A Doctor Who Community
Saturday 8:00 PM on BBC America (Returning 2018)

After the Hidden History of Season 9 showing an unexpected swarm of continuity references, it looks like Peter Capaldi’s Swan Song season is also going to be full of hidden references to previous episodes of both 20th and 21st Century versions of the show. We already know from the trailers that we are going to at least see Ice Warriors, Movellans, Daleks and Mondasian Cybermen from The Tenth Planet (1966), the original cloth faced version of the Doctor’s old adversary. There are also strong rumours that Capaldi’s final episode will be woven into the fabric of an earlier episode, with some much earlier faces returning, so I think it’s time to start a new series of Hidden History for season 10.

The Husbands of River Song

OK, strictly speaking not season 10, but the last Hidden History finished just before this one, and as the new season features new companion Nardole, then it makes sense to start Part 1 with the two Christmas Specials where we first meet him.

Of course given that this is a River Song episode it has no choice but to be full of backwards, forwards and sideways continuity references. On screen the Doctor first meets River in Silence in the Library (2008) but that’s not the first time River meets the Doctor, she confesses she’s met him many times, and in the following story Forest of the Dead (2008) we find out that the Tenth Doctor is not “her” Doctor, but one way before she first met him, that he looks so much younger. We also find out that the last time SHE sees the Doctor before Silence in the Library (2008) he knows she’s about to die – “The funny thing is, this means you’ve always known how I was going to die. All the time we’ve been together you knew I was coming here. The last time I saw you, the real you, the future you I mean. You turned up on my doorstep with a new haircut and a suit. You took me to Darillium, to see the Singing Towers. Oh what a night that was, the Towers sang and you cried, you wouldn’t tell me why, but I suppose you knew it was time. My time, time to come to the library, you even gave me your screwdriver, that should’ve been a clue.”

About two minutes into the episode, the River meets the Twelfth Doctor for the first time, originally expecting him to be “The Surgeon” she remarks that he doesn’t look much like his pictures to which the Doctor remarks “That’s an ongoing problem for me” being an indication of his twelve previous faces (including the War Doctor of course). But then comes the BIG line after River asks “Nardole, what have you brought to my doorstep?” to which the Doctor replies “I’ve had a haircut, this is my best suit”. So now we know how this story is probably going to end.

Still not realising this is The Doctor, as opposed to A Surgeon, she asks how he knows her, which he explains is complicated and usually needs a flow chart. This is because both the Doctor and River are both time travellers and never meet in order. This is established in Time of Angels (2010) when River consults her TARDIS styled diary and the Doctor points out “we keep meeting in the wrong order”.

Then River points out her husband is dying, to which the Doctor remarks “I’m going to need a bigger flowchart”, because of course he married River in The Wedding of River Song (2011). All this before the opening credits!!!

Of course when the Doctor does meet “the husband” he realises it’s not him, and challenges River who STILL doesn’t recognise him, which clearly puzzles the Doctor, since he knows she has a handy spotters guide to all his faces as mentioned in Time of Angels (2010).

Then River comments that he reminds him of someone, to which the Doctor replies “Yes, probably a chap with a big ch” but is cut short before he finishes “Chin” referring to the Eleventh Doctor, who was teased about his chin in The Day of the Doctor (2013), which also extended to the pre-film introduction for the cinema showings, when the Tenth Doctor warned the audience about to potential impact of the chin in 3D.

When Ramone turns up, we find out why River doesn’t think this could be The Doctor, as out comes the spotters guide, with his previous 12 faces. The Doctor asks “What if he has a face you don’t know about yet?” to which River replies “He has limits”. The limit WAS that a Timelord could only regenerate 12 times (giving 13 bodies), which was established in The Deadly Assassin (1976). With the Eleven previous Doctors, plus the War Doctor and the fact that the Tenth Doctor used up an extra regeneration in Journey’s End (2008) as far as River knows, she has all 12 faces he could ever have, so she never entertains the thought he might also be the Doctor. See Talking ‘bout my regeneration for more details of the first 12 regenerations.

