Everyone seems to be queueing up to heap praise on "The Doctor's Wife" as one of the best Doctor Who
episodes ever, so I'll try not to go overboard myself; but it's fair to say after several years of rumours a Neil Gaiman episode had a lot to live up to, and it did.
It also kind of works as the culmination to a theme that's been around the show forever (present in the original series, and explicitly mentioned in the new run as far back as "School Reunion,) and has become pretty much a running gag since Matt Smith took over, of the Doctor's love affair with the TARDIS.
Suranne Jones was good enough in the role of the TARDIS to make me not mind that she's already been a Whoniverse character (the Mona Lisa in SJA
) and I do usually get a bit iffy about the same actors playing different roles in the same fictional universe. The hyperactive, giddy characterisation ("Biting's excellent! It's like kissing, only there's a winner!") wasn't just a good match to the Doctor but also a believable way that a consciousness used to dealing with all time at once would behave if crowbarred into a human body. Elsewhere in the cast, seeing as how Michael Sheen creeps me out it's good that his guest spot was confined to a voice-over as House, and one of my favourite character actors Adrian Schiller has some scene stealing moments as Uncle (I loved his delivery of "welcome strangers, lovely, sorry about mad person.")
Gaiman splits up the characters and gives both halves of the cast a memorable story to work with - obviously the Doctor actually being able to communicate with Idris/TARDIS and working with her is going to be the first thing most people remember, but the Amy/Rory team get something else that's been long-awaited: A scary run around the corridors of the physical TARDIS, with psychological tricks played on them by the malevolent House. And obviously Rory dies again, this time of old age. One thing that felt a bit wasted was the return of Nine and Ten's console room, simply because of the green lighting that indicated House was the one in control - it didn't feel like we were stepping into that familiar space. Although the actual camera angles used were more interesting than anything we saw when that set was regularly in use, barring the Ten->Eleven regeneration. During the RTD years I did feel as if the amazing opportunities of the TARDIS itself were being ignored in favour of the times and places it could take us to; it feels much more like a character in its own right since Steven Moffat took over and this episode is just the most extreme example of this.
Lots of little references to the original series as well, like the Time Lord's message coming in a cube like the one Two received in "The War Games," TARDIS rooms being jettisoned in an emergency like Five had to after his regeneration, and of course running up and down corridors like every companion in every episode. And a quarry. Rory continues to be getting a bit more respect and being treated like a proper companion (I was worried he'd be The Tin Dog even with his name in the titles) and I love that the TARDIS fancies him. Oh and I also love that the episode's fan-baiting title wasn't explicitly brought up, just left as something subtle for the audience to smile at.