The Girl in the Fireplace is the fourth episode of series 2 of Doctor Who. It was first broadcast on 6 May 2006 and was written by Steven Moffat. Sophia Myles guest-starred as the historical figure Madame de Pompadour. It continues from the events of its prequel, Tardisode 4.

The episode takes place in multiple time periods as the Tenth Doctor, Rose Tyler and Mickey Smith find time windows leading to 18th century France and Clockwork Droids use them to stalk Madame de Pompadour through her life. Doctor Who writer Russell T Davies described the episode as a love story for the Doctor. The Girl in the Fireplace was well-received by most critics despite the time constraints imposed on the plot. The episode was nominated for a Nebula Award and won the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.

While working with David Tennant on Casanova, Russell T Davies researched Madame de Pompadour and decided to use her in Doctor Who.

Another influence on this story was the Turk, an 18th century robot. In reality it was a hoax, but Davies hoped to give it a sinister past. Due to its experimental nature, The Girl in the Fireplace was shifted in the running order from second to fourth episode in the series.


For their first trip with Mickey, the Tenth Doctor and Rose end up on a space ship in the future that contains several portals to pre-Revolutionary France. When he steps through one of these portals, shaped like a fireplace, the Doctor discovers the even greater mystery of actual, romantic love.


18th century Versailles, a starry night: Panic is in the palace as people run from an unseen enemy. Madame de Pompadour — or Reinette — stands at a fireplace with her lover, the King of France. She tells him about a mysterious man called the Doctor who promised to come to her rescue on this night. Desperately, she calls for the Doctor through the fireplace.

Three thousand years later, the Doctor's TARDIS arrives on an abandoned space ship. The Doctor finds that, as well as being in a state of disrepair, the ship is generating enormous power, even though it is stationary. "Enough to punch a hole in the universe," he comments. Shortly afterwards, the Doctor, Rose and Mickey, who is on his first trip in the TARDIS, find an 18th century fireplace. Although the other side of the fireplace should be the outer hull of the ship, there is another room with a little girl. She informs the Doctor that she is in her bedroom in Paris, the year is 1727 and her name is Reinette. When Mickey comments that the Doctor said they were supposed to be in the 51st century, the Doctor explains that the excess of power can "punch a hole in the universe". There is a "magic door" between them in the 51st century and Reinette in 1727.

Ten en guarde

The Doctor faces a clockwork droid.

The Doctor decides to explore further. He flips a switch on the mantle to rotate the fireplace into Reinette's bedroom, which is peaceful save for a rather loud clock. A startled Reinette informs him that though it has been mere seconds for him, for her it has been months since they last spoke. While inspecting the fireplace, the Doctor notices her mantle clock is broken and goes "Okay, that's scary". Reinette is puzzled that he is scared of a broken clock, but the Doctor points out that if the only clock in the room is broken, what's ticking?. This draws Reinette's attention to the loud ticking noise, which is too big to be a clock according to the Doctor. He traces the noise to Reinette's bed and has a look underneath. He is attacked by a ticking creature in period dress. The Doctor notes that the creature has been scanning Reinette's brain and asks it why, but the creature only answers questions asked by Reinette.

The Doctor tricks the creature into returning to the space ship, where he freezes it with a fire extinguisher. Removing the period dress, the Doctor finds it is a clockwork android, with some beautiful interior assembly. It teleports away before the Doctor has a chance to disassemble it. He warns Rose and Mickey not to go looking for it, and returns to Reinette's bedroom. They go looking for it anyway.

Back in Reinette's bedroom, the Doctor finds the girl is now a young lady, who attracts him with her beauty. She flirts with the Doctor and they kiss, before she leaves to join her mother. The Doctor learns that Reinette's surname is Poisson and realises that she is destined to be titled Madame De Pompadour, mistress to King Louis XV and the uncrowned queen of France. The fact that he has just "snogged Madame de Pompadour" gives him great happiness as he returns to the future.

While complaining about Rose and Mickey wandering off, the Doctor remarks that there could be anything on the ship; round the next corner, he finds a horse, of all things. It has wandered in through one of the windows in history, this one leading to a garden where an older Reinette and her friend are discussing her relationship with the king.

Meanwhile, Mickey and Rose find a camera with a human eye in it and a human heart wired into machinery before rejoining the Doctor and the horse at another window to history. The Doctor explains that the windows to Reinette's life are all over the ship. As they watch her flirt with the king through a mirror, he says that Reinette plans to become the king's mistress.

