The Girl in the Fireplace

Region 1
box set

Region 2
box set
Region 2
plain 3-episode volume
(Doctor Who Story No. 175, starring David Tennant)
  • written by Steven Moffat
  • directed by Euros Lyn
  • produced by Phil Collinson
  • music by Murray Gold
  • 1 episode @ 45 minutes
Story: The Doctor, Rose, and Mickey discover an adrift 51st century spacecraft connected to the fireplace of a young girl's bedroom in 17th century Paris. While the Doctor's heroic curiosity compels him to solve the riddles of her clockwork nightmare, he soon finds himself even more challenged to face her growing infatuation with him.

DVD Extras (box sets only) include:

  • Picture-in-Picture commentary by actors David Tennant (The Doctor), Sophia Myles (Reinette), and producer Phil Collinson.
  • Doctor Who Confidential featurette: Script to Screen (12 min.) adding writer Steven Moffat, director Euros Lyn,
    art director Lee Gammon, and executive producers Julie Gardner and Russell T. Davies.
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Outtakes

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have
already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide version instead.

Yet another adventure from writer Steven Moffat will have you glued to the edge of your seat trying to figure out exactly what is going on, as was the case with last year's "The Empty Child" (story no. 168). Outwardly, many things are now different, but inwardly, there are perhaps a few too many similarities, making one wonder at times if such repetition at half-length is worth it. But "The Girl in the Fireplace" has a few of its own outstanding unique elements too, and deciding which of Moffat's stories is best will not be easy.

The opening setting of 17th century France once more dashes our hopes for a real alien planet. Is this too much to ask of the new production team of this show that used to do alien planets all the time? Hopes rise though, as the TARDIS materializes aboard a spacecraft in deep space. Now maybe we'll get somewhere. So where exactly is this craft? Listen closely, or you'll miss it. The Dagmar Cluster, 2.5 galaxies from Earth. It looks pretty much like the last resting place of Captain Jack's spaceship from "The Empty Child", wherever that was. Repeat. In any case, exploration of this astronomical location isn't of any real interest to anyone in the story; it's just somewhere to isolate a bit of Earth's future.

Moffat has a good reason for not letting us see the materialization of the TARDIS this time around, so David Tennant now gets his first five stories under his belt with not a single proper materialization in any one of them. Weird. In the end, not very satisfactory.

But, on the bright side, Tennant is preferable to Christopher Eccleston, and instead of Captain Jack Harkness, we have Mickey Smith. Improvements on both fronts. Yes, Mickey is finally traveling in the TARDIS. If Eccleston were still the Doctor, Mickey would be stealing the whole show at this point, but luckily David Tennant can more than hold his own. Mickey gets a lot of great bits in this story, boosting its ratings with me no end. Good show. Here's lookin' at you, Mick.

The hidden underlying premise behind this story is remarkably similar to that of "The Empty Child", and stretches credulity again for much the same reasons. Artificially intelligent servants, in their attempt to help out, become inept in just the right ways to make the situation disastrously worse. ....Yeah. The horrific lengths they go to aren't silly at all... really.

Moffat is also heavy on the references to 51st century Earth, as he was back in "The Empty Child", as Robert Holmes was back in "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" (story no. 91). In one sense it helps anchor the crazy premise back to a precedent in "Talons", where it was revealed that the Peking Homunculus was a robot containing the brain of a pig. No accounting for 51st century taste. Then again, according to "Talons", time travel should be much more challenging than is made out in either of Moffat's stories. Maybe we really are in a different universe after all....

Once again, there didn't seem to be any thematic point to this bizarre intellectual pretzel of a setup beyond freaking the audience out, so I found myself feeling detached and disappointed after my first viewing. Then, that night, I had a nightmare about unwanted presences in my bedroom. Okay, Moffat has tapped into something primal and archetypal with his premise, so I'll give him back some points on this one. I'm a converted believer now. Kudos.

Even so, it's important to remember that the monsters are but a distraction from the real emotional heart of this tale....

Reinette as Romantic Interest / Companion?

Rose had better watch out. Here's yet another more interesting and attractive character for the Doctor to invite on board the TARDIS. Reinette could make such a better companion. And there's so much more going on romantically. Another great opportunity to replace Rose... sadly lost.

Murray Gold creates some wonderful new pieces for this story. Most famous will be the haunting romantic theme for Reinette, made available on CD. There's also some great light-hearted stuff for Mickey's exploration of the ship, and some excellent underscore for the clockwork nightmare scenes.
Music by Murray Gold
The final cue (3:44 duration) is available on:
Audio CD - Doctor Who by Murray Gold
Silva Screen SILCD1224

More info & buying options

As was the case in "The Chase" (story no. 16) and "The Visitation" (story no. 120), the full identity of the setting is not revealed until after the TARDIS dematerializes at the very end, and once again, I'm unconvinced it was a good move. This final clue, if revealed earlier, might have helped convince me that the plot was not quite as silly as it seemed on first viewing. Plus it's more satisfying to give the TARDIS travellers the chance to learn the clue. And perhaps most important of all, it's attempting to be intellectually clever where emotional weight is more readily called for. It felt a bit cheap and unfulfilling to me. But perhaps I'm splitting too many hairs for my own preference. Unlike "The Visitation", Moffat at least sets up his revelation well enough that anyone watching the story will grasp it. Good job.

As an intellectual, figure-out-the-plot-riddles type of story, "The Empty Child" is probably the better narrative. But this counts for little on repeat viewing, when more lasting emotional elements come to the fore. In that sense "The Girl in the Fireplace" takes the cake. It wonderfully elaborates on an idea only spoken of in "School Reunion" (story no. 174), and drives a huge emotional charge through it. A very unanticipated style of story that adds brilliantly to the texture of Season 28. Nice.

International Titles:

Deutsch: "Das Mädchen im Kamin"

Magyar: "Parókás intrikák"

Français: "La Cheminée du temps"

Русский: "Девушка в камине"

Italiano: "Finestre nel tempo"

This story has become available on DVD.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the location nearest you for pricing and availability:

Region 1
14-episode boxed set
for the North American market:

Region 2
14-episode box set
for the U.K.
Region 2
plain 3-episode volume
U.K. format only

Note: The full season sets contain commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and other extras. The smaller volumes only feature the plain episodes.

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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "Rise of the Cybermen"

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