Posts Tagged With: doctor who spoilers

The Kasterborous Archives, #5: Are we worrying too much about Doctor Who spoilers?

Author’s notes:

Updated header picture aside, I did this two years ago. My opinion on spoilers generally hasn’t really changed, although my contempt for Moffat has subsided quite substantially. I still think he (and the audience) worry too much about spoilers, and I still think that says more about the way Doctor Who is written than it does about anything else. But I no longer harbour any sort of grudge about it. I’ve seen enough shouts of “SPOILERS!” on the web over the past few months – and we’re talking about episodes that are two or three years old here – to make me realise that the whole thing is taken far too seriously by much of the fandom and that no one is going to change that; certainly not me.

Perhaps the most profound thing about this piece is the one thing that wasn’t actually mine – the quote from the respected DW writer that lurks in its closing paragraphs. I could tell you who it is, but I don’t want to give away the ending.

Are we worrying too much about Doctor Who spoilers?

Published: 11 July 2015

I still remember the Sun headline. It was a Thursday, and I never could get the hang of Thursdays. The news page listed an indexed article entitled “ROSE TO BE KILLED OFF”, or words to that effect. It wasn’t even a link to a story that contained a spoiler warning – which I could have thus avoided (thus having only myself to blame if I subsequently read it). This was a feature title visible from their main news page (weeks before the story was due to air, I might add) that ostensibly gave away the ending of Doomsday without you even having to look at it.

She didn’t die, of course, but that was hardly the point. I vividly recall that sense of outrage (an appropriate post-2010 response is “I WAS NOT EXPECTING THIS!”) and it’s funny how things have changed. These days my reaction is far more ambivalent – and that’s because I wonder whether the Whoniverse as a whole (the writers, the fandom, the general approach) has cultivated an unhealthy obsession with spoilers. I wonder whether, in the quest to provide the shock of the new, we’ve wound up with a programme that’s become more about surprise than it has about story.

Spoilers do count; it would be foolish to say otherwise. I went to great lengths to keep the ending of The Stolen Earth – and its abhorrent, anti-climactic denouement – from all of my children, simply because I knew there would be a period when they’d obsess over the resolution of that cliffhanger in much the same way that their father once did. I have embarked upon a media blackout for Game of Thrones, because I anticipate watching it all one day and I’d like to know as little as possible. Sometimes the best way to squeeze the maximum amount of pleasure from something is to go into it as cold as possible: the less you know, the lower your expectations and the happier you’ll be.

But it’s not as black and white as all that. For instance, I watched the early series of 24 slightly out of order, and thus went through the very first armed with the foreknowledge that a certain person – whom we’d previously deemed more or less untouchable – would turn out to be dodgy. Conversely, when the mastermind of series five was revealed some years later, their identity came as a complete surprise. But did the knowledge that the CTU mole was <spoiler> mean that I enjoyed that first series less than the one in which I didn’t know that <spoiler> was responsible for the murder of <spoiler>? Honestly, the answer has to be no. It just makes for a different viewing experience, particularly when you don’t tell your wife. You get to grin like a satisfied idiot while she’s pacing around the room after that penultimate episode, shouting “I can’t believe it was <spoiler>!”.

Besides, the issue here isn’t about the twist itself, or even knowing about it – it’s when the twist is inserted as a substitute for anything we might ordinarily refer to as ‘substance’. For example, The Wedding of River Song is an episode that solves a puzzle. That is its function: to get the Doctor out of the desert, and to get Alex Kingston out of that spacesuit (stop sniggering at the back there, or I’ll make you stay behind). Once you have resolved that particular enigma, there’s nothing left. Aside from the two major revelations (the Doctor’s hiding in the robot / The First Question is mind-numbingly inane) it serves absolutely no purpose. It has no real story, nothing important to say, and the dialogue is shockingly poor. It is forty-five minutes of inconsequential drivel, surpassed only by Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS in the queue of Stories I Wish I Could Unsee.

