After a twisty alien-filled, timey-wimey, stetson-wearing, River Song shooting, death-orientated opening pair of episodes (complete with Canton's shout-out to RTD era sexuality), last week's Pirate adveneture seemed to please pretty much no-one...
....apart from me (who sat rapt during the whole thing, even though I now acknowledge the Black Spot was as slight a feather boa).
ANYWAY: this week was the week many were dreading as much as desiring. Neil Gaiman was writing Doctor Who.
To say that this was significant is to understate things a bit: a long-term Gaiman fan (I'm due my annual re-read of all 10 volumes of The Sandman pretty soon) this was super exciting. He's a brilliant writer with a clear sense of character and setting to suit almost any type of writing.
The issue in the run-up to this would be could I avoid the spoilers?
Well it turned out to be surprisingly easy: despite buying Doctor Who Magazine each month I just quickly flicked over the pages that referred to this episode, I stuck my fingers in my ears when the 'Next Time' trailer came up at the end of the pirates episode, and I just didn't go on any DW websites I knew would be spoilery.
(I treated myself to reading the 'preview' and interview with Gaiman from DWM this morning and fair rolled at how they tied themselves in knots to avoid spoilering anything).
So ---- be warned: spoilers if you haven't seen it yet, and if not, find it. Watch it. Again, and again, and again. And the full-length Confidential if you can which is a masterclass in 'kisses to the past'.
Neil Gaiman, Suranne Jones and Matt Smith
The Doctor's Wife
In truth, we've all known who the Doctor's true love is for many years (clue: contrary to many fans' belief, it is NOT Rose Tyler). Who does he care most for? What living thing, what truly vibrating thing, has the most heart and soul, whose injury hurts him most?
Of course it's his TARDIS.
So the genius of this episode is that it takes that simple and oh-so-true idea and gives it flesh. Awh. Brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it.
I've sometimes been a little wary of Suranne Jones: she can be a bit 'mumbly' in her diction but here, given screds of gabbling, of (slightly techno-)babble, she manages really well. Her interaction with the Doctor is as one may expect a being to be once given a different physical form: and the ability to speak.
The moment when she wheezes that TARDIS sound and convinces the Doctor of her identity is pure delight.
In other aspects of the story, the 18th-century-esque Uncle and Auntie are straight from the visualisations of Gaiman narratives. And the House is suitably creepy as vocalised by Michael Sheen [that's Michael Sheen, this year's big star Hamlet].
Makes me shudder thinking about its brilliance.
As mentioned, the Confidential was a wonderful collection of 'kisses to the past' - just as I had been thinking how little the Confidentials had recently been using the series history to contextualise their stories. All those little clips! (and yes, it WAS nice to see David Tennant in full TARDIS-love mode).
What I also loved was the readings Gaiman did from his screenplay. Really highlighting the quality and depth of writing.
Oh I'm getting random now but...