The Girl in the Fireplace takes us to 1700s France, for an adventure in history written by future showrunner Steven Moffat. It’s one that was incredibly popular when it first aired, and has an enduring quality to it - being about the people rather than the science, as is so often Moffat’s style.
This time, we’ve got Mickey along for the ride, as Rose tries to figure out the complicated relationships she has with the two men in her life. Mickey is pretty excited about being on board for this trip, until naturally it all starts to go a bit wrong and gets a bit scary.
“I just made it up. Didn’t want to say a magic door.”
The terrified child with something under the bed - this is the stuff nightmares are made of, this is the television that sends kids behind the sofa. The Doctor disappears for a moment and returns a lot later, with the young girl grown up and courting the King. With hindsight, this is gloriously similar to Amy Pond, whom the doctor leaves sitting on a suitcase and returns to find a grown up in a short skirt.
Madame de Pompadour is no Amy Pond, but they share similar qualities. She’s feisty and smart, and doesn’t really fit in the timezone she has been allocated to. I love how intelligent she is, believing things that must be off the deep end for that period of history and knowing exactly what must be done. She trusts the Doctor and loves him and his lonely life, but that leads her to be a bit snotty, particularly with Rose who is just trying to warn her to be careful.
“You do not appear to have aged a single day. That is tremendously impolite of you.”
So, there’s some kissing and then we find the Doctor sacrificing his own way of life to save her. The scenes of him pondering how to get by “stuck on the slow path” are so brilliant. The lighter problems (“always a bit vague about money. Where do you get money?”) to the more overarching issue of not being able to travel the world anymore. Thankfully for us, there’s a solution to the problem and the Doctor is free to escape to his blue box.
Unfortunately for him, the next time he tries to visit, he is late again, and this time it is far too late indeed.
Meanwhile, Rose and Mickey were left on the other side of the wall, biding their time and figuring out their own more modern problems. They go wandering off, despite the fact they are instructed not to. At this point in the Doctor’s world, his number one rule is not to wander off. Later it will become “the Doctor lies.”
There’s a random horse, there’s a great scene where the Doctor comes to the rescue pretending to be drunk, and there’s a worrying spaceship powered by the remains of the crew. But overall, this is a story about waiting, about love and companionship, and, to my mind, about not being late.