This is a series finale. This is supposed to be the big finish (excuse pun). Other tales fare equally badly: see, for example, A Good Man Goes To War and Let’s Kill Hitler (both of which get away with it, by the skin of their teeth, simply by being utterly outrageous), and also Utopia (minimally redeemed by the presence of Derek Jacobi). The Name of the Doctor cocks so many things up during its run time that by the time the New Doctor shows his bearded, weathered face I’m already wondering why I still care. This is event television at its worst: plot twists stretched to three quarters of an hour, padded out by nonsense. Doctor Who is not the only contemporary show guilty of this, but it’s a shame it’s apparently had to follow the herd in order to adapt to the supposed demands of a twenty-first century audience.

I read a comment on a neighbouring article the other day that suggested – I’m paraphrasing – that the wibbly-wobbliness is subsiding under the reign of the Twelfth Doctor. That’s all well and good, but the arcs in themselves remain, and they have not improved. The series eight antagonist only became interesting the moment we learned her identity; the rest was a tedious riddle. How would the creative team have coped if it had leaked – unambiguously and irrevocably – that Missy was the Master? Would the finale have been reshot, scenes where she talks about being the Rani hastily scribbled / reinserted?  To what extent does the integrity of the spoiler usurp the credibility of the script? Is it more important that a thing remains secret than the content of the secret itself? Perhaps not. Perhaps you’re laughing at such a notion. Or perhaps it’s the glimpse of the future, in which mobile technology improves to the extent that showrunners decide to use whatever ending hasn’t already leaked, and just make the best of that.

Rewind thirty-three years, and consider this: it is possible to watch Earthshock knowing that the Cybermen are about to turn up and still enjoy it, because their presence – while a surprise for the uninitiated – is not in itself a game-changer. Conversely, it is much harder to enjoy Army of Ghosts once you know that the silly glowing Watcher wannabes are actually Cybermen, or that the thing in the basement contains four Daleks, because the story has nothing else going for it. That’s the sort of comparison that makes me sound like a nostalgia freak, but I don’t want to turn this into an Old / NuWho thing if I can help it. There were plenty of mistakes when the sets still wobbled. By way of example, it’s difficult to enjoy Time-Flight whether or not you know the eccentric alien mystic in the cave is actually Anthony Ainley, underneath prosthetics. It’s still better than Arc of Infinity, anyway.

(One of the most catastrophically silly reveals occurs at the end of the first episode of a Pertwee story. The Doctor removes the cloak of invisibility from a thing that is obviously a Dalek, having already encountered a race who are universally associated with the Daleks, and having had a conversation in which Daleks are mentioned, in a story called Planet of the Daleks. And then he cries out “Daleks!”)

Perhaps certain things are untouchable. I’m still not speaking to Eddie Izzard, for example, over his revelation about The MousetrapThe Sixth Sense is never the same again on a repeat viewing, as once you know about The Twist, you spend the entire running time looking for clues. (I was going to suggest that perhaps M Night Shyamalan could have improved The Last Airbender by introducing a final reel twist, but having reflected, I suspect the best way to improve The Last Airbender is to erase all copies from existence.)

But Moffat himself has described his approach to writing both Who and Sherlock as (more paraphrasing from yours truly) ‘television you’re supposed to watch more than once’. We’re the generation that doesn’t watch Doctor Who live: that is why God invented iPlayer. Digital drama that can be scrutinised and analysed – frame by frame – has opened up a world of possibilities, but it’s come at a price, and that price is occasionally manifest in excruciatingly bad television. (I’m aware, throughout the process of articles like this one, that I come across as something of a Moffat-hater, but the way I approach the situation is this: the man’s getting paid a reasonable sum of money by the BBC to oversee and write one of their flagship programmes, and while I’ve never subscribed to the notion held by many that paying an annual license fee grants you the same democratic rights as a majority shareholder, if I can see an obvious way for him to be doing his job better, I’m damn well going to say so.)

I am probably risking bad karma if I quote Lawrence Miles, but he it was that suggested the most promising solution I’ve ever heard to this particular problem. “Possibly,” he says, “just possibly, the best way to deal with ‘spoilers’ is to make stories that remain watchable even if you know what’s going to happen. Rather than, say, stories that depend on relentless story-arc twists and idiotic clues as to what’s going to be at the end of the season. Y’know. Just a thought. From someone who knew the ending of Genesis of the Daleks several years before he actually saw it.”

