Doctor Who series 9: geeky spots in Hell Bent

Spoilers! Here are our geeky spots and viewing notes on the Doctor Who series 9 finale, Hell Bent...

With the Doctor finally returning to Gallifrey, there can’t have been many people thinking this episode would be light on callbacks, references and other interesting things, and Hell Bent delivered in spades. So it’s time for our viewing notes – as ever, leave your own in the comments below. Thanks to everyone who’s contributed to the comments across this run, and thanks in particular to The Doctor Who Transcripts Page and the TARDIS Data Core – these articles are one part memory, two parts research, and those sites have proved invaluable. Now, for the last time this series…

A Brief History Of Gallifrey

Hell Bent forms the final part of a trilogy of sorts with 2013’s The Day Of The Doctor and The Time Of The Doctor, and as such there are a number of references to those two episodes. The events surrounding The Day Of The Doctor introduced viewers to the War Doctor – or the “Doctor of war”, as he is described here – the incarnation of the Doctor who fought in the Last Great Time War, which occurred off-screen at some point between 1996 and 2005. That story’s climax saw all thirteen Doctors come together to freeze Gallifrey in a pocket dimension, as referenced by Clara.

The Day Of The Doctor introduced the General, played here by Ken Bones and T’Nia Miller. With Rassilon’s contingency plans (more on those shortly) having failed, it is the General who authorises the Doctors’ plan to save Gallifrey. Though never explicitly stated, it also the General who calls to the Doctor through the crack in the universe in The Time Of The Doctor. That story saw the Doctor, having run out of regenerations, facing his final death at the hands of the Daleks but being granted a new regeneration cycle by the Time Lords at Clara’s request – if we take him literally, it seems even the president doesn’t know how many new lives they granted the Doctor.

The Doctor would likely dispute the General’s assertion that he’s “the man who won the Time War”; though he initially walked away from the Time War believing himself the ‘winner’ – and grimly declared himself to be such after the death of what he believed to be the last remaining Dalek in Dalek – each successive encounter with the Daleks has destroyed that notion, leading the tenth Doctor to declare in Daleks In Manhattan that “They always survive, while I lose everything.” The tenth Doctor did later consider himself to be the winner of the Time War during his ‘Time Lord Victorious’ phase, but this was quickly brought to an end.

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Hell Bent returns to the barn which featured heavily in The Day Of The Doctor, and was revealed in last year’s Listen to be where the young Doctor would go when he didn’t want ‘the other boys’ to hear him cry – it’s not known whether this building was related to his schooling, or whether it was some kind of orphanage. It is in this barn that Clara reminded him that he should be a Doctor – as written on the blackboard at the end of this episode – and of his pledge to never be cruel or cowardly, advice he imparts to Clara before slipping into unconsciousness.

Game Of Thrones actor Donald Sumpter plays the latest incarnation of Time Lord president Rassilon. One of the founders of Time Lord society, Rassilon was first mentioned in 1976 tale The Deadly Assassin, in which we learn he was the one who brought the black hole to Gallifrey which gives Time Lords their power (Known as the ‘Eye of Harmony’). Rassilon notably lent his name to many of Gallifrey’s most powerful artefacts, including the Sash of Rassilon, the Rod of Rassilon, the Coronet of Rassilon and the, um, Harp of Rassilon.

We first met Rassilon in 1983 anniversary tale The Five Doctors, with the first, second, third and fifth Doctors converging on his tomb at the heart Gallifrey’s Death Zone. During the tale, it is revealed that Rassilon discovered the secret to immortality but realised it was a curse rather than a blessing, and a projection of Rassilon tricks immortality-seeking president Borusa into a cruel form of immortality as living stone.

Rassilon’s next television appearance came in 2009’s The End Of Time – now played by Timothy Dalton – where it is implied that he was resurrected during the Time War to lead the Time Lords once again in their time of need. He plans to pull Gallifrey out of the last day of the Time War, destroying Earth in the process, but is stopped by the combined efforts of the Doctor and the Master. It is also during this story that he first wields the powerful gauntlet which makes a return in Hell Bent.

The Deadly Assassin was responsible for introducing much of what we know about the Time Lords and their home planet, and its influence is felt all over this episode. Perhaps the biggest of these elements is the Matrix, the repository of all Time Lord knowledge. As the Doctor explains to Clara, the Matrix contains the minds of all deceased Time Lords and can extrapolate from known events to generate prophecies – in The Deadly Assassin, the Master hacked into the Matrix and used it to send the Doctor a premonition that he would assassinate the president of the Time Lords.

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Hell Bent isn’t the Doctor’s first stint as president of the Time Lords; after being framed for the assassination in The Deadly Assassin, the Doctor stands as a candidate for his successor, in an attempt to buy himself more time to learn the truth behind the president’s murder. In The Invasion Of Time two years later, the Doctor returns to Gallifrey and uses his status as the only living presidential candidate in order to claim the title. However, this all turns out to be part of a ploy to defeat the alien Vardans once and for all, and at the end of the story he abandons his post once more. The issue rears its head again at the end of The Five Doctors, after the Doctor’s successor Borusa has been deposed; he is asked to resume his presidential duties but once more goes on the run instead. By the time he is put on trial in 1986’s The Mysterious Planet, it is revealed he has been deposed.

