Welcome back to TARDIS Thoughts! Next on the dock for my NaBloPoMo catchup, my absolute favorite episode of Series 2, "The Girl in the Fireplace"!
This episode has so many good things in it I can't even begin to describe. But clearly there is a reason it was shortlisted for a Nebula Award and won a Hugo Award in 2007 for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. It was also this episode that convinced me Steven Moffat was a brilliant writer, and is the main reason I just can't hate him like some fans do.
Sophia Myles does an amazing job as Madame de Pompadour/Reinette (an actual historical character). I really enjoyed her performance, and she and David Tennant worked really well together. (The fact that they were actually dating at the time in real life probably helps). She's very good in the commentary as well (the commentary crew for this episode consisting of her, David Tennant, and I think either the director Euros Lyn or Moffat).
So, this episode runs backward plot-wise. It starts at the end, then goes back to the beginning and works its way to the end again. However, we don't realize this as an audience until later, when we see the opening scene in its proper context.
The episode begins in 18th-century France, at the beautiful Palace of Versailles. Chaos is raging at the palace, for what reason we know not. A young woman in a fancy dress kneels before a fireplace, while a man tries to urge her away from it. She will not leave, insisting that help will come, and calls for it:
REINETTE: Listen to me. There is a man coming to Versailles. He has watched over me my whole life and he will not desert me tonight.The opening credits play, and all the sudden we've flashed forward 3,000 years to the 51st Century. The TARDIS materializes on board a spaceship floating all by its lonesome in space. Mickey is excited, since this is his first trip in the TARDIS:
REINETTE: Are you there? Can you hear me? I need you now. You promised. The clock on the mantel is broken. It is time. Doctor! Doctor!
MICKEY: It's a spaceship. Brilliant! I got a spaceship on my first go.The Doctor and Rose encourage his sense of wonder:
DOCTOR: Fifty first century. Diagmar Cluster, you're a long way from home, Mickey. Two and a half galaxies.They suddenly smell something burning and go to investigate. They find...an old French fireplace:
ROSE: Mickey Smith, meet the universe. See anything you like?
MICKEY: It's so realistic!
The Doctor realizes it's double-sided and peeks through, seeing a little girl in a nightgown on the other side:
They speak briefly, and he learns her name is Reinette. Soon after, he finds something on the fireplace and presses it. It rotates, and he finds himself in Reinette's room.
He reassures Reinette, saying he is the man she spoke to through the fireplace, but she insists that was months ago. Soon after, he hears a loud ticking noise in her room. He looks around, and finally spies the cause: an android with a 18th-century wig and court dress and a carnival-style mask for a face:
He confronts and later dodges the android then eventually activates the fireplace so it rotates back to the spaceship. But he has brought the android with him, and he deactivates it with a fire extinguisher. He then takes off its wig and realizes it is just clockwork inside (with a face and body that resembles the Trade Federation battle droids from Star Wars Episode I):
Various events transpire, and The Doctor finds himself in different parts of Reinette's life. Meanwhile, Rose and Mickey wander the spaceship, trying to figure out what's going on, and finding human body parts among the machinery, like a camera with an eye on it and a beating heart in the wall. Eventually The Doctor catches up with them, and they watch a moment from Reinette's life through a large window, which appears to be mirrored as they can see Reinette but she cannot see them.
MICKEY: It's France again. We can see France.(Rose's line about "Camilla" is apt, as this episode aired in 2006, a little over a year after Camilla Parker Bowles married Prince Charles and became Duchess of Cornwall. Their marriage was, as some people know, a little controversial, because evidence suggests she and Charles were a couple before and during Charles's marriage to Princess Diana, and that this relationship may be part of what led to Charles and Diana's divorce).
ROSE: I think we're looking through a mirror.
(Louis enters the room beyond, with two men.)
MICKEY: Blimey, look at this guy. Who does he think he is?
DOCTOR: The King of France.
ROSE: Oh, here's trouble. What you been up to?
DOCTOR: Oh, this and that. Became the imaginary friend of a future French aristocrat, picked a fight with a clockwork man.
DOCTOR: Oh, and I met a horse.
MICKEY: What's a horse doing on a spaceship?
DOCTOR: Mickey, what's pre-Revolutionary France doing on a spaceship? Get a little perspective. See these? They're all over the place. On every deck. Gateways to history. But not just any old history.
