“I can feel a TARDIS tantrum coming on”: Journey to the Center of the TARDIS

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“Secrets protect us. Secrets make us safe.”

The protagonist of this episode was really the TARDIS, who was almost always in total control of the situation. A lot of the episode consisted of boys trying really hard not to piss her off. The TARDIS repeatedly saved the Doctor and Clara—even though she and Clara don’t get on—and even saved herself in the end.

Now, Clara in this episode was quite the old school damsel in distress, wasn’t she? Running around the TARDIS until someone saved her, then standing by while the Doctor fixed time. Not the most progressive depiction of a lady.

On the other hand, while the plot may have cast her as a damsel in distress, Clara the character rebelled against the archetype. Her reaction to the Doctor saving her wasn’t hugging or gratitude, but to get angry, punch him and demand answers. While running and hiding, she became the only companion to discover the Doctor’s greatest secret. She intuited the secret behind the zombies, and refused to let the Doctor get away with lying about them.

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On the good lady portrayal side, Clara is a person of answers. When the Doctor lies to her, she always asks him for the truth. When she can sense a secret, she demands answers. The answer to the plot was literally written on her hand. The answer to the Doctor’s darkest secret was handed to her on a platter by the TARDIS.

Seriously, the TARDIS could easily have just cut that little alcove with the history book out of the library where Clara couldn’t see it—why did it want her to know the Doctor’s name? What isn’t the TARDIS telling us?

Unfortunately, this episode also had a few steps backward with Clara. She’s a person of answers, but in the episode’s resolution the Doctor tells her everything will be all right, she’s going to forget about the mystery of herself again. And she doesn’t protest. This is a girl who would want to know. It doesn’t make any sense that she’d let him just get away with keeping all these secrets from her.

Still, the general philosophy behind the episode seems to be that keeping secrets is an act of love. The TARDIS keeps the Doctor’s secrets, and keeps its own exploded engine secret so that the Doctor can escape (not that he does). The Doctor keeps secrets from Clara because of how much he cares.

A final interesting point: it seems that the Doctor has decided Clara knows what makes her keep repeating. At the Eye of Harmony, he apologized for not keeping her safe, as if she would know what he was talking about. He demanded answers as a sort of dying wish. Since we’ve reverted back to the Doctor, we can assume he still thinks that way.

The result is a really interesting subtextual dynamic between Clara and the Doctor. The Doctor thinks she’s keeping secrets from him, but he isn’t asking what they are. He’s still looking for the answers, but he’s not demanding them from her.

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So the question becomes: why wouldn’t the Doctor want answers from Clara? He believes he’s meant to keep her from dying again. But that doesn’t explain why, and the Doctor thinks ignorance isn’t bliss, it’s Carlisle. I think it’s because he doesn’t want to endanger his relationship with her. He was clearly desperate for her to come with him on the TARDIS. His relationship with her is, he seems to have concluded, more important to him than her secrets.

And that’s why it’s all right that Clara is such a big mystery: her character is strong enough that her secrets don’t define her, her mystery doesn’t dominate her. She’s herself, always.

Also, does she own pants? American pants—trousers? Because seriously, why is she always wearing sundresses—it’s really impractical.

Clara Mystery update: The Doctor seems to think that Clara knows what’s going on. And his reaction to finding out that he can’t get answers from her–that she’s “Just Clara”–was pure joy. I think he’s rather afraid of what the answers may be.

Clara, meanwhile, seems very calm about the whole thing. She was freaked out, but able to pull it together really well. And clearly she hasn’t got a clue WTF.

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3 thoughts on ““I can feel a TARDIS tantrum coming on”: Journey to the Center of the TARDIS

  1. Pingback: Gaimaning: Nightmare in Silver | Remember the Ladies
  2. Pingback: Rest in Peace River Song | Remember the Ladies
  3. Pingback: The Impossible Girl, the Writer of Her Own Story: A Look at Clara Oswald’s First Year | Remember the Ladies

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