Then we find Nardole parts company with his body, and gets “uploaded”, which in itself isn’t a continuity reference, but is important for the following episodes.

Next we see River stealing the TARDIS, just like the Doctor did before the series started in 1963, we find out he stole it in The War Games (1969), but only see it happen in The Name of the Doctor (2013). Having realised that River REALLY doesn’t know who he is, the Doctor decides to play dumb, but nearly gives himself away using the word TARDIS. Then River confesses that she’s stolen the TARDIS before, and the Doctor never noticed, which refers to the convention that there are many off screen adventures between stories that we don’t see. Something made more obvious in the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors’ reigns as he frequently drops off his companions and goes elsewhere, with the Doctor’s return being made part of the story, such as in The Impossible Astronaut (2011).

And then “Finally it’s my go”, since the Doctor is trying to “play dumb” he realises he will have to be amazed that the TARDIS is bigger on the inside. Something Doctor after Doctor has seen others go through the first time they step through the TARDIS doors, first seen of course in the very first episode, An Unearthly Child (1963), and repeated with almost every new companion since, though not every companion as we have had a few stowaways, Timelords and super intelligent robot dogs.

When River tries to take off the Doctor tries to tell her she’s doing it wrong “not those levers”, which is a throw back to the scene at the beginning of Time of Angels (2010), where River tells the Doctor to use the stabilizers, the blue levers he thought didn’t do anything. Though of course it turns out in this case, River is still right, as the Doctor’s advice would apparently evacuate the waste tank on level 7.

Then as the Hydroflax body enters the TARDIS we hear the now familiar sound of the TARDIS cloister bell. First heard in Logopolis (1981) the Cloister Bell was the indicator of impending doom in the 20th century variant of the series, in the 21st century it seems to activate in the presence of mild peril.

Fleeing the TARDIS to get away from Hydroflax, River grabs the Doctor’s hand and runs causing the Doctor to yell “stop pulling my hand, people don’t do that to me”. And he’s right, it’s normally the other way around, well at least in the 21st century version of Who. Pretty much from the time the Ninth Doctor yelled Run in Rose (2005), the newer version of the show has often shown Doctor and companion running hand in hand, but in the less intimate 20th century version this was less so. The only instance that sticks out from the 20th century run is in The City of Death (1977) where the Doctor leads Romana around Paris hand in hand.

The action then moves to a cruise ship in space, which of course isn’t the first time the Doctor has been on board such a vessel. We had the Doctor on board space faring sailing ships in Enlightenment (1983), and again on a space version of the Titanic in Voyage of the Damned (2007). We also had a similar space cruise, though this time a luxury space train, in Mummy on the Orient Express (2014).

As River freshens up for dinner she comments “Not bad for 200 eh? I have an augmented life-span. Long story”. Well it’s not that long, unbeknownst to us at the time, River was conceived on board the TARDIS after Rory and Amy’s wedding in The Big Bang (2010), the title being Moffat’s secret joke at the time it was aired. The conception inside the TARDIS imbued almost Timelord attributes on the baby, being in close proximity to the Vortex throughout its development. When Melody Pond is born, she is kidnapped in A Good Man Goes To War (2011), and then it gets complicated. Again unbeknownst to the viewer we had already seen what happens to the infant Melody, being the young child in The Impossible Astronaut (2011) earlier in the season, then we see her start to regenerate in Day of the Moon (2011), finally seeing the result of that regeneration in Let’s Kill Hitler (2011) as Mels. In this episode she regenerates again into River’s most commonly seen incarnation, before she uses up all of her remaining regeneration energy saving the Doctor, so she can no longer regenerate, but retains the hard wearing element of a Timelord body.

At the dinner table, conversation moves on to River’s previously mentioned diary. She points out that it’s nearly full and “the man who gave me this was the sort of man who’d know exactly how long a diary you were going to need”. It was of course given to her at the end of Let’s Kill Hitler (2011) despite having seen her use it many times before then – that flow chart would be handy right now.

