Timestamp #252: Deep Breath

Doctor Who: Deep Breath
(1 episode, s08e01, 2014)

Timestamp 252 Deep Breath

The last chance for the Paternoster Gang to play Sherlock Holmes.

A tyrannosaurus rex stomps through London as the Paternoster Gang responds to investigate. Madame Vastra assumes that the dinosaur traveled through time, a suspicion that is confirmed when she coughs up the TARDIS. The blue box, which Police Inspector Gregson mistakes for an egg, lands on the bank of the Thames.

Vastra orders the inspector to place sonic lanterns along the river’s banks to confine the tyrannosaur while the Paternosters make contact with the Doctor. Strax knocks on the door and briefly meets the Twelfth Doctor. The Time Lord, still dressed in his predecessor’s clothes, is experiencing confusion and memory issues after his difficult regeneration.

With a bong of the cloister bell, the Doctor collapses on the river bank as Vastra remarks, “Here we go again.

Everyone moves to Vastra’s house where the Doctor is overstimulated by the concept of a bedroom. He also remarks that the mirror looks “absolutely furious”. When the Doctor reacts to typical British accents, Vastra adopts a Scottish accent like the Doctor’s new persona and uses his telepathy to put him to sleep. When Clara demands to know how to change the Doctor back, Vastra retires to her study with a request for her veil. After all, she realizes, there is a stranger in the house.

As the Doctor sleeps, he murmurs translations of the dinosaur’s moans. The tyrannosaur is alone and laments the lost world. Clara leaves the Doctor’s side as Strax arrives to escort her to Vastra’s study.

On the streets below, people look upon the dinosaur as a man named Alf wonders if it is a government conspiracy. He chats with a mysterious clockwork man who admires Alf’s eyes to the point of taking them.

Vastra interviews Clara about the events of and following Trenzalore. Vastra challenges the companion about her impressions of the Doctor, alluding to her veil as an analogy for the Doctor’s faces: She wears it to be accepted among those who wouldn’t understand her life and values otherwise. She also suggests that the veil is a judgment upon the character of those she meets. The Doctor trusted Clara enough to regenerate in her presence, showing her his weakest side and moment, and this revelation spins Clara into a fury. Vastra is amused by the anger, and explains that the Doctor needs all of them – especially Clara – to anchor himself as he finds his identity again. In the exchange, Vastra has removed her veil, remarking that it disappeared when Clara stopped seeing it.

The Doctor wakes up and finds a piece of chalk. He then proceeds to write Gallifreyan calculations around the room. He scrambles onto the roof and promises to return the dinosaur home, but the tyrannosaur spontaneously combusts and collapses into the river. The Doctor leaps from the roof and liberates a horse from its carriage before riding off into the night. The Paternoster Gang pursues him to the river’s edge.

The Doctor is apologetic toward the dinosaur’s remains and furious at everyone else around him, but his detective mind raises questions. First, have there been any similar murders? Second, who is the one man not gawking at the spectacle? The Doctor dives into the river with a mind to investigate.

The next morning, Strax has the TARDIS delivered to Vastra’s home. Clara dresses in Victorian fashion after being knocked out by a newspaper thrown by Strax and meets up with Jenny. It seems that Madame Vastra is having the Camberwell child poisoner for dinner… after interrogating him, of course. Strax gives Clara a medical examination as a prelude to her joining the Paternosters in case the Doctor never returns.

The Doctor is wandering about in an alley, obviously freezing in his wet state. He finds a homeless man and asks about his own face, musing about how it seems familiar, including the “attack eyebrows”. He wonders who did the frowning to wrinkle his new face so. He is delighted by his Scottish accent and how it relates to his cross-looking face.

He then remembers reading about a case of spontaneous combustion in the newspaper. Vastra is also following the leads as Jenny inexplicably poses in her underclothes. The Silurian remarks that burning the bodies would be a great way to hide what was missing from them, but this train of thought is derailed when Clara enters to show them an advertisement in the paper addressed to the Impossible Girl. After some puzzle-solving, Clara figures out that she should meet the Doctor at Mancini’s Family Restaurant.

When Clara arrives at the restaurant, she is confronted by a terrible smell. It is the Doctor, who soon joins her at a table in a coat he pawned off a homeless man. They discuss Clara’s reaction to his regeneration through his response to her advert in the paper. They soon realize that they’ve both been tricked into coming to the restaurant.

The Doctor measures the air disturbance using one of Clara’s hairs. They watch the other patrons and realize that they’re not actually eating. They’re also not breathing. When the duo stands to leave, the other patrons rise to block their exit. The Doctor and Clara sit down again and the patrons follow suit.

They are soon met by a clockwork waiter who categorizes the organs that the newcomers have to offer. The Doctor rips off the waiter’s face, noting that an automaton lies beneath, and the duo is locked into their chairs and lowered into a tunnel below. The Doctor notes that it appears to be a larder and, after some cooperative hijinks, is able to free them with the sonic screwdriver.

The Doctor and Clara tour the larder and find the Half-Faced Man – the eye thief from before – recharging in a chair. The automatons are stealing body parts to appear more human piece by piece. The cases of spontaneous combustion hide the butchery conducted upon the victims.

The Half-Faced Man begins to wake up, so the Doctor and Clara attempt to escape. The Doctor thinks that he’s seen something like this before, but the escape is thwarted as a door slides between the duo. The Doctor leaves Clara behind and she evades the automatons for a little while by holding her breath. As she walks to the exit, she’s confronted by a memory from the past and collapses as her body rebels.

Captured by the automatons, she awakens to the sight of the Half-Faced Man. Clara refuses to tell him where the Doctor is, calling the automaton’s bluff. After all, killing her will leave him without information, which is the same place he is now. Instead, she offers an information exchange, question for question, and finds out that the automatons killed the dinosaur specifically for parts so that they can reach the Promised Land. They have been working toward this goal for millions of years.

When the Half-Faced Man threatens to torture Clara for information, Clara declares that the Doctor will always have her back. Sure enough, he has been hiding as an automaton, and with a keyword – Geronimo! – the Paternoster Gang arrives as backup.

He also determines that the Half-Faced Man did not post the advert summoning the travelers to the restaurant.

The Half-Faced Man retreats upstairs with the Doctor in pursuit, attempting to leave via an escape capsule. Vastra had summoned the police, but the automaton chases them out and leaves an opportunity for the Doctor to pour two drinks for a discussion. He now remembers that the automatons are from the 51st century and continues to extract information as the escape capsule is deployed. It is powered by a hot-air balloon made from human skin.

The Doctor examines a control button and finds that the pod belonged to the SS Marie Antoinette, sister ship to the SS Madame de Pompadour. The ship fell through time and crashed into England millions of years earlier. The only survivors, the service robots, began their cycle of repairing themselves over and over again. The Doctor assures the Half-Faced Man that humans are never small to him. That he will always fight for them.

As they struggle, Clara and the Paternosters finally defeat the robotic warriors in the larder by holding their breath as Clara uses the sonic screwdriver to open the door. Meanwhile, the Doctor and the Half-Faced Man reach an impasse. Suicide is against the automaton’s programming, but murder is against the Doctor’s nature.

Only one of them is lying, and they both know who it is. In the end, the automaton falls from the capsule and dies impaled upon the spire of the Clock Tower.

Clara and the Paternoster Gang return to Vastra’s home only to find the Doctor and the TARDIS are gone. Clara offers to join the household, but Vastra points out that Clara has already dressed in her modern-era clothing in preparation for continuing her travels. Sure enough, the TARDIS returns and Clara joins the Doctor in a revamped console room.

The Doctor tells her that he’s not a boyfriend, noting that it was his mistake to lead her on in his previous life. He’s also made many mistakes over two thousand years and is keen to do something about them. He places the TARDIS in flight and asks about the advert in the paper. The Doctor ties it back to the strange woman who originally gave Clara the TARDIS’s phone number as a computer help line, deciding that someone really wants the two of them to travel together.

The TARDIS lands at Clara’s home time, and she expresses regret that she doesn’t know who the Doctor is anymore. At that moment, Clara’s mobile rings, and she steps out to head the Eleventh Doctor in the line. He leaves her a message from Trenzalore – before she found the exterior phone dangling – imploring her to put aside her fear in order to help the Doctor find his way. With that, the Eleventh Doctor says goodbye.

Clara returns to the Twelfth Doctor’s side. The Time Lord asks her to look beyond the appearance and just see him. Clara examines him before giving him a hug, thanking him for the guidance. This Doctor’s not a hugger, but he offers to go for chips and coffee. They’ll work through the change together.

The Half-Faced Man awakens in a mysterious garden. He is greeted by a woman named Missy who refers to the Doctor as her boyfriend. She tells the automaton that he has reached his goal. He is in the Promised Land.

Paradise.

Heaven?


This episode is a rough start to a new era, but it plays well because it reflects the rough regeneration and the turmoil in the relationship between the Doctor and Clara.

On its face, Clara’s reaction to regeneration doesn’t seem reasonable. One could argue that she doesn’t remember her fragmented trip into the Doctor’s timeline in The Name of the Doctor, however, she readily recognized the War Doctor in The Day of the Doctor and remembered the salvation of Gallifrey during The Time of the Doctor. Therefore, she obviously knows about regeneration having directly interacted with three distinct incarnations of the Doctor during her travels.

