The Girl in the Fireplace is the fourth episode of series 2 of Doctor Who. It was first broadcast on 6 May 2006 and was written by Steven Moffat. Sophia Myles guest-starred as the historical figure Madame de Pompadour. It continues from the events of its prequel, Tardisode 4.
The episode takes place in multiple time periods as the Tenth Doctor, Rose Tyler and Mickey Smith find time windows leading to 18th century France and Clockwork Droids use them to stalk Madame de Pompadour through her life. Doctor Who writer Russell T Davies described the episode as a love story for the Doctor. The Girl in the Fireplace was well-received by most critics despite the time constraints imposed on the plot. The episode was nominated for a Nebula Award and won the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.
Another influence on this story was the Turk, an 18th century robot. In reality it was a hoax, but Davies hoped to give it a sinister past. Due to its experimental nature, The Girl in the Fireplace was shifted in the running order from second to fourth episode in the series.
This episode is the only one of the season to have no mention of Torchwood. This is explained by Steven Moffat as the theme of the season would not fit with the episode.
For their first trip with Mickey, the Tenth Doctor and Rose end up on a space ship in the future that contains several portals to pre-Revolutionary France. When he steps through one of these portals, shaped like a fireplace, the Doctor discovers the even greater mystery of actual, romantic love.
18th century Versailles, a starry night: Panic is in the palace as people run from an unseen enemy. Madame de Pompadour — or Reinette — stands at a fireplace with her lover, the King of France. She tells him about a mysterious man called the Doctor who promised to come to her rescue on this night. Desperately, she calls for the Doctor through the fireplace.
Three thousand years later, the Doctor's TARDIS arrives on an abandoned space ship. The Doctor finds that, as well as being in a state of disrepair, the ship is generating enormous power, even though it is stationary. "Enough to punch a hole in the universe," he comments. Shortly afterwards, the Doctor, Rose and Mickey, who is on his first trip in the TARDIS, find an 18th century fireplace. Although the other side of the fireplace should be the outer hull of the ship, there is another room with a little girl. She informs the Doctor that she is in her bedroom in Paris, the year is 1727 and her name is Reinette. When Mickey comments that the Doctor said they were supposed to be in the 51st century, the Doctor explains that the excess of power can "punch a hole in the universe". There is a "magic door" between them in the 51st century and Reinette in 1727.
The Doctor decides to explore further. He flips a switch on the mantle to rotate the fireplace into Reinette's bedroom, which is peaceful save for a rather loud clock. A startled Reinette informs him that though it has been mere seconds for him, for her it has been months since they last spoke. While inspecting the fireplace, the Doctor notices her mantle clock is broken and goes "Okay, that's scary". Reinette is puzzled that he is scared of a broken clock, but the Doctor points out that if the only clock in the room is broken, what's ticking? This draws Reinette's attention to the loud ticking noise, which is too big to be a clock according to the Doctor. He traces the noise to Reinette's bed and has a look underneath. He is attacked by a ticking creature in period dress. The Doctor notes that the creature has been scanning Reinette's brain and asks it why, but the creature only answers questions asked by Reinette. When the Doctor reinforces his demands with the sonic screwdriver, the creature advances in him and threatens him with a bladed appendage.
The Doctor tricks the creature into returning to the space ship, where he freezes it with a fire extinguisher. Removing the period dress, the Doctor finds it is a clockwork android, with some beautiful interior assembly. It teleports away before the Doctor has a chance to disassemble it. He warns Rose and Mickey not to go looking for it, and returns to Reinette's bedroom. They go looking for it anyway.
Back in Reinette's bedroom, the Doctor finds the girl is now a young lady. She flirts with the Doctor and they kiss, before she leaves to join her mother. The Doctor learns that Reinette's surname is Poisson and realises that she is destined to be titled Madame De Pompadour, mistress to King Louis XV and the uncrowned queen of France. The fact that he has just "snogged Madame de Pompadour" gives him great happiness as he returns to the future, watched by an extremely bemused servant.
While complaining about Rose and Mickey wandering off, the Doctor remarks that there could be anything on the ship; round the next corner, he finds a horse, of all things. It has wandered in through one of the windows in history, this one leading to a garden where an older Reinette and her friend are discussing her relationship with the king.
Meanwhile, Mickey and Rose find a camera with a human eye in it and a human heart wired into machinery before rejoining the Doctor and the horse at another window to history. The Doctor explains that the windows to Reinette's life are all over the ship. As they watch her flirt with the king through a mirror, he says that Reinette plans to become the king's mistress.
