The Girl in the Fireplace
|171 – "The Girl in the Fireplace"|
|Doctor Who episode|
The Doctor searches Madame de Pompadour's mind.
|Script editor||Helen Raynor|
|Executive producer(s)||Russell T Davies
|Incidental music composer||Murray Gold|
|Originally broadcast||6 May 2006|
"The Girl in the Fireplace" is the fourth episode of Series 2 of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It was first broadcast on 6 May 2006 on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The episode was directed by Euros Lyn and is the only episode in the 2006 series written by Steven Moffat. Sophia Myles guest-starred as the historical figure Madame de Pompadour. The episode is based on Audrey Niffenegger's novel The Time-Traveler's Wife.
In the episode, the Doctor—a time travelling alien played by David Tennant—and his companion Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) and Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke) find time windows on a 51st century spaceship leading to 18th century France and a group of clockwork androids using them to stalk Madame de Pompadour throughout her life.
Doctor Who productor Russell T Davies, that conceived the idea when he was researching content for Casanova, described the episode as a love story for the Doctor. The episode was shoted in England and in Wales. Overall, "The Girl in the Fireplace" was well received by most critics; the episode was nominated for a Nebula Award and won the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.
The TARDIS materialises on a seemingly derelict spaceship drifting in space. The Doctor, Rose, and Mickey explore the ship and are puzzled to find an eighteenth century French fireplace. When he looks through the fireplace, the Doctor sees a young girl and asks who she is. She replies that her name is Reinette and that she lives in Paris in the year 1727. The Doctor deduces that the fireplace is a time window, a device that allows direct access to another time and place. The Doctor steps through the time window and arrives in Reinette's bedroom only to find that months have passed there. The Doctor discovers a ticking humanoid wearing eighteenth century clothing and a jester's mask hiding under Reinette's bed. The Doctor tricks the creature back through the time window to the spacecraft, where he and his companions learn that it is actually an android made of intricate clockwork. The android teleports away, and the Doctor warns Mickey and Rose not to go looking for it. The Doctor returns to Reinette's bedroom while Mickey and Rose arms themselves and go looking for the android. Returning to Reinette's bedroom, the Doctor discovers that she is now a young woman. She flirts with the Doctor and they kiss, but she is forced to leave to answer a summons. The Doctor then realizes that she is Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of King Louis XV.
Back on the ship, the Doctor and his companions find several additional time windows and learn that each leads to a different moment in the life of Madame de Pompadour. In one of them, the Doctor sees another clockwork creature menacing her and steps through the time window to defend her. The Doctor tells Reinette to give the android orders, and it obeys her. It tells her that it is a repair android and that their spaceship was damaged in an ion storm. The androids did not have the parts necessary to repair the ship and killed the crew to use their organs for parts. The androids need one last part, revealed to be Reinette's brain. Confused as to why they need her brain, the Doctor creates a telepathic link with Reinette, but is startled to find that she can see his mind as well. Rose and Mickey are captured by the androids and are about to be harvested for parts when they are rescued by the Doctor. The Doctor discovers that the androids plan to open a time window to Reinette's life at the age of 37. The androids believe Reinette's brain at that age will be compatible with the ship's systems. The clockwork androids appear at a costume ball and take Reinette and her guests hostage. One end of the room contains an enormous mirror that is actually a time window. The Doctor and his companions can see through it, but cannot enter without smashing the window and breaking the connection.
