Once again for this series of Doctor Who, Blogtor Who is looking at all the nods and references to adventures which have gone before. This time its the turn of Can You Hear Me Now? So even if you are not already a Mastermind expert on all things in the Whoniverse you can appreciate the little detail as well. Perhaps you are a very knowledgeable Whovian already but did you spot them all?
Oh Zellin, you old namedropper, you. In Can You Hear Me? the sadistic immortal game-player name checks the Doctor Who pantheon of old school god-like being in style. All have actually appeared in the show before, as detailed below.
The Eternals have their games…
The Eternals were introduced in the 1983 story Enlightenment. Incredibly powerful beings doomed to exist from one end of eternity to the other their constant companion was boredom. Like Zellin in Can You Hear Me? they use humans as pawns in their games, but unlike Zellin they’re not malign or sadistic and always put their ‘toys’ back where they came from. More or less. When we first meet them they’re competing in a race against each other around the solar system. In sailing ships. And the ships are crewed by sailors abducted from their own time and place and mentally conditioned. Crew who see nothing odd about pulling on spacesuits when they need to climb the mast to fix the rigging.
But perhaps the greatest mark of just how otherwordly and vast the Eternals are is in the Eternal Captain Striker’s response to learning the Doctor’s identity. “A lord of time. Are there lords in such a small domain?”
…the Guardians have their power struggles…
But in Enlightenment, the Eternals are themselves revealed to be pawns in a game between two even more powerful beings! The White Guardian and the Black Guardian are the basic balancing force of the universe. One representing Order and the other Chaos. The two have battled across the entire history of the universe and crossed the Doctor’s path more than once.
In fact back in 1978, they played a major role in Doctor Who’s very first season long story arc. The Key to Time detailed the Doctor’s mission for the White Guardian to retrieve the six pieces of the Key to Time, the Doctor Who universe’s answer to the Infinity Gauntlet. With it, the cosmos could be reset and its survival for eons to come assured. It’s a process that sounds an awful lot like turning the universe off and on again to clear up memory. Naturally, the Black Guardian wanted the Key for himself in order to spread chaos and death.
They return for 1983’s Black Guardian Trilogy, another arc plot across multiple stories, with the Black Guardian seeking revenge on the Doctor. It also introduced a new companion, Turlough. But in a daring stretch of the show’s format, Turlough was actually an agent of the Black Guardian on a mission to kill the Doctor! But it should be pointed out that while he’s dedicated to order and stability, even the White Guardian leaves his agents little choice. He assures the Doctor, for instance, that “nothing” will happen to him if he refuses. “Ever again.”
Naturally, the Black and White Guardians dress according to their titles. Which also provided a nice bit of misdirection for viewers of Can You Hear Me? In the early scenes, Zellin and Rakaya’s black and white clothes will have left some suspecting they were the Guardians.
… the Toymaker would approve.
The Toymaker is the original Doctor Who immortal. Facing off against the First Doctor in 1966’s The Celestial Toymaker, thirty-seven years before Can You Hear Me? he set the archetype. A terminally bored immortal living in the Celestial Toyroom, a dimension adjacent to, but separate from, our universe, he trapped people in his world to become his playthings forever. Literally transforming people into playing cards, dolls, and fictional characters, he made newcomers play against his toys in rigged games. Although the Doctor escapes him twice (the television story is explained as a rematch between them) there remains a sense that the Toymaker will catch up to him one day. And there’s an added pathos to the fact that he pits his current and former victims against each other.
Doctor Who continues at 7.10pm this Sunday on with The Haunting of Villa Diodati
‘Nobody mention Frankenstein. Nobody interfere. Nobody snog Byron.’ Should be easy, right?
The Doctor and her gang arrive at the Villa Diodati at Lake Geneva in 1816 on the night that inspired Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The plan is to spend the evening soaking up the atmos in the presence of some literary greats, but the ghosts are all too real, and the Doctor is forced into a decision of earth-shattering proportions.
Series 12 stars Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham), Mandip Gill (Yaz) and Tosin Cole (Ryan), with Chris Chibnall as Showrunner and Matt Strevens Executive Producing. The Haunting of Villa Diodati guest stars Lili Miller (Mary Shelley), Jacob Collins-Levy (Lord Byron), Lewis Rainer (Percy Bysse Shelley), Maxim Baldry (Dr John Polidori). It’s written by Maxine Alderton and Chris Chibnall, and directed by Emma Sullivan.