The Doctor (Matt Smith) and Clara (Jenna Louise-Coleman) gauge the damage in "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS."

The Doctor (Matt Smith) and Clara (Jenna Louise-Coleman) gauge the damage in “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS.”

More so than any episode of the second half of this season, “Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS” requires a couple of viewings to parse through the story. But that doesn’t mean it holds up upon second viewing.

To sum up, Steve Thompson’s story leads up to a shortened version of The Doctor’s Season Six gambit; he saves the day by passing the Magic Bullet (more accurately, the Big Friendly Button) between timelines, allowing the “wrong” timeline  to fade out while keeping himself alive in “real time.”

The problem, as IO9’s Charlie Jane Anders points out, is that pulling this card is another example of the show violating the Blinovich Limitation Effect — the once-golden rule against interfering with your own timeline. There’s a handwave built into this scenario, of course (Eleven’s going to die anyway, because the TARDIS is literally about to detonate), but it’s become a worrisome part of the Steven Moffat Era. Remember the Christmas Carol episode?

But fans have already discovered another big cheat built into “Journey”: Clara finds the ship’s library and a book called A History of the Time War. The issues here are multiple: the TARDIS can’t translate Gallifreyan, which is important because aside from The Doctor himself, the most likely person to pen an account of the war would be The Visionary or another member of the High Council.

And that’s assuming that they would see fit to include The Doctor’s given name (assuming they were somehow privy to it), considering they never used it to address him. And if The Doctor did write it, why would he knowingly reveal his secret identity? That pseudo-revelation, meant to make Eleven and Clara’s kinda-sorta-but-not-really last stand more poignant, instead dulls it somewhat, even if there is hope that, as with Amy (and, apparently, one of the human antagonists) that a memory can survive the rewriting of time.

There’s other bits of race and gender fail going on, as well: in a series that’s been largely bereft of people of color, to have three black men (Jahvel Hall, Mark Oliver and Ashley Walters) show up playing Space Carjackers is not a good look. Not to mention another small show of sexism from The Doctor: when Clara asks him if he’s putting the TARDIS on “basic” mode because she’s a girl, he smirks in the affirmative even as he tells her no. At this rate, the Time Zombies prowling through the damaged ship almost begin to look like antiheroes by comparison. For having what should have been a reason to deliver an all-out fan-friendly episode (TARDIS Cribs? Anybody?), the angst and darkness here are definitely a stumble after the past few weeks of progress, for both Clara and the show. Here’s to hoping the Big Friendly Button takes everybody back on course in more ways than one.

 

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