The Doctor (Matt Smith), Amy (Karen Gillan, and Rory (Arthur Darvill) receive a distress call to an asteroid outside the universe. Landing in a junkyard, the TARDIS shuts down and its matrix disappears. The asteroid, named House (Michael Sheen), removes the matrix and places it in a woman named Idris (Suranne Jones). The Doctor learns that a Time Lord called the Corsair and hundreds of other Time Lords on the asteroid were murdered by House, and that two of the inhabitants of the asteroid, named Uncle (Adrian Schiller) and Auntie (Elizabeth Berrington) are made of their body parts. Learning that the Doctor is the last Time Lord, House transforms its consciousness into the TARDIS to escape from the rift. Amy and Rory are trapped inside as it dematerializes.
The Doctor learns that Idris contains the TARDIS matrix, and they can speak to each other. As her body begins to fail, Idris reveals that House stranded many a TARDIS before, and the pocket universe is collapsing. They work together to make a TARDIS from scraps and take off after House. Inside the Doctor’s TARDIS, Amy and Rory are threatened. They run through the corridors as he messes with their minds, then sends an Ood named Nephew (Paul Kasey) after them. Idris connects with Rory’s mind and sends him to a secondary control room, where he and Amy lower the TARDIS shields. The Doctor lands the makeshift TARDIS and atomizes Nephew. House tries to delete the secondary control room and break through into the main universe. The dying Idris releases the Matrix back to the TARDIS, destroying House. As she dies, she tells the Doctor she will always be there for him.
The episode was written by the brilliant comic-book and horror-author Neil Gaiman. He asked producer Stephen Moffat if he could write it. Gaiman thought placing the mind of the TARDIS into the body of a woman was the perfect love-story for the Doctor. It was re-written many times because it was delayed, changed because the Doctor re-generated, and changed again because Rory came back to life. They scrapped a scene with the swimming pool because Karen Gillan couldn’t swim, used an Ood instead of a monster of Gaiman’s design, and eventually Gaiman collaborated with Steven Moffat just to finish the damn thing. It won the 2011 Ray Bradbury Award and the 2012 Hugo Award, and was highly praised.
This was the first episode centring on the TARDIS since 1963. In this episode was the first mention that a Time Lord could be regenerated as a different gender. The jury-rigged TARDIS control room was designed by the winner of a contest on the kids’ show Blue Peter. When the Doctor changes the control room, he calls it changing the desk-top theme. Rooms have to be jettisoned for greater thrust, as the Fifth Doctor Peter Davison did. Suranne Jones was chosen for her beautiful but strange looks. Moffat called her sexy, motherly, mad, and serene. Michael Sheen is probably best known for playing David Frost.
This was the only time since the 2005 revival that we got to see other parts of the TARDIS, but the sets have been kept. The story takes place in a junkyard, as did the first episode ever. House was inspired by Harlan Ellison’s “I Have No Mouth but I Must Scream.” Neil Gaiman wanted to make Ellison smile and he did. The TARDIS says the chameleon circuit is not broken, but she knows the Doctor likes the blue box. She also says she wanted to be stolen from Gallifrey. In what may well be my favorite bit of dialogue from Doctor Who, the Doctor complains to the TARDIS that she never took him where he wanted to go, and she replies that she always took him where he needed to