Her confusion, therefore, seems to be linked to how the Doctor appears after regeneration, which makes her appear shallow. This is an unfortunate change of character for Clara that only gets a bit of smoothing over by suggesting that the Eleventh Doctor led her to believe that their relationship was more romantic and/or intimate. There is a point to be made here, of course, because the Eleventh Doctor was pretty obsessive over Clara’s “Impossible Girl” mystery, but her knowledge of regeneration should have overridden that.

The smoothing at the end of the episode also gives a bit of promise to the new somewhat antagonistic dynamic between the Doctor and Clara. She has been requested specifically by the old Doctor to help the new Doctor find his footing, and I can get on board with that as long as the transition doesn’t take too long. I am eager to have a Doctor that doesn’t have romantic entanglements with his companions.

The roughness of this episode also results from smashing elements of three previous adventures into one: Invasion of the Dinosaurs, The Snowmen, and The Girl in the Fireplace. To that end, it plays as a “greatest hits” story in the background of this Doctor’s character introduction. It works, but it is awkward, especially with some of the more slapstick comedy elements like the boing effect when the Doctor is put to sleep, the car alarm on the Paternoster carriage, and the strange underwear modeling by Jenny while Vastra works. These comedic beats fell flat for me.

On the upside, I love this Doctor’s outfit and mannerisms once he returns to pick up Clara. Between these elements and Vastra’s “here we go again”, Steven Moffat is obviously trying to tie the Twelfth Doctor to the Third Doctor.

Speaking of the Doctor’s return, this is typically seen as the moment where the Twelfth Doctor joined the Siege of Gallifrey.

Peter Capaldi’s eyebrow cameo in The Day of the Doctor has never been explicitly placed within his run on the show, but the visual clues point to this moment. The console room in the cameo clearly shows the Series 7 console room coloring (which has changed upon the Doctor’s return here) and Capaldi has his shorter haircut. The piece that seals it for me is the chalk equations, which aren’t explained within the story but make sense if he’s still processing the plan put in place by the Tenth, Eleventh, and War Doctors.

There is a possibility that the Twelfth Doctor’s inclusion in the Siege of Gallifrey is a paradox that takes place outside of time, which typically happens when multiple Doctors appear in the same story – see The Five Doctors and Time Crash for prime examples – but the effects of The Day of the Doctor have shown to be pretty significant, so I’m keen to side with the theory that the Twelfth Doctor’s role in the 50th anniversary special happened here.

Finally, this episode brings us the final appearance (to date) of the Paternoster Gang, and Steven Moffat really hammed up the Sherlock Holmes connections (which we started seeing in The Snowmen). Inspector Gregson, “the game is afoot!”, the Conk-Singleton forgery case, the Camberwell poisoning case, and Vastra’s use of the agony column are all significant in the universe created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

(Though I did learn that “the game is afoot” originated with Shakespeare’s Henry V.)

While this story was rough and awkward, it was far more engaging than The Time of the Doctor and lays some groundwork for the adventures to come. Recall that, per the rules of the Timestamps Project, regeneration episodes pick up an extra point. That pushes Deep Breath from above average to top marks.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Into the Dalek

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The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp: Series Seven, Specials, and Eleventh Doctor Summary

Doctor Who: Series Seven, Specials, and Eleventh Doctor Summary

Timestamp Logo Eleventh 2

The Eleventh’s senior showing was a good wrap to the run.

For the purposes of the Timestamps Project, Series 7 and the specials that wrapped up Matt Smith’s era are treated as a single group, and among them were very few disappointments. In fact, of the normal episodes, only Hide and Nightmare in Silver scored average or lower – Nightmare in Silver was the big loser there – and they were accompanied by the collective mini-episodes that were in-universe bonus material.

I’m not a big fan of the mini-episodes or the prequel shorts. They’re fun, but they don’t really add much to the narrative. The prequels really could be added to the episodes that they supplement, or they could be left out overall since the information that they convey is already part of the story.

This set did explore some fascinating territory, from the emotional departure of the Ponds to the introduction of the “impossible girl”. The downside to the Pond story was the disjointed timeline, a problem that carried over into Clara’s tenure as a companion with odd jumps and missing adventures in time between episodes. That latter offers plenty of room for novels, games, and audio adventures, but doesn’t play well for audiences who only pay attention to the television side of Doctor Who.

The big highlight, of course, was the 50th-anniversary celebration. The major milestone provided a big reason to pull out all the stops with a multi-Doctor story that added new context to the adventures that we’d seen since 2005.


The series comes in at an average of 4.1. Over the Eleventh Doctor’s run, that marks a steady decline year-to-year, down from 4.3 in Series Five and 4.2 in Series Six. Also notable is the increase in story quantity year-to-year which might point to the reason for the sliding scores. That said, the era still remains over 4.0 overall.

Series Seven comes in at tenth all-time for the Timestamps Project, tied with Series Two, the Eighteenth Series, and the Fifth Series. It comes in behind the Eleventh Series, Series Six, Series One, Series Three, Series Five, the Tenth Doctor’s specials, the Eighth Doctor’s run, Series Four, and the Ninth Series.

The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe – 5
Good as Gold & Pond Life – 3
Asylum of the Daleks – 5
Dinosaurs on a Spaceship – 5
A Town Called Mercy – 4
The Power of Three – 4
The Angels Take Manhattan – 4
The Snowmen – 4
The Bells of Saint John – 5
The Rings of Akhaten – 4
Cold War – 4
Hide – 3
Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS – 4
The Crimson Horror – 5
Nightmare in Silver – 2
The Name of the Doctor – 5
Clara and the TARDIS & Rain Gods The Inforarium – 3
The Day of the Doctor – 5
The Time of the Doctor – 4

Series Seven and Specials (Revival Era) Average Rating: 4.1/5


Timestamps Eleventh Doctor

Following tradition…

The First Doctor was a wise grandfather, the Second a sly jester, the Third a secret agent scientist, the Fourth an inquisitive idealist, the Fifth an honorable humanitarian, the Sixth a squandered cynic, the Seventh a curious schemer, the Eighth a classical romantic, the Ninth a hopeful healing veteran, the Tenth a bargaining humanitarian…

…and the Eleventh Doctor is an irascible runner.

The Eleventh Doctor readily displayed his desire to forget his place in the Last Great Time War. He just wanted to move on from the horrors he perpetrated as the War Doctor, and when things did not go according to plan, his fury was right at the surface and ready to burn.

Death and defeat reminded him of his failure at Gallifrey, something that he finally came to terms with when he met his predecessors on that same battlefield. Following the Kübler-Ross model of grief that each of the revival era Doctors has followed in its very real non-linear manner, this Doctor finally found acceptance thanks to his weary warrior forebearer.

To that end, he truly found happiness at the end of the race he ran.


Series 5 – 4.3
Series 6 – 4.2
Series 7 – 4.1

Eleventh Doctor’s Weighted Average Rating: 4.17

Ranking (by score)
1 – Eighth (4.50)
2 – Tenth (4.34)
3 – Ninth (4.30)
4 – Eleventh (4.17)
5 – Third (4.00)
6 – Second (3.67)
7 – Fourth (3.67)
8 – Seventh (3.54)
9 – First (3.41)
10 – Fifth (3.20)
11 – Sixth (2.73)
N/A – War (No score)

Ranking (by character)
1 – Tenth Doctor
2 – Second Doctor
3 – Ninth Doctor
4 – Eighth Doctor
5 – Third Doctor
6 – Fourth Doctor
7 – War Doctor
8 – Eleventh Doctor
9 – Seventh Doctor
10 – First Doctor
11 – Fifth Doctor
12 – Sixth Doctor

As I’ve mentioned before, the top nine spaces on the character ranking are really, really, really close. I’m always tempted to simply rank them all as a first-place tie, but I find the real challenge to be actually thinking it through and ranking them.


Next up, we change Doctors but keep the same showrunner in charge.

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Deep Breath

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The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #251: The Time of the Doctor

Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor
(1 episode, Christmas Special, 2013)

Timestamp 251 Time of the Doctor

Death and birth in Christmas.

A fleet of ships respond to a tri-tone signal echoing in the cosmos from a seemingly unimportant planet. The Doctor is among the respondents and transports aboard a Dalek ship. When they start shooting, he transports back and scolds a disembodied Cyberman head named Handles.

His rant is interrupted by a ringing telephone. Unfortunately, it is routed to the handset on the outside of the TARDIS, but fortunately, the caller is Clara. She invented an imaginary boyfriend and needs the Doctor to pose as him at Christmas dinner. He materializes the TARDIS on a newly arrived ship, this time a Cyberman ship, and then scampers off as Clara calls again.

Clara’s trying her best to host Christmas dinner, but she’s having difficulty with the turkey and her family. When the TARDIS arrives, she runs down to meet the Doctor but finds him naked. It seems that he’s going to church. He puts on some holographic clothes and runs up to meet the family, but failed to extend the holographic projection to the family. Clara explains her issues with the turkey and the Doctor takes her to the TARDIS to cook it in the temporal engine.

Meanwhile, Handles has calculated the planet’s identity: Gallifrey. The Doctor refuses to believe the analysis even though he has recently saved his homeworld. His thoughts are interrupted by the arrival of Mother Superious Tasha Lem and the Papal Mainframe. Clara dons holographic clothing – nudity is the order of the day at church – and the pair board the new ship.