The androids threaten to decapitate Reinette, but the Doctor crashes through the mirror on horseback to save her. The androids give up and shut down when the Doctor tells them that they now have no way to return to the ship to finish the repairs. Reinette reveals to the Doctor that she had her fireplace moved to Versailles in the hope that the Doctor would return. The Doctor finds that the fireplace is still an operating time window and uses it to return to the spaceship. He tells Reinette to pack a bag and pick a star to visit, and that he will be right back. The Doctor returns to the fireplace seconds later but discovers that six years have passed in Reinette's time. King Louis XV finds the Doctor and tells him that Reinette has died. The king gives him a letter written by Reinette, in which she expresses her hopes that the Doctor will return quickly and confesses her love for him. The Doctor returns to the TARDIS and watches the time windows close before departing from the ship. The TARDIS crew muses as to why the androids wanted the brain of Madame de Pompadour to complete their repairs, and the Doctor figures that the android's memory banks were damaged by the storm. The episode ends with a view of the lifeless ship drifting through space, the name of the ship is shown as the SS Madame de Pompadour.
While the episode appears to follow immediately from the previous episode "School Reunion", Moffat notes in the audio commentary that when he wrote the episode he had not yet read the end of "School Reunion", hence the lack of continuing animosity shown towards Mickey by Rose after he joins the TARDIS crew. After reading the Doctor's mind, Reinette says "Doctor who?", a reference both to the series' title and to the long-running mystery about the Doctor's actual name. She also says that it is "more than just a secret", but does not elaborate further. Moffat explains that he added the dialogue because he believes that, as the Doctor does not tell even his closest companions his name, there must be a "dreadful secret" about it. Moffat also explains that he did not include the word "Torchwood" (an "arc word" in the second series) in the script because Davies did not ask him to do so.
Writing and characters 
In 2004, Russell T Davies, Doctor Who executive producer, was responsible for Casanova, a serial setted in 18th century, and during his research he become enraptured by Madame de Pompadour, and wanted to include her in a story which also involved The Turk, a clockwork man who played chess around the same period (and which was later revealed to be a hoax). In early 2005, Moffat, that had previously written "The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances" for the series, was assigned to write the story. Later, Euros Lyn was assigned to be the director. Sophia Myles stated in an interview on Doctor Who Confidential that she didn't have to audition for the role of Madame De Pompadour, she was just offered it.
In an interview with The Independent, Russell T Davies described the episode as "practically a love story for the Doctor... It's very understated, very beautifully done, but it's nonetheless a Time Lord falling in love and Rose's reaction to him falling in love with someone else." Moffat was inspired by Audrey Niffenegger's novel The Time-Traveler's Wife, though the episode ended up structurally different from the novel. During the production, Moffat considered "Madame de Pompadour", "Every Tick of My Heart", "Reinette and the Lonely Angel" and "Loose Connection" for the episode's title. Originally "The Girl in the Fireplace" would be the second episode of the 2006 series however when Davies realised how experimental it had become in Moffat's hands, he decided to shift it back to fourth in the running order between "School Reunion" and "Rise Of The Cybermen".
While Moffat was creating the clockwork automata he first decided to hide its faces with wigs but when the productor Phil Collinson stated that this would limit camera angles too severely as well as could appear comical, the creatures were given carnival masks to wear instead. The final design for androids was designed by Neill Gorton of Millennium Effects and constructed by Richard Darwen and Gustav Hoegan.
The filming took place between 12 to 27 October 2005. The scenes setted on Versailles were all filmed elsewhere: Culverhouse Cross, Cardiff, the first set of filming, was where the scene in which Reinette's body is left away from city; Tredegar House, a 17th-century Charles II country house mansion, in Newport was the scenario of Madame de Pompadour's sitting room and bedroom; Dyffryn Gardens, in Vale of Glamorgan, was used as the set for the gardens at the palace; and Ragley Hall, a palace in Alcester, standed for the ballroom. The spaceship's scene was shoted in a second unit, also in Newport.
Two horses were used in the episode: one was used for the scenes in close quarters on the spaceship, and another for jumps. As seen in Doctor Who Confidential, the horse was not allowed to set foot in the ballroom in the climactic scene, then the various elements of the Doctor riding through the mirror: the horse, the mirror breaking and the reactions of the extras in the ballroom, all had to be filmed at separate times and then composited together with chroma key. Though initially the staff thought to utilise special effects, they realised it would be very expensive, so they discarded it. Tennant's head was superimposed upon that of the stunt rider in post-production.