As is customary, Miles overstates his case, but in essence he’s absolutely right. Perhaps, on some levels, that’s why Moffat gets so cross about spoilers. Divulging them exposes the vacuum, like exposing the head of Omega or peeling back the faces of the Whisper Men, and reveals absolutely nothing of any substance. And why watch then? Once you know what’s coming, what else is there?

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God is in the detail (ix)

Ah, ‘The Crimson Horror’. Terrible things ‘appening oop North. Some of which are going to be VERY IMPORTANT LATER. Mark my words.

First: it’s a lamp.


Except it’s not a lamp, is it? It’s an upturned bell. And what rings in the TARDIS every time there’s a crisis? Yes, the Cloister Bell. Moreover, note how the engraved pattern on this particular lamp strongly resembles a bunch of flowers. And what did Clara leave at her mother’s grave? Yes, flowers. Which, by the way, is a homophonic parallel to ‘flours’. And who uses flour? Yes, a Baker. As in Tom? And Colin? All of this is CLEARLY SIGNIFICANT. A wibbly wobbly crisis is looming, and it all revolves around Clara’s mother. And the Fourth and Sixth Doctor.

Now, look at Strax and Vastra.


Actually, don’t look at Strax and Vastra. Look on the wall. You see the posters? Notice how ‘Decay’ is visible just between Strax and Vastra. Now think back to ‘State of Decay’, in which local dignitaries would take the prime of young villagers into a shadowy structure, where they were never seen again. Recall also that the ship in that was called the Hydrax, WHICH RHYMES WITH STRAX. Conclusions: the vampire bats are not dead; they are only SLEEPING.

Also note: CIRCUS, plainly visible in blood red, which is an obvious throwback to ‘The Greatest Show in the Galaxy’ – which, like ‘State of Decay’, also features The Three Who Rule (Ragnarok, in this case). Remember the werewolf in that story? Clearly related to the one Rose and the Tenth Doctor fought in ‘Tooth and Claw’ (which I know is one of SJ’s favourites). And, of course, that’s what they’ll have been doing when they encounter the Eleventh Doctor in November.

Now, observe this.


Nine companions. No, it’s not the Fellowship of the Ring. It’s a CLEAR and UNAMBIGUOUS reference to Doctors One through Nine, which is why you’re only going to be seeing Ten and Eleven in November. They are presented here in human form, suggesting that the Doctor’s memories of his previous selves will be almost irreparably warped after his ordeal in the series finale in just over a week. It will be the Tenth Doctor and Rose who bring him out of his fugue. Anyone read ‘The Eight Doctors’? This is like that. Also note that two of them are carrying wooden clubs, which clearly echo the First Doctor’s cane and the Seventh’s umbrella. (Ella. Ella. Eh. Eh. Eh.)

To cement this theory, here’s a shot of the deadly poison, sitting in a vial, which is housed in…


…a laundry basket? No. A BALLOON basket. Now, who do we know who had a hot air balloon? Yes, Jackson Lake. Who, if you remember, was also suffering from a fugue state where he had suppressed his true memory. Aha! You see? It all fits. Particularly when you recall that Jackson Lake fought the Cybermen, WHOM WE ARE ABOUT TO ENCOUNTER. And that this happened in 1851, which is 42 years before the setting for ‘The Crimson Horror’, and that ’42’ is ALSO an episode of Doctor Who. And (and!) that the Silence had the Doctor ‘killed’ at a LAKE, so as to avoid the revelation of his real name, WHICH WE ARE ABOUT TO LEARN.

(Except we’re not, of course. Oh, and as an aside, it’s also worth noting that if Jackson Lake’s balloon had really lived up to the name he gave it, then ‘Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS’ would have been a much shorter episode, and all the better for it.)

Finally, here’s the Doctor, not proposing to Ada.


See the box? It says E. RUTLAND & SON STOURBRIDGE. If you drop the ampersand from this, the remaining letters can be rearranged to form ‘STRONGER OUTRUN DISABLED’, which is an obvious reference to the Doctor running away from the wheelchair-bound Davros.