(Reinette enters the room and curtseys to the King.)
DOCTOR: Hers. Time windows deliberately arranged along the life of one particular woman. A spaceship from the fifty first century stalking a woman from the eighteenth. Why?
ROSE: Who is she?
DOCTOR: Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, known to her friends as Reinette. One of the most accomplished women who ever lived.
ROSE: So has she got plans of being the Queen, then?
DOCTOR: No, he's already got a Queen. She's got plans of being his mistress.
ROSE: Oh, I get it. Camilla.
DOCTOR: I think this is the night they met. The night of the Yew Tree ball. In no time at flat, she'll get herself established as his official mistress, with her own rooms at the palace. Even her own title. Madame de Pompadour.
(The King and his servants leave. Reinette checks her appearance in the mirror/window.)
ROSE: The Queen must have loved her.
DOCTOR: Oh, she did. They get on very well.
MICKEY: The King's wife and the King's girlfriend?
DOCTOR: France. It's a different planet.
Shortly after this, yet another Clockwork Droid tries to attack Reinette, and The Doctor, Rose, and Mickey break their way into the room. We learn from the Clockwork Droid that the ship broke down in an ion storm and it and the other droids have been trying to fix it but lack the necessary parts. Therefore, they used the crew (hence the human body parts in the ship and the burning smell). But one more part is needed, and for that they need Reinette, and they are going to keep opening time windows and scanning her brain until she's compatible.
The Doctor sends Rose and Mickey back to the ship while he reads Reinette's mind to try to figure out what the Droids want with her:
He doesn't seem to find anything, but all the sudden, Reinette starts mentioning memories of his, and he realizes she is reading his mind. He asks her how she is doing that, but she only says that once a door is open, it may be walked through both ways. She then invites The Doctor to join her at the ball she is about to go to.
REINETTE: ...Oh, Doctor. My lonely Doctor. Dance with me.Rose and Mickey, meanwhile, get captured by the Clockwork Droids and strapped to tables:
DOCTOR: I can't.
REINETTE: Dance with me.
DOCTOR: This is the night you dance with the King.
REINETTE: Then first, I shall make him jealous.
DOCTOR: I can't.
REINETTE: Doctor. Doctor who? It's more than just a secret, isn't it?
DOCTOR: What did you see?
REINETTE: That there comes a time, Time Lord, when every lonely little boy must learn how to dance.
But just before the Droids can chop them up, The Doctor saunters in, looking rather ridiculous and acting rather intoxicated:
While rambling on in his seeming drunkenness, he reveals that he knows what the Droids need Reinette's brain for:
DOCTOR: ...Do you know what they were scanning Reinette's brain for? Her milometer. They want to know how old she is. Know why? Because this ship is thirty seven years old, and they think that when Reinette is thirty seven, when she's complete, then her brain will be compatible. So, that's what you're missing, isn't it, hmm? Command circuit. Your computer. Your ship needs a brain. And for some reason, God knows what, only the brain of Madame de Pompadour will do.The Doctor sends Rose to warn Reinette ahead of time. When Mickey comes rushing in to get Rose back, Reinette follows, emerging into the ship:
Screams are heard from where The Doctor has found the time window to Reinette in the future. Reinette is puzzled by the sounds, especially when she hears her own voice, and becomes afraid:
Reinette runs back through the window she entered the ship through. We then return to the opening scene of the episode (see, told you this episode goes backwards!), and see the aftermath. The Droids come for Reinette, but she manages to lure them to the ballroom and stall them momentarily.
ROSE: Are you okay?
REINETTE: No, I'm very afraid. But you and I both know, don't we, Rose, the Doctor is worth the monsters.
The Doctor, Rose, and Mickey realize the time window to Reinette is blocked off - the Droids knew The Doctor would be coming. He can go through, but the connection between the ship and the ballroom will be cut off, meaning he won't be able to come back. Still, Reinette must be saved, so he risks it, crashing through the window on the horse he found earlier wandering around the spaceship:
He confronts the androids, and they break down once they realize they have no purpose anymore. The only problem is, now both they and The Doctor are trapped in the 1700's. Oops.
Rose and Mickey realize this, and a tear rolls down Rose's cheek. Mickey is worried, knowing they can't fly the TARDIS without The Doctor.