The Doctor spots a clockwork droid in the corner, crosses through the window and freezes it again with the extinguisher; this doesn't work for long though. He asks Reinette to order the droid to answer his questions, noting the droids will only do what she says. It identifies as Repair Droid 7 and the ship encountered an ion storm which caused 82% systems failure. Lacking the necessary mechanical parts, they cannibalized the crew and used their organic parts to replace damaged mechanisms. This was why Rose and Mickey saw a heart and an eye earlier, but the Doctor remarks that the droid was merely doing what it was supposed to; no-one thought to inform them that "the crew weren't on the menu". The droid says that they require a part of Reinette for the ship as "they are the same", but "she is not ready yet." Horrified, Reinette orders the droid to leave. Apparently taking this request literally, it teleports away. Rose and Mickey pursue it, taking the horse with them.

A door once opened

The Doctor examines Reinette's mind - and she his.

Using his Time Lord abilities, the Doctor examines Reinette's mind, taking a look at her past. It's not long before the Doctor realises she is also looking in his mind at his lonely childhood. When he asks Reinette how she managed that, she says, "A door once opened may be stepped through in either direction." She invites the Doctor to dance with her, if only to make the King jealous.

Meanwhile, back on the ship, Mickey is taunting Rose about the many women the Doctor knows. She sees a Clockwork Droid coming up behind Mickey and tries to warn him, but he is seized by the droid, which injects him with something that knocks him out. Rose tries to aim her gun at the droid, but another appears behind her, grabs hold of her and pulls her down. She struggles but it will not let her up. It injects her and she falls unconscious.


Rose strapped on an operating table.

Rose awakens to find herself strapped to an operating table. Mickey, on a table next to Rose, has received the same treatment. The droids loom over them, threatening to dissect them, and Rose and Mickey struggle and try to reason with them, but to no avail.

However, the Doctor appears, pretending to be drunk. He explains to his captive friends that the droids are waiting for Reinette to turn thirty-seven. This is the age of the spaceship and they want her brain to replace the broken command circuit of the ship. He also pours anti-oil over one of the droids and it stops moving. He stops the other droids with a lever on a nearby console. He deactivates the tables and the three of them escape.

When the Doctor tries to close the gateways he finds that he can't — one of the droids is still in France. This droid sends a message to the droids on the ship. They spring back to life and teleport.

The Doctor sends Rose to warn Reinette that the droids will return to her some time after her thirty-seventh birthday. Mickey comes to inform Rose that the Doctor has found the correct time window. Reinette rushes into the space ship and hears her own screams from the future as the Doctor fixes an audio link to the window. Reinette decides to take the "slower path" and returns to France.

Madame doctor4

Madame de Pompadour and the Doctor in the Palace of Versailles.

Rose and Mickey return to the Doctor, who has discovered that the droids have sealed off the time window to prevent him following them. Mickey suggest just breaking through, but they would require a truck to smash through the combined hyperplex and plate-glass layers and in any case, if the mirror is broken it will destroy the time windows. Unfortunately, this is the only option and the Doctor uses the horse to break through the seal, breaking the connection between France and the ship. The Doctor explains to the droids that they are no longer needed. Seeing he is correct, they cease functioning, collapse to the floor and shatter.

Meanwhile, back in the ship, Rose and Mickey realize that if the Doctor is trapped in France, they are trapped as well since they cannot operate the TARDIS. Mickey starts to panic, but Rose remains silent.

On the other hand, the Doctor seems quite reconciled to taking the "slow path" with Reinette. As they sip wine and stargaze through a palace window, he muses about how he might earn money since he's "not going anywhere." It is Reinette who suggests that there might yet be a way back for him. She brings him to a room with a bed covered with flower petals and shows him the fireplace from when they first met. She had the same fireplace moved to Versailles. Because she moved the fireplace, the window was offline when the link broke so there is still a connection. Using his sonic screwdriver, the Doctor reactivates the link. He rides the rotating mantle back onto the ship as Reinette looks on sadly; a part of her had hoped he would be unable to do so. Once on the other side, the Doctor turns back to look through the fireplace at Reinette. He tells her to pack a bag and pick a star - if she wants to join him, he will take her wherever she wants to go. "Give me two minutes," he tells her before hurrying to find Rose and Mickey.

Pompadour mystery solved

The clockwork droids' motivation revealed.

