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Doctor Who: The Girl in the Fireplace

Reinette: 'Godspeed, my lonely angel.'

After last week's episode, I wasn't expecting another emotionally charged story—but this was an absolute delight! It didn't resonate in quite the same way as 'School Reunion'—Sarah Jane was a well known and much loved companion, whereas Jean Antoinette Poisson (apart from clanging some vague historical bells), was a bit of an unknown quantity—but by the end of the 45 minutes, my heart strings definitely felt moderately jangled.

This was very much the Doctor's episode. He even fell in love, didn't he? It wasn't explicit, but it was certainly implied. Not that I blame him—Reinette was unquestionably lovely. On top of her beauty, she was intelligent, romantic, eloquent and possessed a charming sort of dignity. Not a bad combination if you can pull it off. Clockwork men and time travel are a notoriously difficult sell, but she adapted to the improbability of her situation with ease. I'm not sure why. Did she truly believe that the Doctor was an angel? I suppose that would explain her putting her faith in him.

It was fascinating to watch Rose's reaction to the Doctor and Reinette's burgeoning relationship. There was definitely a pained expression or two, but in the end—and maybe reluctantly—Rose seemed to accept that there was something blossoming between them, and simply let them get on with it. She was actually quite sweet to Reinette. In fact, after the silliness of 'Tooth and Claw', I found myself warming to her again. It felt as though she'd grown a little.

Tennant, again, was a revelation. He seems to be growing into his role episode by episode. I've really enjoyed his portrayal of the Doctor so far: he's a dab hand at the humour, has an edge when required, and makes for a plausible romantic figure when called upon to be so. Plus, he oozes boyish charm, and the history they're wrapping around his Doctor—this lonely god, Oncoming Storm, lonely angel nonsense—I love all that! I know it's essentially meaningless, but it all helps give the Doctor both gravitas and a sense of history.

I was a little concerned at first by him falling in love so quickly, then I remembered the whole Vulcan mind-meld thing, and it kind of made sense. When you've wandered through someone's mind, you no doubt do feel a special closeness. I'm not sure which doors Reinette left open, but my imagination tells me they were naughty doors. (Of course, my imagination tells me this about a lot of things—and is frequently wrong.) And Reinette likewise saw inside the Doctor's head, so there was an intimate bonding of sorts for her, too—hence their unnatural closeness.

Him losing Reinette at the end was obviously devastating. One moment she was there, the next she was gone, but she never gave up hoping in the Doctor. In her letter she called him 'my love' and 'my lonely angel', and expressed her heart's desire to see him one last time—but six years passed in the blink of an eye, enough time for her to succumb to tuberculosis (according to history) and to pass out of existence. Those final scenes were beautiful: with the Doctor watching the fire go out and the time window closing forever.

And surprise, surprise, I actually enjoyed Mickey again this week, although someone obviously ballsed up the continuity. Wasn't Rose supposed to be pissed off at the Doctor for taking Mickey with them? What happened to that plot thread? Regardless, Mickey was fun. He actually fitted into the ensemble surprisingly well and, dare I say it, even enhanced the story?

So another great yarn from Steven Moffat, soon to be head writer of Doctor Who. More scripts from him can only be a good thing, methinks.

Other Thoughts:

—No Torchwood reference this week. Thank goodness for that—I'm growing weary of them.

—This was Mickey's first trip as a proper companion.

—Some funny dialogue this week. Rose's reaction to the Doctor stumbling in drunk—'Oh, look at what the cat dragged in... the Oncoming Storm'—was priceless!

—Was Reinette's offer to 'dance' the same kind of 'dancing' referred to in 'The Doctor Dances?' He did turn up not long after, saying he'd been to a great party. I wonder what made it so great?

—I assume that the TARDIS was translating Reinette's speech, hence her sounding so English, but why didn't it translate her saying "monsieur"?

Billie says...

Paul and I must have a psychic link, because I loved this one, too, and for all the same reasons. It was an oddly beautiful and effective mix of science fiction and French costume drama that shouldn't have worked, but it did.

