Moffat, you genius. You brilliant, brilliant man. The Girl in the Fireplace is Steven Moffat’s second Doctor Who script, and he’s gone and done it again and given us an absolute belter of a story. This was a really masterfully crafted script—in terms of character writing and drama, it’s even superior to the masterpiece of The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, and really does leave me in awe of Moffat’s writing ability.
It begins almost in the style of a Classic Who serial, with the Doctor, Rose and Mickey stepping out of the TARDIS and encountering a curious situation, and wondering aloud what’s been happening. The Doctor goes to investigate and suddenly he finds himself in 18th Century France in the bedroom of a young aristocratic girl… with a creepy clockwork man. From there the mystery only thickens as it becomes clear that the spaceship they’ve landed on contains numerous windows into various points in the life of Madame de Pompadour. It’s a really riveting mystery and really exquisitely executed. It displays wonderfully, once again, Moffat’s flair for the creepy, the mysterious, the self-indulgently clever (in a good way), one of the reasons why, all things considered, he is, in my opinion, Doctor Who’s best ever writer.
It was also a touching story of a girl and her imaginary friend. It’s subtle, and isn’t made plain, but it appears that the Doctor genuinely fell in love with Reinette in this story. Reinette seems a perfect counterpart for the Doctor, I’m not surprised he fell for her. The way it was carried out, this romantic bond between the Doctor and Reinette, was beautiful and so perfect. David Tennant and Sophia Myles, both delivered highly commendable performances. Myles’ acting, in particular, was touching and engaging, and she obviously put her all into delivering such an outstanding performance. She effectively endeared her character to the audience, making us care deeply about her over the course of only a few brief scenes. Which made it all the more poignant when the Doctor discovered she had died. It was such a carefully and perfectly crafted scene, and perhaps remains one of the saddest goodbyes of all.
The Doctor’s abrupt separation from Reinette follows up on a point explored in the preceding episode, School Reunion, i.e. about the Doctor, as an ageless being, suffering from the consequences of having to live among and consort with mortal, short-lived beings. For him, an ancient, practically immortal Time Lord, to live among humans is to live constantly in a state of pain. That’s why he constantly leaves behind his companions—he fears that to become too close to any of them would cause him too much pain when he’s forced eventually to leave them, or even watch them die. But yet, perennially lonely, he can’t live without them. Here, with Reinette, is perhaps an instance where he became too emotionally close to a human, and suffered the consequences. His relationship with her was fleeting—the blink of an eye to a Time Lord—but it was strong enough to cause him such pain when it so tragically ended. This episode, in a way, is almost a case study in the Doctor’s curse, of being the lonely immortal whose very existence plagues him, for whom life is constant pain and for whom all friendship, relationship and love is just deferred heartbreak.
This review was a bit disjointed, but I think that’s because there’s only so many ways I can dollop praise upon it, and there was precious little for me to criticise. Just the one, very minor thing, in fact: the Doctor seems unusually blasé about the prospect of being stuck on the “slow path”, 3000 years away from his TARDIS. Perhaps he just likes the thought of being with Reinette for the remaining six years of her life, but I’d have thought he’d be more affected by having to wait 3000 years before he can get back to his TARDIS. Nonetheless, this story was exceptional in every department.
P.S. The oversized post titles on this theme which spill over so easily like that are really starting to annoy me…