…well, we were due a Dalek story, weren’t we?

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God is in the detail (viii)

Notes on ‘Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS’

OK, this was a tricky one. The TARDIS – for a sentient, labyrinth-like spacecraft possessing an entire room dedicated to building “anything you could want” – does seem to have an awful lot of nondescript corridors. Nonetheless there were clues this week, if you look for them, and without further ado here is the latest installment of SEEMINGLY TRIVIAL THINGS THAT WILL TURN OUT TO BE VITALLY IMPORTANT. (Remember, dear reader, that if you attempt this sort of scrutiny at home you do so at your own risk. I watched this episode twice so you don’t have to.)

Let’s start here.


Think those protruding white tubes in the background are loose cables? Think again. That’s clearly an emulation of the tentacles of an Ood. OR IS IT? Well, you’d better hope so. Because the alternative is ghastly.

Cthulhu, yesterday.

Cthulhu, yesterday.

Conclusions: the fearsome one is set to make its demonic return. Which is bad news for all concerned. Unless it’s this one, of course, which is quite cute.


Plus it would look good perched on the shoulder of the Fourth Doctor, right next to his scarf.

(As an aside, why hasn’t there been a Whovian-Lovecraft crossover outside the realms of fanfiction? I think we should be told.)

Moving on to something slightly less sinister but no less important, let’s take another look at that exploding engine.


Ah, but look. Look closer. There’s a bit that stands out. It’s the big catapult-shaped thing on the centre-right. Only it’s not a catapult. It’s a letter ‘y’. Or, to be more specific, ‘Why’. Which is as CLEAR AN INDICATION AS YOU’RE EVER GOING TO GET THAT THEY WILL BE CHANGING THE TITLE OF THE SHOW. Come November, and the anniversary edition, it’s going to become Doctor Why. And why is this going to happen? Because Moffat will be answering the first question in a few weeks, that’s all, and the whole mystery of the Doctor will change from Who he is to Why he is. Trust me. You know I’m right. And stick with me because further down, as a worldwide you-heard-it-here-first-exclusive,  I’m going to reveal his name.

Of note: ‘Why’ is only one letter away from ‘Who’, and if you take the letters O and Y and reverse them you get the acronym Y.O., or Yarn Over, which is a knitting reference and thus unambiguously linked to the Fourth Doctor (see above).



If you read the God is in the detail post I did for ‘The Bells of Saint John’ you’ll note there was a lot of stuff in there about other Doctors and their companions – the surviving companions of dead Doctors, and the return of Doctors who were still kicking around, although thicker of waist. Ignore Clara and her tedious running from that insufferable lava monster. Look at the bookcase, and the hardback tomes that are stacked on their side. No, it’s nothing to do with the rather awkward design of a second-rate Ikea do-it-yourself – these five books (note: five) have clearly been left like that for a reason. Again, please note: five. On their SIDE. And how do parallel lines work? Yes, they’re SIDE by SIDE. And what inhabits a PARALLEL TIMELINE? Yes, the Fifth Doctor. You see where I’m going, can’t you? Ah, Steven, you thought you’d slipped this one past us, but WE WILL NOT BE FOOLED.

OK, now it’s time to bring out the big guns.


The first time I saw this, I was so busy trying to work out the backwards writing that I missed Clara’s three rings. Note: three rings. You’re thinking about Tolkien, aren’t you? So was I, at first. But that’s a clear red herring. No, think about this: Three rings. Where Three is a proper noun. As in Doctor number Three, ringing on the TARDIS phone.

“But Jon Pertwee’s dead!” I hear you cry. To which I say, Aha!

Still, that’s not the big reveal. For that, we have to look at the very beginning of the episode, in a blink-and-you’ll miss it panel on the side of the salvaging ship. Have a look.


You’ll have guessed that this is to do with those letters and numbers, right? Right. Specifically, it’s to do with 0989, which may be translated as September 1989. Historians of Classic Who will know that this was the month in which ‘Battlefield’ saw its first terrestrial broadcast on British television. Said story saw the Doctor and Ace encounter all manner of Arthurian characters, and it was strongly implied that the Doctor would some day find his way into the history books and fables, playing the role of a rather famous wizard.

