Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve waited for 54 years for Doctor Who to explain why crows sound like they do, so now that they’ve finally tackled that important issue it’s time for our weekly round-up of callbacks, similarities and generally interesting things taken from this week’s episode. And as ever, if you’re sitting thinking ‘How can he have missed that?!’ (the answer is usually ‘ineptitude’), leave it down in the comments below…
Bad cat woman
The Eaters Of Light was written by Rona Munro, an award-winning Scottish writer responsible for films including Aimee & Jaguar and Oranges And Sunshine, as well as a multitude of theatre works. However, you’re presumably here to read about Doctor Who, and in the Doctor Who world Rona Munro is best known for killing off the classic series….
…perhaps I should rephrase that. Rona Munro wrote the 1989 adventure Survival which, thanks to falling ratings and at best an indifference towards the series from many corners of the BBC, ended up being the final story to be aired before the show went on its 16-year ‘hiatus’. It’s worth noting that Survival was ahead of its time in many ways – the story saw the seventh Doctor and Ace returning to her home town of Perivale, where we got a glimpse of her home life and spent some time on a council estate. Both of these things would be major factors in Russell T Davies’ version of the show when it returned in 2005. Survival also saw Rona Munro writing for the Master – played on that occasion by Anthony Ainley.
This isn’t the first time the TARDIS has been immortalised in stone – in 2007’s The Fires Of Pompeii the Doctor, Donna and the TARDIS were all seen etched into a marble tablet as they were worshipped by Caecilius (played by an actor called Peter Capaldi) and his family. The TARDIS also ended up as part of a stained-glass window in 2009’s The End Of Time Part One following an unseen 14th-century adventure.
The Doctor previously visited Aberdeen in 1976’s The Hand Of Fear – though he didn’t know it at the time. He dropped companion Sarah Jane Smith off in what he believed to be Croydon, and it was only when the pair reunited in 2006’s School Reunion that he was made aware of his mistake.
The series has visited the Roman Empire before, most notably in 1965’s The Romans, which depicted the fall of Rome. Someone else who was at the fall of Rome was Amy Pond’s husband Rory – or at least, his Auton duplicate, created as part of an elaborate trap for the Doctor in 2nd-century Stonehenge. Auton Rory was part of a fake legion of Centurions, but he managed to override his programming and stood guard over Amy for the next 2,000 years. Though he was made a real boy once more when the Doctor rebooted the universe, Rory retained his memories – and, from time to time, his costume.
Stonehenge is the most famous set of standing stones to have appeared in Doctor Who, but some also featured in 1978’s The Stones Of Blood, in which the ‘Nine Travellers’ were revealed to be the Ogri, a rock-based life form.
Doctor Who And The Iron Legion
The Ninth Legion, or Legio IX Hispana, was a real legion of soldiers based in Britain in the first and second centuries until all records of their activities stopped in 120AD. Historians have spent many years researching and debating their apparent disappearance, but there have been no concrete answers (Until this episode, obviously). The legion’s disappearance was the subject of 2011 film The Eagle, starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell.
Nardole mentions another real-life mystery that has previously been tackled by Doctor Who, the disappearance of the crew of the Mary Celeste – though his account conflicts with that shown in 1965’s The Chase, which depicted the Daleks landing their time machine aboard the ship and the crew jumping overboard in terror.
Incidentally, Nardole also references the RMS Lucitania, an ocean liner which was torpedoed in 1915. The fifth Doctor stopped the sinking of the Lucitania as part of the Sirens’ plot to change history and bring the Doctor under their control in Big Finish’s first ever Doctor Who adventure, 1999’s The Sirens Of Time.
The Doctor’s claim that he was once a vestal virgin is an interesting one – not least because the vestal virgins were all female, priestesses who took a vow to remain virginal. Perhaps this is why he was a ‘second class’ vestal virgin – the issue being with his gender rather than a joke about his virginal status (or lack thereof). Or maybe he was dressed as a priestess – the Doctor being no stranger to dressing as a woman, having made a very fetching Doris the cleaner in 1973’s The Green Death.
We may not have been privileged enough to witness the Doctor juggling with Romans, but we did see the seventh Doctor juggling in the TARDIS at the start of 1988’s The Greatest Show In The Galaxy.