When the buyer turns up, he announces himself as Scratch, representing the Shoal of Winter Harmony. Again not a continuity reference, but important for later.
But not as important as the reading of River’s diary, which refers to The Pandorica Opens (2010), a picnic at Asgard, the crash of the Byzantium from Time of Angels (2010), Jim the Fish and Manhattan from The Angels Take Manhattan (2012). We didn’t get to see the picnic at Asgard or meet Jim the Fish, but they’ve been mentioned before with Asgard being mentioned in Silence in the Library (2008) and Jim the Fish in The Impossible Astronaut (2011).

In River’s rant in response to the reading of her diary, she refutes that the Doctor would always turn up to rescue her, yet in Time of Angels (2010) when he said he wouldn’t be there every time she decided to jump out of a spaceship, she points out he was so wrong, and she was too, because there he was, proving it using her “Hello sweetie” catchphrase first used in Silence in the Library (2008).

Once she finally realises it is the Doctor she asks about the new face “Aren’t their rules?” referring to the 12 regeneration limit, but the Doctor replies “a thing happened”. The “thing” being the events in The Time of the Doctor (2013) when the Doctor was gifted with a new regeneration cycle by the Timelords, something first mooted as a possibility in The Five Doctors (1983) when the Timelords offered a new cycle to The Master. The interesting thing is that his time we don’t know how many regenerations he has, as in Hell Bent (2015) we hear Rassilon rhetorically ask “How many regenerations did we grant you? I’ve got all night”, certainly making it sound like it was a lot.

As the ship crashes around them, they start to talk about their respective spouses, with River listing the Doctor’s wives as Elizabeth the First in The Day of the Doctor (2013), Marilyn Monroe in A Christmas Carol (2010) and Cleopatra, which we haven’t seen happen on screen. Though she clearly didn’t know about him getting betrothed to Cameca in The Aztecs (1964).

Then as the planet comes into view River realises it’s Darillium, as mentioned in Forest of the Dead (2008) as being the last night she spent with him before she went to the library to die. She points out the Doctor often promised to take her, but kept cancelling, and we know why. Then we get a repeat of what happened at the end of that very episode with both River and the Doctor wanting to be the one to die saving the other. However this time both survive.

Eventually fulfilling the predicted date, the Doctor turns up with a gift of his sonic screwdriver, also just as predicted, and then she thinks she sees the Doctor crying but he claims it’s just the wind, neatly concluding the arc of continuity established back in 2008.

The Return of Doctor Mysterio

So, now we’re at yet another Christmas special, which in itself is a bit special as this is the first time we have had 2 consecutive Christmas Day episodes without any intervening episodes in the entire history of the show.

We start the story very clearly in New York, which isn’t the first time the show has been set there. The first Doctor to visit was indeed the First Doctor, who briefly landed on the Empire State Building in The Chase (1965), then again with the Tenth Doctor in The Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks (2007) and once more in the Eleventh Doctor’s The Angels Take Manhattan (2012) which is notably the only New York episode to actually be filmed in New York, though the 2007 outing did include establishing shots filmed in New York by the crew.

Up on the roof when Grant says he always gets a cold at Christmas, the Doctor remarks “Me too, or an invasion”, referencing the many “Earth Invasion” stories shown as Christmas specials. We have had invasions by Sycorax in The Christmas Invasion (2005), the Empress of Racnoss and her brood in The Runaway Bride (2006), Cybermen in The Next Doctor (2008), Dream Crabs in Last Christmas (2014) and then this Christmas will be no different, we just don’t know who yet.

He explains the device on the roof as a Time Distortion Equaliser Thingy and he confesses to a lot of local time distortion in New York being his fault, in particular referencing why he couldn’t go back and rescue Amy and Rory at the end of The Angels Take Manhattan (2012).

After Grant’s first superhero flight, the Doctor finds himself clinging to the Empire State Building’s mast, but not for the first time. He had previously been up there during the building’s construction in Evolution of the Daleks (2007). Again, all this continuity before the opening credits, which is unusual as Christmas Episodes are usually intended for the bigger non-hardcore-fan audience, but in recent years they appear to have found ways of making lots of references in an inconsequential way. Blink and you miss them, which is why I’m writing these articles.