Tasha is pleased with the Doctor’s new body and offers a private consultation while Clara waits outside the chapel. While Tasha and the Doctor confer, Clara encounters the Silence, repeatedly forgetting the confessors once she looks away from them. She interrupts Tasha and the Doctor in a panic, forgetting why she did, and then joins the Doctor as he teleports to the planet surface. Tasha demands the TARDIS key so he can’t summon the time capsule and requests that he return in one hour.

Once the travelers arrive on the surface, they find a group of Weeping Angels buried in the snow. The Doctor summons the TARDIS by removing a surprise wig and revealing a key hidden beneath. The TARDIS materializes in a nearby village where the freshly re-dressed travelers meet the residents and a field that forces people to tell the truth.

The town, by the way, is called Christmas.

As the Doctor and Clara explore, they find a glowing crack in the wall, something he hasn’t seen for some time. The Doctor detects evidence that someone is trying to break through this weak point, and Handles suggests that it is Gallifreyan in nature. The truth field and the signal are coming from the Time Lords, and the signal is a question being transmitted through time and space.

It is the oldest question. You know, that inside joke about the show’s title. If he answers the question with his name, the Time Lords will know that it will be safe to return. Unfortunately, that means that everyone in orbit will open fire to destroy their enemy. The Time War will begin again.

The Doctor sends Clara to the TARDIS as Tasha reveals the true name of the planet. Turns out that Christmas is on Trenzalore. As the Doctor negotiates the problem with Tasha, the TARDIS returns Clara home. The Doctor places the planet under his protection, forcing Tasha to begin the Siege of Trenzalore and order the Doctor’s silence to fall.

The Doctor defends against Sontarans, Weeping Angels, and even wooden Cybermen as the years march onward and begin to show on the Time Lord’s body. The town celebrates every victory and comes to love the man who stayed for Christmas.

Eventually, the TARDIS returns to Trenzalore. It has been gone for 300 years, but it has returned Clara as she clung to the outer shell through the temporal vortex. They yell at each other and then embrace. Clara learns about the Doctor’s exploits and joins him for sunrise. Sadly, it is the last sunrise for Handles as the Cyberman head has developed a fault over time and succumbs to inevitability. The Doctor and Clara discuss the nature of his work on Trenzalore. Everyone gets stuck somewhere eventually. Everything ends.

The Doctor also reveals that he’s out of regenerations. Eleven Doctors, the War Doctor, and the Tenth Doctor’s vanity regeneration mean that this regeneration is the end of the line, but every life saved is a victory for him. His musings are interrupted by a request for a parley from Tasha. The Doctor and Clara take the TARDIS to Papal Mainframe. As Tasha and the Doctor negotiate, she reveals that everyone aboard has been replaced by Dalek puppets in order to snare their greatest enemy. The Daleks also know who the Doctor is thanks to information downloaded from the mainframe.

The Daleks try to use Clara as a bargaining chip, but he’s able to restore Tasha’s memories so she can fight back. The Doctor and Clara take the transmat back to the TARDIS. The turkey is finally done and Clara forces the Doctor to promise that he’ll never send her away again. Of course, the Doctor lies – rule number one, right? – and he tricks Clara into returning home while he stays on Trenzalore.

The years continue on as the fleets above continue the siege and the Doctor continues the fight. On Earth, Clara’s family consoles her as they celebrate Christmas. She hears the TARDIS returning and rushes to meet it. Inside, she finds Tasha, who then returns her to Trenzalore so the Doctor doesn’t die alone.

Clara returns to the room with the crack, marveling at the Doctor’s exploits and advanced age. They share a Christmas cracker and find a poignant message inside. The moment is broken by the arrival of the Daleks, and the Doctor ascends the belltower to make his last stand. This is how it ends.

Clara promises to remain behind as the Doctor bids her farewell. She turns to the crack and begs the Time Lords for assistance, offering the Doctor’s reputation as proof of who they seek. They respond by sealing the crack.

The Doctor faces the Dalek ship from the belltower. He admits that he has nothing left to offer, but the Dalek assault is disrupted by the crack opening in the sky. A burst of regeneration energy floats down to the Doctor and he begins to glow in a familiar golden light.

A bit of advice: Never ever tell the Doctor the rules. Regeneration number thirteen begins as the Time Lord uses the power rushing through his body to tear through the Dalek forces and Clara shepherds the villagers to safety.

After the battle, Clara returns to the TARDIS as she searches for the Doctor. She hangs up the phone and enters the time capsule to find the Doctor’s clothes on the floor and a bowl of fish custard on the console. He appears to her with his restored face, claiming that this is the reset. He sets the TARDIS in motion as he prepares to regenerate.

He talks to Clara as he begins to glow, seeing visions of Amelia Pond running around the TARDIS. He promises never to forget when the Doctor was him, then says farewell to a vision of Amy Pond.

He drops his bow tie, which he donned on his first day, then regenerates in a snap. As the new Doctor – an older Scottish man with familiar attack eyebrows – muses about the color of his kidneys, the TARDIS begins to spin out of control. Unfortunately, he doesn’t remember how to fly it.


This story bounces all over the map, and that is truly unfortunate. It was an attempt to tie everything off for Matt Smith’s era, including the Silence, the cracks in time, Trenzalore, and the fate of Gallifrey, but it was just too much and the sheer volume of concurrent story elements made for a muddled send-off for the Eleventh Doctor.

The mystery of the time crack was pretty well wrapped up back in Series 5, and the Silence arc came to a suitable end in Series 6. Bringing both of these elements back for this story seemed more of vain conceits than meaningful plot threads, particularly trying to redeem the Silence as religious confessors when they previously served as murderous foot soldiers.

The fate of Gallifrey was handled quite well in The Day of the Doctor, and while their minor influence here was welcome, I feel like the ending wasn’t quite earned. It’s Clara who begs the Time Lords for help, and historically the Time Lords have looked down on the Doctor’s interference in universal affairs. They even forced him to regenerate as punishment at one point, remember?

Sure, he saved them from utter annihilation, but is that enough to look the other way? I don’t know. The stakes seem awfully high since they’re perfectly safe in the pocket dimension… unless the goal is to ensure that the Doctor is indebted to them and obligated to free them.

The final element – the Doctor’s regeneration limit – takes a few turns here. This story firmly establishes that the limit is purely arbitrary, dictated at a whim by a higher power. Similar to the Master’s offer in The Five Doctors and the brand new set of regenerations gifted to him before The Sound of Drums, the Doctor’s potential is unleashed by the Time Lords with a snap.

The regeneration limit itself was mentioned three times before this point – The Deadly AssassinMawdryn Undead, and the TV movie – and given how regenerations are treated by other Time Lords like Runcible (The Deadly Assassin), the Council (The War Games, wherein the Time Lords didn’t even bat an eye at what was effectively capital punishment), and Romana (Destiny of the Daleks), I have long considered the limit to be very flexible if not completely artificial. The Doctor and the Master may believe it (at this point in the series progression), but others have shown us that the limits of regeneration are capricious at best. They are a way for the Council to keep the lesser Time Lords in line.

By extension, this also adds more credence to the Morbius faces being those of the Doctor before the First Doctor, but we’ll get there soon enough. (Breaking the Timestamps Project timeline, this story is exactly why I didn’t have an issue with the Timeless Child revelation during the Thirteenth Doctor’s run.)

It seems that this regeneration was the first in a whole new set of twelve, provided that the Eleventh Doctor didn’t burn all of them off with that over-the-top light show. It also offers a reset, so in that way, it was suitable for Steven Moffat to tie everything off in a sloppy bow. I have already talked about how this whole regeneration limit discussion could have been pushed into the next era by replacing the War Doctor with the Eighth Doctor, but again, Moffat and vanity conceits.

Taking a look at other elements of series mythology, we saw a nice list of “guest” aliens in orbit of Trenzalore, including the Judoon, the Silurians, the Terileptils, and the Raxacoricofallapatorians. In the Doctor’s hall of fame, there is also evidence that the Sycorax, the Monoids, the Racnoss, the Pyrovile, the Ood, and the Adipose also came to play.

It’s one hell of a finale for this era of Doctor Who. I only wish it was better. The ending was emotional, but the rest of the story was uneven. It definitely needs to take advantage of the Timestamps Project’s +1 handicap for regeneration episodes.

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Series Seven, Specials, and Eleventh Doctor Summary

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The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp Special #15: An Adventure in Space and Time

An Adventure in Space and Time
(50th Anniversary Docudrama Special, 2013)

Timestamp S15 Adventure in Space and Time

Peering into the past.

This docudrama was marketed as the story behind Doctor Who, but it ended up closer to a limited biopic focused on William Hartnell’s run from An Unearthly Child to The Tenth Planet. That’s the unfortunate side of the presentation since it pushes much of Verity Lambert’s successes and struggles to the background.

Several other creative liberties were taken along the way, particularly with the historical events surrounding the show’s development. That said, I enjoyed the dramatization of Sydney Newman, Verity Lambert, and Waris Hussein coming together to produce a science-fiction series in the era of the Space Race. Lambert’s challenges in breaking the glass ceiling against the “old boys club” of the BBC were great to explore, but I’d love to see a fully-developed documentary about her life and the paths she paved.

The same holds true for Waris Hussein and Delia Derbyshire, both of whom were instrumental in the show’s birth and have fascinating life stories.

The film was written by Doctor Who veteran Mark Gatiss, a driving force in the franchise since the 1990s. In the television side, he debuted with The Unquiet Dead and continued well into the Twelfth Doctor’s era. He also wrote several novels and has worked extensively in the Big Finish audios.

