Quite honestly, I think “The Girl in the Fireplace” was one of those episodes that I will probably never watch again for the shallow reason that those clown clockwork androids just scared the hell out of me. I even found them more terrifying than the gas mask kid from “The Empty Child”. It is sad in a way since those androids became more of a distraction for me than a tool for plot development. Watching the episode was frustrating since I cannot seem to concentrate on the story itself without them appearing every now and then.

I have read online that “The Girl in the Fireplace” had critical acclaim, having garnered nominations and awards. Even though I was distracted for the most part, I do have to agree that the narrative element of this particular episode was very interesting. In their latest venture, the Doctor, Rose and Mickey end up in a space station that happens to have time windows leading to 18th century France. While I do believe that it is, in fact, an ambitious concept, again, I am not exactly sure if it was executed successfully.

The biggest and probably the only problem that I have for such concept is that of all people, why Madame de Pompadour? Or in this case, Reinette? Other than having to complete the “parts” for their ship, I did not understand why the clockwork androids were so obsessed with her. Yes, she was a historical figure, but I did not understand what made her so special from the rest that resulted into the creation of this ship that was solely dependent on tracking her life. The whole idea was just strange for me. What adds to the complexity is that “The Girl in the Fireplace” is the epitome of a character-driven episode – with Reinette as the titular character. To not have clearly defined why the writers chose Madame de Pompadour was a complete letdown. There were not enough roots that the other ambitious elements of the episode could hold onto in order for them to work. I felt like I was missing the foundation for a potentially exceptional episode.

However, if I were to disregard the need for justification and simply take in the episode as it is, I would say that the entire “time windows” concept was brilliant. Doctor Who, in itself, is already a show that constantly plays with time, and it seems like the writers had a little more fun in this episode. The time windows paved the way for narrative flexibility with the Doctor being able to visit any moment in Reinette’s life through them. Again, Doctor Who is fortunate enough to have such peculiar means going for it. It is certainly one of those plot-driving instruments that not all shows can get away with.

Advertisements