After the credits role we zoom in on the Harmony Shoal building, with a very much “Daily Planet” style globe on the roof, as a nice nod to Superman. Then inside two further nods mentioning Miss Shuster and Miss Siegel, clearly referencing Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, the co-creators of Superman. There are quite a few nods to other superhero and cult films throughout this episode. With “I hope this incident doesn’t put you off journalism” paraphrasing Superman, “With great power comes great responsibility” from Spiderman and of course “He’s actually left handed” for fans of A Princess Bride.

But what about Harmony Shoal, that sound familiar? Well in the previous episode The Husbands of River Song (2015) we had a mention of The Shoal of Winter Harmony, as the head splitting buyers of the diamond. Then Mr Brock mentions “we’re here to open your minds” and if you look carefully you see Dr Sim in the crowd with a faint diagonal scar across his face – so yes it’s those guys again. This in itself is quite unusual, to have the same adversary actually turn up in consecutive stories without the stories being a direct continuation of each other. The first time this happened was with the Master in the 20th century series 8 in The Mind of Evil (1971). As a nice touch Missy turns up in many stories in the 21st century season 8 in 2014. Though we did get Daleks in Frontier in Space (1973) briefly and again in Planet of the Daleks (1973) but these two stories were originally planned to be one big Dalek War 12-part story. So it’s certainly not a common occurrence.
We also see Nardole has returned, first seen in the previous episode The Husbands of River Song (2015), but he was minus a body at the end of that episode. No explanation is offered as to its return when we first see him.

During the phone call unusually we get a sequence using split screen, a technique rarely used in Doctor Who, but this one is unique. If you watch carefully you will notice that at first the white lines of the split screen get slightly obscured by the character, as the call progresses this becomes more blatant with whole body parts such as shoulders and elbows crossing the line and into the other scenes. Quite possibly the only time this has happened in Doctor Who.

Then when the Doctor asks how long Grant’s known Lucy he gets the reply 24 years, which makes the Doctor sad “Yes of course it would be that”, as it’s a painful reminder of how long he just spent with River on their final night together in The Husbands of River Song (2015).

Back at the Harmony Shoal building we get absolute confirmation that Harmony Shoal and The Shoal of Winter Harmony are one and the same race as Brock opens his head to retrieve an item, just as Scratch did in The Husbands of River Song (2015). The Doctor then uses a burger to try and distract his enemies, which is not the first time he’s done that, having distracted the Daleks with a Jammy Dodger in Victory of the Daleks (2010).
Then he hails the TARDIS with a whistle, rather like hailing a New York cab, which whilst it’s the first time he’s done it that way, it’s not the first time he’s called the TARDIS. The Second Doctor used a Stattenheim remote control in The Two Doctors (1984) to summon the TARDIS remotely. Though technically he was summoning Nardole who was piloting the TARDIS. This is quite a rare thing for one of the Doctor’s companions to be competent enough to fly the Doctor’s TARDIS solo. Though it is imagined that Susan knew how to fly the TARDIS I don’t think we ever see it, but we do see Romana, Adric, Nyssa and River Song all fly solo, as does the Master from time to time, most famously just after regeneration in Utopia (2007) leaving the Doctor stranded at the end of the Universe. We also see a TARDIS fully crewed, explaining the six-sided console, in Journey’s End (2008) with Mickey, Rose, Sarah Jane Smith, Captain Jack, Martha, Donna and both Tenth Doctors all having a hand in piloting the TARDIS. But not Jackie Tyler, no definitely not Jackie.

We then get a hint about Nardole’s new body with the Doctor saying “Fact me baby, that’s why I reassembled you” which of course isn’t the reason, as he cut Nardole out of Hydroflax because he was worried he’d be lonely, because of his last night, albeit 24 years, with River Song in The Husbands of River Song (2015). Subtly Nardole hints that he has known the Doctor for a long time with his statement “which is what you always do when the conversation turns serious”, so even though we had no new episodes during 2016, it seems there were plenty of off screen adventures between the two Christmas episodes. Certainly enough to learn how to fly the TARDIS. But still no real detail of HOW he reassembled Nardole, that comes in the next episode.