The Doctor and Reinette look out at the starry sky together:
He laments being trapped, but ultimately accepts it:
REINETTE: In saving me, you trapped yourself. Did you know that would happen?She then says, regretfully, she would have enjoyed being on the slow path with him. He insists he's not going anywhere, but she has other ideas. She takes his hand and leads him into a bedroom, where stands -- the fireplace they met through!
DOCTOR: Mmm. Pretty much.
REINETTE: Yet, still you came.
DOCTOR: Yeah, I did, didn't I? Catch me doing that again.
REINETTE: There were many doors between my world and yours. Can you not use one of the others?
DOCTOR: When the mirror broke, the shock would have severed all the links with the ship. There'll be a few more broken mirrors and torn tapestries around here, I'm afraid, wherever there was a time window. I'll, I'll pay for any damage. Er, that's a thought, I'm going to need money. I was always a bit vague about money. Where do you get money?
REINETTE: So, here you are, my lonely angel, stuck on the slow path with me.
DOCTOR: Yep, the slow path. Here's to the slow path.
The Doctor finds the catch to rotate the fireplace and goes back. But before he leaves, he calls back to Reinette:
DOCTOR: Madame de Pompadour! Still want to see those stars?She runs to a nearby window, while he runs back to Rose and Mickey, who have been waiting 5 1/2 hours for him to come back. He sends them back to the TARDIS while he runs back for Reinette.
REINETTE: More than anything.
DOCTOR: Give me two minutes. Pack a bag.
REINETTE: Am I going somewhere?
DOCTOR: Go to the window. Pick a star, any star.
But remember...these are time windows. Leading to various points in Reinette's life. And so, when he returns, the palace is empty and cold. An older Louis XV is standing there, watching a hearse cart drive away. Reinette, it seems, is dead. Louis greets The Doctor, saying he just missed Reinette, but hands him a letter from her, saying she talked about him all the time. The Doctor sadly makes his way back to the TARDIS with the letter, where he meets Rose and Mickey. Rose asks why the Droids needed Reinette's brain specifically, but The Doctor says he has no idea, that maybe their computer messed up. Rose and Mickey leave, and The Doctor, leaning against the console, unseals Reinette's letter, which we then hear the contents of in a voiceover:
REINETTE [OC]: My dear Doctor. The path has never seemed more slow, and yet I fear I am nearing its end. Reason tells me that you and I are unlikely to meet again, but I think I shall not listen to reason. I have seen the world inside your head, and know that all things are possible. Hurry though, my love. My days grow shorter now, and I am so very weak. God speed, my lonely angel.(In the commentary, we learn that the prop letter David Tennant is holding is actually in French; the letter was translated into French and written out all nice by someone from the prop department. The recording of Sophia Myles's voiceover reading of the letter in English was piped into the set live via speakers so David would understand what was being said. Also, the recording of the letter was one of the last things Myles did for the episode, according to the commentary).
We see the fireplace go out on the TARDIS scanner screen. The TARDIS dematerializes, and where it stood we see a portrait of Madame de Pompadour. As we zoom out from the ship, it turns, and we the audience (but not The Doctor, Rose, or Mickey) see its name -- and the reason Reinette's brain was needed for the ship:
Yep, that was the reason all along!
Anyway, like I said, this episode is really awesome. It is so well-written and so well-acted, and the set and costume design is just amazing too. A great episode all around. Good one, Moffat!
Next time we go into the Series 2 Cyberman 2-parter. Allons-y!
As a sidenote, given that the letter was translated into French for the prop The Doctor holds, I tried translating the letter into French myself, since I took French in high school (and minored in it in college). Now I don't know if the person translating it used modern French (which I used) or French as would be spoken in the 1700's. But this is what I came up with:
Mon cher Docteur. Le chemin n'a jamais semblé plus lent, et pourtant je crains que j'approche sa fin. Le raisonnement me dit c'est peu probable que tu et moi recontrerons à nouveau, mais je pense que je n'entendrai pas de raisonnement. J'ai vu le monde dans ta tête, et je sais que tout est possible. Mais dépêche-toi, mon amour. Mes journées presse maintenant, et je suis si très frêle. Bonne voyage, mon ange solitaire.(I used the more familiar tu for "you" because of how close they became; it's possible Reinette could have used the more formal vous instead).
Also, as a video game fan, I loved Mickey's NES controller shirt. "Know Your Roots" indeed.