The Doctor’s real name is Merlin.

That’s what Clara read in The History of the Time War. Strewth, even River Song pretty much said it out loud when she admitted in ‘The Pandorica Opens’ that she always hates old wizards in fairy tales, because “they always turn out to be him”. Think it’s too simple? Too obvious? Go and read Digital Fortress. Sometimes simple and obvious is what works. This may seem overconfident, but if I’m wrong about this, I’ll buy Tom Baker’s hat on Ebay and eat it.

Speaking of Tom Baker…as an unconnected aside, presumably designed to throw us off the scent, the other number on that panel – A89 – clearly alludes to ‘The Face of Evil’, listed as no.89 in the serial chronology of Who television stories, in which the Doctor met Leela, and in which the two of them ventured inside a gigantic cliff-based sculpture of the Doctor’s head.


Which is appropriate, given that Moffat’s spent the last three years disappearing up his own arsehole.

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Eggwatch, Part 1

From Comic-Con, San Diego (and retrieved from Den of Geek)…

Of course there is, and we’ve found it.

To be precise, Gareth found it. I was going to do one entry that connected all the threads, right after episode five, but he suggested eking it out, which is probably more sensible. The theme for series seven, as you may have gathered from the title, is eggs.

No, come back. Just bear with me. I know there are threads about lights going out and that this has something to do with the Weeping Angels. I know there’s a whole thing about the Doctor’s dehumanisation, and the moral decisions he gets to make – for good or for evil – in each episode. And yes, I know the wretched Ponds are about to leave and we’re being reminded of it with lots of lingering looks, not-so-subtle dialogue hints and a press conference every…sodding…week about how episode five “is going to make you cry”. (For ref, someone really should tell the BBC’s press department that the more you build all this up, the less effective it’s bound to be. Star Trek Generations made a huge fuss about the death of James Kirk – not once, but twice – and in the end, it really wasn’t a very big deal when it happened.)

But the arc has nothing to do with the Ponds, or the Angels. It’s all about eggs. We will start with ‘Asylum’.

Oh look, it’s a soufflé. Made with eggs. And yes, the Doctor wants to know where Oswin got the milk, but UHT keeps for years. Where on earth did she get the eggs?

Wait a minute, here’s one.


There we go. That’s where they were all hiding.


And then, of course –

I’m jumping the gun a bit with that one, but it goes in here for the sake of narrative cohesion. Coming up next: “DINOSAURS!…on a SPACESHIP!” ‘Dinosaurs on a spaceship’. You can see where we’re going there, can’t you?

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God is in the detail (ii)

You may remember that last week, I posted a selection of seemingly trivial things in the opening two episodes of series seven that WILL TURN OUT TO BE IMPORTANT. Here’s this week’s edition.

‘A Town Called Mercy’

Here’s Kahler Jex. Notice the markings on the side of his face – a vital plot point in the episode’s Three Amigos climax. But the marking also bears a vague resemblance to a ‘3’. And next week’s episode is called ‘The Power of Three’. THIS CANNOT BE A COINCIDENCE.

Here’s the computer display in Jex’s spacecraft. Notice the diamond shape? Remember the white-point diamond from ‘The End of Time’? Yeah, you know where I’m going with this. The Time Lords are coming back!

On the outskirts of town there’s a sign with a skull on top. But don’t forget that season six featured a minotaur stalking the rooms of ‘The God Complex’. Which means HE’S BEEN HERE BEFORE AND WILL PROBABLY RETURN AGAIN, presumably to assist the Doctor at a crucial moment. A sort of taurus ex machina.

Finally, here’s the Doctor holding up his hands. And how many digits can we see? That’s right, ten. And there have been ten Doctors. This is obviously a vital plot point relating to Moffat’s as-yet unknown plans for the fiftieth anniversary. It’s too soon to be sure, but it looks like a full reunion is on the cards. (Although I’d like to know how on earth he got Eccleston on board.)