The Doctor spots a clockwork droid in the corner, crosses through the window and freezes it again with the extinguisher; this doesn't work for long though. He asks Reinette to order the droid to answer his questions, noting the droids will only do what she says. It identifies as Repair Droid 7 and the ship encountered an ion storm which caused 82% systems failure. Lacking the necessary mechanical parts, they cannibalised the crew and used their organic parts to replace damaged mechanisms. This was why Rose and Mickey saw a heart and an eye earlier, but the Doctor remarks that the droid was merely doing what it was supposed to; no-one thought to inform them that "the crew weren't on the menu". The droid says that they require a part of Reinette for the ship as "they are the same", but "she is not ready yet." Horrified, Reinette orders the droid to leave. Apparently taking this request literally, it teleports away. Rose and Mickey pursue it, taking the horse with them.
Using his Time Lord abilities, the Doctor examines Reinette's mind, taking a look at her past. It's not long before the Doctor realises she is also looking in his mind at his lonely childhood. When he asks Reinette how she managed that, she says, "A door once opened may be stepped through in either direction." She invites the Doctor to "dance" with her, with him reminding her that she needs to "dance" with the king that night. Amused, Reinette tells him that she'll make the king jealous first.
Meanwhile, back on the ship, Mickey is taunting Rose about the many women the Doctor knows, including the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra. She sees a Clockwork Droid coming up behind Mickey and tries to warn him, but he is seized by the droid, which injects him with something that knocks him out. Rose tries to aim her gun at the droid, but another appears behind her, grabs hold of her and pulls her down. She struggles but it will not let her up. It injects her and she falls unconscious.
Rose awakens to find herself strapped to an operating table. Mickey, on a table next to Rose, has received the same treatment. The droids loom over them, threatening to dissect them for parts needed for the ship, and Rose and Mickey struggle and try to reason with them, but to no avail. Rose tries to intimidate them by revealing they are traveling with the famous Time Lord known as the Doctor.
However, the Doctor appears, apparently drunk; "Oh look who it is, the oncoming storm" Rose snaps. The Doctor notes she sounds like her mother, before going about how he accidentally invented the Banana daiquiri a few centuries early. He goes on to explain that the droids are monitoring Reinette's "milometer"; apparently when she's thirty-seven and thus "complete", the droids will steal her brain to replace the broken command circuit of the ship. He then pours his glass of wine down a droid's head, revealing it's anti-oil: "if it moves, it doesn't." He stops the other droids with a lever on a nearby console. He deactivates the tables and the three of them escape.
When the Doctor tries to close the gateways he finds that he can't — one of the droids is still in France. This droid sends a message to the droids on the ship; it found the right time in Reinette's life. The droids spring back to life, with the frozen one spurting the anti-oil out of it's systems. They teleport away, deadlocking the system to prevent the Doctor from stopping them.
The Doctor sends Rose to warn Reinette that the droids will return to her some time after her thirty-seventh birthday. Mickey comes to inform Rose that the Doctor has found the correct time window. Reinette rushes into the space ship and hears her own screams from the future as the Doctor fixes an audio link to the window. Reinette decides to take the "slower path" and returns to France.
Rose and Mickey return to the Doctor, who has discovered that the droids have sealed off the time window to prevent him following them. Mickey suggest just breaking through, but they would require a truck to smash through the combined hyperplex and plate-glass layers and in any case, if the mirror is broken it will destroy the time windows. Unfortunately, this is the only option and the Doctor uses the horse to break through the seal, breaking the connection between France and the ship. The Doctor explains to the droids that they are no longer needed. Seeing he is correct, they cease functioning, collapse to the floor and shatter.
Meanwhile, back in the ship, Rose and Mickey realise that if the Doctor is trapped in France, they are trapped as well since they cannot operate the TARDIS. Mickey starts to panic, but Rose remains silent.
On the other hand, the Doctor seems quite reconciled to taking the "slow path" with Reinette. As they sip wine and stargaze through a palace window, he muses about how he might earn money since he's "not going anywhere." It is Reinette who suggests that there might yet be a way back for him. She brings him to a room with a bed covered with flower petals and shows him the fireplace from when they first met. She had the same fireplace moved to Versailles. Because she moved the fireplace, the window was offline when the link broke so there is still a connection. Using his sonic screwdriver, the Doctor reactivates the link. He rides the rotating mantle back onto the ship as Reinette looks on sadly; a part of her had hoped he would be unable to do so. Once on the other side, the Doctor turns back to look through the fireplace at Reinette. He tells her to pack a bag and pick a star - if she wants to join him, he will take her wherever she wants to go. "Give me two minutes," he tells her before hurrying to find Rose and Mickey.
