Doctor Who: what is Trenzalore?

Feature Andrew Blair 15 May 2013 - 08:17

What do we know about the mysterious Doctor Who planet Trenzalore? Andrew gives us some serious, and non-so-serious, suggestions...

This article contains spoilers for Series 7b (And also The Wedding Of River Song and Black Orchid if you haven't seen those yet).

Trenzalore. Is it ready to claim its place among the pantheon of memorable planets in Doctor Who's history? Is it the new Karn, or is it the new Karfel? Ever since a big baldy blue head in a box said its name (although I'd pay good money to hear Sylvester McCoy say it), we knew that some Saturday soon, some serious stuff would be going down. And that Trenzalore would be involved.

But just how important is Trenzalore? Not hugely, it isn't real. But within that context, how important is Trenzalore? I don't know, I haven't seen this Saturday's episode. But within that context, how important is Trenzalore? Very.

A prequel featuring the Doctor and Clara - He Said, She Said (which is apparently set after the events of The Name Of The Doctor) – suggests that they didn't have a lovely time the day they went to Trenzalore, and it's the place where two mysteries will be resolved. We've already flailed around speculating about Clara, but for those of us who haven't been seeking spoilers, what do we know about Trenzalore?

Dorium Maldovar mentioned its name as the site for the 'fall of the Eleventh'. The Eleventh falls over a lot, seeing as he's quite gangly. Let us not put it past Steven Moffat to use this as the literal meaning of the phrase. Still, Dorian's dialogue from The Wedding Of River Song was as follows:

"On the Fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the Eleventh, when no creature can speak falsely or fail to answer, a question will be asked — a question that must never ever be answered: 'Doctor Who?'"

So, from this we can conclude the following:

We're apparently going to find out what the Doctor's name is - or at least be put into a situation whereby we technically hear some semantic get-out-clause relating to the Doctor's name and are told “Well of course we weren't actually going to say the Doctor's name". What we're going to hear, and how much of it, we'll find out on Saturday.

Trenzalore has more than one field. From which we can extrapolate that Trenzalore has experimented with Agrarian economies. That's probably not a hook on which to hang white-hot shards of drama, so it probably won't come up too often.

Instead of extrapolation – it's fun, it's fresh, it's free – let us focus on what we do know. Not too much, as it happens.

* 'Trenzalore' is an anagram of 'Learnt Zero'.

* More tellingly, Trenzalore appears to be the site of River Song's grave, but we know she features in this episode despite her death. How does she fit into events? Given that she last appeared in The Angels Take Manhattan is she now a harbinger of doom? Why is her grave on Trenzalore? Is there a connection to the Library?

* Alternatively, Trenzalore could just be a big graveyard with no significance whatsoever other than graveyards looking creepy and this being A Good Thing for Doctor Who episodes.

* 'Trenzalore' is an anagram of 'Real Zen Rot'. Hmmm, don't think we're onto something with thee anagrams.

* The white-faced, eyeless creatures on Trenazlore resemble the Trickster from The Sarah Jane Adventures. The Trickster (and his brigade) have been seen in Whatever Happened To Sarah Jane?, The Temptation Of Sarah Jane Smith, The Wedding Of Sarah Jane Smith, and Turn Left.  Their reason for being is chaos, and therefore the fall of the Doctor and knowledge of his name could be useful to them. It is possible that they act in opposition to the Silence, a religious order who exist specifically in order to prevent such the answering of the question 'Doctor Who?' (and as such have clearly never read the jokes page in The Beano).

* Richard E Grant is back and will play the Great Intelligence's avatar, potentially walking about the surface of Trenzalore with his legs and feet. This raises questions: how does the intelligence have a corporeal presence based on a body that died in 1892? When is this episode set? Presumably post-The Bells Of St John? What has the Intelligence been doing all this time, besides working for Team America?

* 'Trenzalore' is an anagram of 'James Stoker'. Nope. We're stopping these. We probably shouldn't point out that in Catalan, 'Trens alors' means 'Alue Trains'. 'Alue' is a Finnish word which means 'area'. As a boy, the Doctor always wanted to drive a steam train (compare: Black Orchid), so, er, perhaps the Doctor's essential nature is tied up in a vivid dreamscape involving his lifelong love of trains?

