Anthony Head played a good villain in the previous episode, but he also played the anti-magic (and child killer, never forget) Uther Pendragon on Merlin. I wasn’t going to make a comment on that, but his Merlin co-star Angel Coulby has a small role in this episode.
That is all I want to say about that.
No, this time the Doctor lands the TARDIS on a seemingly abandoned starship in the 51st century. That in an of itself may not be that unusual. What is unusual is the Doctor finds a fireplace that shows him a little girl’s bedroom in 18th century France. The fireplace actually flips around, allowing the Doctor to step through and chat with the girl, named Reinette. That’s a good thing since there’s a robot dressed in what looks like local attire and it seems to be stalking the girl. It won’t answer the Doctor’s questions, but it will answer Reinette’s.
The robot then says Reinette isn’t ready yet. Then it leaves.
The Doctor then returns to Rose and Mickey, stops the robot by pouring wine on its head, then whipping the wig and mask off to show clockwork gears. When the Doctor returns to Reinette, she’s older and getting ready to move to court.
Yes, this isn’t just any random 18th century French woman. This is Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV’s highly influential mistress. Several mirrors around Versailles apparently double as time portals, where the Doctor or someone else on the ship can see Reinette, sometimes talk to her, but time passes more quickly in France than it does on the ship.
Besides, it seems the Doctor might be a little smitten with her since he did what looked like a Gallifreyian mind meld, but she’s an intuitive and special enough woman that she could see into his mind at the same time her saw into hers.
That’s about the same time Rose and Mickey learn the ship runs off…human organs. Ew.
That’s about when the Doctor puts everything together, and not just because there’s what looks like a random horse wandering the ship. See, the ship broke down, so the robots started using human crew members to fix it. They just need a brain and for some reason the Doctor can’t figure out, they built a time window to grab Madame de Pompadour’s brain when it reached the right age. Since the Doctor keeps showing up and stopping them temporarily, the robots haven’t pulled it off yet.
Now, there are time rules that say the Doctor can’t just take the TARDIS there, so he has to use the time windows, and when things are at their bleakest, he has only one recourse: ride the horse through a mirror/window, shattering it, to save Reinette. That means no one can go back to the ship because all the windows broke, leaving Rose and Mickey stuck on the ship unable to fly the TARDIS and the Doctor stuck in France with the robots. Fortunately, the robots have the good grace to just shut down since they can’t go back and plug Reinette’s brain into anything.
Oh, except Reinette moved the fireplace to Versailles, and after the Doctor turns it on, it still works. He says he’ll be right back to take her to any star she wants to see. But that whole “time moves differently” thing means he comes back shortly after she died, though the King does respect him for what he did.
He did get a lovely letter from her.
Well, that was sad. Say, why did the robots want her anyway? The Doctor never did find out.
Oh, the ship was named after her.
Yeah, that is the sort of literal thinking a robot would get wrong.
Maybe it’s time to check in with another returning Doctor Who enemy.