This drama set the course for David Bradley as the third actor to portray the First Doctor (not counting body doubles, stand-ins, or audios). We saw him previously as the villainous Solomon in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and heard him as Shansheeth Blue in Death of the Doctor. We’ll see him again at the end of the Twelfth Doctor’s run. He has also carried the portrayal into the Big Finish universe.

Claudia Grant, Jemma Powell, and Jamie Glover also followed similar trajectories after this film, portraying Susan, Barbara, and Ian in the Big Finish audios. Jamie Glover comes from a family tradition of travels in time and space since both of his parents have been in Doctor Who.

Jessica Raine was last seen in Doctor Who as Emma Grayling in Hide. Sacha Dhawan will be seen again in the Thirteenth Doctor’s run. It was good to see Doctor Who veterans William Russell, Carole Ann Ford, Michael Craze, Anneke Wills, Jackie Lane, Maureen O’Brien, Peter Purves, Mark Eden, and Jean Marsh in cameos as a nod to the franchise’s history.

The TARDIS console prop became a staple of future Doctor Who adventures that required a classic console. I admire the dedication that the production teams applied to their craft for this film. I also admired the solid casting for William Hartnell, but I wasn’t as sold on the casting for Patrick Troughton. Mind you, it was close but not quite there.

I love the moment where Hartnell “sees” Matt Smith. He obviously didn’t see the future or anything, so I took it as an artistic statement on the future of the franchise being secure even without William Hartnell in the title role. It was a beautifully poetic moment for that point in his career and the show’s future.

Finally, the ending with the speech from The Dalek Invasion of Earth was the perfect place to end. It marks this film as a wonderful tribute to both William Hartnell and the legacy of Doctor Who.


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor

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The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp Special #14: The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot

The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot
(50th Anniversary Parody Special, 2013)

Timestamp S14 Fiveish Doctors Reboot

Covert ops at the BBC.

I love this “real-world” parody adventure focused on the remaining classic-era Doctors trying to be involved with the 50th-anniversary special. Peter Davison is simply obsessed with the quest (especially with his sons being so excited about David Tennant’s appearance in the special), Colin Baker just wants to play in the universe again, and Sylvester McCoy is keen to join so long as everyone knows about his role in The Hobbit.

Paul McGann is willing to join as long as it doesn’t interfere with his filming schedules. Obviously, that comes back to call when he’s pulled into The Night of the Doctor. And, one of my favorite gags, is the callback to Tom Baker’s “appearance” in The Five Doctors when he (in more ways than one) punted on a role in the special.

Written and directed by Peter Davison, this special has a lot of similar callbacks to the franchise’s fifty years. It has Georgia Moffett (Peter’s daughter and David Tennant’s wife) and her ice-cream-and-celery pregnancy cravings, Matthew “Adric” Waterhouse reflecting on his exit, nods to the Peter Cushing movies, a sideways approach to the “You’ve redecorated… I don’t like it” gag with the classic Doctors in the modern TARDIS, and so much more.

I got a kick out of Colin Baker’s obsession with Vengeance on Varos. It’s a story that’s often derided by critics for excessive violence and dark tones, but it is cited as a favorite of both Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant. His copies of the episode keep going missing, so he buys replacements. The special edition DVD has “even more of me“!

The ending’s meta-twist is jarring, but I totally love how the actors end up in the final cut as the shrouded Zygons in the Under Gallery scenes.

This was a great classic-era accompaniment to The Day of the Doctor.


UP NEXT – An Adventure in Space and Time

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The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – Star Trek: Picard

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Star Trek: Picard
May 16, 2022

I have been wrestling with my thoughts on Star Trek: Picard since the second season wrapped on May 5th. 

The series overall has been frustrating for me. It is laden with some great philosophical and socio-political ideas – a hallmark of Star Trek since 1966 – but it frequently misses the mark when actually exploring these ideas.

First, I want to point to the excellent season reviews by Jessie Gender. She has captured a lot of my conflict with this series in these analyses, highlighting many of the elements that I loved and disliked.

Season One:

Season Two:

In Season One, I loved seeing civilian life in the Federation and the aftermath of the destruction of Romulus, something that was born rather hand-wavedly in 2009’s Star Trek film. The world-building grabbed me as it showcased complicated interstellar politics and a Starfleet that had moved on from the troublesome climax of Star Trek: Nemesis.

I rather liked the deconstruction and organic redemption of the former Borg. I liked the idea of the Federation trying to help the fractured and displaced Romulan people, following on from the ground laid in Star Trek: Nemesis. I liked that Jean-Luc Picard actually stuck to his principles and resigned from Starfleet when they refused to back that program. I liked that Starfleet rejected the former captain’s hubris when he demanded a starship to solve the mystery because of who he was.

I liked the Star Trek exploration of Brexit, Trumpism, and the Syrian refugee crisis. I loved the Troi-Riker family and the exploration of trauma. I loved Picard having to face the skeletons in his closet by examining and reconciling his failures. I loved the conclusion of the Picard-Data relationship.

But then we get a Romulan anti-synth religious cult, a lack of resolution on threads like Seven’s adaption of the Borg Queen persona and Narek simply fading into the background, handwaving “space magic” tools and fixes, huge fleet space battles, and yet another galactic-scale conflict teasing a Lovecraftian big bad that we’ll likely never see again. It’s representative of the writers having far too many ideas and not enough time to implement everything to their full potential. That’s where the frustration started for me because each of these ideas ends up half-baked by the final episode.

At the end of the season, the entire synth ban is resolved far too quickly, but Picard’s status is right up Star Trek‘s alley with the mission to seek out new life. I really liked the idea of Picard being resurrected into a synth body that is virtually indistinguishable from “real” life.

Season Two starts off well enough with Picard back in true form and Starfleet being… well… Starfleet. The gang gets back together just in time to meet up with the Borg Queen and consider her application for provisional status in the Federation.

Then everything goes boom and Q pops up, leaving our heroes in an alternate fascist universe that is definitely not the mirror universe.

It’s a decent starting point. I could do without using the Borg once again, but John de Lancie is magnificent. However, it starts to slide downhill from here as the next two episodes rely on nearly the exact same plot as we go from the Prime Universe to this fascist universe to Los Angeles 2024: Figure out the new setting, get everyone back together, develop a plan, and move to the next episode. 

The rest of the season is spent in 2024 (with hardly a mention of the events of Deep Space Nine‘s “Past Tense”) exploring various tangents and failing to analyze the effects of the time jump.

  • The team rescued the Borg Queen from the Confederation future in order to slingshot around the sun and travel to 2024. Even though she shares some kind of temporal link with every universe’s Borg Queen, she’s not the Prime Universe’s Borg Queen, so her existence could very well create a paradox when our heroes succeed.
  • The team is obviously from a future alternative to the Prime Universe because Guinan has no idea who Picard is. The events of The Next Generation‘s “Time’s Arrow” never happened, and given the Confederation’s aggressively xenophobic nature, the Devidians were probably slaughtered anyway.
  • But, wait! The Kirk Thatcher guy on the bus from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home seems to recall getting nerve pinched by Spock. The planet also remains intact, so something had to stop the whale probe. Did Kirk and company still travel back to retrieve George and Gracie?
  • Finally, do our heroes have the right to “fix” the universe? Star Trek‘s “fix the timeline” stories usually stop a bad thing from happening so that the starting and ending points are the same. The crew starts in the normal timeline, someone goes back and breaks something, and our heroes go back and fix it to keep the timeline as it should be. The deviation here is that our heroes started in the Confederation’s future. In order to put events in 2024 on the path to the Prime Universe, a handful of time travelers have to decide the fate of billions of people and eradicate an entire existing timeline. Those ethical implications were never discussed. 

Q claims that he dropped the cast in the Confederation timeline to teach Picard a lesson. The key to fixing everything was ensuring that Picard’s astronaut ancestor successfully launched on her mission and discovered an alien microbe.

Strangely, Q attempted to snap Renee Picard out of existence halfway through the season. Why? Who knows.

We also meet more of the Gary Seven-style observers (yay!) and tie them into Wesley Crusher and the Travelers (I can buy that, though there was zero build-up to that revelation). Rios has an adventure with a local doctor and immigration officials (but we never explore the sociopolitical implications of immigration in the United States of 2024) before deciding to remain in the past. Seven and Raffi explore their own traumas, as well as plumb the depths of the relationship that was spawned by a random (and unearned) hand-holding flirtation in the first season.

One of Raffi’s traumas? Elnor, who was brutally murdered in the second episode and popped up periodically to justify keeping Evan Evagora in the opening credits. Seriously, he was criminally under-used in the second season.

Picard also faced his own trauma by uncovering the memories of his mother’s suicide. That came with a host of good and bad issues. The good was a discussion of mental health and using it as the framing device for Q’s lesson on Picard’s anxieties. Star Trek has done some good work in the last few years to address trauma and mental health. It’s a reminder that mental health is important for all of us, and also how we need to understand how it shapes us so we can unlock our potential.

On the downside, they dragged that storyline on forever with nary a mention of why it never came up before during his long self-imposed exile at the chateau.

We also spent an entire episode with Picard and Guinan in FBI custody running through a throwaway sidequest. I haven’t even mentioned the Adam Soong storyline because… yeah… yet another Soong means yet another Trek trope. Brent Spiner plays evil so well, but this story thread did nothing for me. 

Oh, and the trauma Jurati experienced in Season One? Hand-waved away. That made me angry.