“Like the Timelord’s promise never to interfere in the affairs of other peoples or planet?” sounds like a simple back story line to establish that the Doctor always interferes, but it goes deeper than that, much deeper. In the first 6 years of Doctor Who, from An Unearthly Child (1963) onwards, we learn very little of the Doctor’s homeworld, just that he was banished from it. But in The War Games (1969) we discover that he was a Timelord for the first time, and that his people had great power, but never used it to defeat evil. He confessed to being bored, and stole a TARDIS and ran away, an event we finally see in The Name of the Doctor (2013). But for his troubles the Doctor is banished to Earth, BUT the Timelords do concede the Doctor’s point and decide to use the Doctor from time to time in breach of the non-intervention policy, so yes the Doctor is wholly responsible for the Timelord’s breaking their promise. So much so they send him to Skaro in Genesis of the Daleks (1975) to destroy the Daleks before they were born, which is the opening shot of the Time War.

As the ship starts to crash have the recurring plot device of the Doctor having no plan, yet always seems to win, “they have the same plan as always – me”, with his statement “No Bomb, no plan, no problem” nicely echoing the Daleks query of “But you have no, weapons, no defences, no plan” in Bad Wolf (2005) prompting the Doctor to comment “And doesn’t that scare you to death”.

Of course in the mop up Unit appears, first encountered by the Second Doctor in Web of Fear (1968) as United Nations Intelligence Taskforce and became a main stay of the Third Doctor from Spearhead from Space (1970) onwards with the Doctor being UNIT’s Scientific Advisor. They appeared occasionally with other Doctors in the 20th Century and re-emerged in the 21st Century in Aliens of London (2005) as the rebranded Unified Intelligence Taskforce. Osgood was introduced in Day of the Doctor (2013) as a UNIT Scientific Advisor that was a huge fan of the Doctor. We also find out in this episode that the Doctor is still technically on the payroll too.

In the discussion about whether to keep the costume, Grant learns the Doctor has been away for “24 years, what a night”, this being another reference to the Doctor’s last night with River, which lasted 24 years, on the planet Darillium in The Husbands of River Song (2015).

The Doctor speaks about things ending and being sad, and new things beginning and being happy, which is one of the problems of being a long lived being, that all of his mortal friends either grow old and die, or leave him. A pattern established in the series originally in “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” (1966) when he left his Grand-daughter, Susan, behind on Earth to start a normal life, and repeated throughout the series with companions joining and leaving to keep the show fresh, most recently parting company with Clara in Hell Bent (2015). Though an interesting irony is that when Nardole talks about River dieing in a library, this was the first story we saw her in, with the two part Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead (2008), the last time we actually see her, their last night together was in The Husbands of River Song (2015).

As things wrap up we get the classic play on the phrase Doctor who? The Doctor never uses a surname, so this question is often prompted. Strictly speaking the show is called Doctor Who, but the character is The Doctor. Though over the years the credits have varied between crediting the lead as Dr. Who or The Doctor. So it’s quite common when he introduces himself as the Doctor to prompt the question Doctor who? Surprisingly though the first ever “Doctor who?” was delivered by the First Doctor himself in the second ever episode The Cave of Skulls (1963). The Doctor’s Granddaughter had taken the name Susan Foreman when she enrolled at Coal Hill School, adopting the name of Foreman from the name on the gate of the scrapyard that the TARDIS was parked in. Ian assumed this was also the Doctor’s name and stated “Just open the doors Doctor Foreman” to which the Doctor replied “Eh? Doctor who? What’s he talking about?”. Apart from the many “Doctor who?” questions over the years, he also introduced himself as Doctor von Wer (Doctor of Who) in The Highlanders (1966), and signed a message as Doctor W in The Underwater Menace (1967). He was also referred to as Doctor Who by the computer WOTAN in The War Machines (1966).

So an incredible amount of continuity across the 2 Christmas episodes, and these are designed to appeal to casual viewers rather than hard core fans. Who knows where series 10 for real will go? Find out in part 2.
Comments (1)
May 19, 2017
Very nice synopsis/overview. Lots of work in there. Thanks!
Follow this Show