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
The bad guys of the week are these
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.)