Where Season One started frustrations with half-baked and abandoned ideas, Season Two capitalized on it in spades. Season Two had a ton of potential to explore, but it did not flow gracefully from idea to idea. Instead, it introduced concepts and then rapidly resolved them through easy yet uninspired tropes.

The whole thing resolves in a predictable manner with the Borg Queen needing Picard to lead a defense against yet another galaxy-killing event.

The end of the season brings a huge cast shake-up leading into the final season of the show. Isa Briones, Eva Evagora, Alison Pill, and Santiago Cabrera are done, which leaves room for the TNG regulars to come aboard.

Picard-3-cast-announcement

Where I would normally be excited to see these characters back in action for what is essentially TNG Season 8, I temper that excitement with the show’s performance so far. The characters and franchise deserve far better than a collection of loose story threads that defy cohesion.

While I have loved the new characters in general, I would have rather seen a single season of this show with the TNG characters on a final mission with Picard as he rectifies his mistakes and even sacrifices himself to save the day.

Will I watch Season Three? Yes, but with trepidation, because Star Trek: Picard has definitely been my least favorite series in this modern era of the franchise. It might even be my least favorite overall.

The storytelling potential deserves better.


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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #250: The Day of the Doctor

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor
(1 episode, 50th Anniversary Special, 2013)

Timestamp 250 Day of the Doctor

The big event in a cup-a-soup.

The Last Day

A soldier opens his eyes to find someone standing over him. The soldier is part of the army on Gallifrey and has been fitted with a headcam. The man explains the headcam’s use and function, including how the frightening images that keep popping up are hallucinations, not premonitions. The headcams are installed into the brain and record everything for the official record. The recording is censored, with violence and language deemed unsuitable for the soldiers’ families cut out, and anything particularly graphic gets tinted red.

These soldiers proceed to Arcadia, the safest place on Gallifrey due to the impenetrable sky trenches. If even one Dalek did get through, the city could be destroyed, so the soldier has to remain vigilant in his scans. As he is trained on the scanner’s use, he detects a Dalek.

That Dalek leads to many more. As the Daleks open fire, the soldier’s headcam goes blank. The last sound heard in the background is a chilling death cry of anguish.

Thus begins the Fall of Arcadia.

The Day of the Doctor

After opening on a familiar theme, we see a police constable patrolling near I. M. Foreman’s scrap yard and Coal Hill School. Inside the school, Clara finishes a lesson for her class as the bell rings. She gets a note to meet “her doctor” at an address on an open patch of road. There she spots the TARDIS and races toward it on her motorcycle.

The TARDIS lets her in without complaint and she snaps her fingers to close the doors. After a cheerful reunion with the Doctor, she jumps as the TARDIS shudders. A helicopter hauls the box away. The Doctor calls Kate Stewart at UNIT headquarters only to find out that she’s bringing the TARDIS. She had no idea that he was still inside.

She has the TARDIS taken directly to the National Gallery where she presents instructions directly from Queen Elizabeth I. The Doctor and Clara meet UNIT scientist Petronella Osgood – she has a nice scarf – and proceed into the gallery. There they find a Time Lord painting known as both No More and Gallifrey Falls. It depicts the Fall of Arcadia and appears in three dimensions. The Doctor is shaken by what he remembers upon seeing the painting, recounting the day that the previously unknown Doctor ended the Time War.

Inside the image, we find the last day of the Last Great Time War. As the Daleks rage and innocents die, the War Doctor takes a gun from a lone soldier. With that weapon, he carves a message into a wall near the TARDIS.

It reads “NO MORE”.

The Doctor escapes by plowing the TARDIS through a wall and a gathering of Daleks. As he flees, the High Commanders gather in the War Room to plan their next move. The Eleventh General dismisses the High Council’s plans since “they have already failed” and ponders the Doctor’s message. He also learns that there has been a breach in the Omega Arsenal of the Time Vaults. Among all of the forbidden weapons – many of which have already been used in vain against the Daleks – the Moment has been taken.

The Moment was the final work of the ancients of Gallifrey. It is a weapon so advanced that it developed a conscience to stand in judgment of the user. The General muses that only the Doctor would be mad enough to use such a weapon.

Sure enough, the Doctor issues a final warning as he walks the empty desert toward an abandoned farmhouse: “Time Lords of Gallifrey, Daleks of Skaro, I serve notice on you all. Too long I have stayed my hand. No more. Today you leave me no choice. Today, this war will end. No more. No more…” He uncovers a complex box that ticks and whirs, lamenting the lack of a big red button to activate it. He hears a rustling sound and investigates, returning to find a woman sitting on the box.

This woman appears to be Rose Tyler, a face that this incarnation does not recognize, but she eventually identifies as Bad Wolf, an avatar of the Moment. She mocks the Doctor in her judgment, wondering why he left the TARDIS so far away. Perhaps so the TARDIS couldn’t witness what he’s about to do. Meanwhile, the Time Lord refuses the right to be called Doctor. Even though the name resides in his head, he no longer feels worthy of it. The suffering of the universe is too great, and he must end it even though it means his death. The Moment decides that his fate and punishment will be to survive the holocaust and live with the consequences, counting the dead for the rest of his lives.

They are interrupted by a fissure that opens overhead. A fez falls out.

In the 21st century, the Eleventh Doctor opens the queen’s letter.

“My dearest love: I hope the painting known as Gallifrey Falls will serve as proof that it is your Elizabeth that writes to you now. You will recall that you pledged yourself to the safety of my kingdom. In that capacity, I have appointed you Curator of the Under Gallery, where deadly danger to England is locked away. Should any disturbance occur within its walls, it is my wish that you should be summoned. Godspeed, gentle husband.”

Kate leads the Doctor and Clara away to show them the next piece of the puzzle. As they leave, UNIT scientist McGillop takes a mysterious phone call and questions why he should move the painting.

The Doctor, Clara, and Kate arrive at a painting of Queen Elizabeth I and the Tenth Doctor, leading the scene to England, 1562. There, the Tenth Doctor and Queen Elizabeth I ride a horse out of the TARDIS where he presumably just gave her a tour of the time capsule. They later share a picnic, and after she remarks on the face that has seen war, he proposes marriage.

It’s a ruse to uncover a Zygon invasion of Earth. Unfortunately, even with his tracking device that goes ding, he misidentifies the queen as a Zygon. When the horse changes shape, the duo runs from the threat. They end up separated, and while the queen gets attacked, the Doctor threatens a rabbit before realizing that it is truly just a rabbit.

The Doctor finds the queen once again, as well as a doppelgänger. While he tries to figure out which queen is the real one, a time fissure opens and a fez falls out.

In the 21t century, Kate leads her group into the Under Gallery where the Eleventh Doctor is fascinated by stone dust. Kate orders Osgood to analyze it while they proceed deeper. The Doctor pulls a fez from a display case before coming to the reason why Kate called him here. Several 3-D paintings that used to show figures have had their glass broken out from the inside. The figures are missing.

The time fissure opens and the Eleventh Doctor faintly recalls seeing it before. He tosses the fez through before jumping across, landing at the Tenth Doctor’s feet. The two Time Lords realize who each other are, compare sonic screwdrivers, and bicker a bit before the time fissure crackles.

The Tenth Doctor sends the queens away with a pair of kisses as Clara communicates with the Doctors through the fissure. The Eleventh Doctor tries to send the fez back, but it never arrives in the Under Gallery. Instead, it lands at the War Doctor’s feet.

Kate leaves Clara in the Under Gallery as she calls her office to request the Cromier file – invoking a nod toward the “UNIT dating controversy” – unaware of the Zygon lurking behind her.

The Tenth and Eleventh Doctors attempt to analyze the fissure, canceling each other’s reversal of the polarity with their sonics. After a moment, the War Doctor jumps through and meets his successors, mistaking them at first for companions instead of Time Lords.

He also chastises them for pointing their sonic screwdrivers like water pistols.

The meeting is interrupted by the queen’s royal guard. The Eleventh Doctor tries to get Clara to pose as a witch through the fissure, but the guards and the War Doctor are not impressed. The Queen arrives and threatens to toss the Doctors in the Tower of London, which serves as Kate’s office in the future.

Once there, the Eleventh Doctor sets to work scratching at a pillar while the Tenth Doctor questions the War Doctor. Meanwhile, in the future, Osgood puts the pieces together and realizes that the statues are Zygons. She’s too late, however, and both she and McGillop are copied. Osgood is able to escape in short order.

Kate leads Clara to the Black Archive, a space where the deepest secrets are kept and everyone’s memories of visiting it are wiped. The archive is TARDIS-proofed to keep the Doctor out since he wouldn’t approve of the collection within. Kate shows Clara a vortex manipulator gifted to the archive by Captain Jack Harkness. The access code has been carved into a pillar.

Clara also finds out that Kate, Osgood, and McGillop are Zygons. In that confusion, Clara steals Kate’s phone and uses the access code to teleport away with the vortex manipulator.

In 1562, the War Doctor muses that he could program his sonic screwdriver to disintegrate the door, but the calculations would take centuries. He suggests starting on them while questioning the dread on the faces of his future selves. They discuss the Last Day of the Great Time War, and the Moment – only visible to the War Doctor – prompts him to ask about the children.

The Eleventh Doctor can’t remember the number of children on Gallifrey, but the Tenth Doctor can. There were 2.47 billion children, and the fact that the Eleventh Doctor doesn’t want to remember angers – no, infuriates – the Tenth Doctor.

