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Given how similar the fantastical worlds of Jules Verne are to the universe of Doctor Who, it is a wonder it took so long for a Jules Verne-inspired episode of the show. Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS is obviously inspired by Jules' 'Journey To The Centre of the Earth'. The episode doesn't manage to reach the same heights as Jules Verne's most iconic story however.
When the TARDIS is captured by a salvage company in space, Clara (Jenna Coleman) finds herself lost inside and the Doctor (Matt Smith) enlists the help of salvagers Tricky (Jahvel Hall), Bram (Mark Oliver) and Gregor (Ashley Walters) to find her. He promises they can have the TARDIS in exchange for their assistance.
There are some nice references to Doctor Who mythology - the Eye of Harmony for instance returns from the 1996 TV Movie - but overall there just isn't enough meat to the story. A lot of it is just characters running around TARDIS corridors and the time zombies introduced later into the narrative just feel forced in order to provide a 'monster of the week' of sorts. It never feels like there's a compelling reason for the story to be told entirely in the TARDIS, like it was simply an excuse to have a TARDIS-centric episode rather than because writer Stephen Thompson had a story to tell.
That's not the main problem with the story however. The main issue I have is that Steven Moffat and Stephen Thompson promised beforehand we would get to see more of the TARDIS, yet we are hardly shown anything other than corridors. We are shown quite a bit of the TARDIS library but other rooms like the TARDIS swimming pool are only glimpsed. It was a big disappointment to not have seen more of the TARDIS's swimming pool and this story would have at least had more of a reason for existing if we'd have seen more TARDIS rooms.
The resolution is a little weak too. It's a literal reset button, meaning the events of the episode never actually happened. This unfortunately renders it a pointless episode of the show. Essentially by watching this episode you waste forty five minutes on something that means nothing to the characters by the time it ends. A better solution would have been to have developed the salvagers to a point where they realise they don't want to salvage a sentient machine and decide to leave after they find Clara. Get rid of the whole time rift and make it an entire exploration of the cruelty behind trying to salvage a machine that is basically alive and the whole episode would have been substantially improved.
I did like the cinematography of this episode though. There were some beautifully shot moments, such as this one in the The Architectural Reconfiguration System:
Absolutely stunning production design by Production Designer Michael Pickwoad and a beautiful extreme wide shot by Camera Operator Joe Russell. It has that very distinctive Jules Verne feel, which I had hoped the episode's writing would have evoked too. Michael Pickwoad and Joe Russell worked wonders on this episode and should be applauded for it, even if the episode itself is lackluster.
The show's stars (in this case, Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman) are always applauded for their work on the show but people tend to forget the production crew who help produce the show. Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman were great but it is those who work behind the camera who deserve more recognition for what they do. It's easy to forget them, which is a shame because they do a stunning job and the show would not be the same without them.
Overall, Journey To The Centre of the TARDIS was a great concept for the show but unfortunately Steve Thompson doesn't quite pull it off. It just feels like an excuse to have an episode set entirely in the TARDIS and there's no compelling narrative reason behind it. The Edge of Destruction was a more effective take on a TARDIS-centric Doctor Who story. It doesn't try to force in a monster-of-the-week for a start. Journey needed bigger emphasis on TARDIS exploration (show us more rooms, not just glimpses of rooms) and a stronger resolution. The cinematography was brilliant though and the production design by Michael Pickwoad was incredible.