The Girl in the Fireplace - why the hate?

Ok, I need to know.

The Girl in the Fireplace was the first to be eliminated in our recent elimination game, yet it’s by far not the worst episode that series (I’d say it’s a contender for the best), and it received very high scores on this site and elsewhere.

So why do people here not like it? :scream:


Specifically pinging

@uss-genderprise @sircarolyn @Schroedingerswhat @snakesontoast @felix


For me personally it’s not that I don’t like it, just that I don’t understand why so many people do. I find it a fairly mediocre episode at best. I like the horse and the designs of the clockwork people, and of course the costuming is gorgeous, but there just isn’t much of a story there. It’s not one I ever have an interest in revisiting. I wanted to make sure my actual favourites outlasted it and I knew it was likely to be voted up a lot so I wanted to get it out quick. Nothing against that episode specifically.


Yeah, I think it’s kind of mediocre at best and I’ve never understood why it’s so highly regarded while something like Fear Her is remembered as terrible. The real life Madame de Pompadour was famously groomed by the people around her to become the king’s mistress (Reinette literally means “little queen”), and that fact to me makes the whole “meeting her at age seven then reunites with her adult self (who remembers him as an imaginary friend) and now she’s really attracted to him” thing really, really gross to me. I especially don’t like that it’s just a proto version of what Moffat’s gonna do again later with Amy. It really frustrates me that Rose and Mickey are shoved to the side and kind of don’t do anything the whole episode while the doctor does his weird Time Traveler’s Wife thing. The episode does little to tell us about what she actually did in life. The episode does little to tell us about Madame de Pompadour herself, despite the episode’s focus on her (and leaves out major things, like how iirc she wasn’t a sexual/romantic partner to the king for most of her life because of her illness). I hate how the episode establishes her as an impressive, competent woman and we don’t really get to see much of that because she’s so focused on the Doctor (and vice versa). I think it sucks how the emotions of Rose, the deuteragonist of this series, is pretty much fully brushed to the side, and Mickey basically has no reason to be there except to antagonize her. The music is good, the costumes and prop work is great, but there’s really no ideas in this episode that won’t be done way better in a later episode like The Girl Who Waited or Deep Breath.

I don’t hate it or think it’s a terrible episode or anything, I just don’t think it’s that great, and I don’t really get the hype for it.

(edited to fix a sentence that was badly structured lol)


I think it’s basically fine as far as episodes go, and the soundtrack is pretty, but that’s where it ends for me. I think I perhaps come across as more hateful towards it than I really feel because it annoys me that people hold it up as The Greatest Episode Ever when it’s not. I think I find the dynamic between Mme de Pompadour and the Doctor a bit strange and it makes tenrose come across as way more combative than usual and I’m not a paticular tenrose fan to begin with. Also I think everyone is too mean to Mickey.


Don’t get the hate, either. It’s one of my favourites from this season. It’s not a ‘big’ episode, but the story is well told and interesting. Plus, the acting is top-notch.

EDIT. Actually, looking at the series properly, I think it is my favourite episode from that series.


i haven’t seen it in ages because i don’t make a habit of watching things i actively dislike but like… it’s out of character for rose and mickey, and also i don’t really enjoy whatever’s going on between the doctor and reinette. in general moffat one-offs tend to annoy me because i feel like he tends to sacrifice character for quippy one-liner type humor and i’m not a huge fan of that. but gitf is probably the one i like the least.


So, for me it isn’t necessarily that it is a bad episode. I love the clockwork people and the starting premise as well, but the thing that makes me dislike the episode are the actions that are taken in the episode specifically by the Doctor and the characterization that comes with it because to me it always felt kind of off.

The Doctor keeps leaving Mickey and Rose on the ship with the clockwork people not knowing if they will be safe or not. Which in the beginning is okay and makes sense to me because of course the Doctor will go investigate. But then it keeps happening, and goes over to reckless when he leaves them stranded on the ship for multiple hours while he was having fun. Not to mention how he basically left the two of them stranded in the end if he hadn’t found a way to get back home. I understand why it was important to go and save her because historical figure and all, but it also felt a bit off to me that he would just leave them stranded. Especially compared to how the Doctor was often more on the protective side when it goes to Rose and it felt like the episode was more there to bring conflict in between the Doctor and Rose that wasn’t really needed/was kind of already partially explored an episode beforehand and in my opinion didn’t really need to be rehashed.

And I’m not even gonna go into the relationship that was shown with the Doctor and Madame Pompadour because all points I have were already mentioned before.