After quickly greeting his very relieved companions and rushing them into the TARDIS, the Doctor turns back to get Reinette. However, when he rides the mantle around again, she is nowhere to be found. Searching for her, he instead finds the now much-older king. While it had been two minutes for the Doctor, it had been years for Reinette. The king tells the Doctor that he's "just missed her; she'll be in Paris by six." The words seem innocuous enough, but the king's tone hints that she has not just gone on a simple trip. In a low voice, he states that she had always hoped to see the Doctor again, and he hands the Doctor a letter she had written to him. The king then draws the Doctor's attention to the window and they both watch a hearse take Reinette away "for the last time"; tragically, she has died. As understanding dawns upon the Doctor that she is truly gone, he is obviously deeply affected. Despite the king's query about the contents of the letter, the Doctor silently slips it into his pocket to read when he is alone. He leaves without another word.

Once back in the TARDIS, the Doctor tries to act nonchalant. When Rose questions him about why Reinette was singled out, he shrugs it off as the ship's damaged computer getting "confused" and moves to the TARDIS console, calmly shutting down the rest of the time windows. Despite his business-as-usual demeanor, Rose senses that he is in pain. When she asks him if he is alright, he looks her in the eye and claims he is "always alright." He manages a small smile before looking away again, but he is fooling no one. By this point, even Mickey can see that all is not well. In order to allow the Doctor some time alone, Mickey suggests that Rose show him around the TARDIS and leads her away.

Once he is sure they are gone, the Doctor pulls the letter from his pocket and slowly unfolds it. In the letter, Reinette tells of her love for the Doctor and how she fears that she may never see him again as her body weakens. Still, she continues to hold out hope. He visibly struggles to control his emotions as he reads her pleas for him to hurry back to her. She finishes, "Godspeed, my lonely angel." Swallowing hard, he puts the letter back into his pocket; no tears fall, but there is anguish in his eyes. He then turns to the console, which shows the fireplace still active, and deactivates it, severing the last link.

As the light in the fire dies, the TARDIS dematerialises, revealing that it stood in front of a picture of Reinette. As the TARDIS leaves the scene, the name of the ship (and the reason the droids targeted Reinette) can finally be seen on the outside: SS Madame De Pompadour. The ship drifts through space, lifeless, as the episode closes.



General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics



General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.



Foods and beverages

  • The Doctor again mentions bananas. He claims to have accidentally invented the banana daiquiri.
  • Mickey says he can smell a Sunday roast.
  • The Doctor claims to have a glass of wine with him when he saves Rose and Mickey from the Clockwork Droids. It is in fact anti-oil.



The Doctor

  • The Doctor claims 1727 is one of his favourite years.
  • Reinette asks, "Doctor Who?"
  • Reinette possibly knows the Doctor's real name since their mental connection.



  • Snow is falling outside when the Doctor arrives in 1727.

Story notes

  • This is Mickey's first trip in the TARDIS as a companion. His name does not appear in the opening credits; the first triple opening credit would not occur until John Barrowman returned temporarily in Utopia the next season; it's not until A Christmas Carol in 2010 that an ongoing "third companion" receives a credit in the opening.
  • In a Production Notes column for Doctor Who Magazine #363 (November 2005), writer Steven Moffat stated that the working titles for the episode were Madame de Pompadour, Every Tick of My Heart and Reinette and the Lonely Angel.
  • Sophia Myles and David Tennant started dating after working together on this story, according to an interview with Myles on GMTV (25 April 2006). It was rumoured she carried a "Doctor Who" doll in her handbag. However, their relationship ended in 2007.
  • Although Reinette dies before she is able to accept the Doctor's offer of travelling in the TARDIS, she does briefly experience time travel when she steps through one of the holes in time and ends up aboard the vessel bearing her name millennia later.
  • Throughout this episode, Mickey wears a T-shirt which has a picture of the Nintendo Entertainment System controller over the caption, "Know Your Roots". This particular T-shirt, a limited edition, could be obtained either by subscribing to the British Nintendo Official Magazine, or by being purchased at selected GameStation outlets. In Doctor Who Magazine #367 Noel Clarke admitted to being a Nintendo fan and to being the owner of a Nintendo DS console. He also comments upon the T-shirt in the commentary which accompanies the episode on the BBC Website. Appropriately, Mickey is involved in a video game-related adventure in the spin-off novel Winner Takes All. Mickey also mentions playing a Playstation in The Age of Steel.
  • As seen in the Doctor Who Confidential episode "Script to Screen", Arthur, the horse, was not allowed to set foot in the ballroom in the climactic scene. The various elements of the Doctor riding Arthur through the mirror (the horse, the mirror breaking and the reactions of the extras in the ballroom) all had to be filmed at separate times and then composited together
  • There are many sexual metaphors throughout this episode.
    • Reinette asks the Doctor to "dance", a word used by Moffat in The Doctor Dances as a euphemism for sexual activity. Moffat remarked in the MP3 audio commentary with Noel Clarke that Reinette's use of the word "dance" was merely done as flirtation, that no sexual activity took place and that the only "dancing" that was done was at the Yew Tree Ball.
    • In the commentary for this episode, David Tennant remarked on the "intimacy" of the mind-reading scene and the ambiguity of the scene where Reinette and the Doctor part, the bed in the foreground hinting at seduction.
  • Radio Times credits Jonathan Hart as "Voice of Clockwork Man" and Emily Joyce as "Voice of Clockwork Woman". The collective on-screen credit reads "Alien Voices".
  • Sophia Myles' dress in the ballroom scene was originally worn by Helen Mirren in The Madness of King George. (DCOM: The Girl in the Fireplace)
  • Reinette is the first non-companion character to kiss the Doctor on-screen.