The Deadly Assassin revealed that Time Lords are divided into six chapters: Prydonian, Arcalian, Patrex, Scendles, Cerulean and Hufflepuff. The Doctor belongs to the Prydonian chapter, and they can be recognised by their scarlet and orange robes. This has been the colour scheme for all of the robed Time Lords we’ve met since the 2005 revival, which either indicates that they are all Prydonian or that there has been a change to Gallifreyan customs since the beginning of the Time War.

Finally, The Deadly Assassin contained the first mention of the Shobogans, who are mentioned again in Hell Bent. The Shobogans are Time Lords who have chosen to live outside the walls of the Capitol, and are one of several groups that make up the Outsiders. Despite living a far more primitive lifestyle than their brothers and sisters inside the Citadel, they were instrumental in foiling an attempted Sontaran invasion of Gallifrey in The Invasion Of Time.

Ohila and the Sisterhood of Karn reappear, having popped up briefly in The Magician’s Apprentice. Before popping up to help the eighth Doctor regenerate in The Night Of The Doctor, the Sisterhood made their debut in 1976 tale The Brain Of Morbius, in which it was established that they are the keepers of the Sacred Flame, which produces a life-giving elixir which they share with the Time Lords. Though suspicious of one another at times, the Sisterhood and the Time Lords have a generally amicable relationship.

Gallifrey is hidden at the end of the universe, but this isn’t the first time the Doctor has been there; in last year’s Listen, the Doctor travelled forward to rescue Orson Pink, at the time presumed to be a descendant of Clara’s boyfriend Danny, from the last planet in the universe after he was sent there by a time travel experiment gone awry. Whilst not quite the end of the universe, the Doctor got pretty close in 2007’s Utopia, when he, Martha and Captain Jack travelled to the year one hundred trillion, prompting the Doctor to remark “Not even the Time Lords came this far.” Oops.

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The General regenerates into a female form, and not for the first time. This is something that has been speculated about for decades, with various showrunners and actors putting the idea forward from time to time – usually in order to gain a bit of extra publicity for the show. However, it wasn’t until 2011’s The Doctor’s Wife that it was confirmed Time Lords can change gender, with the Doctor referring to his old friend the Corsair as both a ‘fantastic bloke’ and a ‘bad girl’.

The Doctor refers to the Cloister Wars, and claims that the time he ‘stole the moon and the president’s wife’ is a lie. In The Magician’s Apprentice, Missy references both of these things, as well as the fact that the Doctor was once a little girl, and says that one of them was a lie. If we take Missy at her word, then the Doctor spent at least some of his childhood as a girl – we know from Listen that he was a boy at one stage.

The Doctor steals a TARDIS from the old workshops on Gallifrey, just as he did whilst in his first incarnation – we saw these events unfold in 2013’s The Name Of The Doctor, but the Doctor stealing his TARDIS has been a part of the series’ mythology ever since 1969’s The War Games. The new TARDIS initially has the same cylindrical outer shell as we saw the Doctor’s TARDIS possess in The Name Of The Doctor, and its interior is a pretty faithful recreation of the first Doctor’s console room – complete with sound effects, most notably the buzzing which used to accompany the opening of the hefty interior doors.

A Reference Called Clara

Hell Bent sees the Doctor return (sort of) to the diner where he summoned himself, Amy, Rory and River after they witnessed his death at the hands of The Impossible Astronaut in 2011. However, it’s now located in Nevada rather than Utah, and is Clara’s TARDIS. The events of The Impossible Astronaut led to River stopping the Doctor’s death in The Wedding Of River Song later that year, causing time to fracture – as talked about repeatedly in Hell Bent. On that occasion, however, they ‘preserved the timeline’ by replacing the Doctor with a robot double and letting him die instead.

The appearance of a waitress bearing Clara’s face is not necessarily a sign that Clara is alive and well for the viewer; in The Name Of The Doctor, Clara jumped into the Doctor’s timeline in order to save his past selves from Richard E Grant. This resulted in ‘splinters’ of Clara being spread throughout the Doctor’s lives, and in fact the Doctor encountered two of these on screen before even meeting ‘our’ Clara – Oswin Oswald, a starship crew member who had been transformed into a Dalek, and Clara Oswin Oswald, a Victorian governess. It was also a Clara splinter who persuaded the first Doctor and his granddaughter Susan to steal the TARDIS he ended up with, rather than his first choice.

The tune the Doctor plays on his guitar is of course Clara’s signature theme, as written by composer Murray Gold and introduced in Asylum Of The Daleks. This episode also sees the return of The Doctor’s Theme, introduced in the 2005 season and used predominantly throughout the ninth and tenth Doctor’s eras.