Broadcast and reception 
"The Girl in the Fireplace" was first broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC One on 6 May 2006. The final rating for the episode was 7.90 million, making it the thirteenth most watched programme on BBC One of the week. It received an Appreciation Index of 84, considered "excellent". The script for this episode was nominated for the 2006 Nebula Award, and "The Girl in the Fireplace" also won the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.
Writing for IGN, Ahsan Haque praised Tennant and Myles' acting, the "excellent" episode's pacing, the "extremely touching" story, and stated with a little more attention to temporal details, "this episode would have been considered as one of the series' greatest moments." In particular, Haque wanted that the writers had given a more precise explanation about why the Doctor couldn't use the TARDIS to go and see Madame Pompadour before she died. Metro qualified the clockwork men as one of "most memorable villains" while The Guardian's Daniel Martin said "The Girl in the Fireplace" is one most acclaimed episodes from the "Davies era".
Ross Ruediger from Slant Magazine commented it is "may be the crowning achievement" of Doctor Who's second series. Ruediger described it as an episode "for the new millennium" as she felt it "could never exist under the banner of the old series." Despite she called it a "thought-provoking piece", she also stated episodes like this could not be broadcasted every week since it "would be too taxing on the average viewer's brain". IGN's Matt Wales ranked "The Girl in the Fireplace" the third best Tennant Doctor Who story, adding it is "one of Doctor Who's most touching adventures".
- Clarke, Noel; Moffat, Steven. The Girl In the Fireplace Audio Commentary (MP3). BBC. Retrieved 19 January 2008.
- "A Brief History of Time (Travel): The Girl in the Fireplace". www.shannonsullivan.com. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
- Narrador: Mark Gatiss (6 de maio de 2006). "Script to Screen". Doctor Who Confidential. Season 2. Episode 4. BBC Three.
- Byrne, Clar (10 April 2006). "Russell T Davies: The saviour of Saturday night drama". The Independent. Retrieved 11 April 2006.
- Johnston, Garth (21 April 2011). "Steven Moffat, Executive Producer of Doctor Who". Gothamist. Archived from the original on 18 March 2013. Retrieved 16 October 2011.
- "The Girl In The Fireplace locations guide". Wales, UK: BBC. Archived from the original on 5 June 2010. Retrieved 8 May 2006.
- "Doctor Who – Fact File – Episode 4: The Girl in the Fireplace". BBC. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
- "The Girl in the Fireplace Broadcasts". BBC. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
- "2006 Final Nebula Award Ballot". Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Retrieved 12 April 2007.
- "2007 Hugo Awards". World Science Fiction Society. 1 September 2007. Retrieved 1 September 2007.
- 23 October 2006. "Doctor Who: "The Girl in the Fireplace" Review". IGN. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
- "Doctor Who’s Matt Smith: Steven Moffat has ‘written his best script yet’". Metro. 27 September 2010. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
- Martin, Daniel (18 March 2010). "Doctor Who: Matt Smith makes debut". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
- Ruediger, Ross (20 October 2006). "Doctor Who, Season Two, Ep. 4: “The Girl in the Fireplace”". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
- Wales, Matt (25 January 2010). "Top 10 Tennant Doctor Who Stories". IGN. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
Related topic 
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Tenth Doctor|
- The Girl in the Fireplace on TARDIS Data Core, an external wiki
- TARDISODE 4
- Episode trailer
- Episode commentary by Phil Collinson, Helen Raynor and Eugene Washington (MP3)
- "The Girl in the Fireplace" episode homepage
- "The Girl in the Fireplace" at the BBC Doctor Who homepage
- "The Girl in the Fireplace" at Doctor Who: A Brief History Of Time (Travel)
- "The Girl in the Fireplace" at Outpost Gallifrey
- "The Girl in the Fireplace" at TV.com
- "The Girl in the Fireplace" at the Internet Movie Database