It felt absolutely right to me - so right that, at first, I didn't even think the story was that momentous. Just ... well ... right.
It's a story I might write.
So, kaffyr , you're saying you liked it not because Gaiman wrote it, not because he beautifully brought to life something other writers could have screwed up completely, but because it was something you might have written?
No, (at least not completely, she muttered, forced into complete honesty.)
I liked it - I loved it - because I think it's a story only someone who loves the TARDIS could write. Some folks have theorized that Gaiman first started the script with another goal completely, and was routed into the "TARDIS, personified" plot for various reasons. Even if that is true, I still think he wrote the story he did because he loves the TARDIS.
Wait. Let me start again.
The whole concept of the TARDIS is encapsulated in one phrase.
Bigger on the Inside.
Remember the first time you watched the show? Remember the first time the doors of that tiny police call box opened up into a huge white room? One that was taller than the box, broader than the box, deeper than the box and yet inside the box - a glorious impossibility acting as the stage for a strange and alien adventurer?
If you were as young as I was when that first happened, you went looking for that blue box everywhere thereafter, in unfamiliar hallways or unexpected rooms, (perhaps thinking it might be found next to a huge wooden wardrobe.)
You wanted to go inside, and feel the strangeness of it. Yes, you wanted to find the old man (whatever his guise), and have adventures with him outside the box, certainly so. But if you were anything like me, the underlying enchantment was ... bigger on the inside.
Because as young as you might have been, you suspected that "bigger on the inside" held a great deal more than four words should be expected to hold.
In fact, as you got older you wanted to explore "bigger on the inside" just as much as you wanted to be inside the TARDIS.
Why was it bigger on the inside? How could it be? What kind of machine could do that, or be that?
Well, Time and Relative Dimensions in Space, Susan had said. And that made sense. The dimensions of the inside were certainly ... relative, particularly to the outside. What else? The Doctor had apparently stolen the TARDIS. And he'd tinkered with it, so that it wasn't like other TARDISes (resisting all attempts to properly pluralize it is, I think, a clue to the ineffable nature of the Doctor's model.) Anything else? Other Time Lords looked down on it as an out-of-date model ... but theirs never did anything quite so well, or with such a sense of style. And theirs never won the day for them.
If you kept watching the show (or listening to the radio plays or reading the novels, for those of you lucky enough to have access to those), you'd get other scraps of information: the wardrobe (!), the auxiliary control room, the swimming pool, the endless halls, the jettisoned spaces, the quiet cloisters and the cloister bell.
The fact that he didn't call the TARDIS "it" all the time. He called the TARDIS "her." "Old girl." "My girl."
And somewhere inside you, something clicked. You had the Aha! moment; of course She wasn't an it, because what it could do what a She could do? To be bigger on the inside requires imagination, and things don't have imagination. People do.
But that still wasn't quite it, because people ... don't look like the TARDIS or act like the TARDIS, either. So She must be something else as well.
Was She ever. She was the TARDIS.
She was the TARDIS, you eventually decided, with all the marvelous freight that little acronym could possibly bear. Halls and rooms that appeared and disappeared, and mysteries just off screen. Emotions played out as unstable appearance, unplanned destinations, unexpected consequences. A creature obeying laws of physics and rules of engagement that shouldn't work in this universe or any other, but did.
Things that shouldn't work, but work nonetheless, are the most scientific of magics, the most magical science (physics Newtonian or quantum, the heady philosophies of the higher maths) and they draw certain of us monkeys in like huge gravity wells.
If you grew older and started reading fan fiction, you found that others were fascinated with the TARDIS, too. And they had taken all the ideas hinted at in the show or explored in the other Whoniverse stories, and run with them. They'd embellished and embroidered them, then gone on to create new suppositions.
(All of this talk of Bigger on the Inside contains, it is necessary to point out right now, all of Time as well. It contains the understanding that She was and is also Once and Future in a way that beggars Arthur's title. But that's an idea so very much bigger on the inside that trying to shoehorn it into this little meditation would sink the damn thing. So we acknowledge its centrality while backing away from it slowly.)
And those stories? Those TARDIS-centered stories? So many of them called the TARDIS "She," not "it." So many of them understood that She was more than a machine, yet unlike a human. (Hell, my first two short fics, Dreaming in Colour and A Lesson in Blue, were largely or completely about the TARDIS. Eleven - almost a third of the stories I've written - involve Her or center on Her.)
Those stories understood that She was Herself.
Perhaps you didn't come into Doctor Who that way, though. Perhaps you came in as an adult, and perhaps you came in with little or none of the knowledge that grew, TARDIS-like, out of the Old Who culture, whether canon or fanon.
Perhaps your first glimpse into the box showed you not white roundels but green and gold metal coral, embracing some leather-clad bloke who talked, eventually, about Her heart, and who was saved, eventually, by a dual-spirited creature with gold eyes who flowed in part from under the console, spoke of "my doctor," and was most definitely alive.
She was still bigger on the inside. And the stories RTD told about her, they were bigger, too. (Even if you're one of those who can't stand RTD, for whatever reason, even if you think he didn't tell those stories as well as he should have, I don't think you can deny his love for the TARDIS. There's no mistaking it.)
If you were like me, the stories he told helped you fall in love with Her. With Bigger on the Inside.
Perhaps you loved Her enough to go beyond watching and reading, to imagining and creating your own stories about Her. You created them by being bigger enough on the inside yourself to find Her, or some part of Her, in yourself.
Perhaps that's when it dawned on you, if it hadn't already. That humans were bigger on the inside.
That's something even bigger than Bigger on the Inside, isn't it?
You and I, we've been exploring that forever, haven't we? We'll be doing it forever.
What a gift to get from a little blue box.
No wonder we love Her.