Doctor Who: Deep Breath’s references and callbacks

We spotted a few fun nods to previous episodes in Doctor Who's series 8 opener. And here they are...

There’s a quote we often refer to at Den of Geek when writing about Doctor Who, and it comes from living legend Terrance Dicks about writing the show: ‘You need a good strong original idea, but it doesn’t have to be your good strong original idea.’

Steven Moffat is obviously aware of this statement, but has interpreted it differently to most. It doesn’t have to be your good strong original idea, but it can be, and therefore that doesn’t mean you only have to use it once.

On top of callbacks to some of Moffat’s previous work, Deep Breath, has references scattered throughout, recalling the show’s entire fifty year history. We’ve done our best to provide an extensive list, and you’re very welcome to provide extensions and footnotes. So without further pre-amble:

Moffat-on-Moffat action

As it follows on immediately from The Time Of The Doctor, it’s not totally unsurprising that there are links to that episode. Handles is referenced, and the dangling TARDIS phone is explained by the Eleventh Doctor’s call to Clara on the streets of Glasgow.

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The SS Marie Antoinette is the ‘sister ship to the SS Madame de Pompadour’, as seen in the Moffat-scripted The Girl In The Fireplace. This also featured clockwork robots scavenging human flesh for repairs, and here ties into The Bells Of St John – the woman in the shop who gave Clara that Doctor’s number may well be Michelle Gomez’s Missy. As you will doubtless be shocked to hear, we haven’t yet got a definitive answer yet though, and there were a few questions raised by the SS Marie Antoinette’s time travelling backwards at least sixty five million years, and Missy’s involvement in it all.

The classic series

The spaceship at the dawn of Earth’s history also recalled City Of Death, but the fact that it came from the 51st Century is almost certainly because of Robert Holmes’ future world-building in The Talons Of Weng Chiang.

That story also featured a disfigured villain with an underground lair in Victorian London, using bodies to sustain his lifespan. It might have been me, but I thought I could detect the influence of Magnus Greel’s mask in the design of the robot’s endoskeleton.

Along with the explicit reference to long scarves and coats from the Twelfth Doctor, there was a hint of Terror Of The Zygons upon seeing a reptilian creature in the Thames. That was the last time the Brigadier met the Fourth Doctor, though there was a callback to their first meeting in Planet Of The Spiders (‘Here we go again’), and a possible homage to his first meeting with the Third (It’s been noted that Capaldi’s faint at the start of the episode is similar to Jon Pertwee falling out of the TARDIS in Spearhead From Space).

‘You’ve redecorated, I don’t like it’, also crops up again. First heard in Colonel Crichton’s office uttered by the Second Doctor, the Tenth Doctor and now Clara have said it in reference to the TARDIS interior. Speaking of Troughton, his first story is referenced by Madame Vastra’s use of the word ‘renewal’. In The Power Of The Daleks the term regeneration hadn’t been fixed, the word ‘renewal’ being used instead. It’s enough to ponder other regeneration stories being referenced. Possibly the Doctor’s behaviour towards Strax while leaving the TARDIS is reminiscent of the Doctor and the Brig’s interactions in Robot.

Elisabeth Sladen was also commemorated in Deep Breath. Not only did her widower, Brian Miller, appear as the tramp (having previously appeared in Snakedance, Resurrection and Remembrance Of The Daleks), but the TARDIS’ brief arrival in Glasgow (where there is a genuine police box on Buchanan Street) is likely to be a homage to Sarah Jane Smith’s arrival in Aberdeen.

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Recent times

As well as School Reunion, Toby Whithouse’s  A Town Called Mercy was referenced by the Doctor’s continued ability to speak Horse. And dinosaur, apparently. The Doctor speaks ‘every language’ according to the Tenth Doctor, including baby (Closing Time).

Russell T. Davies had suggested an explanation to Steven Moffat for why the new Doctor resembles Caecilius from The Fires Of Pompeii (and John Frobisher from Torchwood: Children of Earth, although the Doctor never met him), and though it isn’t gone into in detail it’s suggested that the Doctor’s subconscious picks certain faces that suit his wishes for his new body (based on guilt, or utility, or whatever).

And, of course, Clara left the TARDIS saying ‘I’m sorry, I’m so so sorry,’ which the Tenth Doctor said about eight times/every single bloody episode (delete based on your tendency towards hyperbole). In an attempt to change her mind, the Doctor suggests they get chips, Rose’s comfort foodstuff in The End Of The World.

We also had:

– ‘Geronimo’ – as introduced (and used sporadically thereafter) in The Eleventh Hour.

– Several Sherlock Holmes references, most obviously Madame Vastra saying ‘The game is afoot’

– More references to the ’round things’ in the TARDIS, which haven’t been as plentiful since the War Doctor’s choice of décor.

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– The Children’s Menu joke: “Everyone by the end of the opening music is a kid! It is watched by more adults than kids, but there is something at its heart, which belongs to children. All the best stuff is children’s. You look at a risotto on a menu and you see the children’s menu and there’s sausage and chips. All the good stuff belongs to children.” – Steven Moffat.

The massively tenuous

There’s also a joke about the Doctor hurting his balls in Revelation Of The Daleks, though we suspect that’s probably not why the Sonic-Screwdriver-to-the-nadgers gag is in there.

The Doctor mentions the words ‘The Other’, a mythical figure from Time Lord history as detailed in the novel Lungbarrow. Of course, the words ‘the other’ are also things people just say in day-to-day conversation, but what the hell, let’s assume they’re all referring to the 1997 New Adventure novel.

And finally… these aren’t technically references but hey ho, it’s not like anyone on the internet is pedantic

Technically, any connection between Silurians and dinosaurs is a callback to Doctor Who And The Silurians. If only Madame Vastra had a third eye or a little device that went ‘Weedlewup’ this would be the Original Series section.

Tony Way, who you may recognise as Ser Dontos in Game Of Thrones, dies horribly here as Alf. He also appeared in director Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers and Down Terrace, though we wouldn’t like to speculate as to his eventual fates in those films.

And finally: There are Scottish accents. There’s been a murder. Obviously the whole thing is a riff on Taggart.

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