Doctor Who series 10: might a 17th century poem hold a big clue?

How a poem from the past may just link a pair of recent Doctor Who episodes. Wild speculation and poetry ahead...

Tony Bracewell is a man who’s been a good friend of Den Of Geek. He produced the excellent movie Bill, and from time to time, he natters to us over a cheap coffee about what he’s up to next. Exciting things, by the sounds of it.

He’s also a Doctor Who nerd, and in our last conversation, he thus excitedly turned his attention to the 17th century poet Andrew Marvell. Because he’s convinced that a poem Marvell wrote is being referenced, deliberately, by Steven Moffat in Doctor Who.

Marvell, for those not familiar with him, was an MP for Hull, a Republican, and a man who could use poetry to devastating political effect. As Tony explained, Marvell’s Horatian Ode On Cromwell’s Return From Ireland “is one of the most extraordinary poems in any language, where he simultaneously explicitly praises Cromwell as a liberator and implicitly condemns him as tyrant”.

But for the purposes of this chat, Tony homed in on a poem called To His Coy Mistress, a famous and oft-quoted piece of work, whose lines have now lent themselves to two Doctor Who episode titles. Here’s the first stanza of the poem…

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“Had we but world enough, and time,

This coyness, Lady, were no crime

We would sit down and think which way

To walk and pass our long love’s day.

Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side Shouldst rubies find:

I by the tide Of Humber would complain.

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I would Love you ten years before the Flood”

Spot them? World Enough And Time is the newly-announced title of series 10’s penultimate episode. And then at the end there is Before The Flood, the fourth episode of series nine.

Before The Flood is notable for a few reasons, not least it being the episode that discussed the Bootstrap Paradox, where the origin of Beethoven’s Symphony No 5 was brought under discussion. How the origin of something is lost in time.

Little is known thus far about World Enough And Time, meanwhile, aside from the fact that Steven Moffat has penned it, and it’s believed (although not confirmed) to be the middle of a three-part story.

Is it coincidence that two episode titles come from the same stanza of the same poem? Possibly. But also, it may be Steven Moffat up to something.

Tony wasn’t done, though.

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“As it happens, there’s a 1989 book by theoretical physicist John Earman at MIT called World Enough And Space-Time”, he told us, as we fed him more coffee.

“All about the Newton’s absolute conception of space-time against Leibniz’s relativistic conception of space-time, which ultimately leads to Einstein and Relativity”.

“Leibniz’s relativistic conception of space-time… Time and Relative Dimensions in Space?”, he pondered.

There are gaps to fill in here, of course, but in the spirit of rampant speculation, and the fact that little details have a habit of adding up to things in Doctor Who, we thought we’d pass this over to yourselves. Is there more to this? Can anyone fill in more on the significance of the poem? You know where the comments are – and please mark your comments for spoilers if you’re discussing details of an episode yet to come!

Bill is ace, by the way (the film and the companion). The DVD is available for a princely sum wherever DVDs are legally sold.

Polite note to other websites who may, er, ‘be inspired’ by this to do their own article. Give us the courtesy of a linkback if you do. Hugz.

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