This review was originally written and published by the website Kasterboroous.com soon after the episode transmitted in 2006.
This week’s episode was a mixed bag, with a few genuine scares (I actually jumped as the Doctor found the Clockwork Robot under Madame Pompadour’s bed) and more of the same nitpicking that has made my series two viewing experience a bit less enjoyable.
I had expected more from Steven Moffat, writer of last years The Empty Child, and although you could see the great original ideas in the script itself – such as the human parts in the spaceship, the menacing Clockwork Robots, the great parting shot showing the ship being named “SSS de Madame Pompadour” – I still felt that the script, like most of series two so far was put at a breakneck pace and speed that makes me wonder if the cat nurses from New Earth took over the production offices of Doctor Who during the filming of that episode.
Again David Tennant shone throughout and the man that monsters have nightmares about is most certainly the Doctor at his best. Rose and Mickey however, seemed pushed into the background of the story with the classic Doctor Who cliché of the companions being separated from the Doctor – this time by both space and time.
Now Terrance Dicks once said that the best Doctor Who ideas are when the Doctor and his companions land in some terrible place, and they are split up and allow the writer to have multiple story lines. In The Girl in the Fireplace, they seem separated without any purpose, and Rose and Mickey would have been better served finding out more about the Clockwork Robots’ plan while the Doctor got tipsy at Versailles.
The Clockwork Robots were fantastic and were the first Who creations to give me chills since Mr. Sin popped out of Weng-Chiangs’ time cabinet. The masked faces of the robots were great and I can see children once again leaping behind the sofa, and hiding their wind-up alarm clocks before bedtime.
Although I came into this episode with no preconceived notions, avoiding all spoilers and website forums on the episode, I still feel that Series Two is a bit less of a journey of a lifetime then series one last year. I feel that last years episodes despite being the same screen time length, wove the viewer more into the story, and the elements like the Doctor’s loneliness were handled with tact and drama rather than being a main plot point of the episode itself.
All in all it was not the best of the best, but we have the Cybermen next week to bring us back up to the quality that School Reunion proved that Series Two is about.
Oh, one more small tiny little thing. To all future Doctor Who script writers: please stop incorporating “clever” lines that play on the “Doctor who?!” joke. It’s been done. Thank you.
– Thomas Spychalski