from the robots’ last attack, the Doctor may have to maroon himself thousands of years in Earth’s past, leaving Mickey and Rose stranded in the future.
written by Steven Moffatt
directed by Euros Lyn
music by Murray Gold
Guest Cast: Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Sophia Myles (Reinette), Ben Turner (King Louis), Jessica Atkins (young Reinette), Angel Coulby (Katherine), Gareth Wyn Griffiths (Manservant), Paul Kasey (Clockwork Man), Ellen Thomas (Clockwork Woman), Jonathan Hart (Alien Voice), Emily Joyce (Alien Voice)
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: This episode is another atypical adventure for the Doctor, a bit of a romantic adventure with a time traveling twist. This is a good example of a story that would’ve worked well with some Doctors – I could see Paul McGann or perhaps even Peter Davison in this story – but certainly not with others (I can’t envision Jon Pertwee or either of the fabulous Baker boys here), but it definitely works with David Tennant. Stealing the show for much of the story is Sophia Myles, a.k.a. Mr. Tennant’s girlfriend (our David’s a lucky boy!), who can switch gears from stately steel to an impish smile without straining credibility.
The addition of Mickey to the TARDIS team is almost glossed over here, as is Rose’s awkward reaction to his sudden request to travel with the Doctor at the end of School Reunion. Both of them get some good moments, but the story clearly isn’t theirs.
As far as how atypical this episode is, we have the Doctor involved in a bit of a star-crossed romance (which isn’t completely unprecedented – witness the 1996 TV movie or even 1964’s The Aztecs), getting outrageously drunk (something Colin Baker’s Doctor claimed to have done in a past incarnation in The Twin Dilemma), and possibly giving up time travel for a few millenia just to save someone’s life (and to preserve the course of human history too, to be fair). All of these elements are put together with a gleefully light touch (i.e. the horse following the Doctor through the ship) and capped off with an ending that’s almost ripped straight from the pages of the best New Adventures novel of them all, “Human Nature”.
It may not be the most original Doctor Who stew ever cooked up, but it’s at least entertaining. The most aggravating factor, for me, is that a bizarre justification for Madame de Pompadour’s involvement in the story is thrown in literally in the last few moments, and while that justification seems to beg some explanation, we never get it. Maybe something for a future episode…or maybe not.