There’s a T-rex in Victorian London and an extremely slimy blue box down by the river. Yup, must be Saturday.
Vastra, Jenny, and Strax are summoned to the Thames to investigate a bit of a hullabaloo – a dinosaur confusedly stomping about London. The explanation becomes immediately apparent when the T-rex spits out a very familiar blue box. Out of it stumble an incoherent Doctor and a rather shell-shocked Clara. The team gets the Doctor back to Vastra’s home and tucked away into bed to sleep off the regeneration sickness. Clara wants to know how they can “fix him,” which offends Madame Vastra so that she puts her veil back on, implying that Clara is a “stranger.”
Vastra takes Clara (and the audience) to task over her preference for a young, handsome Doctor, saying that she “might as well flirt with a mountain range.” It takes a bit, but Clara finally bites back, saying that she and the Doctor were never like that, and that she prefers older men anyway. The outburst wins Vastra’s respect and Jenny’s applause.
While the ladies are having it out downstairs, the Doctor is regaining consciousness back in his room. He sneaks out the window and goes on walkabout. He shouts an apology to his dinosaur lady-friend (his words, not mine), along with a promise to keep her safe. Of course, she then promptly bursts into flame. So much for that promise. Clara, Vastra, Jenny, and Strax catch up with the Doctor down by the river, where he makes it clear that he will find who or whatever is responsible for the dino’s murder. Vastra tells him that there have been many cases of “spontaneous combustion” recently. Now on the case, the Doctor disappears into the river before the team can coax him back to the house.
The next morning, Clara finds an advertisement in the paper, telling the Impossible Girl to meet someone for lunch “on the other side.” Clara figures out that “the other side” refers to an Italian restaurant mentioned literally on the other side of the lunch advert. The Doctor arrives shortly after she does, but they quickly discover that neither of them placed the advertisement. Also evident is the fact that they are the only living diners in the establishment. They try to leave, but are stopped by the dead patrons. Their own table straps them down and brings them into the underground larder/spaceship beneath the restaurant.
There sits the cyborg Controller, quietly recharging. He starts waking up as the Doctor and Clara attempt their escape. The Doctor makes it out, but Clara does not. Rather than staying and helping, the Doctor turns around and leaves Clara to fend for herself. She hides amongst the other automatons by holding her breath, but it can only work for so long. She passes out before reaching safety and is brought back before the Controller.
The Controller wants to know where the Doctor is, but Clara refuses to tell. She has faith that if the Doctor is who he says he is, he’ll have her back. Of course he does! He swings in to save her at the thematically-appropriate time. The Controller wants to know why the Doctor and Clara came to his ship at all, indicating that he wasn’t the one who placed the advert, either. Curiouser and curiouser.
Vastra, Jenny, and Strax come swinging in to the rescue. The Controller heads for the escape capsule with the Doctor in hot pursuit. The capsule has been damaged, since the ship crashed back when dinosaurs were a little more frequent in the London area, but the Controller has been using human (and dino) parts to slowly repair it. The capsule lifts off, hoist aloft by a hot air balloon made of skin. (Ew, ew, EW!!)
A damaged ship using human parts to repair itself. Where have we heard of that before? As it turns out, this ship is the SS Marie Antoinette, sister ship to the SS Madame de Pompadour. The Controller is obsessed with finding “The Promised Land.” The Doctor tells him that there’s no such thing and encourages the Controller to give up. The droid says that suicide is against his basic programming, leaving the Doctor to retort that murder is against his, but that one of them is obviously lying.
The next time we see the Controller, he’s impaled on the spires of Big Ben. The questions is, did he jump or was he pushed?
The death of the Controller abruptly ends the fight going on back at the underground ship. Team Vastra heads back home, only to see that the TARDIS is no longer there. Clara asks Vastra for a place in her household, but has subconsciously already dressed to go home, believing that the Doctor will return. He does, of course, and in a newly-renovated ship. He takes Clara back to her time, but she isn’t sure that she wants to stay with him anymore. That changes when she receives a very important phone call from the 11th Doctor, telling her that the new him is going to need her very much. Clara is finally able to see “her” Doctor in the new man’s eyes, and agrees to keep traveling.
Elsewhere, the Controller wakes up in a beautiful garden with a creepy woman who calls herself “Missy.” She claims that the Doctor is her boyfriend and welcomes the droid to Heaven. It’s pretty clear that her elevator isn’t going all the way to the penthouse, though. Guess we’ll learn more about her as the season goes on.
Okay, we all know that regeneration episodes are never the strongest. The Doctor is always still settling in, which doesn’t really give the audience a chance to get a read on him. I appreciate the chance to watch the companions figure out how to handle this new man, but I feel like these episodes would work better if we weren’t watching the Doctor deal with regeneration dementia right up until the last 10 minutes.
All in all, I really enjoyed this episode. The bad guy was pretty weak, but I dearly loved all of the call-backs to previous seasons. Wanting a long scarf, recognizing his own face, Glasgow instead of London, not having money for coffee/chips, all great little references for hardcore fans. I can’t wait to see what the show is going to do with this darker Doctor, and how Clara is going to try to fit into a new place on the TARDIS.
Vastra: “Your grasp of biology troubles me.”
The Doctor: “I hate being wrong in public. Everyone forget that!”
Things to Ponder:
- If holding one’s breath makes the droids instantly stop attacking, couldn’t Clara have just taken short breaths at long intervals to get her out of the ship? It wouldn’t work forever, but that hallway wasn’t that long.
- Don’t we already know that suicide is in the droids’ basic programming? The Clockwork Men from “Girl in the Fireplace” shut themselves down entirely when they could no longer repair their ship.
- I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I would watch the hell out of a Vastra/Jenny/Strax spinoff.
- LOVE the library in the new console room!
Photo Credit: BBC/BBCA