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30 April 2010 @ 11:09 am
2x04 The Girl in the Fireplace  
2x04 – “The Girl in the Fireplace”
Grade: C-

Ranting about this episode was cathartic.

Ok, I’ll own it. Part of the low grade for this episode is the butthurt shipper inside of me talking, but that is far from the only reason I am not a fan of this episode. If you haven’t noticed by now, I tend to focus on characters over plot. Characters and their relationships are what make TV shows for me. And the characters here aren’t acting like themselves. They act in ways that fly in the face of continuity. Added to that, the plot isn’t that great. Well, at the time it seemed pretty good. But after Moffat repeated ideas and characters, it seemed less unique and special. But more on that later. I can forgive a lame plot if there is interesting character development and growth, but I cannot forgive bad character writing. Also, Moffat is a douche. And it is not nearly as endearing as when the Doctor is a douche.

I feel like I can’t talk about this episode without talking about why Moffat and his views on women and relationships piss me off. First of all, he TELLS us that Reinette was this great woman who did a lot of things and was awesome. But all we SEE of her is a woman defined by her romantic relationships with me: both as mistress to the king and as love interest for the Doctor.

Then we see that apparently men aren’t like women. They don’t understand jealousy (as per the commentary Moff did for this episode). Bullshit. Wah wah. Rose was just being a clingy girlfriend. Wah wah. Does that mean that when Nine was jealous of Jack IN THE VERY EPISODE THAT MOFFAT WROTE, he was being a clingy boyfriend? Or how about when Nine was jealous of Mickey? Or is this just some double standard you have, Moffat? It’s only whiny and clingy when women do it, is that it? Ugh. Whatever. I need to move on and talk about the actual episode.

Apparently Moffat didn’t read the episode that was going to precede his because when we left Rose, Mickey and the Doctor, Rose was a bit pissy that Mickey would be joining them. But when the episode opens, they’re laughing and joking. And even though RTD is an obsessive rewriter/editor, it is in Moffat’s contract that RTD doesn’t get to rewrite his episodes, so… idk. We just get this weird discontinuity from the very beginning that sets the weird tone for the whole episode.

It bothers me a bit that Moff kind of just shoves Rose and Mickey off to the side, so he could focus on the story he wanted to tell with the Doctor and Reinette (similar to how he kind of puts Donna in the alternate universe so he can spend more time on River Song) and not worry about pesky things like character continuity. I love Mickey. I wanted him to shine on his first outing in the Tardis. But instead he was kind of just pushed aside.

Anyway. Reinette. When Amy Pond Reinette was a little girl, she met a strange man. And he discovered that there was a crack broken clock in her room which was indicative of something BAD. He said that he would be right back, but he left and didn’t come back for a long time (even though it was only a short time for him). He became an imaginary childhood friend for her and then came back when she was all grown up.

The bad guys of the week are these nanogenes robots who are only doing what they are programed to do, repairing the injured warriors space ship. But they take their job too far, when they can’t find the parts they need, they use the human parts of the crew. I actually liked that plot bit. I know it makes no logical sense, but I still like it. Don’t judge me.

So the plot is pretty decent, in spite of the fact that Moffat apparently really likes to go back to the same well on some of these things. In spite of the ok plot, the Doctor is completely out of character here, and so is Rose.

Let’s start with Rose. First of all, it’s kind of annoying that in a series where Rose is becoming more of a hero in her own write, that Moffat writes her back into the damsel in distress mode. She really doesn’t do anything in this episode other than get captured by robots and then talk to Reinette.

Rose is painted to be like a shrewish or nagging wife.

The Doctor: [drunk] Have you met the French? My God they know how to party!
Rose Tyler: Oh look at what the cat dragged in, the oncoming storm.
The Doctor: You sound just like your mother.
Rose Tyler: What have you been doing? Where have you been?
The Doctor: Well, among other things, I *think* I may have just invented the banana daiquiri a few centuries early.

"You sound just like your mother". UGH. That bit of writing is just so obnoxious. And it really is painting Rose into the shrewish girlfriend role.

The Doctor: Go! and take Arthur!
Rose Tyler: Arthur?
The Doctor: Fine name for a horse.
Rose Tyler: No you can't keep the horse.
The Doctor: Why not? I let you keep Mickey! Now go!

"No, you can't keep the horse". Yep. Painting Rose as the no-fun girlfriend who keeps the Doctor from having fun. Ugh, women. Am I right? Moffat does not just stop at setting up Rose as the nagging wife type character, he also sets up the relationship with Reinette as a sexual relationship.

