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When Doctor Who Addresses Its Past

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.

Conclusion

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!

Step back in time...

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190 comments
Maiden_Ty_One
Maiden_Ty_One

I can't believe they never did anything with Amy's house. You know, the fact that it had 2 floors on the outside, but 3 on the inside? It now looks like that was a simple accident of filming between location and set and a simple error being made - but damn, they could've used that to great effect what with the whole Silence Tardises storyline...

Noybusiness
Noybusiness

I'm still not sure *how* they hijacked the TARDIS's flight controls and blew it up, though. It shouldn't be easily done.

PimpMyTARDIS
PimpMyTARDIS

There was nothing subtle about that line in the day of the doctor and it wasn't really needed. It wasn't like it was a reference to something that was said 50 years ago or in the first ever episode, it was something that he said a few years ago. A really self indulgent line for Tennant

MeglosProductions
MeglosProductions

The "I don't want to go" callback was just so evil. Loved it.

Captain Grumpy
Captain Grumpy

Great article!

I really liked "The Day Of The Doctor" reference to Tennant leaving ( The fan girls probably just got over it!) and i loved when Idris was telling The Doctor she took him where he needed to go, not where he wanted to go in "The Doctor's Wife".

I can't wait to see how they overcome Capaldi looking like Caecilius (maybe even why The Sixth Doctor looked like Commander Maxil).

I'd Like a Jelly Baby
I'd Like a Jelly Baby

Maybe 10 didn't want to die because it was the last regeneration of The Doctor's cycle?

davidbrummy
davidbrummy

He did not push the leader of the Sycorax to his death.  After the Sycorax yielded the Doctor walked away.  The Sycorax stood up to attack him while his back was turned.  He through an Apple that hit a button that removed the piece of the ship he was standing on and he fell to his death.  The Doctor uttered the words "you get one chance".  This was a theme that the Doctor's mercy has limits.




det_bullock
det_bullock

I re-watched series 5 recently and shortly before the explosion I could hear distinctly a voice from the TARDIS consolle saying "Silence will fall!", it's bloody obvious it was the Silence (the Doctor at the end of the episode even says he'll "look into it" as a set up for the next series), that piece of dialogue was put there because Moffat was probably sick of people asking about it.

SherieMikenajLehman
SherieMikenajLehman

Sorry but after many episodes and seasons to build the larger concepts, simple short sentences deflate the importance of the concept as it comes to a conclusion. For example, "Oops, I just jumped into it." wouldn't explain how the Doctor and Clara survived the time stream for example. If you are going to offer larger than life concepts such as time vortexes, multi-verse theory, and yes time travel itself, then possible expansion of the explanations might be a great thing to really grab the kids attention to science.  However, Idris' explanation on why the TARDIS didn't follow The Doctor's choice of locations was perfection. While one type of explanation may be perfect for one situation, a short glib answer isn't always the best for other situations. Matt's explanation of his actions in The Big Bang were perfection as well and was much longer. Sadly it was left behind in subsequent seasons.

Mercy Reborn2
Mercy Reborn2

I liked the Tardis blowing up maybe we didnt need to know how it was nice having a mystery

Mercy Reborn2
Mercy Reborn2

I like it when the Doctor mentions something from his past like when he said he brought his grandaughter to Akhaten or refers to gobby australians, it is nice to remember past companions, and adventures and how great they were. I would love to see Romana or Tegan again

Angie Whodini will foretell... YOUR DEATH!
Angie Whodini will foretell... YOUR DEATH!

Very interesting article and on-topic too. I read it was you're first so congrats, keep it up!


I would've mentioned it was something from the recent episodes maybe. I don't know, seems to me like Sarah Jane asking why she was left behind is a way of addressing the past, for example. Still a great article, just some constructive criticism. :)


Polyphase
Polyphase

Love it when there is a reference to the Classic series like the HADS system, The Metebelis 3 Crystal and "I once spent a hell of a long time trying to get a gobby australian to Heathrow"

MrRazza, WANTED: A Lord of Thyme
MrRazza, WANTED: A Lord of Thyme

This will be controversial, but I always liked Ten's last line, and if anything a bit more before it was referenced in Day. It's not just Ten speaking there, it's Tennant, it's RTD, it's reflecting the thoughts of the time of many viewers at home, it marks the end of the era, and it really brings it home. That is the end, it's inescapable, the Doctor can't put a brave face on or try and avoid it any longer. It suits his character. 

Eleven gave us a speech, reassuring Clara, and himself, Ten had time to visit everyone, to subject himself to reminders of his whole incarnation - that's bound to depress anyone, and leave them feeling a little sorry for themselves. And let's not forget, as far as he knows, this is the last time he'll get to regenerate.

Millett it is not
Millett it is not

Thank you for the response to my first article everyone! It has been a great learning experience :)

 Notsosmartguy
Notsosmartguy

I Think people confused selfishness with narcissism when it comes to the "I don't wanna go line" 10 is a lot of things but he is far from selfish. 

Amy says Peter Davison is the Thirteenth Doctor!
Amy says Peter Davison is the Thirteenth Doctor!

