This article contains lots and lots of Doctor Who spoilers.
Pain… Pain… Pain… That’s one of the main emotions I experienced while watching this week’s (rather excellent) Doctor Who, as I knew this weekly round-up of references, similarities and generally interesting ‘stuff’ was going to be a whopper. That doesn’t mean I haven’t missed anything, though, so if you spot something I’ve not mentioned, do the honourable thing and leave it in the comments section below…
Poll Winners’ Party
So, Genesis Of The Cybermen, then. In case you missed the episode’s biggest sledgehammer of a reference, the Master’s final line is a reference to the Tom Baker classic Genesis Of The Daleks. Just as that wasn’t the first Dalek story, this (obviously) isn’t the first Cybermen story – that was 1966’s The Tenth Planet, also notable for being the final adventure of William Hartnell’s Doctor and the first story to feature a regeneration.
The Cybermen we see in development here are the ones which featured in that story, back when they were just called ‘Cybermen’ rather than the less wieldy ‘Mondasian Cybermen’. That term – used repeatedly by Peter Capaldi during the 2014 promotional tour for the series, with him pressing Steven Moffat for their return – first reared its head in a 1983 issue of Doctor Who Magazine (Credit goes to user @paul_scoones on Twitter for that one). According to Doctor Who brand manager Edward Russell, it was assistant director Michael Williams – who worked on 2014’s Flatline – who likely introduced the phrase to Capaldi during their conversations.
Mondas is, of course, the homeworld of the Cybermen, and the reason it looks so similar to Earth is that it was originally Earth’s twin planet – the titular ‘tenth planet’ – and identical in many respects except the continents were upside down. The planet was knocked out of its position in the solar system many centuries ago and drifted off into deep space. There, the human-like inhabitants grew weak and started to replace their body parts with cybernetic enhancements, eventually becoming the Cybermen of today.
There is one extra reason to be referring to these Cybermen as the Mondasian models – the post-2005 show has already brought us one Cyber-origin story, in 2006’s Rise Of The Cybermen/The Age Of Steel. Those episodes saw the Doctor and friends fall into a parallel universe where the Cybermen were created on Earth, rather than Mondas, by businessman John Lumic, who was suffering from an incurable disease and wanted to prolong his lifespan. These Cybermen were marked with a ‘C’ on their chests (for Lumic’s company, Cybus Industries), and were the only type of Cybermen the Doctor encountered until Rory confronted the twelfth Cyber Legion in 2011’s A Good Man Goes To War.
(Incidentally, though this is the first we’ve seen of the Cybermen’s origins on screen, what now looks set to be an alternate history is featured in the rather splendid Big Finish audio production Spare Parts from 2002. It’s one of the highlights of the audio range, and it’s currently available to download on their website for a mere £2.99: https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/spare-parts-200)
It’s far from being all over
If the pre-credits sequence does indeed show how the twelfth Doctor bows out, his last words “No! No! No!” will be the same as second Doctor Patrick Troughton in 1969’s The War Games, as he underwent punishment by the Time Lords for breaking their policy of non-interference. These were rare instances of the Doctor being alone at the time of his ‘death’ – only the seventh and tenth Doctors, plus John Hurt’s War Doctor, perished with nobody else around to help.
We previously discussed the meaning of the episode’s actual title, a quote from Andrew Marvell’s 17th-century poem His Coy Mistress, here: http://www.denofgeek.com/uk/tv/doctor-who/49359/doctor-who-series-10-might-a-17th-century-poem-hold-a-big-clue . There doesn’t seem to be any obvious tie to 2015’s Before The Flood, as the episode suggests, though the poem’s title could be significant to the story – Missy, after all, being short for ‘Mistress’. The article also mentions the book World Enough And Space-Time, which touches on Einstein’s theory of general relativity – a concept which is pretty crucial to this story, predicting as it does the time-bending effects of a black hole.
The Doctor has a bit of experience with black holes – as well he should, being a Time Lord; their time travel is only possible thanks to the Eye of Harmony, a power source created from freezing a dying star at the point of becoming a black hole. The Doctor has one of these in his TARDIS, as seen in 1996’s TV Movie and 2013’s Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS. In 2006’s The Impossible Planet the Doctor and Rose encountered a planet orbiting a black hole.
Missy is very wrong when she says that nothing comes out of a black hole – in 1972’s The Three Doctors, two Doctors, a scientist, a warden and practically all of UNIT (including the headquarters!) were transported through a black hole to Time Lord Omega’s anti-matter universe and returned safely at the story’s end. Also, the Nimon in 1979’s The Horns Of Nimon used artificial black holes as a method of travel.