Reinette Poisson: Oh, Doctor, my lonely Doctor... dance with me.
The Doctor: I can't.
Reinette Poisson: Dance with me.
The Doctor: This is the night you dance with the king.
Reinette Poisson: Then first I shall make him jealous.
The Doctor: I can't.
Reinette Poisson: Doctor. Doctor who? It's more than just a secret, isn't it.
The Doctor: What did you see?
Reinette Poisson: That there comes a time, Timelord, when every lonely little boy must learn how to dance!

In light of that, the Doctor’s relationship with Reinette takes on a really skeevy tone. Now it kind of feels more like an extra marital affair, where he’s going off to have fun and escape the nagging wife at home. I mean, I know that is not what is ACTUALLY going on here, but it’s the tone of the thing. The sexual nature of the Doctor and Reinette’s relationship is strongly hinted at. In Moffat’s previous episodes “dancing” was used as a euphemism for sex. And that’s kind of gross, especially when you consider that he’s known this woman for barely an hour, and when he’s just abandoned the woman he’s been traveling with (and it’s been hinted that he has romantic feelings for) on a spaceship thousands of years in the future. So essentially, the Doctor is abandoning the "old lady" who won't let him have fun and nags at him in order to have fun with the woman who will "dance" with him. Awesome.

Rose Tyler: [about Madame De Pompadour] The Queen must've loved her.
The Doctor: Oh, she did. They got on very well.
Mickey Smith: The King's wife and the King's girlfriend?
The Doctor: France. It's a different planet.

Yes, yes it is a different planet. It is a largely misogynistic and patriarchal society. THIS SHOULD NOT BE YOUR STANDARD FOR BEHAVIOR. STFU, Moffat.

The Doctor too is really written out of character. In just the episode prior to this he told Rose that he would never leave her behind. Then in this episode he decides he needs to go save Reinette… and in the process abandons and strands Rose (and Mickey) on a spaceship in the 51st century with no way of getting home. Nice. Now how is it that I know that this is the episode that is out of character and not “School Reunion”? Well the rest of the episodes back up the Doctor as he is in “School Reuinion”. In the “Army of Ghosts” when he asks Rose how long she’s going to stay with him and she replies, “forever”, you don’t see this look of panic on his face as he thinks of ways to ditch Rose. In the very next story, when Rose wants to go looking for her AU father, the Doctor doesn’t just say “good riddance!” and let her do whatever in the AU while he fixes the Tardis and then abandons her there. No, he goes running after her. In “The Impossible Planet” when things start to go south, he wants to get back up to Rose so that they won’t be separated. It really seems then, that THIS is the episode he is out of character in.

Secondly, how stupid is the Doctor? Asking an established historical figure to go traveling in the Tardis with him? SURE, THAT WILL WORK OUT WELL.

And on top of all of that the character and relationship writing is so completely lazy. Instead of trying to make the Doctor and Reinette have any actually interaction that would lead to real feelings or a relationship, Moffat takes some really lame short cuts. The Doctor goes in already knowing who Reinette is, he doesn’t need to get to know her. She’s really just this historical figure that he has a crush on. And then to short cut the “getting to know you” phase of the relationship, Reinette just magically looks inside of the Doctor’s mind!

The Doctor: [the Doctor is searching through Reinette's memories] Sorry, you might find old memories reawakening, side effect.
Reinette Poisson: Oh, such a lonely childhood!
The Doctor: It'll pass.
Reinette Poisson: Oh, Doctor, so lonely, so very very alone!
The Doctor: What do mean, lonely? You've never been alone in your whole life- wait a minute, when did you start calling me Doctor?
Reinette Poisson: Such a lonely little boy. Lonely then and lonier now! How can you bear it?

There’s not much pain when the relationship doesn’t work out because there was really no investment in it to begin with. The Doctor liked Reinette because he had a crush on her and she liked him because he was her childhood hero and then she looked into his mind. So he’s a bit sad because the person he’s known for a few hours died the natural death she was always supposed to. How… tragic? Idk. Whatever. It’s just a bit annoying.

Anyway, once you get past the shininess of the plot (which seems less shiny on rewatch, especially in light of the repetitiveness of Moffat’s plots), the writing of the characters take this episode from just "ok" to "bad". Also, the episode does not hold up well to rewatches.

Well, I’m ending this review with a picture of the one thing that makes the episode less rage inducing, Rose hugging the Doctor. (Except in this case, it’s just like she’s the long suffering wife who welcomes the Doctor home after he’s gone out and has his adventures.)

