Written by: Steven Moffat
Starring: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Sophia Myles (Madame De Pompadour)
Originally broadcast: 6th May, 2006
I’ll say it now, The Girl in the Fireplace is my favourite episode of Doctor Who. It’s just DW at its best: Historical figures, broken clocks, empty spaceships, 18th century France, sinister clockwork monsters (that hide under the bed!) and a horse the Doctor names Arthur. Brilliant. Best of all however, at its heart, TGitF (an acronym dangerously close to TGIF that I will not use again) is a love story.
Not very many stories in Doctor Who delve into the Timelord’s emotional side. It’s also very rare that we actually see him express anything akin to proper love besides his relationship with Rose Tyler – and even that takes two whole series to develop. But what’s more poignant about The Girl in the Fireplace, is that the Doctor doesn’t just fall in love; he finds his soul mate. When he looks into Reinette’s mind he doesn’t just see her for all she is, she see’s him as well – and so a unique relationship comes to be.
The viewer watches as the Doctor earns his title “the lonely angel”, stepping in and out of moments in Reinette’s life “like the pages of a book”, causing her to have known him “[her] whole life”. It is an utterly romantic tale that turns devastatingly tragic, when they cannot be together in the end. That said though, the episode is full of funny lines as well, for much-welcome comic relief.
There are so many scenes to love in this episode that are all equally memorable. My favourite though (when I am trying not to ruin the ending for anyone who has never watched the story), is the scene in which The Doctor, Rose and Mickey discuss the situation on the spaceship, and end up stepping into a moment of Reinette’s timeline to face down a lurking clockwork robot. It’s a great example of the dynamic a three-person Team TARDIS really gives to the show and of course features the brilliant exchange:
Mickey: “What’s a horse doing on a spaceship?”
The Doctor: “Mickey, what’s pre-revolutionary France doing on a spaceship? Get a little perspective.”
This is also the scene in which the Doctor reads Reinette’s mind, and stops being “fireplace man” to Reinette, but (apologies,) the YouTube clip below doesn’t quite go that far.
Moffat weaves a charming love story from a novel (in both senses of the word) concept and at the same time manages to add some excellent pieces of history to the show. David Tennant climbs to heights unseen by his Doctor so far and the scenes he shares with Sophia Myles are simply captivating. The moment Rose (Billie Piper) and Reinette share when they discuss the Doctor is also touching, and Noel Clarke proves to be an excellent (though only three episodes long) addition to the TARDIS crew. This is perfect Who.
Did you know?
- Working titles for this episode were Madame de Pompadour, Every Tick of My Heart and Reinette and the Lonely Angel.
- The Doctor previously mentioned the Zeus plugs he uses in the French party as castanets in Fourth Doctor story The Hand of Fear.
- The idea of the Doctor becoming the “imaginary friend” of a girl he had met earlier and later in life was reused as a backstory for Amy Pond in Series 6. Consider The Girl in the Fireplace to be like a proto-Eleventh Hour. With less kissing. And a completely different main story.
- This story features no mention of Torchwood , the Series 2 arc.
- The idea of the Doctor deducing something from a ticking clock in a room is also seen in the Ninth Doctor novel The Clockwise Man where clockwork robots also feature. In that case, the Doctor realised that someone in the room was a clockwork robot from the fact there is no clock, but still the sound of ticking.
- Moffat stated that the clockwork people were inspired by The Turk, a clockwork man who played chess around the same period (which was to be revealed as a hoax).
- One of the recurring lines from Moffat’s episodes, “bananas are good”, appears when the Doctor mentions he may have invented the Banana Daiquiri a bit before its time: (“Always bring a banana to a party Rose, bananas are good.”)
- Another line delivered by the Doctor that Moffat would later reuse in The Eleventh Hour was “You’ve had some cowboys in here.”
- Another recurring line of the show’s history; “Doctor Who?”, appears in this episode. It is delivered by Reinette (“Doctor. Doctor Who? It’s more than just a secret, isn’t it?”).
- The song the Doctor can be heard singing as he returns from the party in 18th century France (“I could have spread my wings…”) is “I Could Have Danced All Night” from the musical My Fair Lady.
- Sophia Myles’ dress in the ballroom scene was originally worn by Helen Mirren in The Madness of King George.
- After filming this episode, David Tennant and Sophia Myles would go on to have a relationship, but later broke up.
Next in Blueshift
Thanks for reading this post. Hopefully, it’s the first in line of many I plan to do on previously aired episodes. Next time, I’ll be doing Seventh Doctor story The Curse of Fenric.