I was a big fan of the short-lived and much maligned Moonlight, and part of the reason was Sophia Myles. She was wonderful in this episode. And what a companion Reinette would have made. Interesting how she made Rose look like a kid. Rose was demoted from love interest to the peanut gallery, a naughty child playing with Mickey.

And this episode was when I started falling in love with David Tennant. He was funny, exuberant, romantic, daring, and finally, tragic. Everything a leading man should be. That final scene with the King and the letter made me cry.


Doctor: "Must be a spatio-temporal hyperlink."
Mickey: "What's that?"
Doctor: "No idea, just made it up. Didn't want to say 'magic door'."

Reinette: "Reason tells me you cannot be real."
Doctor: "Oh, you never want to listen to reason."

Doctor: "No, no, no, no way. Reinette Poisson. Later Madame d'Etioles. Later still, mistress of Louis XV, uncrowned Queen of France. Actress, artist, musician, dancer, courtesan. Fantastic gardener!"
Man: "Who the hell are you?"
Doctor: "I'm the Doctor. And I just snogged Madame de Pompadour."

Mickey: "Is this, like, normal for you? Is this an average day?"
Rose: "Life with the Doctor, Mickey. No more average days."

Rose: "Oh, here's trouble. What have 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. (Horse whinnies in the background) 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."

Rose: "The Queen must have loved her."
Doctor: "No, she did. They got on very well."
Mickey: "The King's wife and the King's girlfriend?"
Doctor: "France. It's a different planet."

Rose: "No, you're not keeping the horse."
Doctor: "I let you keep Mickey."

Doctor: "I think I just invented the banana daiquiri a couple of centuries early."

Reinette: "This is my lover, the King of France."
Doctor: "Yeah? Well I'm the Lord of Time."
Four moor peaces eye rote, sea hear.


  1. You`ve just made me wanna watch all the Doctor Who episodes all over again ^^

  2. You`ve just made me wanna watch all the Doctor Who episodes all over again ^^

    Then our job is done. :)

  3. And, again, Moonlight was cancelled... why?
    Paul, Stffen Moffet hadn't watched the previous episode. That's why he assumed Rose and Mickey were geting along well. He himself has admitted he made a continuity error. Well, it's not terribly, important, so as for me, I'll let it pass. This is a standallone episode anyway...
    I think this is the best doctor who episode ever (I haven't watched the old series or season 4 yet). It's either this one or Blink.

  4. You fluffed up there, Paul. Steven Moffat, our future lord and master, wrote the Empty Child/Doctor Dances while Paul Cornell wrote Father’s Day.

  5. You fluffed up there, Paul. Steven Moffat, our future lord and master, wrote the Empty Child/Doctor Dances while Paul Cornell wrote Father’s Day.

    Aha! It's official then -- the Doctor/Reinette 'dancing' DID refer to same kind of dancing ;)

  6. This was a beautiful episode. Reinette was amazing and when we learned she died without ever seeing the Doctor again I have actually felt the loss. Now this is good TV!

  7. Hi Mark,

    Much obliged for the correction. A bizarre mistake on my part, especially when I mention the whole "dancing" thing just a few paragraphs later. Anyway, I've edited it now....so it's all sorted. Thanks again :-)


  8. Thanks for the info D. That would explain why he didn't know about Rose having a strop on with Mickey. And this was one of my favourites too.


  9. Considering the current Twilight / True Blood vampire craze, canceling Moonlight was a huge mistake. I will admit it had its flaws, but it had so much potential! I just loved it.

  10. Gorgeous episode, very elegant, like Reinette herself.

    It's not my favourite of Moffat's episodes and it wouldn't be in my Top 20 episodes from the new series but it's got so much going for it.

    I loved the Clockwork Droids, seriously some of the coolest monsters in the episode.

    Rose and Reinette's scenes had some poignancy to them as well. I think the Doctor knew that his fling with Reinette wasn't meant to last.

    Mickey wasn't served well by the episode but the next two do address that.

  11. @ why didn't it translate her saying "monsieur"?

    When you watch a French movie (with subtitles ?), is the word "monsieur" translated?