“Notice,” said Gareth when I showed this to him, “in that final picture that the Doctor wears his watch with the face on the inside of his wrist.  This is clearly symbolic of time working backwards, which is consistent with Oswin dying and later being alive as Clara. And there were 81 inhabitants in the town.  81 is a POWER OF THREE.  Arrgh!”

See? The clues are there; you just have to look…

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The (Jurassic) Ark In Space

I’m sure Comic Con is great. And I’d love to see San Diego. But I’m glad I wasn’t there for the Q&A I’m going to talk about tonight, because I suspect it would have set my teeth on edge.

A lightly spoiler-ish article on io9 – forwarded to me by Gareth – details the Grand Moffat’s plan for the new series, and on the face of it, the outlook isn’t pretty. As much as I look forward to every new season of Who, hopeful that it’ll in some way eclipse the last in terms of quality – or, perhaps, atone for some of the sins of previous episodes (I’m looking at you, Ms. Raynor) – I think it’s fair to say that this one has me as unexcited about the show’s return in autumn as I’ve ever been.

Let’s start with the trailer.

To anyone under the age of ten or who happened to love Cowboys Vs. Aliens, this is undoubtedly brilliant. To anyone who was watching TV in 1993, or who happens to have seen TV that was made in 1993, it rips off at least two episodes of Red Dwarf. I was one of the few who thought ‘Gunmen of the Apocalypse’ was overrated in the first instance; I have no wish to see it remade by the Doctor Who team. And that’s before we even get to that shot of a Dalek eyestalk, which is in itself oddly reminiscent of Return of the Jedi.

Yes, those Daleks. Moffat assures us that we’ll see

“more Daleks than you’ve ever seen in one place — and every generation of Dalek.” And it looks fantastic, now that the visual effects are just being completed. “Lots and lots and lots of Daleks. All the things you see when you close your eyes.”

Maybe I’m in a minority here, but when I have nightmares about Who, they don’t involve Daleks. They involve reruns of ‘Fear Her’. I’m not frightened by the Daleks; overexposure has rendered me completely indifferent to them. The Daleks are no longer scary, and thus no longer appealing. And there is a glint of fanboyish glee about Moffat’s desire to get the gang together, as if he were a chubby, bespectacled ten-year-old appearing on Blue Peter or The Antiques Roadshow with his collection.

I didn’t even object to the Power Rangers Daleks, despite the cynical (and rather obvious) collect-the-set marketing ploy. It’s just that I don’t trust anyone at the New Who offices to be able to do anything interesting with the Daleks. And making the Daleks interesting is crucial to their success, and the very reason why so many of the post-2005 Dalek episodes have been second / third-rate: include the Nation’s Finest, and you’ve got a clear ratings winner, so there’s no need to actually come up with a story, just a different setting (Daleks in Churchill’s England / depression-era New York / the Black Forest). Chuck in a couple of cries of ‘Exterminate!’, add some trigger-happy military types who don’t know what they’re dealing with and who are certain to meet early and untimely deaths, and you’ve got yourself an episode. I’m not unremittingly nostalgic for Classic Who, but the unfortunate truth is that Dalek stories are lazy, because the last time they did anything genuinely interesting was back in 1988.

Things don’t improve with the second episode of the series which will, apparently, be called ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’, which calls to mind obvious (and, one would assume, quite intentional) parallels with Snakes on a Plane. No episode with such a title, you may think, could possibly fail on any level. I’d counter thus:

1. The last time Doctor Who did dinosaurs, they were shit. The story wasn’t, but the dinosaurs were. I know they were on a shoestring, but still. Just saying.

2. ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’ is written by Chris Chibnall, who also wrote ’42’ and the season 5 Silurian episodes, all of which were shit.

3. Snakes on a Plane is also shit. It’s not even mindless entertainment, fine-if-you-don’t-take-it-seriously, so-bad-it’s-good shit. It’s just shit. Irredeemable shit.

I think that’s enough shit to be going on with, don’t you?

