“The Timeless Children” Speculation BINGO
With your host
Clint Hassell Bradley Walsh.
In certain ways, speculating on the plot points of the Series 12 finale, “The Timeless Children,” is more difficult than for Series 11. While the unresolved questions certainly seem bigger, this series – – Who is Ruth’s Doctor? When will Jack Harkness return? What is the “Timeless Child”? – – there has been less of an overarching storyline. On the other hand, considering that “The Timeless Children” is the second half of a two-part finale, and that it will not be followed in three weeks by a holiday special (as was the case with Series 11’s “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos” and “Resolution”), it seems plausible for us to make certain educated guesses as to the contents of Sunday’s finale.
We need to have a serious discussion about these companions.
It is very obvious that the current set of companions were created to fit into the episodes written for Series 11. Each had personal stakes in one episode – – “Rosa” for Ryan, “Demons of the Punjab” for Yasmin, and “It Takes You Away” for Graham – – with Ryan and Graham’s desire to avenge Grace’s death playing out in the finale. Ryan learned to call Graham “Grandad” by the series’ end, and reconciled with his absent father in the holiday special.
Series 12, however, has had no idea what to do with three companions aboard the TARDIS, resulting in screen time and storylines being forcibly split amongst the trio. This has led to several scenes being written where each companion contributes a line of dialogue to a conversation with the Doctor, merely to include each character. For example:
the Doctor: “We’re being attacked by an Azorbaloff!”
Graham: “What’s an Azorbaloff?”
the Doctor: “Only the most hated monster in all of new Who!”
Ryan: “How do we defeat it?”
the Doctor: “We’ll have to attack it with a Chloe Webber!”
Yasmin: “But we only have the Maitland children!”
the Doctor: “They’ll have to do, fam!”
Considering the demands placed on the script by the sheer number of characters present in the finale, a similar scene will almost certainly occur.
So, how do you solve a problem like three companions? At least two of them need to go . . . but which two? I’m betting it’s Ryan and Graham. Though Bradley Walsh is reliably funny and genial as Graham, his character has had no development at all, this series. Yes, “Can You Hear Me?” revealed that he is concerned about his cancer returning, but that could be seen as setting up his exit from the series – – feeling he has few years left, Graham might sacrifice himself in the finale, especially if it ensured Ryan’s safety. If that does happen, expect a final flashback to Sharon D. Clarke’s Grace . . . and for me to cry copious tears.
Of course, “Ascension of the Cybermen” featured Ravio overtly flirting with Graham, so perhaps Graham’s “reward” for traveling with the Doctor will be a new love interest. I don’t think this would sit as well with the fans, especially considering Clarke’s iconic performance as the beloved Grace (not to mention that Ravio is most likely psychologically scarred from her fugitive lifestyle), but the building blocks have certainly been laid.
If Graham dies, Ryan will certainly leave the TARDIS. Actor Tosin Cole has already announced his next project, ostensibly leaving him little time to appear in Series 13. Certainly, Ryan and Graham are an entertaining comedic duo, and, plot-wise, the two were very incorporated into the Series 11 story arc, but let’s not confuse plot development with character development. Since the two reconciled their relationship, thus wrapping up their initial storylines, neither has been further developed, with Ryan being the most-inconsistently written of the three companions. Brave, socially awkward, easily spooked, flirty – – Ryan is whatever the script calls for. Yes, he has begun to question leaving the TARDIS, but, again, that sets up his exit in the finale.
Based on the trailer for the finale, I expect Ryan to consider using a gun against the Cybermen – – a fitting callback to his storyline in “The Ghost Monument.” Also, Ryan’s dyspraxia should come into play at some point in the finale. It has been an oft-mentioned trait of the character, but has yet to feature into the plot in any meaningful sense. Surely, this long-running storyline will pay off, before Ryan exits the series. Finally, if Ryan does leave, expect to see a cameo from Tibo, last seen in “Can You Hear Me?,” as Ryan returns to his daily life.
So, what about Yasmin? Hopefully, Yaz stays because – – and, yes, I truly believe this – – Yaz is the most consistently written companion. “But, Clint,” you say, “Series 11 was all about ‘the woman who fell to Earth,’ and Tim Shaw, and how the Doctor chose her ‘fam’ – – all of those storylines involve Graham and Ryan!” Yes, but, again, let’s not confuse involvement in the plot with character development. Honestly, from episode to episode, I’m never sure how Ryan will act, but Yaz’s decisions never surprise me. Why? Consider this: as a young woman who desires to see more of the world than her cultural and familial expectations will allow her to experience, Yaz follows Rose, Martha, Donna, Amy, and Clara as a prototypical companion. Showrunner Chris Chibnall trades on our foreknowledge of a “conventional” companion, skipping over Yaz’s decision-making processes and focusing on her actions. She is featured as more of a confidant to the Doctor than either Graham or Ryan, is consistently shown using her police training to both take charge of a situation and to relate to strangers – – both Doctor-like qualities – – and is ingenious and courageous enough to be trusted to adventure on her own.