Well, they have their own comparable technology (the Lodger TARDISes), so they are clearly familiar with the design. And as PaddyB said, they're great at stealth - one could slip into the TARDIS undetected quite easily. In fact, there are a couple of scenes in "The Eleventh Hour" and "The Lodger" that could be interpreted as Amy reacting to a Silent on the TARDIS. Or maybe the Kovarian Chapter stole the key that Tasha confiscated from the Doctor. At any rate, there are lots of possibilities.


PaddyB
PaddyB

@Noybusiness They are 'memory proof' so one could have gotten inside the TARDIS (perhaps while the Doctor was inspecting the crack with young Amelia in The Eleventh Hour) and destroyed it from within.

TheDreamer
TheDreamer

Actually, it made Ten's departure line less whiny to me. I always shook my head at that line whenever I watched Ten's regeneration scene coz it felt to me like they had turned him into a cry baby... But hearing it again in Day kinda gave me this thought that, even if he didn't remember the events of Day after going back to his own timestream, Ten might have had a sort of unease or a sense of foreboding that caused him to repeat it when he regenerated. So, to me, it had its use.

Kathrin Lily Franke
Kathrin Lily Franke

@davidbrummy Exactly. You don't attack people when their backs are turned and they're walking away from you. The Doctor had even left his second sword. But I think what he actually said was 'No second chances. That's the sort of man I am.' - which amounts to about the same thing as you said.

Miss Bosswald
Miss Bosswald

@SherieMikenajLehman Well it depends. I'd rather not know how the Doctor & Clara got out of the time stream than have a technobabble sequence about pressing three buttons in a cell. I really like the ending of that episode "Introducing John Hurt...as... The Doctor". Perfect ending.

Amy says Peter Davison is the Thirteenth Doctor!
Amy says Peter Davison is the Thirteenth Doctor!

The identity of the ones who blew up the TARDIS wasn't what it had been building up to. We pretty much knew who it was by mid-Series 6. It just hadn't been stated explicitly on-screen. I can't speak to why Moffat chose to do it that way, but it's largely irrelevant. And aside from that, no other "new" information was dispensed in the form of a single sentence in that episode, or at least, not without some larger effect on the plot. The First Question created the conflict, resolved the regeneration limit, and set up the arc for Twelve's run. The truth field provided an obstacle for the Doctor throughout the episode. The "endless, bitter war" was the main plot. The Church were major players in the episode. Et cetera, et cetera.


Polyphase
Polyphase

@supermoff  

Silent: Rassilon never told you what happened to your father.

Doctor: He told me enough! He told me you killed him!

Silent: No. I am your father.

Doctor: No... that's not true! That's impossible!

NeutronFlow has a spoon in his pocket
NeutronFlow has a spoon in his pocket

@Polyphase Agreed. References to the past help link the show with it's history and create a much more fluid, believable timeline for the Doctor. 

It was a great shame though, that no-one at the 'Hide' read-through (looking at you Moffat!!!), corrected Matt Smith on his mis-pronunciation of 'Metebelis 3'. 

That sort of sloppy mistake, undermines the whole endeavour ... 




PimpMyTARDIS
PimpMyTARDIS

I think the original line was because he liked being that doctor so much but I guess the line is designed to be open for interpretation and make us come up with our own ideas

davidbrummy
davidbrummy

@Kathrin Lily Franke @davidbrummy Now you say it I think you are right with the quote.  He also said something very similar in School Reunion when he confronts the leader of the Krillitanes.  A long the lines of you get one warning.

Ollie Walton Harrod
Ollie Walton Harrod

@SephoraNeedSeries8 @SherieMikenajLehman Oh I hate that ending so much. I would have found it intriguing, had John Hurt's role in the 50th not been announced at least a week prior to the episode's airing. The fact that everyone made such a big deal of it, and how shocking it was, has made me dislike it so, as it was quite cliché and not greatly susrprising.

I presumed the 50th would continue straight off from the ending of 'The Name of the Doctor', as to explain how they got out, as it is quite a big factor. To just think that, it doesn't matter, let's just leave it at John Hurt turning around, is just silly. You might as well just end every episode mid-way through, because really, you know the Doctor's going to survive, so how doesn't really matter.

Unfortunately, I'm a minority in thinking this way, so the style of not properly explaining will most likely continue. 



floppy_who
floppy_who

@Polyphase @supermoff  ...and then the Doctor completely forgets the revelation as soon as he looks away.

(On that note...is there any mileage in a Weeping Angel / Silent hybrid? It can't move when you're looking at it and as soon as you look away you forget about it just as it starts moving...)

Arkleseizure
Arkleseizure

I like to think of Matt's mispronunciation of Metabilis as a subtle tribute to Sylvester similarly getting Spiridon wrong.

MrRazza, WANTED: A Lord of Thyme
MrRazza, WANTED: A Lord of Thyme

@Planet of the Deaf @supermoff  @ Notsosmartguy is superior again!!!!!!!!! Often when he's ready to sacrifice himself it's in the moment, there's uncertainty, he hasn't just felt like he's escaped his fate. Most of the time he might even expect something to be ready to happen to save him (after all, there always is something) - but this is prophecised, he knows there's no alternative. He's gone from a moment of feeling like he's done it, to the sudden realisation that it's the end - with the weight of having just condemned his people to death (as far as he knows) moments before that. That's bound to leave anyone a bit grumpy.