When Doctor Who Addresses Its Past

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Guest contributor Tom Millett looks at some recent examples.

With the confirmation from Steven Moffat that Peter Capaldi’s familiar face will be addressed in a low-key manner, it is worth revisiting moments during the modern era where writers have subtly addressed previous episodes of DW. There are many amusing references to previous Who episodes such as Ten’s impersonation of The Empty Child in The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky storyline and the ganger version of the Eleventh Doctor impersonating the Fourth Doctor himself. However, this article is only going to address references that were put by the writer’s to expand on statements made in earlier episodes and references to earlier episodes to give further information to the reader.

The Doctor’s Wife

Eleven: You didn’t always take me where I wanted to go.
Idris: No, but I always took you where you needed to go.

doctors-wife-genOkay, I’m breaking my own rule a little here as it isn’t a major issue in the Doctor Who timeline, but it was lovely that it was referenced. This is a very self-explanatory quote to anyone who has watched at least a handful of Doctor Who episodes which is what makes it a very beautiful one. It makes the relationship between the Doctor and the TARDIS have a new dynamic as it explains that she takes the Doctor where he must go, rather than where he wants to go.

It creates this sense that the TARDIS is using the Doctor as a tool to help the universe across all space and time rather than the presumed idea that the Doctor uses the TARDIS to help save the universe. It’s a very nice piece of role switching for the two main icons of the television series. It also explains why the TARDIS went to the wrong time or place in a lot of episodes.

The Name of the Doctor

Vastra: The Doctor has been many things, but never blood-soaked.
Simeon: Tell that to the leader of the Sycorax, or Solomon the trader, or the Cybermen, or the Daleks. The Doctor lives his life in darker hues, day upon day, and he will have other names before the end. The Storm, the Beast, the Valeyard.

the-valeyard-doctor-whoWhile The Name of the Doctor was littered with references to past episodes from the classic Who era, Dr Simeon’s comment on the Doctor’s brutality towards other races is one of the more noteworthy moments. While the quote addresses the usual suspects such as the Cybermen and the Daleks, it reminds viewers of how he pushed the Sycorax leader of his ship to his death. Personally I had forgotten this and this was Ten’s first story! I’m amazed that Simeon didn’t bring the genuinely unnerving attitude Ten had towards The Family of Blood, yet managed to remind everyone that he murdered the Sycorax leader in his first Christmas special.

The call back to the death of Solomon was a nice touch as well as it was a very out of character move from Eleven in what was a romptastic adventure to everyone (Note to self: do not use the word romptastic again). It is also very intriguing that The Valeyard is mentioned in the quote which cleverly reminds viewers that possibly teases the show will be heading into Valeyard territory after Smith’s exit. It’s a subtle but very crafty way of keeping viewers tuned in.

The Day of the Doctor

Tenth Doctor: Trenzalore. We need a new destination, because I don’t want to go.
Eleventh Doctor: He always says that.

david-tennant-day-doctorPersonally, this is one the most ingenious and brilliant references to the show’s modern era. It’s the fact that it addresses the most controversial moment of Ten’s entire era onscreen, and justifies it. The sheer brilliance of such a simple line as ‘He always says that’ shows the infamous final scene in a new light. It presents Ten as a much more tragic figure who is simply saying a phrase that is very common to him, rather than the selfish figure that The End of Time presented him as.

It could also be debated among some fans that his final words are actually a reference to Trenzalore rather than himself. While this is a question for another day, this in itself shows that people who may have originally found The End of Time to be quite egocentric in its conclusion are now much more positive about Tennant’s swansong and this all thanks to nothing more than a three word sentence.

The Time of the Doctor

Eleven: Well, I did come to Trenzalore, and nothing can change that now. Didn’t stop you trying though, did it?
Tasha: Not me. The Kovarian Chapter broke away. They travelled back along your timeline and tried to prevent you ever reaching Trenzalore.
Eleven: So that’s who blew up my TARDIS. I thought I’d left the bath running.
Tasha: They blew up your time capsule, created the very cracks in the universe through which the Time Lords are now calling.

time of the doctor batch d (1)One of the most memorable low-key references of recent memory, The Time of the Doctor addressed one of the largest plot holes in the modern era in a short piece dialogue exchange. The idea was executed well as it gave a sound explanation to why the TARDIS exploded in the series 5 finale and improved the Silence arc greatly by giving a rather interesting structure.

It is undeniably impressive of Moffat to present the Kovarian Chapter as responsible for the very thing that the Papal Mainframe were forced to act against in the future, effectively making them responsible for their own ‘security’ crisis. It also gives the Silence as group much more character and personality knowing that their intentions at the end of the day were good but their actions had massive consequences.


Personally I wouldn’t be surprised if Capaldi’s face is addressed in a way similar to The Time of the Doctor. Possibly in a single line of dialogue or maybe a picture will be seen of Caecilius in one of their adventures by Clara, and the Doctor will explain it all with ease. To be honest I don’t see why there was such a kerfuffle about Capaldi’s face. In my opinion he has a nice face and there is nothing wrong with it so stop judging him! Leave Capaldi alone!