Bill susses out the TARDIS’s telepathic translation circuitry. The question of everyone in the universe speaking English was first raised in 1976’s The Masque Of Mandragora, when the fourth Doctor told Sarah Jane that this was a ‘Time Lord gift’ which he allowed her to share. The matter didn’t come up again until 2005’s The End Of The World, when the ninth Doctor revealed to Rose Tyler that the translation was ‘a gift of the TARDIS’. The truth seems to be a combination of the two, as witnessed in that year’s The Christmas Invasion, when the TARDIS was unable to translate the Sycorax to English until the newly regenerated tenth Doctor awoke from his coma.
A few notable Doctor Who monsters with tentacles are the form the Nestene Consciousness takes in 1970’s Spearhead From Space, which uses them to strangle the third Doctor, and Kroll from 1978’s The Power Of Kroll, a giant squid which grew to enormous proportions after accidentally eating a segment of the Key to Time. Oops.
It’s time for rift facts
Temporal rifts have become quite fashionable since Doctor Who returned in 2005 (though the fourth Doctor did cross one in 1980’s Warrior’s Gate); the most prominent one was the Cardiff rift used by the Gelth to try and invade Earth in 2005’s The Unquiet Dead. The Doctor stopped off there to recharge the TARDIS using rift energy in that year’s Boom Town, and when Jack got stranded in the far future following the events of The Parting Of The Ways he returned to Cardiff, knowing the Doctor would eventually return there to recharge. Other time rifts included the cracks in time and space seen throughout the eleventh Doctor’s era, the Medusa Cascade from The Stolen Earth and the one around Coal Hill Academy which formed the basis for spin-off series Class.
The Doctor hints at a rift of a different kind, though; him telling the alien to go back into the void is reminiscent of him sending the Daleks and Cybermen back into the Void in 2006’s Doomsday. The Void is the space between universes, and it’s where the Cult of Skaro hid themselves following the Time War – their void ship caused a breach which enabled travel between the Doctor’s universe and the one colloquially known as ‘Pete’s World’ (After Rose’s father, not yours truly).
In Doctor Who terms, this instance of time passing at two different rates ends in a (slightly) less depressing fashion than usual – 2006’s heartbreaker The Girl In The Fireplace saw the Doctor popping through a time window at various points during the life of Reinette from a spaceship where time passed far more slowly. Having invited Reinette to come travel with him he went back to the spaceship to find his companions – only to find that Reinette had passed away in the time he’d been gone. In 2011, an older, feral version of Amy Pond was created after she became separated from the Doctor and Rory – the few minutes they took to find her covered 36 very lonely years in her own life. She ended up sacrificing herself so that young Amy could escape.
As well as being one of several elements from last week’s episode to repeat this week (Bill falling unexpectedly and being separated from the Doctor, two warring tribes, recurring talk of cowardice), Missy/The Master in the TARDIS isn’t exactly a first; he joined forces with the Doctor (or so he thought) in 1971’s The Claws Of Axos, he landed his TARDIS inside the Doctor’s (and vice versa) in 1972’s The Time Monster, and he tried to pilot the ship in 1981’s Time-Flight.
The Master spent a lot of time in the TARDIS in the 1996 TV Movie, having lured the Doctor into helping him following his ‘execution’. He escaped the TARDIS as a worm-like creature, before finding himself a body and returning to the TARDIS to use its Eye of Harmony to steal the Doctor’s remaining regenerations – before getting sucked into the Eye himself. How the Master escaped is unknown, but we next met him in the form of kindly Professor Yana in 2007’s Utopia – before the Master within him awoke and he stole the TARDIS, regenerating inside the console room. He then turned the ship into a Paradox Machine to allow the Toclafane – actually the fate of humanity – to coexist with and destroy their forebears.
One final side note, 2003’s animated webcast The Scream Of The Shalka – which was intended to be a canonical relaunch of the series before Russell T Davies’ plans were announced – featured a version of the Master who had been consigned to an android body following some mishap, only able to operate within the Doctor’s TARDIS and therefore becoming his travelling companion. We shall never know what became of him, but his voice actor Derek Jacobi – aka Professor Yana – will be returning to the role in the ‘War Master’ audios from Big Finish.
And that’s your lot for another week. Join us next week for the penultimate instalment of the series, with a lot more Mastering and probably a lecture on the history of the planet Mondas…
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.