Current Mood: annoyedannoyed
Iolausian: dwfangirlsiolausian on April 30th, 2010 06:33 pm (UTC)
This is one of the best rewatch reviews and the analysis of this episode I've ever read! And I completely agree with you.

luv jackie
spellweaver731spellweaver731 on April 30th, 2010 06:57 pm (UTC)
The Moff re-uses the idea of little girls falling for the Doctor over and over (and that's just sort of creepy when you really think about it). In the original Sally Sparrow story he wrote (What I Did On My Christmas Holidays by Sally Sparrow in the 2006 Annual) the Doctor (Nine) first encountered a grown up Sally (a beautiful woman that saved him from a Sontaran) who gave him her childhood essay so that the Doctor could leave clues for the child Sally to help him get back the TARDIS while he was stuck in the past, sound familiar? (also the Doctor's companion, Rose in this case, was conspicuously absent). They we get Reinette and then we get Amy. Not to mention his line about a red bicycle for Rose in The Doctor Dances (which I loved at the time, not to mention all the fic it seeded but still)

Also I was particularly annoyed about him shoving Mickey aside, we got so little time with him on Team Tardis that to waste this, the only real adventure he goes on with them where he does not they stay behind, was just tragic in my opinion.

They there are the similarities between how Reinette and River are introduced and “build a relationship” with the Doctor. We're told that they are awesome but never shown, they are both completely defined by their role as a romantic interest for the Doctor with no characterization or background of their own. (which is what people accuse of Rose, who of all the companions has the most back-story and personal motivations and general kick-assery) Both of these ladies by-pass normal relationship building by use of cheep plot devices (mind reading and out of order romance) both stories seem highly out of character for the Doctor and by that I mean not just Ten. The stories as they are presented are dangerous to time, in GitF we see the Doctor taking risks that simply seem ridiculous and in the River stories we see that he is *going* to take risks that just seem unnecessary. Why deliberately have an out-of-order relationship when after he met her for the first time he could then meet her in order, oh was it because of Rivers “spoilers” making it impossible to do anything else?

Sorry that was a long rate, I guess I just need to get that all out. *looks sheepish*
Frances: DW - Ten (II)/Rose resistencegoldy_dollar on April 30th, 2010 07:05 pm (UTC)
Man, I hate this episode so much, and I think you summed it up really well. Mostly I just brim with rage when I get to it.

And yeah - it's totally a character thing. Throwing in a love interest for the Doctor midway through the Doctor/Rose story *could* have been interesting if the characters were handled better and there was some emotional continuity between them. But since there isn't, I basically assume that GitF just sort of took place in a weird AU standalone bubble.
bevam: DW- thinkingbevam on April 30th, 2010 07:42 pm (UTC)
I actually quite liked that he completely ditched Rose without even realizing how she would feel about it- I agree that it is out of character for this season, but the truth is that the whole Doctor/Rose relationship is completely out of character for him, and this is one of the rare times when he is himself, in my opinion. The old doctors left companions on their own all the time. He always picked them up in the end (except for that time he totally, you know, left Adric to die), but he frequently expects them to take care of themselves for a while.

What did rankle on me about this episode was the fact that, at the end, he seemed to forget about the time distortion with the fireplace. It was fairly obvious that it still wasn't going to work- why wouldn't he say "hey Reinette, come through this door with me right now"? Or leave the timeline and then pick her up in the Tardis?

I do completely agree about the re-use of plotlines, though- I watched Eleventh Hour and thought heeeyyyy, this is familiar...

(I just stumbled on this journal and am enjoying the rewatches :) )
fauxkarenfauxkaren on April 30th, 2010 08:07 pm (UTC)
There's a difference between expecting your companion to be able to take care of himself or herself for a while (which the Doctor DOES expect of Rose as seen in "The Impossible Planet") and leaving them in the 51st century with no reasonable expectation of ever being able to return to them, while they are abandoned on a broken down spaceship with a Tardis that they can't fly.

I wouldn't call the Doctor/Rose relationship "out of character" for him, but yes, it is a departure from previous companion relationships. I would say that the relationship is completely in line with the direction that the new series too. I think this is in part due to the fact that the new series was more focused on character than the old series was. So with the emphasis on character growth and development, you're going to get a better look at his relationships with his companions. And the thing is, this is a post-Time War Doctor. The Time War changed him. Also, although all the Doctors have some common traits, they're not the same man. So while the Doctor/Rose relationship might have been OOC for Six, I don't think that it is for Ten. So I think that this episode is a major deviation from Ten.
Diana: Back Again -- Doctor/Rosebutterfly on April 30th, 2010 10:43 pm (UTC)
Brilliant analysis of why this episode fails as part of the story of New Who arc.

The Doctor: Why not? I let you keep Mickey! Now go!