    When I watch (German) dubbed movies, adresses like the French "monsieur" and "madam", or the English "mister" or many other things are left intact, because they are considered well known.
    (That actually changed over time)

    If the Tardis is only aiming for understanding, there is no need to replace "monsieur" with "mister".

    Well, that was a lot of text for a minor detail :D

    Paul, why are you so happy, that there is no Torchwood reference?

  12. Hello Daniel,

    Interesting thoughts. But is monsieur more widely known than, say, oui or bonjour? Why did the TARDIS translate those things and not monsieur if, as you say, it's purely an issue of understanding? A friend of mine thought monsieur was Spanish...lol...but knows what oui means. Go figure. I hope she never ends up traveling with the Doctor ;-)

    And I was happy there were no Torchwood references because the idea of threading a word/phrase throughout the entire series was done last season with Bad Wolf..and to good effect. This season the references are too obvious....and whereas we didn't know what Bad Wolf was until the last episode of last season, we all know what Torchwood is. Or at least we should. Unfortunately they do it in season three too (with "Saxon"). To me it's clumsy and redundant.

    And for the record, I love Torchwood. So my comment was nothing to do with show itself.


  13. This is one of the episodes I could watch over and over again. Its beautifully done with the mixed up setting and the lovely Reinette and some hilarious dialogue ('Youre not keeping the horse!' - 'I let you keep Mickey!', just priceless). And really, if this episode doesnt make you fall in love with David Tennants Doctor (or David Tennant, in fact), I dont know what will. He is just so very wonderful in this. The mind-meld scene is absolutely beautiful; romantic and intense.

    The little continuity error with Mickey is a bit confusing but not bad really. What does bug me everytime I watch it though is the fact that the Doctor abandons Rose and Mickey just like this when he knows they cant fly the TARDIS back so they are basically stuck on that broken spaceship 3000 years in the future. Yeah, I know, he couldnt just leave Reinette to be certainly killed either but still... Never feels quite right to me. Also, as lovely I think Reinette is as a character (and I really like Sophia Myles anyway), some of her lines are just a bit over the top for me. 'Godspeed, my lonely angel' and the likes of it, just doesnt work for me.

    Altogether, its not my favourite of Moffats episodes but I really really like it. Speaking of which, the monster plot thread is kind of the same as in 'The empty child'/'The doctor dances', isnt it? Some artifcial intelligence thingy doing just what it was programmed to do and unfortunately causing harm by it? The clockwork droids were really beautiful though, I liked them a lot (when they didnt have their masks and wigs on that is, then they really creeped me out).

    Oh, and as for the 'dancing': I think I read that Steven Moffat stated he wasnt referring to -that- kind of dancing here. I, for one, like to think they really just danced.

  14. When I first watched this episode, I had so many mixed feelings. On one hand, my heart just broke for Rose because this episode really drove the point home of just how young she really is in so many ways (at least compared to Reinette.)

    This doesn't make her any less than Reinette, it just shows that these two women are at very different points in their lives. One has already done so much while the other still has so much to accomplish.

    These two women are amazing in different ways. That's the point.
    -different- ways.

    As was mentioned, what bothered me was how the Doctor could leave Rose and Mickey behind with (seemingly) little to no thought about it.

    all in all, I liked Reinette and my heart broke for the Doctor when he couldn't see her at least one last time.

    Biased as I am (oh yes, shameless shipper of Rose/Ten) I enjoyed watching the Doctor show us how he can truly care for someone, without reservation. :)

  15. I love your review it helped me to understand the love of the Doctor for Reinette. I'm kind of bit sad for Rose because she knew there's something romantic going on and it breaks her heart and I love Rose. The episode is very brilliant though. :)

  16. This one has a very positive reputation among many fans. I was not as enamored with it as many, but it was interesting and there wasn't anything that really hurt it either.

    I do love clockworks, although why such an advanced ship had such an odd assortment of machine servants felt a little weird.

    Rose did seem a bit too passive about the Doctor falling for Reinette, although I'm still not a fan of the Doctor and romantic entanglements!


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