Doctor Who: Oxygen geeky spots and Easter eggs
So many spoilers, as we go looking for references in Doctor Who series 10, Oxygen...
This article contains spoilers for Doctor Who series 10, up to and including Oxygen.
Space zombies, near-death experiences and what we can only hope is a temporary change for the Doctor… In Oxygen, writer Jamie Mathieson has quite literally played a blinder. And for the more observant among us, there were a handful of pop culture references and callbacks to earlier stories. Here’s our weekly round-up of the ones we noticed, along with the odd bit of wild speculation and things we just found interesting.
Oh, and look out for an extra article on Monday which takes a closer look at a few bits of graphic design this series – including the answer to a question which has been plaguing some of us for a couple of weeks now…
To Boldly Go
This probably doesn’t need saying, but for completionist’s sake the episode opens with the line ‘Space: the final frontier’, which is of course a reference to 1973 Jon Pertwee story Frontier In Space, which marked Roger Delgado’s final performance as the Master. The line is almost certainly hinting that it is the Master/Missy inside the vault.
We’ve been informed that the line was also used in Star Trek, an American sci-fi series which ran from 1966-69, and is one of a few Trek references or homages in the episode – the scenes with the crew wearing magnetic boots to walk around outside and facing off against pale-skinned creatures without helmets are similar to Captain Picard’s crew facing the Borg in Star Trek: First Contact (the boots themselves first appeared in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country), while the map of the station mentions ‘runabouts’, which were the space shuttle of choice aboard another space station in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Space stations are familiar territory for the Doctor; the first one came in 1968’s The Wheel In Space, in which the second Doctor and Jamie faced the Cybermen aboard Space Station W3, or ‘the Wheel’. Other space stations the Doctor has visited which follow the model of a central structure with a surrounding rotating element to produce artificial gravity – as first postulated by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in 1903 – include the Nerva Beacon from 1975’s The Ark In Space, Platform One from 2005’s The End Of The World, and Satellite Five from The Long Game that same year.
The Doctor has faced reanimated corpses before – in 2008’s Silence In The Library two-parter the Vashta Nerada took over spacesuits with their skeletal inhabitants dead inside, in quite a similar manner to the autonomous spacesuits in this story. Rose and the ninth Doctor battled the Gelth in 2005’s The Unquiet Dead, who possessed the bodies of the dead in 19th-century Cardiff. Missy turned many of the dead – including the Doctor’s friend Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart – into Cybermen in 2014’s Death In Heaven, while in the Brigadier’s first appearance, 1968’s The Web Of Fear, the Great Intelligence controlled the body of Staff Sergeant Arnold.
It isn’t the first time the Doctor has been stuck on Earth – the third Doctor was exiled here by the Time Lords following the events of 1969’s The War Games (as a budget-saving measure on the part of the production team), and he frequently complained about being confined to one corner of space and time. However, like the current Doctor, the third managed to get off-world from time to time – usually at the behest of the Time Lords, who would send him on missions.
Nardole removes a fluid link from the TARDIS in an attempt to disable it, a move which harkens back to the show’s earliest days and the very first Dalek story in 1963/4. On that occasion, the Doctor seemed to sabotage the TARDIS by removing the link, claiming it had run out of mercury in order to be allowed to explore Skaro. When the Daleks confiscated the link, it provided the impetus for the TARDIS travellers to help the Thals defeat the metal menaces. The events of this episode suggest that either the Doctor has modified the TARDIS since then or he was lying all along in order to help the beleaguered Thal people. Fluid links continued to be crucial to the TARDIS’s operation during several stories in the 1960s, but have not been mentioned since 1968’s The Mind Robber.
Nardole shouldn’t be surprised by the Doctor’s deception; River Song told Amy in 2010’s The Big Bang that the first rule when it comes to the Doctor is that ‘the Doctor lies’. And River Song was working with Nardole when the Doctor first met him back in 2015’s The Husbands Of River Song, so you’d think she would have warned him…
Sending Out an SOS
For all the Doctor’s talk about distress calls and the universe asking for help, it’s actually quite rare for the TARDIS to pick up such a call – the first time wasn’t until the fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane intercepted a message from Zeta Minor in 1975’s Planet Of Evil.
When Bill complains that the station ‘doesn’t feel like space’, she’s right to feel a bit cheated; shortly after being picked up by the eleventh Doctor, former companion Amy Pond spends the opening moments of 2010’s The Beast Below gleefully floating within an air bubble created by the TARDIS forcefield, tethered to the Doctor by his hand on her ankle…
The sonic screwdriver is destroyed, something which first happened in 1982’s The Visitation and was considered to be permanent, with the fifth Doctor remarking ‘I feel as though you’ve just killed an old friend.’ However, since the show’s 2005 revival the sonic has been destroyed on multiple occasions, such as being overloaded in 2007’s Smith And Jones or eaten by a space shark in 2010’s A Christmas Carol.
