On The Set Design: “Doctor Who: The Girl in the Fireplace”


My boyfriend introduced me to this little cult classic of a tv show called “Doctor Who” about a year ago. You may have heard of it. A time lord in a spaceship that looks like an old police box travels through space and time with a female companion to save the universe over and over again. It is a very well written show, and as the seasons go on, I think it keeps getting better and better. The following episide I am writing about today is a personal favorite. The plot is genius, and heartfelt, and the set is accuratly late 17th century.

The “Girl” staring into the broken clock on the fireplace.

This episode is in the second series (well, the latest second series) where David Tennant plays “The Doctor”, and he is accompanied by “Rose” played by Billie Piper, and her boyfriend Micky.

This particular episode sticks with me mainly because of the sweet, heart-wrenching plot, ( the episode was nominated for a Nebula Award[3] and won the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form) , and the story line’s accuracy to the real events surrounding the incredible Madame De Pompadour’s life.

The real Madame De Pompadour

Here’s a synapsis of the storyline: The T.A.R.D.I.S., (the Doctor’s Spaceship) arrives in a seemingly abandoned space station floating in outerspace. The travelers curiously find an 18th century French fireplace on board. Looking through the fireplace, the Doctor sees a young girl. He asks who she is, and she replies that her name is Reinette, and that she lives in Paris in the year 1727 (a young Madame de Pompadour). The fireplace turns out to be a “time window”, allowing direct access Reinette’s bedroom. The Doctor discovers that each time he passes through the fireplace, months have passed here, rather than mere seconds in the Doctor’s time on the spaceship.

Reignette’s gorgeous 18th century bedroom. Note the multi colored paneled walls, candle lit sconces, rich fabrics and large bed. Fit for a King’s mistress.

Doctor discovers a ticking humanoid wearing eighteenth century clothing and a jester’s mask hiding under Reinette’s bed. The Doctor tricks the robot back to the spacecraft, where he and his companions learn that it is actually an android made of intricate clockwork. Returning to Reinette’s bedroom, the Doctor finds that much time has passed, and she is now a young woman, and the King’s Mistress, and well known socialite.

The androids trying to take Reignette’s brain. Notice the beautiful costumes, jewelery and hair styles.

Returning to the ship, the Doctor and his companions find several additional time windows at various locations throughout the ship, each leading to a different moment from the life of Reignette. The Doctor comes to find out that the clockwork creature was on the spaceship while it was damaged in a storm. They are maintenance androids, and did not have the parts necessary to repair the ship, and killed the crew to use their organs for parts to fix the ship. They believe one more very important part is required for the ship to be fully functional: Reinette’s brain.

The Doctor finding humor in even a life threatning situation.

The Doctor has discovered that the creatures are trying to open a time window into Reinette’s life when her brain will be compatible with the ship’s system. On an evening when the androids believe that Reignette’s brain is ready, the Doctor sees her through a mirror at a costume ball. The Doctor and his companions can see through it, but cannot pass through without smashing it, thus breaking the connection to the spaceship. The Doctor jumps through anyway, risking no return to the ship to save Reignette.

Smashing the mirror to save Reignette. Computerized, for sure, but look at that fine detailing on the walls.

He stops the robots by telling them they can never return to the spaceship, thus killing their motivation for their mission. The Doctor finds a way back to the ship through Reignette’s old fireplace, and promises her an adventure. Hopping back to the ship quickly to get it ready, he doesn’t realize when he goes back for her, 6 years have passed and Reignette has passed away. The TARDIS vanishes from the spaceship with the companions perplexed as to why the ship wanted the brain of Madame de Pompadour over anyone else’s to complete its repairs. The final camera shot pans out, revieling that the ship’s name is the SS Madame de Pompadour.

Dyffryn Gardens

This episode was filmed at Dyffryn Gardens is a collection of botanical gardens near the village of St Nicholas, set in the grounds of the nineteenth century Dyffryn House on an estate which dates back to 640AD.

The Doctor Who team arrived in a rather muddy Dyffryn Gardens in October 2005. David Tennant and guest star Sophia Myles (Reignette) acted out scenes for The Girl In The Fireplace in the gardens of the Palace of Versailles in 18th century France, before traveling on to Alcester in Warwickshire.

The Doctor watching Reignette in the garden.

However, the Doctor Who team were back the following Monday for more work at Dyffryn Gardens, completing the scenes in the Castle Room where the Doctor commanded one of the clockwork droids to abort its attack on Reinette.

The scenes of Versailles were all filmed elsewhere, with Ragley Hall in Warwickshire standing in for the ballroom and Dyffryn Gardens standing in for the gardens at the palace.

The Doctor after saving Reignettes life. Gorgeous dress, necklace, and hair, yet again.

Thia was one of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who. Maybe because of the romance? The classic 17th century France set? Either way, its a show worth giving a shot if you like sci-fi. Or quirky British men with a snappy wit and a sleek wardrobe. The last 5 seasons are available on Netflix! Happy watching!

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3 thoughts on “On The Set Design: “Doctor Who: The Girl in the Fireplace”

  1. Do you know where I could find pictures of the beautiful necklaces worn by Madame de Pompadour in Doctor Who’s – The Girl in the Fireplace or similar?

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