I can honestly say that this was the first episode I have ever been disappointed in as far as Doctor Who goes. We were promised a look into parts of the Tardis we as an audience had never experienced before, and though we got it the journey there was just absolutely dreadful.
First, let's talk about the racism. Whenever I host screenings of classic Doctor Who at the Alamo Drafthouse I always make sure to let the audience know that science fiction television in the '60s and '70s is just chock full of delicious, casual racism and sexism. Black people are brawny and stupid, native peoples are barely better than monkeys, and honey go make us some coffee.
I expect better of the modern series, but I didn't get it this time.
Flashback Doctor Who: Tomb of the Cybermen at Alamo Drafthouse
"Journey to the Centre of the Tardis" starts with the ship being captured by a deep space salvage crew. The crew is a trio of black brothers so interchangeable and barely developed I honestly can't be bothered to go look up their names. The team's only goal is to strip everything they can for profit, and never mind the fact that they have apparently just killed two people. Just ignore it and go back to pillaging and robbing.
Throughout the entire episode The Doctor leads and recruits these three men and the only motivation that ever gets them to move is the opportunity to steal, and the only way The Doctor guides them is through promise of more loot. I honestly expected there to be a stealing hubcaps joke at any moment. It's not as overt as, say, Toberman in "Tomb of the Cybermen," but it still comes off as an extremely thuggish portrayal of blacks. Especially in a show that gave us the likes of Martha Jones, Mickey Smith, and Captain Zachary Cross Flane.
The real thing the episode was set to offer was a look beyond the Tardis control room. We know that the ship hosts libraries, swimming pools, sleeping quarters, squash courts and more, but as fans we were itching to see what else the Time Lord had squirreled away. Flashback Our Review of Last Week's Episode, "Hide"
There are a few choice cameos, but nothing really striking. As Clara wanders the Tardis lost and pursued by a mysterious creature, she stumbles across The Dcotor's crib from "A Good Man Goes to War," Amy's Tardis toy, her own umbrella from "The Snowmen," the swimming pool The Doctor used to entice Amy Pond, and the telescope set-up from "Tooth and Claw" in the only pre-Smith bit of nostalgia.
This is what's really wrong with the episode as a whole. We get zero time to really appreciate what might be hidden throughout the sets because frankly Clara's being chased by a pretty much pointless series of bizarre monsters. They even interrupt her as she stumbles across a book that lays out the last great time war... a book where she immediately discovers The Doctor's name.
All this is just left by the wayside in order to have what is essential another running from monsters episode. Even that has been done so, so better on the show, and I feel that Doctor Who lost a great opportunity here.
You could have simply done an episode where The Doctor offers a tour of the Tardis with Clara sans any sort of danger at all, and we as fans would have eaten it up completely. This should have been a puzzle, a mystery, something along the lines of the Myst series of video games. An ever-expanding and infinite Tardis full of the wonders of 900 years of stolen travel, and The Doctor and Clara must escape.
Not because red-eyed beasties that look like BBQed turds are chasing them through the endless series of identical hallways, but because things go on the blink and they now have to puzzle their way out of the world inside the blue box. It should have been Wonderland, or Labyrinth, or Mirrormask. There's not a Whovian in the world that doesn't want to wander the halls of the Tardis just as much as they relish the idea of travel through space and time.
Steve Thompson's script blew that opportunity, and director Mat King turned in an utterly forgettable adventure that leaves the second half of Season 7 with only a single great episode thus far, a good one, and three awkward, un-moving affairs. As Toris Amos once said, "Where's Neil when you need him?"
Wibbly Wobbly Writing: So let me get this straight... Rose Tyler needed an enormous truck and tow chain to open the panels that lead to the heart of the Tardis, but the salvagers just flip the lid? Also, the danger of the Tardis exploding was the entire plot of Season 5, and yet The Doctor simply can barely be bothered to give a damn about it beyond his own life. If The Doctor is the last Time Lord, then who the hell wrote the book about the time war? Finally, if all you have to do to end the existence of the time zombies is disrupt the time line that creates them, why bother running? Just let them kill you and they cease to exist. You might remember that as the ending of "The Angels Take Manhattan."