For the second week in a row, we get time running at different rates; see last week’s article for some previous times this has happened, but thanks also to reader Robert McWhirter for adding to that list Sara Kingdom, who in 1966’s The Daleks’ Master Plan died a horrible death at the hands of the Daleks’ Time Destructor on the planet Kembel as she aged to death in what appeared from the outside to be seconds.
Sara’s companion status over the years has been questioned, but she was one of only a few TARDIS travellers to die in action – Katarina died in the same story, and companion to the fourth and fifth Doctors Adric was killed off at the end of 1982’s Earthshock. Steven Moffat’s companions have fared pretty badly – River Song was killed off during her first appearance in 2008’s Forest Of The Dead, Amy and Rory were killed by the Weeping Angels in 2012’s The Angels Take Manhattan (via the Angels’ modus operandi of sending them back in time to live out their lives), and Clara’s hubris brought about her death – albeit a very suspended one – in 2015’s Face The Raven. We shall have to wait until next week to see whether Bill Potts joins that list…
Who is the Doctor
The question of whether the Doctor’s name is really Doctor Who is actually (slightly) more complicated to answer than it first appears. The character was listed as ‘Doctor Who’ or ‘Dr Who’ in the credits for all stories up to and including 1981’s Castrovalva, and again during the 2005 season – it was then changed for 2005’s The Christmas Invasion at new Doctor David Tennant’s request, and has remained ‘The Doctor’ ever since. The Doctor was first referred to on screen by that name by the machine WOTAN in 1966’s The War Machines, and the second Doctor referred to himself as ‘Doctor von Wer’ (Doctor Who) and ‘Dr W’ in 1966’s The Highlanders and 1967’s The Underwater Menace.
The Doctor’s real name was a key plot point in 2013’s The Name Of The Doctor (funny that), in which the doors to the (possible) future Doctor’s dead TARDIS could only be opened by someone saying the Doctor’s name; in the end it was River Song, one of the few people to know it, who spoke the words. But because she was a hologram only visible to the Doctor, we didn’t see or hear the moment… The name popped up again in that year’s The Time Of The Doctor, in which the Time Lords sent the question ‘Doctor who?’ through cracks in the universe – under the assumption that if the Doctor spoke his real name they would know it was safe to come through.
This is the first time the Doctor has been seen on screen eating crisps, but in 2010’s A Christmas Carol he proposed to the young Kazran Sardick that the pair of them spend Christmas Eve eating crisps and talking about girls. And of course, crisp fans in the 1980s could pick up a multipack of Golden Wonder and get a free miniature Doctor Who Magazine comic strip (with companion Peri painted out so they didn’t have to pay likeness rights to Nicola Bryant) into the bargain.
Missy joins the Doctor in not being able to judge physical attractiveness particularly well – a memorable scene in 1979’s City Of Death (written by Douglas Adams) saw Tom Baker’s fourth Doctor tell Countess Scarlioni that she was “a beautiful woman, probably.” The fifth Doctor seems oblivious to companion Tegan’s charms in Enlightenment, while the sixth Doctor goes as far as calling companion Peri ugly in Timelash. He’s not always been so unobservant; for instance, the ninth Doctor told Rose she was beautiful – for a human – in 2005’s The Unquiet Dead. (For more on the Doctor – and the show in general – on beauty, check out Phil Sandifer’s marvellous blog: http://www.eruditorumpress.com/blog/youre-a-beautiful-woman-probably/)
The Mondasians approaching in a lift from many floors below is reminiscent of scenes in the 2005 finale, The Parting Of The Ways, in which the Daleks travel nearly five hundred floors down the ventilation shafts on Satellite Five in order to kill an innocent group of humans, simply because they can.
Man, I feel like a woman
As with last week, the Doctor hints at the possibility that he might have been a woman at one point, this time during his adolescence. In 2015’s The Magician’s Apprentice, Missy told Clara that she’d known the Doctor ‘since the Cloister Wars. Since he stole the moon and the president’s wife. Since he was a little girl’ – before revealing that one of those statements was a lie. In that year’s Hell Bent, the Doctor claimed that the middle one wasn’t true… Gallifrey doesn’t just have Time Lords – it has Time Ladies, too. The term was coined in City Of Death to describe the Doctor’s Gallifreyan companion Romana.
Missy calls the Doctor an idiot, a realisation he came to in her presence during 2014’s Death In Heaven after twelve episodes of wrestling with the question of whether or not he was a good man.
As Simon mentioned in his review earlier in the week, there’s a definite vibe of 2005’s The Empty Child in this one, with creepy hospital wards full of mute patients who are prone to moving as one, and people’s heads being covered as they repeat the same phrases over and over… It’s worth noting that The Empty Child was Moffat’s first Doctor Who episode, with this (presumably) being his antepenultimate one.
