Episode Title: "The Doctor's Wife"
Writer: Neil Gaiman
Director: Richard Clark
Previously on "Doctor Who":
The Doctor (Matt Smith) and his married companions, Rory (Arthur Darvill) and Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) ended up in the 17th century on a pirate ship captained by Henry Avery (Hugh Bonneville), which was menaced by something resembling a Siren. And while on board the ship, Amy had another strange vision of the woman with the eye patch; which suggested that Amy was in some sort of dreaming state.
Eventually, the Doctor realized that the Siren was a medical program on an alien ship linked to the pirate ship; which he then turned over to Captain Avery and the pirates since Avery's son Toby (Oscar Lloyd) would die if he ever left the ship. However, Amy and Rory were still haunted by the Doctor's own impending death 200 years into the future and their inability to warn him about his fate.
On the TARDIS, the Doctor is delighted to receive a cube containing a distress signal from a Time Lord trapped outside of the universe. The Doctor explains that the Time Lord in question was "one of the good ones" and may mean that the Doctor isn't the last of his kind. As he pilots the TARDIS through a rift in space, an old man called Uncle (Adrian Schiller), his wife, Auntie (Elizabeth Berrington) and their Ood, "Nephew" escort a young woman named Idris (Suranne Jones) to receive a new soul. On the TARDIS, the Doctor is stunned when the ship suddenly loses all power as its essence is drawn away.
As they leave the TARDIS, Idris runs up to the Doctor and begins to fawn all over him. She even bites him and declares it to be more fun than kissing. While Nephew escorts Idris to a cage, Auntie and Uncle take the Doctor and his friends on a tour of the asteroid surface; which soon reveals that it is sentient and alive. Calling itself House (Michael Sheen), the entity welcomes the Doctor and mentions that several Time Lords have spent time with him... but he denies that any are still with him. The Doctor says that he's the last Time Lord and acts as if nothing is wrong. But he sends Rory and Amy back to the TARDIS and locks them in.
The Doctor soon finds a cabinet full of Time Lord distress signal boxes, meaning that House has slaughtered them all to feed on their TARDIS ships. The Doctor scares off Uncle and Auntie, but he frees Idris when she is able to articulate that she is his TARDIS, trapped in a human form. She also mentions that she stole him from his people as much as he stole her. As House begins to devour the TARDIS, Amy and Rory are trapped within. The Doctor and Idris can only watch as the TARDIS dematerializes and departs. On board the TARDIS, House makes its presence known and forces Rory and Amy to run for their lives as a game.
Back on the asteroid, Uncle and Auntie perish without House to keep them alive, with Idris' body also rapidly deteriorating. In a mad bit of inspiration, the Doctor assembles a makeshift TARDIS from the spare parts of a TARDIS junkyard. Back on the Doctor's TARDIS, Amy and Rory are separated as House plays mind games on both of them. On the ship, House enjoys the diversion but ultimately sends Nephew to kill Amy and Rory. In pursuit from their junk TARDIS, Idris reaches out to "the pretty one" aka Rory and transmits the location of a secondary control room... that once belonged to the ninth and tenth Doctors!
The Doctor and Idris inadvertently materialize near Nephew, killing him. House then toys with them all while deciding how to kill them. The Doctor proposes a truce and tells House that it can delete rooms from the TARDIS to escape from the rift. House responds by deleting the control room they're already in. But the Doctor and his friends rematerialize in the main control room. And when Idris' body dies, the TARDIS returns to its rightful circuits and chases House's consciousness out of her systems. She then returns long enough to say goodbye... but she instead prefers to say "hello" to the Doctor in a way the ship never could before.
Although disappointed that he can no longer directly communicate with the love of his life, the Doctor's spirits are lifted when the ship exhibits a mind of its own as it takes him to his next adventure.
I've mentioned before that there's occasionally a big drop off in the quality of "Doctor Who" when Steven Moffat isn't writing the episodes. But Neil Gaiman is a world class writer and he's delivered one of the best stand alone "Doctor Who" adventures in years. This episode is also unusually quotable from start to finish, with my favorite line coming from Idris "Biting's excellent! It's like kissing. Only there's a winner."
I'm running close to being too effusive in praise of Gaiman, but this premise was simply brilliant. Of course the TARDIS is the love of the Doctor's life and it makes perfect sense that it only takes him where he needs to go. Those are two very simple concepts on the face of it, but they fit in so well with everything that's gone on before that it actually serves as a fantastic explanation for the entire series.
Of the guest stars, Suranne Jones was a knockout with her manic portrayal of Idris; who almost seemed like Helena Bonham Carter on acid. One of my qualms about River Song as the potential wife of the Doctor is that I don't think she's a good fit for his personality. The opposite is true for Idris as the TARDIS personified. She's so mad and energetic that only the Doctor could ever keep up with her. I also love that she calls Rory "the pretty one" and likes it when the Doctor calls her "sexy" when they're alone.
Michael Sheen was also terrific as the voice of House, especially while tormenting Rory and Amy. Even without a body of his own, House had a malevolent and entertaining presence that made him an extremely enjoyable "Doctor Who" villain. It also gave us the rare chance to see more rooms inside the TARDIS. It's too bad we still haven't seen that swimming pool, but it's also hilarious that the Doctor has been making Amy and Rory sleep in a bunk bed. That is very him.
Matt Smith turned in another excellent performance as well. He's so good, that we tend to take him for granted as the Doctor. But the wonder he showed when he saw the Time Lord message box and his barely restrained anger at the fate of his fellow travelers was very impressive. I also predict his "Fear me, I've killed them all" is destined to become one the Doctor's iconic quotes from here on in.
"The Doctor's Wife" was everything we could have wanted from Gaiman and the current production team. This was an instant classic and I hope that Moffat convinces Gaiman to write another episode down the line.
Crave Online Rating: 9.5 out of 10.