Till next time!
The Love of the Doctor and Rose Tyler
Part Eighteen: I Snogged Madame de Pompadour
Since the theme of NaBloPoMo this month is "Love and Sex" (probably because of Valentine's Day), I feel compelled to write something about love in my posts. Hence, since I am exploring Series 1 and 2 in this challenge, I am going to write a little special essay throughout the month about the growing love between the Doctor and Rose. Please note I am in no way an expert on relationships.
This is the first episode where Mickey is a true Companion, so there is obviously the Doctor-Rose-Mickey love triangle to consider when thinking about The Doctor and Rose's relationship in this episode. But there's another relationship to consider in this episode: The Doctor and Madame de Pompadour/Reinette.
Although The Doctor is aware Reinette has (or will have, depending on the scene) a lover (Louis XV, the King of France) and respects that, they do almost have a bit of romance in this episode (and people behind the episode have called it "a love story for The Doctor"), though the affection seems to be coming more from Reinette than from The Doctor. It is she who initiates their kiss when he first meets her as an adult - he only reciprocates. But afterwards, he's overjoyed about it:
DOCTOR: Poisson? Reinette Poisson? No! No, no, no, no, no way. Reinette Poisson? Later Madame Etoiles? Later still mistress of Louis the Fifteenth, uncrowned Queen of France? Actress, artist, musician, dancer, courtesan, fantastic gardener!Later, Reinette is somehow able to read The Doctor's mind when he is reading hers to try to figure out why the Clockwork Droids want her head so badly, much to his surprise:
SERVANT: Who the hell are you?!
DOCTOR: I'm the Doctor, and I just snogged Madame de Pompadour. Ha, ha!
REINETTE: Oh, such a lonely childhood.They definitely kindle a close relationship, and he is even willing to stay with her when he breaks the last time window into her time and finds himself stranded in the eighteenth century. She, however, has other ideas, and shows him a way home - the original fireplace through which they met:
DOCTOR: It'll pass. Stay with me.
REINETTE: Oh, Doctor. So lonely. So very, very alone.
DOCTOR: What do you mean, alone? You've never been alone in your life. When did you start calling me Doctor?
REINETTE: Such a lonely little boy. Lonely then and lonelier now. How can you bear it?
(The Doctor breaks the link.)
DOCTOR: How did you do that?
REINETTE: A door, once opened, can be stepped through in either direction.
REINETTE: It's a pity. I think I would've enjoyed the slow path.The Doctor is also willing to take Reinette with him to see the stars, but sadly, when he goes back to fetch her, he's too late - she has died. He is clearly quite sad to hear this, and her lover Louis XV tells The Doctor that she talked about him all the time.
DOCTOR: Well, I'm not going anywhere.
REINETTE: Oh, aren't you? Take my hand.
REINETTE: It's not a copy, it's the original. I had it moved here and was exact in every detail.
DOCTOR: The fireplace. The fireplace from your bedroom. When did you do this?
REINETTE: Many years ago, in the hope that a door once opened, may someday open again. One never quite knows when one needs one's Doctor. It appears undamaged. Do you think it will still work?
So, while there are no indications of any immediate threat to The Doctor and Rose's relationship from Reinette (like there was with Sarah Jane in the previous episode), The Doctor and Reinette definitely connect on a deep level. Reinette herself expresses this depth when Rose goes to warn her about the Clockwork Droids and tells her she must stall them, keep them talking, when they arrive:
REINETTE: Until?And how will Rose and this "lonely angel" fare with their relationship? Wait and see!
ROSE: Until the Doctor can get there.
REINETTE: He's coming, then?
ROSE: He promises.
REINETTE: But he cannot make his promises in person?
ROSE: He'll be there when you need him. That's the way it's got to be.
REINETTE: It's the way it's always been. The monsters and the Doctor. It seems you cannot have one without the other.
ROSE: Tell me about it. The thing is, you weren't supposed to have either. Those creatures are messing with history. None of this was ever supposed to happen to you.
REINETTE: Supposed to happen? What does that mean? It happened, child, and I would not have it any other way. One may tolerate a world of demons for the sake of an angel.
Oh, P.S. Rose cries when she realizes The Doctor's not coming back. If that doesn't show she cares for him, what does?
Pictures from Sonic Biro. Quotes from The Doctor Who Transcripts.