The Moment fills in the blanks for the War Doctor: The Tenth Doctor is the man who regrets and the Eleventh Doctor is the man who forgets. She also points out that they all have the same sonic screwdriver at heart with different cases.

If the War Doctor can scan the door, then the Eleventh Doctor’s screwdriver could calculate the method of breaking the door. They confirm it but are amazed when Clara bursts through the door and claims that it wasn’t locked. The queen is right behind her, confirming that she was curious about what they would do.

In the modern day, the real Osgood skulks about the Under Gallery and finds Kate in Zygon stasis. In 1562, the queen shows her visitors what is going on, including how she implanted the Zygons in the Gallifreyan paintings using stasis cubes. They also learn that the woman is the real Queen Elizabeth I and that she killed her impostor in the forest.

After the Tenth Doctor and Queen Elizabeth I are married, the three Time Lords and Clara board the Tenth Doctor’s TARDIS. Detecting a potential paradox, the TARDIS compensates by shifting the desktops around a bit before Clara notifies the trio that they should head for the Black Archive.

The Zygons in the Black Archive are joined by their human counterparts, and Kate informs them that the Archive’s self-destruct mechanism has been activated. In five minutes, the nuclear warhead beneath them will detonate. The Doctors try to land the TARDIS in the Archive and fail, so the War Doctor suggests using the stasis cube instead.

When McGillop takes his call near the first painting, he gets an order to take the painting to the Black Archive. Once there, the Doctors emerge from the Fall of Arcadia and enter the Black Archive. They then use the memory modifiers to confuse everybody as to whether they are human or Zygon. If the participants stop the detonation and create a peace treaty – which is sure to be incredibly fair since the negotiators can’t remember which side they’re on – they will have their memories restored.

The countdown is stopped and the negotiations begin. The Osgoods figure each other out only by the nature of asthma. Meanwhile, Clara talks to the War Doctor about the Last Day, discovering that he hasn’t used the Moment. She expresses the Doctor’s regret about what he did that day, and the War Doctor makes his decision.

The Moment takes him back to the barn in the desert and presents him with a big red button.

He knows now that his successors are extraordinary men, but that they will only become so if he follows through. The Moment talks to him about the wheezing and groaning of the TARDIS, a sound that brings hope wherever it goes. At the same time, two TARDISes materialize behind him and his successors arrive.

They were able to arrive in this time-locked space because the Moment allowed it.

The two Time Lords talk about how they’ve treated their memory of the War Doctor. They explain that he was the Doctor on the day that it was impossible to get things right, and they offer to help him push the button today. Not out of fear or hatred, but because there is no other way. In the name of the lives that they cannot save.

The Eleventh Doctor stays his hand at Clara’s face. She could never imagine him destroying his own people. The Moment shows them the Fall of Arcadia, adding a moment of conscience to the act. Clara judges them: The Warrior, the Hero, and… what is the Eleventh?

She reminds him of the promise of the Doctor – “Never cowardly or cruel. Never give up; never give in.” – and tells her Doctor what to do. They have enough warriors, and any old idiot can be a hero. He should be a Doctor.

The Eleventh Doctor disarms the Moment and explains. He’s had lifetimes to think about this, and these three have a stasis cube. While the War Doctor thanks the “Bad Wolf girl” – the Tenth Doctor is taken aback – the Time Lords put their plan into action.

On the Last Day of the Great Time War, the Doctors send a message to Gallifrey High Command: GALLIFREY STANDS. They explain their plan to the Eleventh General, and even though the general finds the idea absurd, the Doctors explain that they’ve been working on it all their lives.

In an extraordinary moment, the three Doctors are joined by their other ten incarnations, including the one they will eventually become. The thirteen TARDISes take position as the Daleks intensify their firepower. The general tells the Doctor to go ahead. The planet Gallifrey disappears into a pocket dimension and the Daleks destroy each other in the crossfire. A single Dalek pod spins off into the void, foreshadowing their eventual return as the Cult of Skaro.

Gallifrey stands.

Back in the National Gallery, the Doctors muse on whether or not they succeeded. The mysterious painting remains an enigma, but they agree that it was better to have failed having done the right thing than succeeding in doing the wrong. The War Doctor bids farewell to his successors with a special nod to Clara, and they address him as Doctor, fully worthy of the title. He won’t remember this adventure, however, because the timestreams are a mess, but the Eleventh Doctor and Clara will. His legacy is safe with them.

As the War Doctor departs, he begins to regenerate after surviving the Time War. He hopes that the ears will be less conspicuous before transforming into the Ninth Doctor.

The Tenth Doctor takes his leave, asking the Eleventh Doctor where he’s going next. The Eleventh Doctor relents and reveals that they are destined to die in battle on Trenzalore. The Tenth Doctor is glad that his future is in safe hands, but expresses a desire to change their final destination. After all, he doesn’t want to go.

Clara leaves the Eleventh Doctor to sit and look at the painting for a little while. As she steps into the TARDIS, she mentions that the gallery’s curator was looking for him. He muses that he would be a great curator, and a deep voice agrees with him. The Doctor is astonished to see a very familiar face as the Curator arrives, looking very much like the Fourth Doctor.

The Curator suggests that the Doctor may revisit a few of his old faces before turning to the painting. He points out that everyone screws up the title of the painting: It is neither Gallifrey Falls nor No More, but rather Gallifrey Falls No More.

Gallifrey survived, and now the Doctor is tasked with finding it. The mission is now returning it and all its people to the universe.

Later on, the Doctor speaks of his dreams. In a vision, he walks through the TARDIS doors to join his previous incarnations as they stare at the planet Gallifrey above. He is destined to go home, even if it takes him the long way around.


First and foremost, I adore this episode. It is littered with nods to the franchise’s mythology, but more salient, it tackles some important concepts with the Doctor’s character.

During the revival era, the Last Great Time War has hung over the Doctor’s head. The Ninth Doctor was fresh from that conflict and obviously suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from the magnitude of his choices. The Tenth Doctor and the Eleventh Doctor carried this weight as shown in this story.

The beauty of this story is that it retains the show’s history – the Doctor’s incarnations before now do not remember saving Gallifrey, so none of the motivations or choices made have changed – but absolution and redemption are offered for everyone involved, especially the Eleventh Doctor. Even though it is temporary, the senses of forgiveness and relief are important for the War Doctor and the Tenth Doctor and definitely shed a different light on the episodes we’ve seen to this point.

I love how the destruction of Gallifrey was driven by Clara, thus allowing a sense of humanity to temper the decisions of the Time Lord. This has been a constant over Doctor Who‘s history and was used to great effect here.

I do question how every incarnation of the Doctor knew to calculate the salvation of Gallifrey. Earlier, the sonic screwdrivers drove the point that the shell may change but the software remains the same, but those calculations were started by the War Doctor and matured with the Eleventh Doctor. In reverse, the idea to save Gallifrey seems to propagate from Eleven to War to Ten, a path that is far from linear. In fact, it’s wibbly-wobbly, which describes the Doctor to a tee.

Speaking of, I am so glad that the writers were able to give the War Doctor such brilliant insights into the revival era’s use of sonic screwdrivers. They’re not magic wands or water pistols, and the Doctor’s not going to assemble a cabinet at an enemy. I love his view on these scientific instruments.


Shifting gears, as much as I love the War Doctor and John Hurt, I really wish that Steven Moffat hadn’t needed to introduce him.

I get the reasons why: Christopher Eccleston did not want to return after how he was treated in the role, and he was less than impressed with the script when it was sent to him. What I don’t understand is why Paul McGann couldn’t have filled the same role.

Yes, I also love The Night of the Doctor, but it was developed as part of this whole story arc. Realistically, the Eighth Doctor could have been the incarnation that engaged in the Time War after seeing how Cass Fermazzi was willing to sacrifice her own life to avoid traveling with a Time Lord. This would effectively avoid the Stuffed into the Fridge trope (since Cass isn’t a loved one being used to motivate the hero) and could give us far more screen time for Paul McGann than just a TV movie and a webcast short.

It would have avoided the thirteen lives complications that developed from introducing another Doctor (which we’ll obviously cover during The Time of the Doctor) and would have still avoided the need for Christopher Eccelston’s involvement.

Everything else in The Day of the Doctor could have remained the same.

As much as I adore John Hurt and his performance here, the War Doctor needlessly complicated things, which apparently stemmed from Steven Moffat’s desire to have a “complete set” of regenerations before his departure. From what I can tell, that’s a rumor, but… yeah.


No look at the fiftieth anniversary special would be complete without a look at the mythology.

I have linked a good number of the mythological callbacks, but there are still quite a few favorites that jumped out in the course of this celebration. One of them is the set design, particularly the roundels (“the round things”) in the War Doctor’s TARDIS and in the Curator’s gallery. The War Doctor’s TARDIS design is a fun mix between the classic era (not counting the TV movie) and the coral motif that kicked off the revival era. The Curator’s gallery adds the hexagons to the roundels, tying the classic and revival eras together.

The Brigadier’s space-time telegraph made a notable appearance in the Black Archive. It was prominently featured in Revenge of the Cybermen and Terror of the Zygons, the latter of which was our last meeting with the Zygons. That portion of the story also showcased one of my favorite Osgood moments as she and her doppelgänger share their identities over her asthma inhaler.

