Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

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236 – "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS"
Doctor Who episode
Journey to the Centre of the Tardis.jpg
Official Poster from the BBC Website
  • Ashley Walters – Gregor van Baalen
  • Mark Oliver – Bram van Baalen
  • Jahvel Hall – Tricky van Baalen
  • Sarah Louise Madison – Time Zombie
  • Ruari Mears – Time Zombie
  • Paul Kasey – Time Zombie
Directed by Mat King
Written by Stephen Thompson
Produced by Marcus Wilson[1]
Executive producer(s) Steven Moffat
Caroline Skinner
Incidental music composer Murray Gold
Series Series 7
Length 45 minutes
Originally broadcast 27 April 2013
← Preceded by Followed by →
"Hide" "The Crimson Horror"
Doctor Who episodes (1963–1989)
Doctor Who episodes (2005–present)

"Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" is the tenth episode of the seventh series of the British science-fiction drama Doctor Who and was broadcast on 27 April 2013, and stars Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor and Jenna-Louise Coleman as Clara Oswald. This episode was written by Stephen Thompson and is about an adventure into the inner depths of the TARDIS. The episode also includes three brothers from an intergalactic salvage crew, played by Ashley Walters, Mark Oliver and Jahvel Hall. It was watched by 6.5 million viewers in the UK and received positive to mixed reviews.



The Doctor, sensing animosity between Clara and the TARDIS, decides to teach Clara how to operate it and disables its shields to enable its "basic mode". However, the TARDIS is caught by the magnetic tractor beam of a space salvage ship, damaging the TARDIS. Clara pleads with the Doctor to fix it, but he claims there is no "big friendly button" that can fix everything. Clara spots a strange egg-like device roll across the floor and tries to grab it but burns her hand. The ship jolts and the two are thrown into darkness.

The Doctor awakes to find himself on the salvage ship, manned by the stern Gregor Van Baalen, his brother Bram, and a human-looking android named Tricky with enhanced sensory devices, whom Gregor treats poorly. The Doctor tries to convince Gregor to help him rescue Clara, allowing them to salvage some parts of the ship. Gregor agrees, but when the three join the Doctor inside, he assures cooperation by locking the doors and setting a self-destruct countdown; he will disable it once Clara is rescued. They begin exploring the TARDIS, with Gregor attempting to assess the value of it, though the Doctor warns removing key parts will make the TARDIS angry. Despite this, Gregor orders Bram to start salvaging the console, during which he is killed by an ossified humanoid creature. After removing part of the architectural reconfiguration system, Gregor, Tricky, and the Doctor become trapped in a loop of corridors; the TARDIS is preventing the theft of its systems.

The TARDIS set.

Clara, meanwhile, wakes up in a TARDIS corridor and tries to find her way to the console room. She is pursued by an ossified creature and hides in various rooms, including the TARDIS library where she reads from The History of the Time War before she's forced to flee. Her hand continues to ache from the burn, but she sees the burn marks resolving into letters. She ends up in the console room, where another ossified creature, mimicking her movements, approaches her.

The Doctor, Gregor, and Tricky reach the console room, and the Doctor senses Clara in an echo of the console room. With the help of Gregor's scanner to identify Clara, the Doctor creates a temporary link and grabs Clara before the creature touches her. Gregor demands the Doctor end the countdown; the Doctor, though revealing the self-destruct was a ruse to get their cooperation, finds the TARDIS engines are damaged due to the leakage of time caused by the incident, and they must go to the engine room by way of the Eye of Harmony to prevent it from exploding. En route, Tricky is injured and in pain, to his surprise; Gregor reveals that Tricky is human and also his brother; after an accident that cost the life of their father, Tricky had lost his memories and had special implants to replace his eyes and voicebox. Gregor acted as if Tricky was an android to claim the captaincy of the salvage vessel. The Doctor comments on Gregor's treatment of Tricky and suggests he can do better.

While traveling through the Eye of Harmony, the four are trapped by ossified creatures. When Gregor scans one and it is identified as Clara, the Doctor confesses these creatures are themselves from the future and tries to prevent that future from happening. However, Gregor and Tricky contact themselves and become the conjoined ossified creature, seen earlier. The Doctor and Clara flee towards the engine room but come across a chasm with no way across. The Doctor, thinking they are going to die, asks Clara to explain who she is and how she could have died twice before. Clara doesn't understand, and the Doctor realises she has no knowledge of their previous encounters and is simply a young woman. The Doctor and Clara then leap across the chasm, believing that it is an illusion the TARDIS is using to scare off others.