After quickly greeting his very relieved companions and rushing them into the TARDIS, the Doctor turns back to get Reinette. However, when he rides the mantle around again, she is nowhere to be found. Searching for her, he instead finds the now much-older king. While it had been two minutes for the Doctor, it had been years for Reinette. The king tells the Doctor that he's "just missed her; she'll be in Paris by six." The words seem innocuous enough, but the king's tone hints that she has not just gone on a simple trip. In a low voice, he states that she had always hoped to see the Doctor again, and he hands the Doctor a letter she had written to him. The king then draws the Doctor's attention to the window and they both watch a hearse take Reinette away "for the last time"; tragically, she has died. As understanding dawns upon the Doctor that she is truly gone, he is obviously deeply affected. Despite the king's query about the contents of the letter, the Doctor silently slips it into his pocket to read when he is alone. He leaves without another word.
Once back in the TARDIS, the Doctor tries to act nonchalant. When Rose questions him about why Reinette was singled out, he shrugs it off as the ship's damaged computer getting "confused" and moves to the TARDIS console, calmly shutting down the rest of the time windows. Despite his business-as-usual demeanour, Rose senses that he is in pain. When she asks him if he is alright, he looks her in the eye and claims he is "always alright." He manages a small smile before looking away again, but he is fooling no one. By this point, even Mickey can see that all is not well. In order to allow the Doctor some time alone, Mickey suggests that Rose show him around the TARDIS and leads her away.Once he is sure they are gone, the Doctor pulls the letter from his pocket and slowly unfolds it. In the letter, Reinette tells of her love for the Doctor and how she fears that she may never see him again as her body weakens. Still, she continues to hold out hope. He visibly struggles to control his emotions as he reads her pleas for him to hurry back to her. She finishes, "Godspeed, my lonely angel." Swallowing hard, he puts the letter back into his pocket; no tears fall, but there is anguish in his eyes. He then turns to the console, which shows the fireplace still active, and deactivates it, severing the last link.As the light in the fire dies, the TARDIS dematerialises, revealing that it stood in front of a picture of Reinette. As the TARDIS leaves the scene, the name of the ship (and the reason the droids targeted Reinette) can finally be seen on the outside: SS Madame De Pompadour. The ship drifts through space, lifeless, as the episode ends.
- The Doctor - David Tennant
- Rose Tyler - Billie Piper
- Mickey Smith - Noel Clarke
- Reinette - Sophia Myles
- King Louis - Ben Turner
- Young Reinette - Jessica Atkins
- Katherine - Angel Coulby
- Manservant - Gareth Wyn Griffiths
- Clockwork Man - Paul Kasey
- Clockwork Woman - Ellen Thomas
- Alien Voices - Jonathan Hart, Emily Joyce
|Executive Producers Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner|
|Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.|
- A spatio-temporal hyperlink is the Tenth Doctor's name for a "magic door".
- The Doctor states the portals to 18th century France are time windows.
- The Doctor was going to use Zeus plugs to close the time windows.
- Mickey believes the Clockwork Droid to have been defeated by an ice gun, when in fact it was a fire extinguisher.
Foods and beverages Edit
- The Doctor again mentions bananas. He claims to have accidentally invented the banana daiquiri.
- Mickey says he can smell a Sunday roast.
- The Doctor claims to have a glass of wine with him when he saves Rose and Mickey from the Clockwork Droids. It is in fact anti-oil.
- Reinette met the King of France at the Yew Tree Ball.
- Madame De Chaterauroux was Louis XV's mistress.
- Rose mentions that Reinette is a pre-Revolutionary France "Camilla" - referencing Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
The Doctor Edit
- The Doctor claims 1727 is one of his favourite years.
- Reinette asks, "Doctor Who?"
- Reinette possibly knows the Doctor's real name since their mental connection.
- The Doctor examines a harp when he returns to France for a second time.
- He said he was using Zeus plugs as castanets.
- The Doctor sings part of a song - "I Could Have Danced All Night", from the musical My Fair Lady.
- Snow is falling outside when the Doctor arrives in 1727.
Story notes Edit
- This is Mickey's first trip in the TARDIS as a companion. His name does not appear in the opening credits; the first triple opening credit would not occur until John Barrowman returned temporarily in Utopia the next season; it's not until A Christmas Carol in 2010 that an ongoing "third companion" receives a credit in the opening.