The Day of the Doctor marks the last salvo fired in the Last Great Time War, a confrontation that began in Genesis of the Daleks. Russell T Davies stated in an episode of Doctor Who Confidential that the origins of the war that he envisioned began when the Time Lords struck first – the attempted genocide of the Daleks – in the Fourth Doctor’s era. This idea was repeated by RTD in Doctor Who Annual 2006, and was adapted in Hunters of the Burning Stone, a 2013 comic story published in Doctor Who Magazine as part of the 50th-anniversary celebration. The comic was written by Scott Gray and served as a sequel to An Unearthly Child, though it was the Eleventh Doctor in the lead with Ian and Barbara.

The Black Archive pinboards hold tons of photo references to the franchise’s history, including: Susan Foreman; Barbara Wright & Ian Chesterton; Vicki Pallister; Katarina & Sara Kingdom; Steven Taylor; Dodo Chaplet; Ben Jackson & Polly Wright; Victoria Waterfield; Zoe Heriot; Liz Shaw; Captain Mike Yates; Harry Sullivan & Warrant Officer John Benton; Leela; Romana I; Romana II; Adric; Nyssa; Tegan Jovanka; Kamelion & Vislor Turlough; Jamie McCrimmon; Peri Brown; Melanie Bush; Brigadier Winifred Bambera; Ace McShane; Grace Holloway; Adam Mitchell (why?); K-9 Mark III; Lieutenant General Sanchez; Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart; UNIT Captain Erisa Magambo; Donna Noble, Martha Jones, Mickey Smith, Rose Tyler, & Wilfred Mott; Jo Grant; Jack Harkness; Craig Owens (again, why?); Sarah Jane Smith;
Amy Pond & Rory Williams; River Song; Kate Stewart; and Clara Oswald.

Finally, that moment. The all thirteen moment. The moment that made me jump out of my seat and cheer. The moment that makes me grin from ear to ear every time I see it.

It was amazing to see all of the Doctors on screen, interacting with each other to save their home. Since many of them are no longer with us, it was also fun to see exactly where the producers sourced the footage to bring this moment together.

  • The First Doctor’s footage came from The Daleks (specifically “The Dead Planet”), and his voice was newly recorded audio by John Guilor (who also voiced the First Doctor in the reconstruction of Planet of Giants).
  • The Second Doctor’s footage came from The Tomb of the Cybermen and The Mind Robber, and his audio came from The Seeds of Death.
  • The Third Doctor’s footage came from Colony in Space – the re-used footage was flipped from the original – and the audio came from The Green Death.
  • The Fourth Doctor’s footage came from Planet of Evil – again, the re-used footage was flipped – but the audio (“Ready.”) has yet to be identified.
  • The Fifth Doctor’s footage was sourced from Frontios and the audio came from The Five Doctors.
  • The Sixth Doctor’s footage and audio were sourced from the same story: Attack of the Cybermen.
  • The Seventh Doctor’s (flipped) footage and audio came from Battlefield, but the producers also used some footage from the TV movie.
  • The Eighth Doctor’s footage came from the TV movie. The audio (“Commencing calculations.”) hasn’t been identified.
  • Finally, the Ninth Doctor’s footage came from Rose and The Parting of the Ways (“And for my next trick…”), along with some footage from Aliens of London.

The sheer amount of work and research required to make this climactic scene come to life amazes me.


Finally, I want to take a look at three smaller items before closing this out.

First, The Last Day: It was a quick and easy prequel story. The biggest thing that came from it was a desire to know more about the soldiers and the headcams.

Second, the visual salute to Christopher Eccleston’s legacy in the regeneration. Steven Moffat didn’t want to include an image of Eccleston in the regeneration sequence because it would have been “crossing the line” by implying that he had been on set. So, there are hints as John Hurt morphs into Christopher Eccleston, but the camera cuts away just in time to give us the impression of what comes next. Of course, as implied by the novelization of this story, the Ninth Doctor broke every mirror in the TARDIS just after regeneration because he couldn’t face himself. That adds a new dimension to his first glance in the mirror in Rose.

The last is the novelization of The Day of the Doctor. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, pick it up. It tells the story of the TV episode but breaks the chapters into narratives by the War Doctor, the Tenth Doctor, the Eleventh Doctor, Petronella Osgood and the Zygons, the Twelfth Doctor, and even the Thirteenth Doctor. It expands a lot of the characters and scenes, and it also adds a few additional insights and inside gags, including some time with Peter Cushing’s Dr. Who. While I don’t generally lean on the expanded media for information, this is written by Steven Moffat so I consider it a bit more authoritative. Chapter 9 (“The Truth of the Doctor”) is a hoot.

It’s a quick read and well worth the time.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot

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The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – The Fourteenth Doctor

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
The Fourteenth Doctor
May 9, 2022

This week, I changed course mid-stream because the BBC dropped some big news on Sunday morning: Ncuti Gatwa will be the Fourteenth Doctor!

Ncuti Gatwa (pronounced SHOO-tee GAT-wah) is a Rwandan-Scottish actor best known for his role as Eric Effiong on Netflix’s Sex Education. In that role, he has been nominated for 15 different awards and has won seven of them. He is the first Doctor Who lead to be born after the classic era ended (not counting the TV movie), the first Doctor Who lead to be born outside the United Kingdom, and the first black actor to lead the show.

Notably, Jo Martin was the first black actor cast as the Doctor, but she’s always been credited as a guest star (as the Fugitive Doctor).

I’m excited about this casting because I don’t know the actor. That’s perfect for me when it comes to the Doctor. Oddsmakers and internet rumormongers suggested that several big names in the UK could take over when Jodie Whittaker leaves the role, including a return of David Tennant. I’m glad that the casting choice is someone who is relatively unknown.

Our first look at Ncuti Gatwa as the Doctor will likely be during the BBC Centenary Special in October, an episode that will mark the regeneration from the Thirteenth to the Fourteenth Doctor. After that episode, we’ll have to wait until the 60th Anniversary Special in 2023 for his first full story.

He’s also appearing in 2023 Barbie film starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling.

Ncuti_Gatwa
Ncuti Gatwa – Instagram (@bbcdoctorwho)

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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #249: Clara and the TARDIS & Rain Gods & The Inforarium

Doctor Who: Clara and the TARDIS
Doctor Who: Rain Gods
Doctor Who: The Inforarium

(3 episodes, Blu-Ray Specials, 2013)

Timestamp 249 Clara TARDIS Rain Gods Inforarium

Tying off loose threads before the anniversary party.

Clara and the TARDIS

Clara Oswald gets into an argument with the TARDIS. It seems that the TARDIS is playing practical jokes on her in the shower and making her bedroom disappear. The time capsule compares Clara to his various female companions, and despite them coming to somewhat of a truce, the TARDIS can’t help but pull one more trick.

Clara can’t find her bedroom, and neither can Clara from the next day. Or the next. Or the next.

The console room fills with copies of sleep-deprived Claras.

Rain Gods

The Doctor and River Song are being marched by spearpoint to be sacrificed by natives to their Rain Gods. The couple banter back and forth until the Doctor demands that the Rain Gods strike him dead if they aren’t rubbish.

A lightning strike forces their guards to cower, and the couple runs off in the ensuring rainstorm to the safety of the TARDIS.

The Inforarium

The Inforarium is the greatest source of illicit information in recorded history… and it has been compromised. The Doctor has broken in, upset that the operatives have been selling that information to his enemies. He tells the guard that he will be erasing all traces of himself from their database, making everyone forget what they’ve heard through means he’d adapted from the Silence.

The Doctor, truly a holographic recording, continues to dismiss the guard’s complacency and suggests that he check the data drives. The guard turns away, completely forgetting the whole interaction, unaware that he’s trapped in a memory loop.

So, the message begins again.


These three home media shorts present some fun slices of life for this season. One of them actually has some meat on the bone as far as the series mythology is concerned.

The first two are frivolous throwaway stories: Clara and the TARDIS plays with the belief that the TARDIS doesn’t like Clara, a story element that was resolved with her mystery. Rain Gods adapts an unused opening sequence from The Doctor’s Wife, replacing the Ponds with River Song.

Of note, the opening for Rain Gods credits Steven Moffat as the writer, but it was actually Neil Gaiman, making this the first on-screen story featuring River to not be penned by Moffat. It’s also one of the shortest Doctor Who stories ever.

The short with the most bearing on this season’s events is The Inforarium, an adventure that shows how the Doctor was able to erase his existence leading to the events at Trenzalore. It is equal parts hilarious and chilling, and I feel a little bit sorry for the guard who is trapped in an endless loop.

These stories fill a few gaps that didn’t need sealing. They are presented here as the last bit of story material leading into the fiftieth-anniversary celebration and the Eleventh Doctor’s regeneration.

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor

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The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #248: The Name of the Doctor

Doctor Who: The Name of the Doctor
(1 episode, s07e13, 2013)

Timestamp 248 The Name of the Doctor

The prophecy of Trenzalore comes to call.

Clarence and the Whispermen

Locked away in a jail, serial killer Clarence DeMarco shouts at whispering inhuman creatures. He insists that they are nothing more than voices in his head and asks them to stop. The Whisper Men vanish, then reappear inside the cell, demanding to find the Doctor.

The Whisper Men project Gallifreyan symbols in the air, forcibly impressing them into his mind with an instruction to bring the message to the reptile detective. They are part of the Intelligence and promise that if Clarence cooperates, he will be pardoned and will live a good long life only troubled by dreams.

