Steven Moffat became the first writer, other than head honcho RTD of course, to return to the fold of new "Doctor Who" scribes with the fourth episode in the new series, "The Girl in the Fireplace". Expectations were high because Steven penned the most successful story of the first season but I was concerned this brief encounter between the Doctor and Madame de Pompadour might become lost, sandwiched between the return of great programme icons Sarah Jane Smith and K9, last weekend, and the Cybermen, returning to our screens from next Saturday. This is probably why Steven was allocated this episode in the run, to make sure of a strong script, one impossible to forget.
From the outset, one knows, stylistically, this is by the same author as "The Empty Child", as the opening mystery is set up. Within just a few brief moments, the audience is asking how does Mme de Pompadour know of the Doctor in order to call on him for help when the court of Versailles, back in 18th-century France, falls under attack from futuristic killer clockwork droids?
Steven seems particularly adept at writing for children, evidenced, on this occasion, when the Doctor first meets the woman, during her childhood, who was destined to become the mistress of Louis XV. Without the aid of his TARDIS, made all but redundant with the time-portal plot device, the Doctor drops in on her on a number of occasions, between the ages of 7, when she is marvellously played by Jessica Atkins before, in adulthood, being portrayed by Sophia Myles, and 37 but, rather poignantly, misses a final meeting due to her natural but untimely death at the age of 43. Ben Turner, as King Louis, handles the dialogue with great sensitivity during the closing stages of the drama.