- In a Production Notes column for Doctor Who Magazine #363 (November 2005), writer Steven Moffat stated that the working titles for the episode were Madame de Pompadour, Every Tick of My Heart and Reinette and the Lonely Angel.
- Sophia Myles and David Tennant started dating after working together on this story, according to an interview with Myles on GMTV (25 April 2006). It was rumoured she carried a "Doctor Who" doll in her handbag. However, their relationship ended in 2007.
- Although Reinette dies before she is able to accept the Doctor's offer of travelling in the TARDIS, she does briefly experience time travel when she steps through one of the holes in time and ends up aboard the vessel bearing her name millennia later.
- Throughout this episode, Mickey wears a T-shirt which has a picture of the Nintendo Entertainment System controller over the caption, "Know Your Roots". This particular T-shirt, a limited edition, could be obtained either by subscribing to the British Nintendo Official Magazine, or by being purchased at selected GameStation outlets. In Doctor Who Magazine #367 Noel Clarke admitted to being a Nintendo fan and to being the owner of a Nintendo DS console. He also comments upon the T-shirt in the commentary which accompanies the episode on the BBC Website. Appropriately, Mickey is involved in a video game-related adventure in the spin-off novel Winner Takes All. Mickey also mentions playing a Playstation in The Age of Steel.
- As seen in the Doctor Who Confidential episode "Script to Screen", Arthur, the horse, was not allowed to set foot in the ballroom in the climactic scene. The various elements of the Doctor riding Arthur through the mirror (the horse, the mirror breaking and the reactions of the extras in the ballroom) all had to be filmed at separate times and then composited together
- There are many sexual metaphors throughout this episode.
- Reinette asks the Doctor to "dance", a word used by Moffat in The Doctor Dances as a euphemism for sexual activity. Moffat remarked in the MP3 audio commentary with Noel Clarke that Reinette's use of the word "dance" was merely done as flirtation, that no sexual activity took place and that the only "dancing" that was done was at the Yew Tree Ball.
- In the commentary for this episode, David Tennant remarked on the "intimacy" of the mind-reading scene and the ambiguity of the scene where Reinette and the Doctor part, the bed in the foreground hinting at seduction.
- Radio Times credits Jonathan Hart as "Voice of Clockwork Man" and Emily Joyce as "Voice of Clockwork Woman". The collective on-screen credit reads "Alien Voices".
- Sophia Myles' dress in the ballroom scene was originally worn by Helen Mirren in The Madness of King George. (DCOM: The Girl in the Fireplace)
- Reinette is the first non-companion character to kiss the Doctor on-screen.
- The Girl in the Fireplace - 7.4m viewers
- Writer Steven Moffat states on Doctor Who Confidential that the clockwork people were inspired by the Turk, a clockwork man who played chess around the same period (and which was later revealed to be a hoax). There is also a chess playing Cyberman in Series 7'sNightmare in Silver. The story of The Turk later inspired an ongoing story arc in the TV series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
- Casanova featured David Tennant in a French ballroom falling in love.
- The Doctor Who novels Love and War and The Witch Hunters influenced this story. Love and War is referenced several times (see continuity) while the whole romance with the Doctor changing time zones has a similar feel to the Doctor's relationship with Rebecca Nurse.
- The Star Trek: Deep Space 9 episode The Visitor featured Ben Sisko reappearing at various points in his son's future culminating in Jake's death.
- Audrey Niffenegger's novel The Time Traveler's Wife describes a romance about a man who randomly jumps in and out of a woman's life at various points along her timeline (including her childhood), while she has to live her life linearly. (Niffenegger's 2009 novel, Her Fearful Symmetry, includes a scene where the characters are watching this episode on television.)
- Mickey quotes Robert De Niro's "Are you looking at me?" line whilst exploring the ship.
- Clips were seen of the clockwork droids during the promotional trailer of Season 2 which aired at the end of The Christmas Invasion. Many viewers and fans speculated that the droids were Autons due to the way they moved and the weapons coming out of their arms.
- After the Doctor and Reinette experience their mind link, she invites him to "dance" with her. As episode writer Steven Moffat had previously established (in The Doctor Dances) that dancing is a metaphor for making love, that the Doctor and Reinette are next seen walking away, hand in hand, and that Reinette was a courtesan, there is fan speculation that some form of lovemaking occurs "off camera". When the Doctor is next seen, he is hyper and pretending to be drunk after a great party; whether he and Reinette actually "danced" is left to the imagination. However, Steven Moffat denies that any sexual activity took place.