He cries to be left alone. The creatures pass by him.

She Said, He Said

The story is divided into two parts: “Clara” and “The Doctor”.

Clara’s monologue walks down memory lane about her adventures with the Doctor and what it has done to her. She’s forgotten to ask who he is and why he runs. Then she found out at Trenzalore.

The Doctor’s monologue focuses on Clara’s impossibility and his meetings with her, from the Dalek Asylum and Victorian London to his current run with her.

Each part acts as a tribute to the other… as well as a warning about the darkness in the relationship and its secrets.

The Name of the Doctor

In a workshop, two engineers respond to an alarm. A supposed idiot, the First Doctor, is trying to steal a faulty TARDIS from the capital city of Gallifrey, and Clara Oswald tells him that he is making a big mistake.

Clara falls through a golden vortex. She does not know where she is but remembers one thing: The Doctor. She has appeared at various points in his life but few of those incarnations ever notice her. The Eleventh Doctor is an exception when she calls to him in Victorian London.

She blew into this world on a leaf and doesn’t believe she’ll ever land. She’s the Impossible Girl and she was born to save the Doctor.

In Victorian London, Madame Vastra visits Clarence DeMarco at his jail cell. He murdered fourteen women and is sentenced to death, but he bargains for his life with information about the Doctor. The Doctor has a secret that he will take to the grave, and it is discovered.

Later on, Vastra consults with Jenny, explaining that Clarence will live until she understands what he told her. They make preparations for a conference call to investigate further. Jenny hears a strange whisper from outside as Vastra wonders where Strax has gone. The Sontaran has the weekend off, much to Vastra’s displeasure at his chosen locale.

In Glasgow, a familiar Sontar-Ha is heard as Strax fights a large Scottish man. They are interrupted by a boy carrying a telegram, summoning Strax to the conference call. Strax apologizes to Archie, his opponent, for not being able to finish the match, then asks to be rendered unconscious. He drops into the trance-like conference call, an astral projection of sorts, of which Jenny complements the new desktop.

While working on a soufflé on April 10, 2013, Clara gets an invitation to the conference call. The letter has come from Vastra and drugs her so she enters the dream state. The final participant, River Song, pops in soon afterward, and the meeting commences with introductions of the Doctor’s wife to his current companion.

Vastra presents Clarence’s message, a grouping of Gallifreyan symbols, which River identifies as space-time coordinates. They are the location of the Doctor’s greatest secret, his name, which River knows. Vastra shares the single word from Clarence: Trenzalore.

Outside of the conference call, someone skulks around Jenny. Unfortunately, her form fades away as she is murdered by the Whisper Men. River forces everyone to wake up as the face of Dr. Simeon appears, stating that the Doctor’s friends are lost forever more unless he goes to Trenzalore.

When Clara awakens, she finds the Doctor blindfolded, playing Blind Man’s Bluff so they could sneak away to the cinema. The Doctor is annoyed but then realizes that Clara is troubled. They discuss the call over tea and the Doctor is brought to tears over Trenzalore. He runs to the TARDIS where Clara finds him under the console. The Doctor connects Clara to the TARDIS so she can telepathically transmit the coordinates she saw to the time capsule.

“When you are a time traveler, there is one place you must never go. One place in all of space and time you must never — ever — find yourself.” Trenzalore is the Doctor’s grave, and it is the one place he must never go, however, he owes his friends and they must be saved.

The Doctor sets the course but the TARDIS rebels, fighting the transit while he forces her onward. The TARDIS refuses to land on the actual site, so it parks in orbit and the travelers take a look upon the torn and battered planet. The Doctor shuts everything else down and forces the TARDIS to plummet to the surface, cracking the exterior glass in the process.

They find a battlefield graveyard. Some headstones are larger than others, based on the importance of the warrior. On the summit ahead rests the TARDIS, abnormally outsized as the “bigger on the inside” qualities start to break down and leak beyond the shell.

The TARDIS is the Doctor’s tomb.

River contacts Clara as the Doctor climbs on, an echo of the conference call which River left open. The Doctor cannot see her but spots her gravestone among the others. As he ponders how it can possibly be here, they are approached by the Whisper Men as River and Clara work out that the gravestone is the entrance to the tomb.

Inside the TARDIS monument, the Paternosters awaken and Strax revives Jenny from death. They are approached by the Great Intelligence and the Whisper Men, who welcome them to the final resting place of the great tyrant known as the Doctor.

Clara and the Doctor navigate the catacombs as River explains her death to Clara. The duo is pursued by Whisper Men. They are driven to the Paternoster Gang where the Intelligence proclaims that the Doctor’s final battle was not as large as the Time War but he has blood on his hands. He also remarks that the Doctor will be known by names such as the Beast and the Valeyard.

Clara has flashbacks to climbing through a wrecked TARDIS, an adventure that she shouldn’t remember. The Great Intelligence demands the key that will open the Doctor’s tomb, hissing that it is the Doctor’s real name. He threatens the Doctor’s friends with death if the Time Lord does not comply. The Great Intelligence keeps asking The First Question until the tomb opens.

The TARDIS can still hear River’s projection, so she supplied his name to keep the secret safe.

Inside the doors lies an overgrown control room. Where the time rotor would normally rest is a flowing beam of blue-white light. That is the Doctor’s mark on the universe. Rather than his body, his travels in time have left a scar representing his personal timeline, past and future, and everything that resulted from it.

The Doctor collapses from his proximity to it. When he points his sonic screwdriver at it, the voices of his previous incarnations flow from it. The Great Intelligence approaches the light, intent on rewriting the Doctor’s history and turning all of his victories into failures. The act will scatter him across the Doctor’s timeline.

As the Intelligence steps into the light, the Doctor writhes in pain as his very existence is rewritten. Vastra declares that a universe without the Doctor will have consequences. She flees outside in terror and sees the stars go dark as entire star systems are erased from history. Jenny, once saved by the Doctor, is erased as Strax turns hostile and must be vaporized.

Despite protests from River and the Doctor, Clara decides to act. With the phrase that has pursued her since the Doctor met her – “Run, you clever boy, and remember me.” – she jumps into the light and is split into millions of copies throughout history, each one setting right what the Great Intelligence has put wrong.

She even tells the First Doctor which TARDIS to steal. After all, a broken navigation system will be much more fun.

With Clara’s influence fixing the timeline, the Doctor decides to rescue her, using himself as Clara’s advantage. River protests, but the Doctor tells her that he can always see her even when no one else can. There is a time to live and a time to sleep, and while he has a hard time saying goodbye, it’s only because he doesn’t know how.

With her help, he tells her goodbye with the promise that they’ll see each other again. She also reminds him that, since she was telepathically linked to Clara, then she cannot truly be dead. To tell him the details, however, would be a spoiler.

As River dissipates, the Doctor enters his own timestream.

Clara falls to the ground inside the timestream and she wonders what’s left for her to accomplish in the Doctor’s timeline. The Eleventh Doctor’s voice guides her through the figures of his previous incarnations, telling her to focus on the sight of a leaf as her guide. Using it, she is reunited with the Doctor.

Beyond their embrace, Clara sees a shadowy figure. The Doctor shows intense fear at the sight, explaining that the figure is him, but Clara doesn’t understand.

The name Doctor is a promise, but this figure broke the promise. He is the Doctor’s secret. The figure defends his actions as Clara collapses, but the Eleventh Doctor turns away.

This new man is the Doctor… but not one we were expecting.


Clara’s mystery finally comes to a head here as her various incarnations are explained. All three of them were her, just in different splintered ways. This is the big part of Clara’s run that I really enjoy. The other is her initiative, which has been highlighted over her run.

This relationship proves to be an ontological paradox – a causal loop – since the Doctor might not have invited the modern-day Clara Oswald to travel as his companion had he not encountered Oswin and Victorian Clara, however, if she had not traveled with him, those echoes would have never existed.

She’s been with the Doctor since the beginning of his travels – key dialogue here was taken from The Web Planet providing some degree of influence at key moments. Of those moments, we get callbacks to The Five Doctors (Second and Third Doctors), The Invasion of Time (Fourth Doctor), The Arc of Infinity (Fifth Doctor), and Dragonfire (Seventh Doctor). Clara also seems to have influenced The Aztecs and The Web of Fear in her removal of the Great Intelligence’s interference.

This also marks the end of the Great Intelligence from the perspective of the show itself. The entity was splintered into infinite pieces across the Doctor’s timeline but then was systematically eradicated by Clara. The difference is that no one came to guide the Great Intelligence out of the Doctor’s timestream, so we have no reason to believe that it survived.

Clara’s adventure reveals the continuation of events from The Night of the Doctor, establishing a previously unknown incarnation between the Eighth and Ninth Doctors. It perpetuates a continuity re-write – far from the first in the franchise – based around the unfortunate behind-the-scenes drama of the Christopher Eccleston era. This change in continuity will come to a head in Day of the Doctor.

There’s certainly a lot of world-building in this single story, both in terms of resolutions and groundwork for the future. I found it all quite enjoyable, and remember it to be quite shocking when I first saw it.

With the rest of the Timestamps Project for context, I certainly appreciate the attention to detail in portraying the Doctors. Not only do we have twelve incarnations sharing the same airtime (a record number to this point), but we also got to see both versions (to this point) of the First Doctor in William Hartnell and Richard Hurndall.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Clara and the TARDIS & Doctor Who: Rain Gods & Doctor Who: The Inforarium

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The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.