OK, let's make one thing absolutely clear. She's not his wife, there's no confetti, no wedding, no bridesmaids and definitely no sister-of-the-bride whose arse has its own Facebook page. Phew!
What we do get is a typically oddball story by world-renowned fantasy author and Goth godfather, Neil Gaiman. I must admit I've been looking forward to this episode even though I'm not one of those Neil Is God types. ( I liked a lot of his Sandman run and a few other comics, but I've never read any of his novels, which often look Clive Barker-lite to me. )
After a prologue introducing three suitably raggedy, Gaiman-esque characters ( and a random Ood! ), the story proper starts with the Doctor receiving the Time Lord equivalent of email from an old Gallifreyan buddy named The Corsair, and promptly plunging the Tardis down the plughole of the universe, to end up on a mysterious junkyard asteroid. The Matrix - the "soul" of the Tardis - has been drained out of the time machine by the sentient asteroid ( known as "House" but not looking much like Hugh Laurie ) and deposited in the body of Idris, a batty Bride Of Frankenstein lookalike played by the wonderful Suranne Jones.
"Biting is excellent! It's like kissing, only there's a winner..."
Idris is dismissed as mad and dangerous by Auntie and Uncle, her patchwork junkyard "family", but the Doctor soon realises there's something else going on. Her madness is reminiscent of a regeneration, as the Tardis' consciousness tries to make sense of being trapped inside a human body. As Idris becomes more stable, the Doctor realises he can finally communicate with his longest-serving companion, "his" time machine. Although, the way Idris tells the story, she abducted him all those years ago, not the other way around.....
Although there are other elements to this story, like Amy and Rory being trapped and terrorised inside the Tardis by House, the heart of this episode is the strange relationship between the Doctor and Idris. And while this story is at times self-consciously kooky and ( typically for Gaiman ) short on plot but long on characterisation, the performances and chemistry of the two stars keep it all from collapsing under its own weirdness. Well, for me anyway. I know this is a real Marmite episode which you will either love or hate, but it's certainly evidence of the show taking risks with its own folklore and fanbase, which is probably needed every now and then to keep things from going stale. For me, it's preferable to Doctor-Who-by-numbers like last week's rather damp pirate tale.....
There's a lot to love in this episode: the "valley of half-eaten Tardises", the Doctor's naked emotion ( steady, fangirls/boys! ) as he watches Idris "die", the creepy scenes in the seemingly-infinite Tardis corridors, the console built from junk, and - best of all - this exchange between the Doctor and the human Tardis.....
"I just wanna say, you know, you have never been very reliable."
"And you have?"
"You didn't always take me where I wanted to go...."
"No, but I always took you where you needed to go!"
Oh yes! I've waited a long time to hear those words. Finally, the raison d'etre of the Doctor's adventures is spelled out! I almost punched the air at that moment..... but, of course, stereotypical English reserve prevented me :-)
Anyway, now I've calmed down, I'll award this controversial story:
4 and 1/2 Bow Ties out of 5