The TARDIS arrives in a derelict spaceship, which is fully functional yet motionless and without a crew. The travellers —the Doctor, Rose Tyler, and Mickey Smith— are further baffled to find an 18th century French fireplace. 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. The fireplace is a "time window", allowing direct access to another time and place; passing through the window, the Doctor arrives in Reinette's bedroom, although months have passed here, rather than mere seconds in the Doctor's time. Examining the room, the Doctor discovers a nightmarish ticking humanoid under Reinette's bed. The Doctor tricks the creature back through the time window to the spacecraft, where he and his companions learn that it is actually an android made of intricate, beautiful clockwork. Returning to Reinette's bedroom, the Doctor finds that she is now several years older. She remembers him, and her charm and intelligence entrances the Doctor; they kiss, but she runs off to answer a summons for "Mademoiselle Poisson". The doctor realizes she is Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, the mistress of King Louis XV and uncrowned Queen of France, a historic figure he admires greatly.
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 Madame de Pompadour. In one of them, the Doctor sees another clockwork creature menacing her. Stepping through the time window, he defends Reinette. Obeying her orders to explain itself, the clockwork creature tells her that the spaceship was damaged in an ion storm; the maintenance androids did not have the parts necessary to repair the ship, and killed the crew to use their organs for parts. One more part is required for the ship to be fully functional: Reinette's brain. Seeking more information on the motivation of the clockwork androids, the Doctor reads Reinette's mind, but is startled to find that she can read his as well, and has enormous empathy for his loneliness. Rose and Mickey are taken captive by the androids, but rescued by the Doctor, who has discovered that the creatures are trying to open a time window into Reinette's life at the age of 37. At that age, the literal-minded androids believe Reinette's brain will be compatible with the ship's 37-year-old systems. The clockwork androids appear at a costume ball, forcing Reinette and the rest of the guests into the ballroom. At one end of the room is an enormous mirror, which is actually a time window; the Doctor and his companions can see through it, but cannot pass through without smashing the window; this would break the connection.
The creatures threaten to decapitate Reinette, but the Doctor crashes through the mirror to save her, although he believes he has stranded himself in Versailles in the year 1758. The clockwork androids give up and shut down when the doctor tells them that they have no way to return to the ship to carry out their mission. Reinette reveals that she had her fireplace moved to Versailles, hoping that the Doctor would return; the Doctor uses the window to return to the ship, and tells Reinette to pack a bag and choose a constellation to visit with him. When the Doctor returns to the fireplace, however, he finds Reinette is not there to meet him, having died in the six years since the Doctor's last visit. King Louis XV gives the Doctor a parting letter from Reinette, and the Doctor returns alone to the TARDIS. In the letter, Reinette expresses her hopes that the Doctor will return quickly, asking him to hurry as her days grow short, referring to him as "my love" and her "lonely angel". The Doctor returns the letter to his pocket, watching on the TARDIS screen as the fireplace goes dark and the time window is closed forever. The TARDIS vanishes from the derelict spaceship, and as the now-lifeless ship drifts through space, the camera reveals the ship's name is the SS Madame de Pompadour.
Doctor David Tennant (Tenth Doctor)
Companions Billie Piper (Rose Tyler)
Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith)
Sophia Myles – Reinette
Ben Turner – King Louis
Jessica Atkins – Young Reinette
Angel Coulby – Katherine
Gareth Wyn Griffiths – Manservant
Paul Kasey – Clockwork Man
Ellen Thomas – Clockwork Woman
Writer Steven Moffat
Director Euros Lyn
Script editor Helen Raynor
Producer Phil Collinson
Executive producer(s) Russell T. Davies
Production code 2.4
Series Series 2
Length 45 minutes
Originally broadcast May 6, 2006