‘Ganymede Systems’ refers in the first instance to the largest moon of Jupiter. However, there may be a deeper significance – Ganymede is a crucial part of the Red Dwarf story, and the Microgramma font (or its close cousin Eurostile) commonly used in Dwarf is plastered liberally around the inside of the station. Could there be a deeper connection? Believe it or not, we’ve done some digging into this, and we’ll have the answer for you on Monday…
Velma the spacesuit is presumably named after the character from Scooby-Doo. The suggestion ‘You look like you’re trying to run’ is an homage to Clippit (Nicknamed ‘Clippy’), the often-irritating Office Assistant help mascot used in Microsoft Office products between 1997 and 2007, who would often pop up with such messages as ‘It looks like you’re writing a letter. Would you like help?’.
Though this isn’t the first time the Doctor has encountered blue-skinned aliens, they were extremely rare in the show’s original 26-year run; as far as we can tell (because it seems so unlikely that there’s probably something we’ve missed), the first truly blue-skinned aliens were the Destroyer and the Haemovores, both of which appeared during the 1989 series. Of course, since 2005 the Doctor hasn’t been able to move for the things, from the Moxx of Balhoon and the Crespallions in that year’s The End Of The World to sometime ally Dorium Maldovar and The Husbands Of River Song’s Flemming.
The Psychic Circus
The Doctor once again flashes his psychic paper to trick the crew into trusting him. First wielded by Christopher Eccleston in The End Of The World, the paper was writer Russell T Davies’ way of avoiding one of the most common tropes of the classic series, in which the Doctor and his companions would be regarded with distrust for most of part one of a story in order to pad out the running time. With shorter stories in the new era, Davies needed a way for the Doctor to get involved in the action as quickly as possible. The paper doesn’t always work, mind – Shakespeare was too clever to be fooled in The Shakespeare Code, while in Army Of Ghosts it’s revealed that all Torchwood operatives undergo basic psychic training.
“Who put you in charge?” is a question occasionally asked of the Doctor in the modern show, such as in 2008’s Midnight or in 2014’s Time Heist, but perhaps the most memorable moment, with some similarities to this one, came in 2007 Christmas Special Voyage Of The Damned when the question was asked of the tenth Doctor, and he gave this rousing reply…
… which was used to advertise the special: “I’m the Doctor. I’m a Time Lord. I’m from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. I’m nine hundred and three years old, and I’m the man who’s going to save your lives and all six billion people on the planet below… You got a problem with that?” It’s almost definitely not an intentional callback, but that moment is so wonderful we couldn’t not include it.
Sadly, Bill wouldn’t be the first of the Doctor’s companions to die in the vacuum of space; in 1965, the first Doctor’s companion Katarina (who had joined the TARDIS crew during the previous story) sacrificed her life by blasting herself and the villainous Kirksen out of a spaceship airlock.
Nardole mentions Satnavs – Part of 2008’s The Sontaran Stratagem saw people dying as a result of ATMOS navigation systems installed in their cars forcing them to drive to their doom.
The expanding and contracting red lights on the spacesuits are likely an homage to HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey – the space station in which was another one to follow the rotating artificial gravity model.
Temporary blindness is an occupational hazard while travelling in the TARDIS; fourth Doctor companions Sarah Jane Smith and Leela were both briefly rendered blind – the former by a flash from Maren’s ring in The Brain Of Morbius and the latter by an exploding Rutan ship in The Horror Of Fang Rock – an explosion which also changed her eye colour, as actress Louise Jameson had an adverse reaction to her brown contact lenses. And Dr Grace Holloway was blinded after looking into the Eye of Harmony in the 1996 TV movie.
The Doctor states that Bill is no more dead than he or Nardole, which is hardly reassuring – the Doctor has died at least 13 times by this point, while it seems likely that Nardole is now just a human-like head atop a cybernetic body…
Finally, the Doctor gets his yo-yo out again, something he previously did in 2015’s The Girl Who Died and 2014’s Kill The Moon, in which he used the yo-yo to determine the local gravity. This is something the fourth Doctor first did in The Ark In Space, and this Doctor’s general love of the toy seems to have come from that incarnation.
That’s your lot for this week. Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below…
Pete is the co-writer and presenter of The Mostly Made-Up Doctor Who Episode Guide, a comedy podcast chronicling the Doctor’s adventures that is almost as well-researched as this article. You can find it on iTunes or at http://www.mostlymadeupdw.co.uk.