Series 28 Episode 4 – The Girl In The Fireplace, by Steven Moffat

May 9, 2008

review by Martin Odoni.

The episode is very moving again, and manages to be a bit less saccharine than School Reunion, which helps; we don’t want a hundred tons of sweetness every week or we’d get sick.

Interestingly though, The Girl In The Fireplace harks back quite strongly to a scene in School Reunion, when the Doctor explains to Rose why he never told her about Sarah Jane, and says that it’s because his life is so long and human lives are so short. “You can spend the rest of your life with me, but I can’t spend the rest of mine with you.” Here, we have a microcosm of that. Madame de Pompadour sees the Doctor intermittently throughout over thirty years of her life, and inevitably grows to love him. To the Doctor, all the meetings with her take place over the course of a couple of hectic hours. It seems so bizarre, and yet to the Doctor it’s not that different from what he usually shares with companions; Sarah Jane spent several years with the Doctor, an age to her, but it must have seemed like the blinking of an eye to someone like him.

This symbolism is probably deliberate again, but less loudly explicit than last week, which is to the episode’s credit. It also does something else very important at the end though, when the Doctor reads the letter. No matter how many assistants, companions and the like say goodbye to him, no matter how many he must leave behind, it still makes him cry, and it never gets any easier for him. In other words, it shows that he’s more human than perhaps he wants to admit.

The actual plot structure is more sound than in School Reunion, and it’s a clever mystery, if not much of a challenge to solve; I guessed as early as the scene where the Doctor wears his tie round his head why the robots are after Madame de Pompadour. It also has to be said that having an extra crewman aboard, at least in an episode like this, does revive the old ‘hanger-on’ syndrome of past years. Rose and Mickey seem to be spending most of the episode staring into mirrors, whining, “Where’s he got toooooooo?” and waiting for the Doctor to find his way back to them, which is a little redundant. Still, it makes a change from them spending whole episodes just giving the Doctor someone to rescue instead. But it would be better if the companions could just be a little more pro-active. I also didn’t like the blatant rip-off of the Vulcan mind-meld, which even uses the same hand-shape as the one seen here.

Definitely the best so far, I give the episode 8 out of 10. And in fact, I was tempted to give it a bonus point for avoiding the Torchwood plug, as mentioned above.

Okay, Cybermen, come an’ ‘ave a go if you think you’re galvanically-reinforced and free-of-compassion-and-other-efficiency-obstructive-emotions enough!

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