* From the trailer, the planet looks like it's hot. Tectonic plates, cracks in the firmament, spurty lava amidst shifting land masses sort of hot. These fields might not be green and pleasant and boring, like England's. We could be due for some choral flourishes from Murray Gold and some Revenge Of The Sith style denouements.

'Tren zalar' means 'Train zalar' in Basque. 'Zalar' means 'Cottager' in Slovenian, although some interpretations would say 'Tenant' instead. Will the Tenth Doctor therefore arrive at the end of the episode by funicular railway?

* Despite the fissures appearing in the surface,  the trailer's action seems to depict medieval tunnels and Edwardian windows. Also people moving about and talking and doing stuff. If it was just the former it'd be incredibly dull. We know nothing of the people of Trenzalore and their society, but if Vastra and Strax are involved then it is possible these segments don't take place on the planet. So. Victorian London probably. Present day Cardiff no longer exists.

* 'Trenza' is Spanish for 'pigtail'. 'Lore' is an old English word meaning learning. Could we be about to learn the tale of the porcine? Could the relatives of the space-pig from Aliens Of London finally be getting their revenge? Tune in this Saturday to find out.

* I'll get my coat.

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Can you actual call the prequel to this episode a prequel then? Never mind the creatures looking like the Trickster, they actually look like the Silence with big white pants pulled over their heads, or more accurately Buffy's Gentlemen as did the Silence. Any link with 'cottager' could possible mean George Michael?

What an incisive and informative article. Thanks. ;-)

More speculation on such slim pickings? The trenzalore thing hasn't really been referenced much so there's even less to go on than there was when trying to figure out Clara's mystery.

If you have to judge this series by the meatiness of the articles discussing the mysteries that will be revealed in the finale then this must be one of the weakest ones ever.

The shallowness that was present in the first half has continued in the second. Arguably the Christmas special has been the high point of this series for me so far.

Why isn't there an article that just says 'uh...sorry there just isn't really anything to speculate. Let's discuss'. I think that would have been a bit more satisfying.

Talking about satisfying articles...Season 3 of Lost Girl? Still criminally ignored by this site.

Who says the graveyard place is Trenzalore?

I think, if a post-Library River Song will return and a full-bodied avatar of Dr Simeon returns, it's quite possible that the Doctor and Clara will be sucked into some kind of computer, and maybe the tombstones are merely mental constructs, maybe from the Doctor's mind?

Haha funniest article i'll read about this i think. Hate the guessing games! LET'S FIND OUT BY WATCHING IT :DDDDD

With all these "prequels" appearing on the internet it's no wonder that I've struggled to enjoy the series so far.

I really shouldn't have to go online to watch mini-episodes/extra scenes to fill in the gaps of the narrative of the TV show.

Could the Library be linked to the Great Intelligence, after-all Library's are knowledge

After the past three years, all I'm really looking forward to about Trenzalore, River Song, the Clara-mystery and everything else that is going on, is that the storyline will hopefully be finally over and they'll move on to something different. Of course, there is a chance that Moffat actually makes the finale work in a way that makes everything about the story arc worthwhile, even the time-wasting Series 6.

The graves contain timelines, not corpses. Or so says a teaser.

You haven't missed much to be fair.

I read about time tunnels, paths through the vortex, that we'd be visiting. A tombstone could be in the Doctor's past, not necessarily anew happening.

We must also remember, The Doctor doesn't remember all of his past (Classic Who), should he want to know?

I hope those creatures are indeed linked to the Trickster. He was an awesome baddy and deserves to appear in Doctor Who !

It's going to be exciting. The talk of crossing his own timeline makes me feel Tennant and Piper could turn up at the end. Might he even regenerate? Gallfrey of the past turns up, but he can't reveal the Dr's name to the audience, can he?

All I know is that it is going to be hard to fit into 45 minutes...

Can't wait though. After this we've got the special and the Christmas thing to look forward to and then the back end of 2014 before we have any new Who! Make hay whilst the sun shine hey?

it is a nice article trenzalore is very different it will be nice to have a few mysteries cleared up and it will be interesting to see the doctor need saving for once and something even pushes him around a bit

i think it will be a great episode

IS Trenzalore a planet? We could be talking about gravitational fields, magnetic fields, or even some sort of timey-wimey chronological fields invented solely for the episode and never mentioned again or so we can only hope. And those Whispermen look to me like avatars of Richard E Grant, who is the avatar of The Great Intelligence, who has a past history of keeping people alive for centuries or reviving and inhabiting corpses, so it's not all that hard to suss how Walter Simeon's body can still be with us. Of course, one wonders why it manifested as control spheres in the Second Doctor's episodes THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMEN and THE WEB OF FEAR back in the 1960s, if it already had a body lurking around since the late 1800s, but there you go. Who knows what gets into the mind of disembodied intellects? Only Moffat knows.

