The TARDIS is scrapped! Hijacked by salvage merchants and on the fritz, The TARDIS goes into meltdown. But with Clara still trapped within the bowels of the ship, and The Doctor desperate to find her, tensions are high and time is running out... Spoilers, of course, beyond the cut!
Journey is a much more accomplished script from Steven Thompson after Series 6's rather drab The Curse of the Black Spot. After Curse disappointed, I was apprehensive upon hearing that Thompson had been delivered an episode as big in scope and ideas as this, but he handled it pretty well. Even in its endless-corridor running segments, it never really stops and allows itself to be dull like Curse did. It's an adventure that moves at quite a lick, spurred on by The Doctor's 30-minute ultimatum, and manages to hold the tension throughout (and hoo boy, what tension! More on that later). I think the only real point of contention is the ending - the Deus Ex Machina of The Doctor essentially sacrificing himself to reset the timeline could be considered a bit cheap in any other episode, but I think here, The Doctor, in his TARDIS... a 'God from the Machine' moment almost feels oddly appropriate. After all, what is The Doctor other than a godlike being and his wondrous machine? Yes, it was a Deus Ex Machina, but it was a Deus Ex Machina that worked in the story's favour, made sense rather than detracting from the overall story.
I say this every week (and I say that I say this every week, but shush!), but the direction on display from Mat King was phenomenal this week. From all the different rooms in the TARDIS - the Library, the organic engineer room, the amazing engine room - the great sets were sumptuously shot. Even in the relatively boring corridors, the angles on display at least jazzed it up to keep them exciting for the viewer (it's a shame that there was so much of those bland, samey corridors though. I guess it was still better than the abandoned hospital corridors from The Invasion of Time!). And the way he chose to shoot the creatures, dropping in and out of focus, with lots of really quick cuts, added to their horrifying nature in a really nice way - kinda like the creepiness factor was ramped up for Hide's 'phantoms' last week through the direction. Series 7 has really benefited from this sort of 'movie-style' production value - the show has never looked more glorious. It's a bit of an unfair comparison, as one's HD and ones not, and the fact that there's 8 years betwixt them, but putting Series 1 next to Series 7 makes them look like completely different TV shows (never mind the totally different cast!), the quality has come on in leaps and bounds. If I may be a tad controversial for a moment, in all honesty, if split seasons over a continuous run of 13 episodes means we get this sort of visual quality week in, week out? I'm more than pleased to wait.
Another small cast this week, but unlike Jessica Raine and Dougray Scott's tour de force, the Van Baalen brothers were a bit... hammy. Doctor Who can do a good bit of hammy every now and again (dare I say, Doctor Who needs a bit of hamminess every once in a while, it thrives on it!), but the rapport was not particularly believable, and with the occasional duff delivery it meant that they hindered the story in places, which was a shame as the ideas behind the team as an 'invaders of the TARDIS' sort of thing were intereting. However, not all was lost in the acting department. I say this one every week too, but dammit, it still needs to be said: I doff every hat I own to Jenna-Louise Coleman's portrayal of Clara. She has so much weighty material to shoulder in this episode, especially when she's alone with no one else to bounce off of, and it's handled with aplomb. There's the gusto to explore the TARDIS without the Doctor to protect her, that little bit of fear still there after Cold War and Hide, the anger she displays as Clara and the Doctor come at loggerheads - she rises to Matt Smith's level consistently, and I think so far has delivered a fantastic companion. And man, her numb shock at the revelation of... well, lets talk about that reveal actually.
Holy shit, Clara Time Zombie! The twist to have Clara being chased by time-rotted versions of her, The Doctor, and the Van Baalens deceased selves, (well, predecessors from our point of view... ehh, it's complicated) was a hell of a shocker, and handled amazingly by JLC and Matt. The Doctor deciding to confront Clara about her nature, and the fact that she doesn't know, was a really interesting facet. And now, thanks to the reset Timeline erasing the events from their minds, the audience has a bit of a leg up on him now, which is interesting. I'm really enjoying the way this arc is folding out, moreso than past arcs in the Moffat era.
In all, a pretty great episode, aside from the controversial nature of the ending. Lots of fun, a great bit of exploration of the TARDIS, the gloriously meaty aspect of Clara's mystery inching forward... after a bit of a stumble in Rings, 7b has picked itself up rather well, and is on a bit of a roll!