Top Five References in Doctor Who
Guest contributor Mark White picks some of his top in-jokes and references.
As Doctor Who fans, we all love the in-jokes and references that only a die-hard fan would understand, whether it’s Tennant in a gas mask saying “Are you my mummy?” or as subtle as Smith remarking that he used to own a patchwork umbrella (in his sixth incarnation to be precise). References in a half-century old show are moments that fans can bond over; they’re checkpoints for the anoraks, and it gives us Whovians an “I know something you don’t moment” over the casual viewers in our families who put up with Who.
Perhaps more exciting and intelligent however, are the outside references and allegories, and I’m not talking about the Nazi/Dalek similarity, I’m talking about the Whoniverse itself. These are moments when someone says something that relates to Doctor Who, not the Doctor, and not just a moment of continuity. Like LINDA for example, being a portrayal of us Whovians, or the Doctor receiving the phone call about the Brigadier’s death and the sadness that scene carried when you consider that Nicholas Courtney had died in real life.
These aren’t just nods to those of us that watch and rewatch every Who episode, they’re golddust for the fans that trawl Wikipedia, YouTube and Steven Moffat’s bins for extra nuggets of information of Matt Smith’s love for Radiohead or the exact dimensions of a TARDIS. Let me take you through five more ingenious, amusing and cute moments of New Who writers winking at us through our very screens.
References to the Eleventh Doctor
The Eleventh Doctor is not only the only Doctor to have an episode named after his number (his debut, The Eleventh Hour), but he’s also the only one to be stalked by two number ones. If you look closely enough, elevens are littered through his tenure like plot twists in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS: Matt Smith dons a number eleven shirt whilst playing football with Craig, his hotel room door in The God Complex has a number eleven on it, and he declares to Rory that they’re in “11/10” much trouble. Only twice has anyone ever said out loud that he’s the Eleventh Doctor, but Moffat clearly understands that we’ve named them One to Twelve for shipping purposes, so if he could drop an “Eight point Five” reference around John Hurt, he’d make Tumblr a tidier place tag-wise.
Tennant the megafan
It’s common knowledge among Doctor Who fans that David Tennant was the biggest fan of the show before becoming the tenth man to fly the TARDIS; he’s our Obama, and he’s such an inspiration that I find it almost disappointing that Zoe Ball didn’t name me as Twelve. In what became a blurring of Tennant the fan and Ten the Doctor though, Steven Moffat paid tribute to David’s love of the show in Children in Need special Time Crash, when Ten told Five, “You were my Doctor”, before comparing all the elements that he’s borrowed five incarnations on. And while we’re at it, whose line was “I don’t want to go”? Ten’s or Tennant’s?
Clara is the show
When Clara theories were spiralling out of control and human sanity, a small fact – that some people still haven’t got their head around – confused the lot of us: why do Clara’s dates correlate with Doctor Who’s? She shares a birthday with the show, her diary omits years in which Who took season breaks, and wasn’t Oswald (Lee Harvey) the man who delayed the very first episode when he shot JFK? It was jokingly said during speculation, “Clara is Doctor Who: the show”, but that doesn’t seem so mad now: she’s a character that is everywhere over the last fifty years, always in the background, never seen or heard, and always saving the Doctor. Clara is a nod to the fans, the writers, the past Doctors, and everyone who ever made the show the fifty-year old goliath it is. Perhaps the biggest nod of them all, and a lovely tribute to everyone.
The Doctor’s parents in Human Nature
…And on the subject of the Who’s Who of Who, Sydney Newman and Verity Lambert, two of the show’s creators, were referenced when a human John Smith named his parents as Sidney and Verity. A lovely reference to the pair, and another nod that Russell T Davies brought back in The End of Time when he named Joan Redfern’s granddaughter “Verity Newman”.
“Trust me for 20 minutes”
No one was sure that Matt Smith was the right Doctor for the part, least of all my mum, who has David Tennant on her calendar. Most of us agree though that Matt Smith became the Doctor when he uttered those immortal words, “Hello, I’m the Doctor, and basically run”. But why that moment? Well, Amy didn’t trust the Eleventh Doctor either: she’d had four psychiatrists because of him, and well, maybe she was an Eccleston fan? It was a moment of Eleven asking for her faith, just for him to prove himself, that swayed her though. He was asking us to trust him too, and when we did, he worked his magic, and earned the Atraxi confrontation. Say what you like about Moffat, he’s never taken his audience for granted.
Have you noticed any others, such as Matt Smith’s disdain for Twitter being replicated in The Power of Three? I’d like to hear them all, until every tangible line between the show and reality is blurred enough that Doctor Who becomes an official religion (seriously, why’s that not happened?).