As many of you will know, this is one of the episodes fandom has been awaiting with some internet-beating excitement. The very notion of a Neil Gaiman Doctor Who story seems so perfect that we wonder why it’s taken just so long for this union to happen. Anyway, ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ has arrived and there’s not a church in sight…
Like Series 6’s opening two-parter, this episode is difficult to review due the spoilericious nature of the plot and surprises; so forgive us if you walk away from this piece none the wiser as to what actually takes place.
What we can tell you is that the pre-transmission hyperbole, telling us that this story goes straight to the heart of the show’s mythology, is bang on. Chances are, you will never look at Doctor Who in quite the same way again as you re-assess 47 years of time-travelling.
Thankfully, the “myth” – or Whoevrue, as no one calls it – will not put off the casual viewer, so strong is the story, so vital are the characterisations and so wonderfully eye-popping are the visuals taking place. As a one-off, or a one-shot, ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ is breathtaking in its cinematic scope.
The production is a feast with ‘Gridlock’ director Richard Clark injecting scenes with genuine terror; rendering the TARDIS a labyrinthal nightmare for the Ponds whilst other scenes resonate with an acute palette of colours and enigmatic lighting.
Also entertaining greatly are the cast, and what a lovely bunch they are. Playing Auntie and Uncle, Elizabeth Berrington (Waterloo Road) and Adrian Schiller (Zen) bring bags of life and personality to their respective roles; memorable and instantly likable. Let’s hope that their numerous rumoured cut scenes make it onto the DVD. Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon, Tron Legacy) also manages to make an eerie impression with just his vocal talents as House.
Special mention, though, must go to Suranne Jones (Coronation Street) for her portrayal of Idris. She’s a little bit Mary Poppins, a little bit Leeloo from The Fifth Element - a part Helena Bonham-Carter was born to play. Jones is an absolute delight, demonstrating a flair for the eccentric and sometimes robotic. And damn sexy with it. Every scene she inhabits is made that much more fun through her engrossing performance.
Sensing competition in the acting department, Matt Smith considerably ups his game, riffing with Jones in a gigglesome 1930s Cary Grant screwball comedy kinda way. However, there are more serious moments for the Time Lord and Smith impresses immensely; veering from a more tricksy Doctor (a trait we’ve not previously witnessed) to an angry and then to a devastatingly pitiful one.
Neil Gaiman has crafted an ingenious plot that will satisfy the internerd and long term fan (and give some serious food for thought) whilst absolutely enthralling and enchanting everyone else. In no uncertain terms ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ is an instant classic with scenes that will live long in the mind and characters that will delight and sadden in equal measure.
Let’s hope Gaiman says “I do” to future episodes.
Airs at 6.30pm on Saturday 14th May 2011 on BBC One.