  • The Girl in the Fireplace - 7.4m viewers



  • Clips were seen of the clockwork droids during the promotional trailer of Season 2 which aired at the end of The Christmas Invasion. Many viewers and fans speculated that the droids were Autons due to the way they moved and the weapons coming out of their arms.
  • After the Doctor and Reinette experience their mind link, she invites him to "dance" with her. As episode writer Steven Moffat had previously established (in The Doctor Dances) that dancing is a metaphor for making love, that the Doctor and Reinette are next seen walking away, hand in hand, and that Reinette was a courtesan, there is fan speculation that some form of lovemaking occurs "off camera". When the Doctor is next seen, he is hyper and pretending to be drunk after a great party; whether he and Reinette actually "danced" is left to the imagination. However, Steven Moffat denies that any sexual activity took place.

Filming locations

  • Ragley Hall, Alcester, Warwickshire (the Ballroom of the Palace of Versailles)
  • Tredegar House, Newport, Gwent (Reinette's Studio, and the location of the funeral cortege at the end of the episode)
  • Dyffryn Gardens, St. Nicholas, Vale of Glamorgan (the Palace of Versailles and the palace grounds; also Reinette's bedroon)
  • David Broome Events Centre, Crick, Monmouthshire (the horse jump - as noted above, this was later composited into the Ballroom shots: No horse actually set a hoof into Ragley Hall!)

Production errors

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • The inside of the spaceship can be seen before the Doctor fixes the link that is "still basically physical" in Reinette's old bedroom.
  • When a droid stops and another falls over, the original one that stopped still stands.
  • When the Doctor reads Reinette's memories, in some views his left ring finger is above her ear and in others it is below her ear.
  • When the Doctor is spying on Reinette, he ducks behind the pillar, though he is still clutching the pillar. In the next shot he's not. This error happens several times.


Home video releases


Series 2 Volume 2 DVD Cover

DVD releases

  • The Girl in the Fireplace (Ep 4) was sold on Series 2 Volume 2, along with Tooth and Claw and School Reunion.
  • It was also sold as part of the Series 2 Box Set, which included all 13 episodes of Series 2, along with the Children in Need Special and The Christmas Invasion.
  • It was also sold on Issue Nine of the Doctor Who DVD Files, which included the episode School Reunion on the same DVD.

Blu-Ray releases

  • This story was released in the Series 2 Blu-Ray set in November 2013 along with the rest of the series. Despite not being filmed in HD, the Blu-Ray features an upscaled picture and fewer compression artefacts.
  • This release was initially bundled with the first seven series of the revived Doctor Who.

Digital releases

  • This story is available for streaming via Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime. It can also be purchased on iTunes.
  • In 2015, it was released by BBC Worldwide on BitTorrent and iTunes, in A Decade of the Doctor bundle to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the new series. It included introductions by Peter Capaldi, Earth Conquest: The World Tour and an episode guide.

External links

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.

Fandom may earn an affiliate commission on sales made from links on this page.

Stream the best stories.

Fandom may earn an affiliate commission on sales made from links on this page.

Get Disney+