It in this way just wasn’t really an episode I personally enjoy, especially when compared to the fact how so many people see this episode as top notch, but I wouldn’t say I actually hate it.


The rabid desire ( :wink: ) to eliminate this story surprised me to, especially as I thought stories like The Idiot’s Lantern and Fear Her were, generally, more disliked.

I went back to my review from a few years ago and I liked it a lot but my main criticism seemed to be that the Doctor is pretty irritating in this story.

The relationship between the Doctor and Reinette doesn’t strike me as icky in the way it does to others here but I can see why people might view it unfavourably (although I don’t ever think the real history should ever be used as a stick to beat the show with because its never been a show to adhere to purely factual depictions of the past and if it did, it would probably never bother to visit the past because there’s plenty of uncomfortable historical details about pretty much anyone if you look hard enough).

My review ended with this line which I think summed it up pretty well for me:

The Girl in the Fireplace is a fun story with good monsters, a good guest character and a good central conceit. It’s only marred by an increasingly irritating and arrogant Doctor but is still a sumptuously realised production with well-chosen locations and excellent costumes.


i don’t think anyone’s saying uncomfortable details are a reason not to make a historical about a person… i mean for one thing i love the agatha christie episode even though agatha christie wrote some pretty racist stuff, but for another thing if there’s uncomfortable historical details about the past why can’t the show acknowledge/face up to those once in a while? i don’t mind historical inaccuracy at all but regardless of whether or not the episode is accurate, it presents a creepy relationship between reinette and the doctor. and sometimes the more accurate version is also just more interesting.


I mean, I don’t think Doctor Who historicals have to be accurate, I’d be insane to say that, and I wouldn’t beat the show with a stick because it’s not fully accurate. I pointed out what I did because those specific omissions make me like the episode less. An interesting thing to me with historicals is to look at the real history and see what they chose to include, and what they chose not to include. And those choices can tell us a lot about an episode and the writer’s intent. It’s okay to sacrifice accuracy in the name of a better story, I just don’t think a.) the sacrifices there were necessary and b.) the story it tells is all that effective. They made the choice to pick a historical figure who was groomed from a young age, had her meet the doctor at that age, and then have her be attracted to him/fall in love with him later. I dislike that choice, and it makes me dislike the episode more as a whole.


I absolutely get what you’re saying but I suppose, for me, I leave that decision to the writer because they will have done the research and chosen where to focus their story. A more accurate version may not add to the story what they need it to, particularly in Doctor Who’s arguably limited 45/50 minute episodes. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Doctor Who as a show designed to ‘face up’ to uncomfortable history because of it’s family audience vibe - which I fully accept is a bit hypocritical when what is being critiqued here is a possibly creepy relationship between the Doctor and a young girl. Ach - I dunno what point I’m trying to make! Sorry!

I’ve never seen the relationship in this episode as creepy - but that said, I’m also not a huge fan of the Tenth Doctor as romantic lead or any of the TenRose stuff so I suppose we all have our ‘limits’.


It is an amazing sci-fi story centred in pre-revolution France, that is a wild concept.

Amazing sets, costumes, creature design, dialogue, music and editing.

We literally have the Doctor smashing through a mirror - on a horse - from a spaceship in the future to France in the past!

I read all the comments about the Doctor and Reinette here, I just don’t see any of that in what is on the screen. And I would never expect total historical accuracy in Doctor Who, as with Rosa this story just made me interested in learning more about the era and Madame de Pompadour. The story comes first, even docu-dramas and biopics make allowances for more streamlined storytelling.

Series 2 have so few good stories in my eyes and this is definitely one of them. Absolutely no hate from me about this story @shauny :blush:


This is what I was trying to say put much more succinctly - probably shouldn’t try to explain myself late at night!


I’ve definitely noticed a tendency in the elimination game for people to target the episodes they think are overrated early, rather than the actually bad episodes. Remember how quickly “Genesis of the Daleks” got taken out?


I’ll just say that that is not the reason I am down voting Doomsday :wink:


And the ending to Idiot’s Lantern bothers me enough that the episode would be really low on my list for the season…

(I’d be fine with the Wire themselves returning some time, hopefully saying “Feed Me” less.)


Yeah but that was for good reason :wink:


And it came in at number 3 in the latest DWM top 10 poll… It is good, but there’s definitely some received fan wisdom/misremembered nostalgia at work there…


i mean, speaking as the person who eliminated gitf, i did eliminate it because it’s the one i never want to rewatch. there are other episodes i don’t like as much, but i still find them watchable.