Meanwhile, at an arc level…

How did Moffat come up with the idea that the Doctor’s name was “the first question?” someone asks. “To be honest, it’s been there from a start. He never gives his name. Other Time Lords do, but he doesn’t. Clearly, his name is very important. Only I know why. We actually find out the truth” about the importance of the Doctor’s name.

That Doctor. His refusal to give his name is indeed unique, and categorically unacceptable. I was just discussing the sheer bloody-mindedness of it only the other evening, in the pub with my mates the Rani and the Master. That was before we were interrupted by the Other and the Meddling Monk, who wanted to borrow 20p for the pool table.


Someone brings up the idea that the Doctor leaves the brakes (the “blue boringers”) on when he flies the TARDIS — and Moffat notes that River Song was probably winding the Doctor up about that — because you might notice that when she flies the TARDIS, it still makes that same wheezing, groaning materialization noise.

Yawn, the brake-crunching, pull-to-open, needs-six-people-to-fly-it-TARDIS. But here’s a thought – and I voice it aloud despite the fact that it’s going to stomp all over everything I’ve just written. We might, to be honest, be at the stage where we have to stop taking these throwaway remarks seriously and just accept that the continuity of Who is one big mess. As, of course, one would it expect it to be, with a multitude of writers and guest writers and chief writers and script editors, all with their own ideas as to what the show should be, and that’s not to mention the novelisations and comics and BF productions, with inconsistencies and disputed canonicity. Consider, for example, the Doctor’s regeneration limit – established as twelve in ‘The Deadly Assassin’ and adjusted accordingly thereafter until, in the SJA ‘Death of the Doctor’ story, it was mentioned by the Eleventh Doctor that “there isn’t one”, a story that was promptly picked up by the Guardian and made into a front page web article for a few hours on a Tuesday evening.

Moffat’s consistently making silly jokes, and while the remarks about the TARDIS brakes have no doubt stirred up a hornet’s nest of debate amongst the engineers who post at Outpost Gallifrey or wherever the fans hang out nowadays, there is nonetheless the strong possibility that he just put it in because he thought it was funny (and it could have been, except it came from River, who is irritating). Similarly, Father Christmas is probably not called Jeff (now that was funny) and the Doctor probably didn’t throw the TARDIS manual into a supernova (although I’m sure the story where he did just that exists somewhere). And yes, the pull-to-open thing in ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ was wrong. But that’s the point. Under Moffat’s reign (and, to an extent, Davies’ before it), episode writing is a dialogue, a nod to the fans, an acknowledgement of their presence and – often – a subtle dig at them. Every episode is going to be pulled apart and analysed to death within hours of its transmission, and the writers know it. Such things are thus put in to purposely wind us up, and they succeed.

The truth is that Doctor Who can be whatever the chief writer wants it to be, because it’s transcended continuity. There are certain fundamental ground rules – no true love, no kissing, no beards – but that’s it. The fans have spent years shoehorning and explaining and reconciling continuity, but it ultimately doesn’t matter. For example, Tegan’s appearance in A Fix With Sontarans‘ is non-canon, because the story is non-canon, because it’s a story that occurs within the context of a children’s programme hosted by a chain-smoking northerner in a tracksuit – and the subsequent fanfiction attempts to reconcile Tegan with the Sixth Doctor, while undoubtedly well-meant, were frankly silly.

Besides, the Doctor lies. At least this one does, because that’s how Smith likes to play him and Moffat likes to write him – and ultimately they’re the ones calling the shots. Personally, I’d consider the revelation of the Doctor’s name to be a clear violation of one of the unwritten rules – but they’re myrules, not his. However much I may have whinged this evening, the fact remains that mine is a singular viewpoint, and my own views of what Who ought to be are always going to be different from even the most like-minded friend or colleague or fellow-blogger. Phillip Pullman said that writing isn’t a democracy, and Doctor Who – despite the collective input I mentioned earlier – isn’t really a Jungian collective. It’s whatever the person in charge makes it. The bottom line – and the only question we should really be concerning ourselves with, when all is said and done – is whether or not the creative decisions made at the top make for good television. Because ultimately that’s the only thing that really counts. So perhaps we should be viewing series 7 in that light. Roll on autumn – and bring on the dinosaurs.

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