The Doctor uses ‘Venusian aikido’, a martial arts technique first used by Jon Pertwee in 1970’s Inferno. This technique was exclusive to the third Doctor (on television, at least) until the twelfth used it in 2014’s Robot Of Sherwood. This is only the second time it has been referred to as ‘Venusian aikido’ though; the Doctor called it as such in 1973’s The Green Death, but for its other mentions in Pertwee stories Inferno, The Mind Of Evil and Frontier In Space it was labelled ‘Venusian karate’.
Perhaps reaching a bit here, but with all the Crystal Maze talk on here of late one can’t help but be reminded of it when the Doctor welcomes Missy and Nardole to a new time zone – that show involving teams being guided around four time zones and solving problems. However, the Futuristic and Industrial zones were not adjacent to one another, so it would have been impossible to make the move the Doctor and friends make here without passing through the Crystal Dome. One for the deleted scenes, maybe…
Onto the world’s worst-kept secret, the utterly un-shocking reveal of John Simm’s Master. The publicity machine was far more discreet back in 2007 (when it wanted to be – the appearance of humanoid Dalek Caan on the cover of the Radio Times the week before Daleks In Manhattan aired still irks some), and as such the unassuming episode Utopia managed to get away with having Derek Jacobi play the charming and mild-mannered Professor Yana – until he awakened his hidden memories and realised (at the same time as the viewers) that he was the Master, before stealing the Doctor’s TARDIS and regenerating into the John Simm model.
Arriving on Earth, the Master adopted the persona of Harold Saxon and successfully ran for prime minister, thanks to the Doctor having deposed Harriet Jones a few years previous. His reign, depicted in The Sound Of Drums and Last Of The Time Lords, was a memorable one – he killed ten per cent of the Earth’s population, turned the Doctor into Dobby the House Elf and even found himself a wife. But Martha Jones helped the Doctor become Jesus and destroy the TARDIS in order to turn back time. Or something. Crazy times.
The Master was shot by his wife and refused to regenerate, seemingly dying in the Doctor’s arms. However, the Master has always had a knack for cheating death and was resurrected by the Disciples of Saxon using a ‘potion of life’ in 2009’s The End Of Time Part 1. It was revealed that the drumbeat inside the Master’s head – as heard during his appearance in this episode – was placed there by Time Lord president Rassilon in order to help guide Gallifrey out of the Time War. The last time we saw the Simm Master, he had turned on Rassilon upon learning this fact and helped the Doctor to send Gallifrey back into the Time War – sending himself back there with it. That was the last we saw of the Master until he appeared in his new guise as Missy, in 2014’s Deep Breath.
Given that he remembers being the prime minister, and Last Of The Time Lords and The End Of Time were concurrent from the Master’s perspective, it seems likely this Master comes from after the events of those stories. Missy doesn’t remember any of these events, but that’s to be expected – all previous multi-Doctor stories have relied on the current Doctor not remembering the experience from the perspective of his previous selves, with 2013’s The Day Of The Doctor suggesting that the previous selves can’t retain the information as their time streams are ‘out of sync’.
This episode marks the first time the Master has adopted a physical disguise in the modern era, but he was quite fond of them in the classic series, right from his debut in 1971’s Terror Of The Autons, in which he used a rubber mask (and a different actor) to impersonate a telephone engineer. With the disguises have come a large number of aliases, ranging from the obvious – Colonel Masters in Terror Of The Autons and Reverend Magister (Latin for ‘Master’) in The Daemons – to the convoluted – Martin Jurgens (an anagram of ‘Master Gunnjir’, Gunnjir being the spear of Odin) in Colony In Space and Sir Giles Estram in The King’s Demons. In the 80s these anagrams extended to the credits and Radio Times billings – Anthony ‘Tony’ Ainley was billed as ‘Neil Toynay’ to hide his appearance in Castrovalva, while Sir Giles Estram was played by ‘James Stoker’ – which unravels to become ‘Master’s Joke’.
The last time Missy and the Cybermen teamed up, a few of the Doctor’s friends were converted – Clara’s boyfriend Danny was pivotal to the failure of Missy’s scheme post-conversion, while Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart was controversially resurrected as the Cyber-Brig in order to save his daughter Kate. The Cyber-Brig seemed to survive that story, so perhaps he’ll play a role next week… Or perhaps we can pretend it didn’t happen.
Like Bill, Danny found the experience a tearful one and was seen inside the Cyber-suit crying. But with the close-up on the closed helmet, the final shot is more reminiscent of Torchwood One leader Yvonne Hartman’s cyber-conversion in 2006’s Doomsday, after which she appears to retain elements of her personality, destroying the Cyber-Leader and then crying a single tear of blood as she repeats the phrase “I did my duty for queen and country.”
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.