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Trapped within the Cloisters are old foes of the Doctor’s including a Dalek, a Cyberman and some Weeping Angels, who were last seen when the eleventh Doctor and Clara landed on the planet Trenzalore during The Time Of The Doctor, hence Clara’s knowing that she needs to keep looking at them to avoid an attack here.

The Doctor once again claims that he has a ‘duty of care’ over Clara. The phrase was introduced in last year’s Kill The Moon, when Clara reminded the Doctor that as a teacher she had a duty of care over pupil Courtney Woods. The Doctor has used the phrase towards Clara twice this year – first in Under The Lake and again in The Girl Who Died. On the latter occasion, Clara pointed out to the Doctor that she never asked that of him.

There’s an echo of the tenth Doctor adventure The Waters Of Mars in this story. On that occasion, he decided to ignore the laws of time in order to save the crew of Bowie Base One, whose deaths were part of established history, declaring himself ‘the Time Lord Victorious’. The base commander, as with Clara in Hell Bent, strongly objected to the Doctor playing with history in order to save her, and killed herself in order to maintain the timeline. Though the circumstances of Clara’s death and saving are different, Clara is making the same decision – albeit ‘the long way round’.

Just like the tenth Doctor, the twelth Doctor Victorious is stopped in his tracks by the sound of four knocks. In Planet Of The Dead, the tenth Doctor was warned that his death was coming, and that ‘he will knock four times’. It was assumed this prophecy referred to the Master, who had a repeating four-beat pattern – the sound of two hearts beating – in his head, but when The End Of Time came, the knocker was Donna Noble’s grandfather Wilf, asking to be let out of a radiation chamber. The Doctor was distraught, proclaiming how unfair it was that he had to sacrifice himself for one old man, before realising that his arrogance had taken him too far and giving his life for Wilf.

Speaking of Donna, in Journey’s End the tenth Doctor used telepathy to erase her memory of her time with him, as referenced in this episode. On that occasion Donna and the Doctor had quite literally become a hybrid – or rather, a two-way biological metacrisis – forming a half-human Doctor, who was later sealed away in a parallel universe, and endowing Donna with the Doctor’s knowledge and memories, which her human brain was unable to contain for any length of time.

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Heaven Sent is an episode of Doctor Who that spends too much time on its own past to have much left for references to other TV shows (Though I’m sure some of you will disagree in the comments!) but when Ashildr/Me mentions that the Doctor is highborn there is a hint of Game Of Thrones – the term is not a new one, but it is one frequently used in that series.

Ashildr points out that it was Missy who arranged for the Doctor and Clara to meet; this was a mystery which began when Clara was handed the Doctor’s number by a woman in a shop and told to call it for technical support in The Bells Of Saint John. This was finally revealed to have been Missy in last year’s Death In Heaven, claiming that she did it to bring together “the control freak and the man who should never be controlled.”

Clara reverses the polarity, the first time someone has done so since The Girl Who Died. See the geeky spots for that episode for the history of that one…

Whilst trying to recall his adventures with Clara, the Doctor mentions meeting an Ice Warrior on a submarine, from 2013’s Cold War, and the mummy on the Orient Express from last year’s episode of the same name.

Ashildr/Me tells Clara she doesn’t have the chameleon circuit working, and as such their TARDIS will be stuck in the form of an American diner. The Doctor’s TARDIS has been stuck in the form of a police box ever since the first story, when neither the Doctor nor his granddaughter were able to work out why it hadn��t changed shape to blend in with its surroundings. The term ‘chameleon circuit’, however, wasn’t coined until the fourth Doctor tried to fix it in 1981’s Logopolis. The sixth Doctor also attempted to repair the circuit, in 1985’s Attack Of The Cybermen – the TARDIS took the form of an organ, a wardrobe and a metal gate, before reverting to its familiar shape.

The Doctor receives a new sonic screwdriver from the TARDIS; the eleventh Doctor previously received a new sonic in the same way in his debut story The Eleventh Hour. This redesign is the eighth significant type of sonic screwdriver the Doctor has used on screen, though there have been other minor modifications and replacements over the years.

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The Doctor closes the TARDIS doors by clicking his fingers. When he first met River Song in Silence In The Library/Forest of the Dead, she claimed that the Doctor she knew – in her past but his future – could open the TARDIS doors with a click of his fingers. The Doctor was immediately hugely sceptical, but when he tried it at the end of the story he discovered that it was indeed possible.

And finally (for this series), Clara’s message of ‘Run you clever boy and be a Doctor’, as well as calling back to The Day Of The Doctor, is one last statement of Clara’s catchphrase of sorts: ‘Run, you clever boy, and remember me,’ which was first heard during her initial appearance in Asylum Of The Daleks. The last bit is obviously changed, because the Doctor will never be able to remember her again.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ve got something in my eye…