Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

The Doctor visits Madame Tussauds

Wow, what a great idea – a spaceship with portals to different moments in a person's life – bogged down yet again by intrusive forced emotional content.

The story:

The Doctor, Mickey and Rose land on the deserted spaceship the SS Madame de Pompadour somewhere in deep space, however within minutes they’ve found doorways that open out onto the planet… go on guess.

The ship’s eerie clockwork-powered robots have cannibalised the original crew’s body-parts to repair their delapidated ship. Having now run-out of crew-members, they’ve still managed to build these doorways to various years in 18th century France, so that they can cannibalise further “parts” from the body of King Louis XV’s mistress Madame de Pompadour, because she has the same name as the ship.

I'll repeat that - because she has the same name as the ship.

By chance, the Doctor and his friends conveniently encounter each doorway in perfect chronological order – the same order the robots seem to be using them in too.

There is also a revolving fireplace, which opens onto her bedroom at later and later moments in her life, in perfect sequence with the other doors that our heroes are flukily chronologically discovering.

The robots have built all the many doors onto different times, because they only want Madame de Pompadour at age 31.

Again - the robots have built all the many doors onto different times, because they only want Madame de Pompadour at age 31.

Just when it can't get any better, the Doctor falls in love with her.

This week's kissing scene on new Doctor Who
First the positive stuff:

Like I said – a good original central device. It's enthralling to believe that the cupboard door to my right might lead somewhere else entirely. Even more so that it might lead to other moments in my life. Far more interesting, therefore, for Madame de Pompadour to have used this to her own advantage.

I don't normally like stories that begin in the middle, but here it was a good hook to begin 3,000 years earlier. Also, when the pre-creds scene did ultimately take place, we were able to see what was happening elsewhere at the same time, so it was still a new scene.

The storytelling in general was fairly clear – particularly at the start. The narrative stays with the Doctor for quite a while, making it easy to encounter things from just his perspective. One thing at a time.

It's a totally evil robot me, dude.
The robots – both disguised in the human mask, and unmasked with the faceless clockwork heads – looked absolutely chilling. In both instances, you knew there was someone there, but you couldn't see their face.

The broken clock over the fireplace – again, a good disquieting idea.

Mickey's line about Sarah. It's reassuring that her appearance last week hasn't been suddenly and completely forgotten.

Second heaviest diegetic use of the phrase "Doctor Who" after The War Machines. I'd be very happy for a well-written series to do more with this, like Lance Parkin did a bit in his book The Infinity Doctors. No sign of that however, and no trust in this team after the last season either.

That's about it with the good points.

Now the negative:

There’s no explanation for why these 51st century robots are clockwork. It’s like there was an earlier draft in which they came from 18th century France.

The ship’s original crew were unlikely to have all shared Madame de Pompadour’s name. It wasn’t even written on their uniforms in the TARDISode. I doubt that they were all 31 years old as well.

Mickey doesn't get how he can understand French. He's forgotten his exchange with Rose in The Christmas Invasion:

Rose: "I don't understand what they're sayin'. The TARDIS translates alien languages inside my head all the time, wherever I am."

Mickey: "So why isn't it doin' it now?"

Rose: "I don't know. It must be the Doctor. He's part of the circuit and… he's broken."

Later Mickey had also heard the Sycorax start to talk in English and said "Yeah that's English."

Of course, forgetting the events of The Christmas Invasion should really be seen as a good thing.

The Doctor actually shouts "I've just snogged Madame de Pompadour!" Oh for goodness sake, why, just WHY did they think this would be a good line? We’re tuning-in to watch Doctor Who, not Bottom. So much for knowing your audience.

Later they do everything they can to imply that they’ve slept together, but are too afraid to give any definite proof. Which of course proves that the writers know full well that he mustn't.

Rose recognises a human heart, as opposed to, say, a cow's heart, or an alien heart for example. Neither it nor the eye have decomposed, or require blood.

And what does a ship need an eye or a heart to do exactly? Pump blood around? See an empty corridor? Erm… can't all those robots 'see' without eyes?

The Doctor can, after 150 stories, mind-meld with people. Handy that.

The clockwork robots sedate Rose and Mickey, and then bring them round again to cut them up. Resedating them certainly does not appear to be on the cards. But then, these robots aren't the quickest thinkers, repeatedly approaching people threateningly before just… stopping. All the time in the world. Really, why don't they just push them over?

The robots’ (and the Doctor’s) stupidity certainly gives all the writers less work.

The Doctor sobers-up quite suddenly, flawing the danger of his preceding drunkeness. Was he faking it? If so, why? If not, how did he sober up so quickly?

Madame de Pompadour enters the future and, having never heard it before, somehow recognises her own voice. This simultaneous use of two doors is also the only time when they are not used chronologically.

Ignoring questions of how said doorways work (e.g. had she any way of walking through said doorway and getting to the Paris corridor beyond?), her setting foot on the spaceship was one of the more interesting ideas, that sadly wasn't explored.

The Doctor says they can't use the TARDIS to travel back to 18th century France, because it is a part of events. He used this excuse in The Parting Of The Ways, and I see his argument, but it's not valid. From, say, Rose's perspective, she would just see the Doctor get in the TARDIS and dematerialise, before looking through the window and seeing him rematerialise in France in the past. What's wrong with that? He would effectively only be travelling in space, just like in most episodes. It's not a cure-all device. In the end he jumps through the window on a horse, which is not that different.

Sure enough, the Doctor has forgotten that he can build a battery to power the TARDIS key and retrieve it, as he did in Father's Day.

The Doctor is completely surprised that time moves on while he's back on the space station away from the fireplace. I didn't see it coming, but I think he would have. Certainly several of my friends did.

Rose goes to show Mickey the rest of the TARDIS. Ha ha ha, see you later, suckers. Even worse than this assertion is that the writers thought I would be more interested in staying in the console room to see the Doctor looking miserable.

Reused elements from The Empty Child:

Automated system from alien spacecraft goes to logical extreme and starts beaurocratically killing people to “do the right thing.”

Scary faceless masked zombies repeating a phrase over and over. (“You are incomplete” = “Are you my mummy?”)

Ticking = typing.

Cringe-inducing glued-on romantic plot.

Clunky dancing metaphor.


The identity of the child/woman is the story’s solution.

Bananas. (I like bananas too!)

In summary:

I expect better of the same guy who wrote Press Gang, but I really am past blaming the credited authors on this show. There is a consistency to the way that (nearly) all this show's scripts don't work. That's not several different writers all making the same mistakes as each other in isolation. That's surely just ONE person REwriting them. So it's no use blaming the author of the first draft.

In summary, a great idea, but the story was not even passable. Great potential usually requires some work to be put in as well.

Oh my gosh, I was wrong - It was the SS Madame de Pompadour, all along, you finally made a spaceship out of meeeeeee...

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