"No, you can't keep the horse". Yep. Painting Rose as the no-fun girlfriend who keeps the Doctor from having fun. Ugh, women. Am I right? Moffat does not just stop at setting up Rose as the nagging wife type character, he also sets up the relationship with Reinette as a sexual relationship.

And this really points out the place where Moffat very obviously doesn't flow with the previous episode - Rose did not want Mickey along and the Doctor is the one that said he could come. He's the one who 'kept' Mickey.
Her Eminence the Very Viscountessbreathingbooks on May 1st, 2010 01:15 am (UTC)
Naturally, I liked this ep *g*. It was the first Who episode I liked, and that was partly because it shoved Rose off to the side and gave me the only character I ever shipped with Ten.

I recently watched School Reunion and Turn Left, btw, and didn't like Rose in the latter or buy her character evolution/true love in either, so it really does seem that I only like her with Nine.
fauxkarenfauxkaren on May 1st, 2010 01:36 am (UTC)
I just think that the relationship writing is SO SLOPPY here. It drives me nuts.

And I think Rose's character evolution makes a lot more sense and is believable if you watch the episodes in order. Her journey from "Rose" to "The Christmas Invasion" to "The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit" to "Fear Her" to "Doomsday" and then "Turn Left" is linear and it is believable. Rose does gradually become more confident and self assured and able to lead throughout her arc.
Her Eminence the Very Viscountessbreathingbooks on May 1st, 2010 02:05 am (UTC)
I viewed the whole episode almost like a sketch done in golds and browns - gorgeous and not meant to be taken like one of the episodes done in blood and emo.

Believable for you. :P I can buy a lot of it (though I still don't like her sometimes and actively wanted to punch her in the face during Turn Left), but in Turn Left... no.
Opal: Rose is awesomeshinyopals on May 1st, 2010 10:34 am (UTC)

I read Mme De Pompadour's wikipedia page once (I am not really well versed in any history) and OMG THAT WOMAN WAS AWESOME. All the stuff she did and how far she rose in life. Yes, she was a courtesan but she was a politician and all sorts of other stuff.

The Rose and Mickey thing getting shoved to the side really bothers me. It's like... the first time the Doctor goes through the fireplace, it's an accident, so fair enough. The second time he goes to check Reinette is OK and it's just plain OUT OF CHARACTER to not be all "So, Rose, want to see France? :D :D :D". His pushing away Mickey could arguably be IC, but not Rose. Also, shunting Donna to the side still pisses me off.

And I am pretty sure I have written extensively on my own LJ about nagging-wife-Rose so of course the Doctor is practically forced to have an affair because she's such a nag. SO I WILL JUST AGREE WITH YOU.

I don't actually mind the Doctor jumping through on Arthur at the end. I know he basically abandons Rose and Mickey and that's douchey, but I wouldn't have expected him to do anything else. He'll always take dumb risks to save people.
Ash: ☇ dw→ puzzles & pieceslovexwentxred on May 2nd, 2010 05:55 pm (UTC)
Stumbled upon this review through SPDN and I just have to say THANK YOU, for this. You've put into words everything I've thought about this episode. *applauds*
Lady Adyraadhyra_19 on May 26th, 2012 09:04 pm (UTC)
One: Your journal is visually gorgeous.
Two: Your recaps are awesome, and hilarious and also informative :))

Thank you for breaking down this episode into pieces and then making an accurate analysis. "The girl in the fireplace" become one of my favourites episodes the first time I saw it, mainly because I find Sophia Myles beautiful and she makes a wonderful Reinette and the story reminded me of fairy tales. But, after watching the rest of the episodes of series 2 and crying my heart out with Doomsday, then yes, you are totally right, everything in this episode feels wrong.

As you pointed out, the characters we know and love here are completely out of character and Moffat breaks the emotional canon already established in all the previous episodes. After rewatching it, I couldn't believe how silly and basic this plot felt, how out of place... And I finally understood why viewers of Who who are also fans of Sherlock complained about Moffat's signature writing when Irene Adler appeared portrayed as a shiny dominatrix, after watching "Girl...", I can see that Irene is basically a darker version of Reinette, the flirting, the euphemisms, it's basically the same (wrong, forced) interaction in another universe. As you said, the same old story. What a sad view of women, indeed.

And the bit about the Doctor eloping with a historical figure without breaking the timeline... how could I miss that tiny little detail the first time around?!

You rock :)))
fauxkarenfauxkaren on May 31st, 2012 09:59 pm (UTC)
Thanks for your comment!

And yeah, this episode is pretty and shiny and on first viewing it's all fun and adventure and drama, but once you start to peel back the layers, it just falls apart.