Most important to our discussion of finale prognostication, however, is the fact that Yaz’s storyline has yet to be fully concluded, meaning that, in the end, Yaz stays (probably to be joined by another companion, next series). This being said, considering the number of characters who must be serviced in the finale, I think that revisiting her family is probably out of the question.
I hate the sonic – – but not for the reason you think.
While watching “The Haunting of Villa Diodati,” it finally occurred to me why I have issues with the sonic screwdriver. Yes, it exceeds its unlock/lock-any-door function and gets used as a magic fix-all far too often. More than that, however, I hate how the Doctor uses it as a scanning device before she herself examines her surroundings. The Doctor is always the smartest person in the room, with thousands of years of experience traveling across space and time – – there should be little that surprises her or that she hasn’t seen. It would say more about her intelligence if she first inspected the mystery item/guest star/monster-of-the-week/etc. with her eyes and her brain, first, and only resorted to utilizing the sonic screwdriver for verification, if needed. I realize that featuring the sonic in every episode drives toy and replica sales, however, it’s increasing use – – especially since the start of Matt Smith’s tenure – – is damaging the portrayal of the Time Lord as preternaturally brilliant. Still, considering the amount of wild sonic-waving present in most of the rest of Whittaker’s run, I expect to see a scene where Thirteen “scans first, looks later,” in the finale.
About the plot.
“Ascension of the Cybermen” positioned “hope” as the theme for the finale. This is counter to the theme of “humanity” one expects for an adventure involving the Cybermen, but follows this Doctor’s enduring optimism. Surely, Thirteen will give a big, blustery speech – – because is it really a finale without a big, blustery speech from the Doctor? – – that deals with hope, in the “The Timeless Children.”
Further, “Ascension of the Cybermen” went out of its way to remove the TARDIS from the narrative, so I think it’s safe to say that we’ll see it – – again, it can’t be a finale without a scene inside the TARDIS – – but I don’t think it’ll appear until the episode’s epilogue. This will prompt many cries of something resembling, “We can’t make it to the TARDIS!” from the Doctor (and would probably be the basis of a fun dangerous drinking game).
Someone needs to die, early in the episode, to again establish the threat of the Cybermen. Bescot is the least developed of the remaining survivors, so she’s the most likely candidate.
Series 12 has made repeated use of teleportation and holograms as narrative shortcuts. Considering the number of plot points that need to be resolved in the finale, I’m sure we can expect one or both to feature.
Who is . . . ?
Despite the similarities in the portrayals of Brendan’s post-shooting revival and Jack’s immortality, I don’t think Brendan is Jack Harkness. In fact, I’m gonna take Chibnall at his word and say that Jack won’t appear again in Series 12. More likely, I think that Brendan will be revealed as a Timeless Child. Note that Pat takes Brendan’s clock from him, before they electrocute him, meaning that Brendan is “timeless.” Barring this, the only other option I can feasibly imagine is that Brendan is a younger Ashad – – the timepiece instead representing the clockworks that make up the internal mechanics of a Cyberman.
The question I am more interested in seeing answered is who is Ko Sharmus? “Ascension of the Cybermen” lingers a bit too long on his character for there to not be a surprise reveal regarding his identity. Could he be Brendan, rebelling against his programming at the hands of Pat and the Captain? Is he an early version of Ashad? Another version of the Master? A Time Lord? Is he River Song?! (Just kidding – – of course, it’s Susan. It’s always Susan.) Expect a reveal, regardless.
While it is entirely possible that the intricacies of the mystery surrounding Ruth’s Doctor may be saved for Series 13, I think that she will at least make an appearance . . . if for no other reason than the Internet will break in half, if fans are forced to wait a year-and-a-half for answers regarding her identity.
Putting it all together, here’s my money-on-the-line prediction for the storyline of “The Timeless Children”: the humans that have transited the Boundary, ostensibly ending up on Gallifrey? Ko Sharmus indicates that none have ever returned. They’ve been experimented on, and this inhumane treatment of human refugees at the hands of the Gallifreyan high council angered the Master to the point he razed the citadel (indicating that he is a regeneration following Missy, and demonstrating that the humanity she gained in her final days is not completely gone). When the Master reveals this to the Doctor, she will also be righteously angered as well, establishing a story arc where she questions her Gallifreyan heritage.
How are the human survivors being experimented on? Perhaps, they are the key to the Time Lords discovering time travel, or to their regenerative abilities, and – – going way out on a limb, here – – perhaps this explains the Eighth Doctor’s comment in the TV movie that he is “half-human.” Regardless, I think that Pat and the Captain are Time Lords (note that neither age, and that “Ascension of the Cybermen” deliberately shows Pat in possession of Brendan’s clock), and that Brendan is part of the “Timeless Child” project.
What if the same process used to wipe Brendan’s memory is used to erase the mind of either Ruth or Thirteen, thus explaining why neither remembers the other? Imagine the storytelling possibilities, if Ruth is the one who has her mind wiped. We could be looking at a Series 14 where the Doctor – – along with the audience – – gets to encounter every aspect of continuity as if for the first time, thus freshening the series. Ruth Who, indeed!