Reaching the engine room, they find the engine has exploded but the TARDIS has placed the room in time stasis as a safety measure. Clara looks at her hand, the burn marks formed into words – "big friendly button". The Doctor realises they need to go back to the point of the disaster and activate the magnetic beacon – the device Clara picked up – to stop the magnetic tractor and prevent the disaster. They race to the console room, where the Doctor takes the discarded beacon and prepares to travel through a time rift. Clara asks what she will remember and says she knows the Doctor's name from reading the Time War book; the Doctor promises her that she will remember nothing. The Doctor crosses through himself and gives the beacon to his younger self. The younger Doctor reads the side of the beacon – "big friendly button" – and hits the button on top.

Time resets to before the events of the episode. The TARDIS vanishes from the Van Baalens' scanner, and they continue their journey, though in this new timeline, Gregor has become more appreciative of Tricky, having recalled the Doctor's words. The picture of Gregor and Bram with their late father (seen at the start of the episode) is now shown to include Tricky. In the TARDIS, the Doctor tells Clara that anything can happen to her since she's run away in a box with a madman; she tells the Doctor that's what she's counting on.


The Eye of Harmony is seen in its entirety for the first time in this episode. The scene where Bram tries to dismantle the TARDIS features audio clips from An Unearthly Child, Colony in Space, The Robots of Death, "Rose", "Smith and Jones", "The Beast Below", and "The Doctor's Wife".[2] When the Encyclopedia Gallifreya 'leaks', audio from The End of Time is also heard.[2]

When Clara is exploring through the rooms of the TARDIS, she comes across the Doctor's cot, first seen in "A Good Man Goes to War", and a toy TARDIS similar – if not identical – to the one that Amy Pond made, last seen in "Let's Kill Hitler". She also finds a magnifying glass, possibly the one that the Doctor used in the console room in "The Power of Three", the one Donna Noble used in "The Unicorn and the Wasp", and the one Amy looks into while alone in the TARDIS in "The Lodger", as well as an umbrella that looks very similar to the one used by the Seventh Doctor in Paradise Towers.[2]


Lead writer and executive producer Steven Moffat gave the concept of an episode discovering the centre of the TARDIS to writer Stephen Thompson. Thompson explained that this was because Moffat was "haunted" by the 1978 story The Invasion of Time, which was set on the TARDIS but used hastily constructed sets.[3] Thompson was also interested in mathematics and remarked, "anything involving multi-dimensional geometry gets me excited".[3] Moffat left the rest of the story to be developed by Thompson.[3]

The read-through for "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" took place at Roath Lock studios on 29 August 2012, during the production of "The Snowmen".[2] Filming took place from 4 to 24 September, mostly on studio sets.[2] However, the scene where the Doctor and Clara enter the defensive front of the TARDIS' engine room was filmed later on 28 November at the Argoed Isha Quarry in the Vale of Glamorgan.[2]

Guest star Ashley Walters managed to get in trouble with the producers on the first day of filming when he tweeted a picture of himself in his costume in his trailer with the word "space". The picture was immediately removed.[4]

Broadcast and reception[edit]

The episode first aired in the United Kingdom on BBC One on 27 April 2013.[5] Overnight ratings showed that 4.9 million viewers watched the episode live.[6] When final ratings were calculated, the figure rose to 6.5 million, the seventh most-watched programme of the week on BBC One.[7] In addition, "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" received 1.19 million requests on the online BBC iPlayer for the four days it was available in the month of April, making it the tenth most-watched programme on the service for the month.[8] It received an Appreciation Index of 85.[9]

Critical reception[edit]

"Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" received positive to mixed reviews. Dan Martin of The Guardian noted that the ending would upset fans because it made fun of them "so audaciously" and that the episode "frustratingly ... advances the arc before striding right back to square one". He praised the "creepy" side of the episode and wrote that the guest acting "sells" the underdeveloped plot of the three brothers.[10] Digital Spy's Morgan Jeffery gave the episode five out of five stars, describing it as "an absolute treat for Doctor Who fans" as well as casual viewers, and said that the resolution was "not just a running gag but a timey-wimey, reset twist that actually works on a logical and a dramatic level, and doesn't feel like a cheat". However, he felt that the nature of the plot did not allow Clara to do much besides run and scream.[11]

