THE GIRL IN THE FIREPLACE
First broadcast 6/5/2006 starring David Tennant
I remember back in, ooooo let me think, 2006 when it was announced that Steven “SteeMo” Moffat would be back to write another Doctor Who story, I was more than happy to see my fellow Scot back, though I did wonder if he’d be able to live up to his wonderful Ninth Doctor story, The Empty Child (at No. 38 in the countdown, chart fans). Thankfully, my wonderings underestimated the man’s talent.
Looking back, The Girl in the Fireplace remains as strong as ever with its emotional resonance, joie de vivre and brilliant science-fiction storytelling showing off Moffat at his absolute prime (AND it’s got time travel!).
David Tennant was in his stride by this point as The Tenth Doctor (after the fantastic double-header of Tooth & Claw and School Reunion), and gets to free himself of his TARDIS chums (Rose and Mickey) and teams up with companion-for-a-story, Madame de Pompadour (so beautifully played by Sophia Myles). Of course, there’s also the other companion, Arthur the “horse”, but let’s stick with the human cast for the time being.
The chemistry between Tennant and Myles was tangible, and their electricity drove the drama of the story tenfold, as we truly believed the connection between the two. There was so much at stake, not just for her (potentially about to die) but also for him, Reinette was clearly a special woman – letting her into his own mind was testimony to that. She intrigued him, visibly more so than most female characters (with the possible of exception of River Song and Joan Redfern – though he was human at the time). A great pity that the French beauty couldn’t have traveled with the Time Lord for some time as she had all the hall marks of a top notch TARDIS traveler.
And just look what was about to kill her, the creepy Clockwork Droids – another great Moffat invention. Like swans or prostitutes with gonorrhea, beautiful but deadly. The facelessness and impassive quality accentuate their menace but it’s the very fact that it’s their programming which makes them “killers”; it’s their destiny. And the sadness of their plight, despite the atrocities they committed, comes through – mirrored in the same destined journey for Reinette, and her journey with The Doctor. Acute writing from SteeMo.
There’s also some neat and typically wonderfully humorous lines from the Scottish writer: referring to the “time window” as a “magic door” (and so superbly delivered by Billie Piper); Moffat’s banana obsession (again, a top turn from Tennant as Drinky Doctor); and the repeated “Got some cowboys in here”. All marvelously light, juxtaposing with the dilemma at hand and the subtle horror of what actually happened on board the SS Madame de Pompadour.
Which brings me to one of the most affecting moments in Doctor Who‘s history, the reveal of the spaceship. If the death of Madame de Pompadour wasn’t enough (and it was bloody rough on the old emotions for Blogtor), the whole story’s heart is ripped apart with the solution to the mystery of the Clockwork Droids and their stalking of a woman in 18th century France; they were simply following misguided/broken programming. The whole situation was a simple mistake, with no one to blame. It was a solution The Doctor would never discover.
Regardless of perfect movie or not, we got a forty-five minute televisual slice of sheer heaven that ranks as the very best of Doctor Who. Thank you Steven.