Filming locations Edit
- Ragley Hall, Alcester, Warwickshire (the Ballroom of the Palace of Versailles)
- Tredegar House, Newport, Gwent (Reinette's Studio, and the location of the funeral cortege at the end of the episode)
- Dyffryn Gardens, St. Nicholas, Vale of Glamorgan (the Palace of Versailles and the palace grounds; also Reinette's bedroon)
- David Broome Events Centre, Crick, Monmouthshire (the horse jump - as noted above, this was later composited into the Ballroom shots: No horse actually set a hoof into Ragley Hall!)
Production errors Edit
- The inside of the spaceship can be seen before the Doctor fixes the link that is "still basically physical" in Reinette's old bedroom.
- When a droid stops and another falls over, the original one that stopped still stands.
- When the Doctor reads Reinette's memories, in some views his left ring finger is above her ear and in others it is below her ear.
- When the Doctor is spying on Reinette, he ducks behind the pillar, though he is still clutching the pillar. In the next shot he's not. This error happens several times.
- The Seventh Doctor had previously responded to the question, "What do monsters have nightmares about?" with "Me!" (PROSE: Love and War, The Dying Days, Continuity Errors)
- The Doctor had encountered (unrelated) clockwork robots before in PROSE: The Clockwise Man and AUDIO: Time Works.
- Bernice Summerfield (who is from the 26th century) used a quantum imager to recreate the life of a 20th century man. He saw her as a ghostly figure appearing at key moments throughout his life. (PROSE: The Least Important Man)
- The Doctor managed to convince a crowd of his skill at the harp once, at first without playing a single note, later playing it, albeit briefly. (TV: The Romans, The Five Doctors)
- The Seventh Doctor used a similar method to read the mind of his companion Bernice Summerfield as he does with Reinette. [source needed]
- Before they are attacked by the clockwork droids, Rose and Mickey briefly discuss the women with whom the Doctor has had relationships, including Cleopatra, whom Mickey claims the Doctor affectionately calls Cleo. The Fourth Doctor had previously mentioned Cleopatra to Duke Giuliano, citing one of her guardsmen as "the best swordsman I've ever seen". (TV: The Masque of Mandragora) The Eleventh Doctor would later encounter River Song impersonating Cleopatra. (TV: The Pandorica Opens)
- Later on, the Doctor would meet another young girl, Amelia Pond, during her childhood, before leaving and meeting her again when she is older. Reinette also called the Doctor her imaginary friend, as Amy later would. (TV: The Eleventh Hour)
- When the Doctor expresses a preference for 18th century France it tallies up with the opinions of the First Doctor. (TV: The Reign of Terror)
- This is the second time the Doctor has used an "anti" substance to disable an enemy. As the Ninth Doctor, he had obtained an anti-plastic solution as a means to threaten and bargain with the Nestene Consciousness. (TV: Rose)
- The Doctor calls a dangerous creature "beautiful" even though others would not feel the same way about such. The Third Doctor considered a giant fly a "beautiful creature" despite the fact it attacked him and Sergeant Benton. (TV: The Green Death)
- The Twelfth Doctor would later face Clockwork Droids from the sister ship of the Madame de Pompadour, the SS Marie Antoinette; these droids were also harvesting human organs, but to repair themselves rather than their ship. (TV: Deep Breath)
- The Doctor has previously been at a masque. (TV: The Masque of Mandragora).
Home video releases Edit
DVD releases Edit
- The Girl in the Fireplace (Ep 4) was sold on Series 2 Volume 2, along with Tooth and Claw and School Reunion.
- It was also sold as part of the Series 2 Box Set, which included all 13 episodes of Series 2, along with the Children in Need Special and The Christmas Invasion.
- It was also sold on Issue Nine of the Doctor Who DVD Files, which included the episode School Reunion on the same DVD.
Blu-Ray releases Edit
- This story was released in the Series 2 Blu-Ray set in November 2013 along with the rest of the series. Despite not being filmed in HD, the Blu-Ray features an upscaled picture and fewer compression artefacts.
- This release was initially bundled with the first seven series of the revived Doctor Who.
Digital releases Edit
- This story is available for streaming via Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime. It can also be purchased on iTunes.
- In 2015, it was released by BBC Worldwide on BitTorrent and iTunes, in A Decade of the Doctor bundle to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the new series. It included introductions by Peter Capaldi, Earth Conquest: The World Tour and an episode guide.
- The Discontinuity Guide to: The Girl in the Fireplace at The Whoniverse
- The Girl in the Fireplace at Shannon Sullivan's A Brief History of Time (Travel)
- The Girl in the Fireplace at The Locations Guide