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 It Takes You Away. 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?
In some ways, It Takes You Away is more of a full on homage to the worlds of Stephen King than to Doctor Who itself. But that didn’t stop it from having plenty of reflections in the mirror world of Doctor Who gone by.
The Doctor claims she can tell you detailed information about her surroundings – right down to the TripAdvisor rating of the nearest cafe – just by giving some local dirt a good chew. It Takes You Away isn’t the first time the we’ve seen this type of odd taste-related ability in Doctor Who. The Tenth Doctor used to find out what things were made of by licking them on a pretty regular basis. Doors, radios, everything was fair game. One of the very first things he did was divine the blood type being controlled by the Sycorax by taste alone. Matt Smith’s Doctor would get up to such things too. Most notably he tried to solve the mystery of ‘Impossible Girl’ Clara Oswald by licking her leaf. (That’s absolutely not a euphemism.)
Cabin (Not Actually) Under Siege
It Takes You Away is a story which offers up one scenario before it pivots away in a completely different direction. Perhaps to underline how different the final story is from traditional Doctor Who, that first impression is very traditional. It has an isolated location, people mysteriously vanishing, and something unseen outside wanting to get in. Up until the twist, it’s very much the beginnings of a standard Base Under Siege story.
Mirror, Mirror World
It turns out that the real threat comes not from outside, but from an entire universe contained in a mirror within the house itself. But that’s not entirely without precedent either. Back in 1981’s Warriors’ Gate, the Doctor, K9, Romana and Adric encounter a world beyond a mirror. Attempting to escape the pocket universe of E-Space the TARDIS had landed them in a place where co-ordinates read zero. Soon they realized they’re trapped in this buffer zone between universes. Unlike the Anti-Zone of It Takes You Away, however, it was a zone of bright white light rather than infinite darkness. There they found the mirror which is a gateway to another universe beyond. Ultimately Romana and K9 stay behind on the other side of the mirror to help the people there, while the Doctor succeeds in returning to his own universe with Adric.
Reverse the Polarity of the Nostaglia Flow
Blogtor Who could be wrong, but I suspect one or two of you may have caught this subtle little reference. When the Solitract adapts to the Doctor’s method of opening the mirror portal, the Doctor is momentarily baffled. But then Yaz suggests ‘reversing the polarity’ of the sonic screwdriver. As the Doctor says, Yaz is ‘talking [her] language’. The Doctor’s a dab hand of reversing the polarity of various things, especially neutron flows. She first did it back in 1972’s The Sea Devils when reversing the polarity of some Sea Devil machinery blows up their entire underwater base. Many other things get their neutron flow polaraties reversed over the years. Including force fields (The Five Doctors), space ships (Mawdryn Undead), and Mire battle helmets (The Girl Who Died).
But it’s not just neutron flows. A power exchanger in The Daemons, a time machine in City of Death, Lazarus’ machine in The Lazarus Experiment, among many, more things have gotten their polarity reversed by the Doctor at one or another. Memorably, in The Day of the Doctor, the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors simultaneously try to reverse the polarity of the Moment’s time portal – resulting in them simply ‘confusing the polarity’.
In the Beginning was the Frog, and the Frog was Good
It Takes You Away ultimately see the sentient universe that is the Solitract adopt the form of a frog. Frogs have often been a crucial part of creation myths around the world – probably due to the fact that they utterly transform during their lives. In Chinese myths, for instance, a Frog gives birth to the land and sacrifices itself to allow its body parts be used to make the sky. Meanwhile some Native American traditions the Earth is crafted on the back of a frog, Hanyi. And in ancient Mongol creation myths Buddha used a frog to create the Earth.
So it’s no surprise that the Solitract – god of its own universe – is pleased greatly by the idea of being a frog. Nor that Doctor Who has hit upon similar ground before…
In 1982’s Four to Doomsday, we meet Monarch. Monarch is a giant alien frog with a mission. He wants to go back in time to the very beginning of the universe and meet God. Because, and this is the clever bit, Monarch believes he is God. He wants to witness himself create the universe and therefore confirm his conviction that he was God all along. (Spoiler Alert: it turns out Monarch isn’t God, he’s just a very naughty frog.)
The adventure continues…
Doctor Who concludes this Sunday at 6.30pm GMT on BBC One and at 8pm EST on BBC America with The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos by Chris Chibnall. For further broadcast times in your region, check local listings. Series 11 stars Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien) and Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair).
The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos guest stars Mark Addy (Paltraki), Phyllis Logan (Andinio), and Percelle Ascott (Delph) and is directed by Jamie Childs.
On the planet of Ranskoor Av Kolos, lies the remains of a brutal battlefield. But as the Doctor, Graham, Yaz and Ryan answer nine separate distress calls, they discover the planet holds far more secrets. Who is the mysterious commander with no memory? What lies beyond the mists? Who or what are the Ux?
The answers will lead the Doctor and her friends towards a deadly reckoning.