This article needs more Trenzalore.

I'm sorry to spoil the joke, but a "trenza" is not a pigtail, but a braid, a pigtail would be a "coleta"... =P

BTW, I don't really get what the prequel was about. It does little else that 'spoiling' the episode.

I thought the fields would be like Flanders fields row upon row of gravestones

So Dorian says that, 'At the fall of the eleventh [the eleventh something-or-other, since he really did not specify whether it's the doctor], a question will be asked that must never be answered, Doctor: "Who?" '

Can't wait till Saturday to find out whether the question "Who?" turns out to have actually been about Clara!

I'm just glad that Richard E. Grant is back. He's a fantastic actor who would have made an awesome Doctor.

... Sarcasm, right?

Never mind, I misread your emoticon!

And how does Dorium know about this event exactly ? If he seems so knowledgeable why speak in riddles ?

nothing wrong with that. Sarcasm is my second favourite -asm

The real question is, since when did the name of The Doctor become such a need to know mystery?

Ned Flanders? :-)

People must have noticed that Moffat has never said the Doctor's name will be revealed. He's said his "greatest secret" will be revealed.

Could there be a different actual doctor? Could The Name of the Doctor is a reference to The Name of the Rose. I think so.

Im thinking that Trenzalore is a made up name for an alien planet, god I'm good!

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh this is gonna be good. As some people correctly point out, this all does sound difficult to fit into 45mins. But come on... this is The Moff we're talking about - The Bells of St John flew by as well. :)

I liked the bit about "Trenzalore is an anagram of "Learnt Zero"".
Don't forget rule #1, The Doctor Lies.

There is more chance of the UK winning Eurovision than us finding out the Doctor's name on Saturday.

In my mind, Trenzalore was an area rather than a planet...a bit like the plains of Salisbury. I have no evidence for that, just the image it gave me when I first heard it was more of a 'battle'.

Dorium said that the Silence believe the Doctors future is dangerous and should be averted. Even more importantly, they do not want him to ever reach Trenzalore or the question to be answered. Therefore, I would be very surprised if they are causing the events that get the Doctor there. They'd be mad to do so. I believe The Great Intelligence is at work here...

Could River know more than she's letting on? She said he became a man that turns around armies at the mention of his name. Was she talking about his real name? And why did the Doctor stop Clara from saying his name when they were alone on the TARDIS?

My sister and I were talking about this yesterday, and together, we think we've found out which planet it is. we're speculating that it's Gallifray. It's a long shot but for some reason, we think it fits :D

Trenzalore = Lazer Toner.
It's a printer cartridge planet.

Except that one day on the fields of Trenzalore when the Eleventh falls and no one can lie.

I'm catalan and I was super excited to read something "in catalan" around here but sorry, alore doesn't mean anything really
great article tho!

Oh, that would be brilliant. We've seen the ruins of Skaro, would be interesting to see what's become of Gallifrey too! Although, Isnt the planet locked in the time war?

Whedon should sue

Just MS and JLC tossing the word "epic" about, as per.

I switched over, half way through.

Gallifrey before it became Gallifrey

Looking at the trailer I wonder if Tranzalore is actually inside The Doctor's head. In the last episode the cyber-infected Doctor mentioned finding a memory block in The Doctor's mind.......and this would go hand-in-hand with the spoilers we've heard about John Hurt's character in the 50th anniversary it would seem that looking inside his mind to find out what he has forgotten is the one place he must not go.

btw.....everyone who watched the classic series should know The Doctor's name......isn't it Valyard?

In my mind, I read 'lifelong love of trains' as 'secretly Sheldon Cooper'.

Maybe even Moffat doesn't really know. Wouldn't put it past him.

Learnt zero. That sounds accurate.


he has been the doctor....yes I know it was for children in need

If you write out Trezalore and DoctorWho? in Galifreyan script they look pretty cool :)

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