IGN's Mark Snow gave "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" a score of 8.5 out of 10. He was disappointed by the amount of time spent in corridors, but was positive towards the monster. He praised the "showdown" between the Doctor and Clara, though criticised how it was erased by a "no doubt polarising Deus Ex Machina ending".[12] Radio Times reviewer Patrick Mulkern described the episode as "a reasonably entertaining, playfully timey-wimey adventure, with lots of nice touches". While he praised the set design and Coleman, he wished for a more consistent style of the TARDIS as seen in the classic series and called the three brothers "a singularly inept bunch of clods".[13] Neela Debnath of The Independent wrote that the episode was "fun" but mostly "an excuse to explore the [TARDIS]", with an insubstantial plot and three supporting characters who were hard to care about. She wrote that "the aesthetics do add value to this adventure, in particular the Doctor's library".[14]

Writing for SFX, Dave Golder gave "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" three out of five stars. He particularly criticised the plot for being "average" and "a reasonable, bog-standard, sci-fi corridor run-around complete with handy-dandy reset button ending". He felt that the episode had a lot of missed opportunities, and called the three brothers "bland and forgettable".[15] Gavin Fuller of The Daily Telegraph gave the episode one and a half stars, also finding "wasted opportunities" and that it seemed "like a rehash of old Who". Fuller wrote that "the only redeeming feature was the spiky development of the Doctor/Clara relationship" but that "was nowhere near enough to save this deadly dull episode".[16]

Graham Kibble-White gave it a mostly negative review in Doctor Who Magazine. He described the episode as being "all about thrills." However, he complained that there was "nothing here about nuance or subtlety. Very little about cleverness," and described the Van Baalens as "the show's most poorly acted siblings since the Sylvest twins" and the revelation of Tricky not being an android as one of the "all-time stupid Doctor Who plot points." Additionally, he complained that the Doctor's fake threat to destroy the TARDIS "doesn't feel at all Doctor-y," and that he felt "a slight disconnect between the inner and outer environs," saying it was "not enough to bind it all together." However, he admitted "Murray Gold's superlative soundtrack holds it together," and later described the story as "big, loud, dumb fun."[17]


  1. ^ "BBC – Doctor Who Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS – Media Centre". 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "The Fourth Dimension: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS". BBC. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c "Stephen Thompson interview". Doctor Who Magazine. Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent: Panini Comics (454). 15 November 2012. 
  4. ^ Lazarus, Susanna (22 October 2011). "Ashley Walters on his Doctor Who role: you'll see more of the Tardis than ever before". Radio Times. Retrieved 21 January 2013. 
  5. ^ "Doctor Who Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS". BBC. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  6. ^ Golder, Dave (28 April 2013). "Doctor Who "Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS" Overnight Ratings". SFX. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  7. ^ "Top 30 Programmes". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board. Retrieved 7 May 2013. 
  8. ^ Golder, Dave (18 May 2013). "Doctor Who Dominates April iPlayer Chart". SFX. Retrieved 18 May 2013. 
  9. ^ "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS AI:85". Doctor Who News Page. 29 April 2013. Retrieved 29 April 2013. 
  10. ^ Martin, Dan (27 April 2013). "Doctor Who: Journey to the Centre of the Tardis – series 33, episode 10". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  11. ^ Jeffery, Morgan (27 April 2013). "'Doctor Who': New episode 'Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS' review". Digital Spy. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  12. ^ Snow, Mark (27 April 2013). "The Doctor's Real Name Is..." IGN. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  13. ^ Mulkern, Patrick (27 April 2013). "Journey to the Centre of the Tardis review — Doctor Who goes a bit Blake's 7". Radio Times. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  14. ^ Debnath, Neela (27 April 2013). "Review of Doctor Who 'Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS' – Series 7, episode 10". The Independent. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  15. ^ Golder, Dave (27 April 2013). "Doctor Who 7.10 "Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS" Review". SFX. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  16. ^ Fuller, Gavin (27 April 2013). "Doctor Who: Journey to the Centre of the Tardis, BBC One, review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  17. ^ Kibble-White, Graham (May 2013). "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS". Doctor Who Magazine. 

External links[edit]