“The Girl in the Fireplace” begins with screaming and running from an unknown foe, and King Louis of France goes to his mistress, Reinette (Sophia Myles–she really blows this part away!), who assures him that help is on the way. A man she knows, called the Doctor, has watched over her throughout her entire life, and he will not let her down. He comes from the fireplace.
Mickey has joined the Doctor and Rose in their travels, and they arrive on a dilapidated spaceship. They discover a two-sided 18th Century fireplace that leads to France. There is a young girl on the other side named Reinette. Disovering that the fireplace revolves, he goes through, and it is weeks later to Reinette. The Doctor discovers something hiding under her bed, and he confronts it—a clockwork droid. A series of time windows, spaced throughout the ship, allow the droids to follow her life until the correct moment. They are following her throughout time in order to intercept her when she is complete. At age 37, she will be ready and compatible for them to take her brain—they want her brain for their ship’s computer, and the Doctor must arrive just in time to save her (literally on a white horse, of course).
Once again, Steven Moffat plays with creepy things. Right from the beginning, the Doctor cautions Reinette not to look under her bed or even put her hands and feet over the sides. There is literally a monster under her bed. It is a clockwork droid with blank eyes and a sinister, fixed smile. They are relentless, ultra-rational beings that pursue her throughout her life. This is one of Moffat’s strengths, and he never misses a chance to make his audience squirm. At the same time, Moffat uses some great humor and wit to offset the eerie atmosphere—there are some brilliant lines throughout.
I know this is the first time I’ve said this, and I’m sure I’ll never say it again, but this is one of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who. It’s unconventional (which is saying something for such a unique show), its chronology is odd, and it looks at time in an interesting way. The Doctor is able to be there for much of Reinette’s life due to a strange piece of technology. It also explores the mystical, captivating effect that the Doctor has on those around him—this is the first time, but not the last, that someone calls the Doctor an imaginary friend. This treatment of the Doctor is one of the reasons I was confident that Steven Moffat was the right choice to run the show after the departure of Russell T. Davies.
“Reinette: What do monsters have nightmares about?
The Doctor: Me!”
“The Doctor: I’m the Doctor, and I just snogged Madame de Pompadour! Ha ha!”
“The Doctor: Must be a spatio-temporal hyperlink.
Mickey Smith: What’s that?
The Doctor: No idea, I just made it up. Didn’t want to say Magic Door”
“The Doctor: Rose?… Mickey? Every time – every time! It’s rule one: don’t wander off! I tell them I do, rule one! There could be anything on this ship!”
“The Doctor: [Looking at the clockwork droid] Oh, you are beautiful! No really, you are, you’re gorgeous! Space-age clockwork, I love it, I’ve got chills! Listen, I mean this from the heart- and by the way, count those- it would be a crime, it would be an act of vandalism to disassemble you. But that won’t stop me.”
“The Doctor: Rose, take Arthur, follow it. Don’t approach it, just go, go, go!
Rose Tyler: Arthur?
The Doctor: Good name for a horse.
Rose Tyler: No, you’re not keeping the horse.
The Doctor: I let you keep Mickey!”
“The Doctor: [drunk and talking to a robot] It’s you! You’re my favourite! You are the best, you know why? Cause you’re so thick! You’re mister thick thickity thick face from thicktown thickannia. And so is your Dad!”
“Reinette: There is a vessel in your world where the days of my life are pressed together like the chapters of a book so that he may step from one to the other without increase of age, while I, weary traveller, must always take the slower path.”
“Reinette: One may tolerate a world of demons for the sake of an angel.”