Once again this series of Doctor Who, Blogtor Who will look at all the nods and references to adventures which have gone before. 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?
Peter Capaldi’s Trousers
The Doctor spends The Woman Who Fell to Earth dashing about in the clothes of a white haired Scotsman. One much taller than her, and just generally of a completely different build. By rights she should really spend the whole hour – massive death defying leaps and all – with her waistband clutched tightly in one hand to stop her trousers falling down. But the new Doctor spending time in their predecessor’s costume is an age old Doctor Who tradition. As is that old costume fitting them surprisingly well.
When David Tennant took over Doctor Who, not only did the Doctor regenerate with a full head of hair gel but Christopher Eccleston’s belt seems to have automatically adjusted itself several notches to save his blushes (and Rose’s). At the opposite end, Matt Smith spent The Eleventh Hour wearing David Tennant’s stunt trousers. These pants, designed to fit a safety harness under, were needed as the Tenth Doctor’s regular pair were too slim. Meanwhile Colin Baker had to have an extra panel cut into Peter Davison’s stripy pants for them to fit (while, to Davison’s amusement he himself would wind up having to use that same specially expanded pair for Time Crash a quarter of a century later).
Back in 1970 Doctor Who exiled its lead character to Earth without a working TARDIS. But that didn’t last long and he was soon established instead as a ‘cosmic yo-yo’. He was able to make occasional trips into space and time. But he was always pulled back to Earth after each journey, unable to wonder continuously from place to place.
The end of The Woman Who Fell to Earth hints at a similar pattern. Operating out of her makeshift workshop, the Doctor has a new machine to send her on adventures. One with a fast return switch style ‘recall’ which means she has to go back to Earth each time. And while much of the Pertwee era was against a backdrop of trying to repair the TARDIS, here the Doctor’s trying to find it. The Doctor’s new workshop even looks a little like her UNIT lab in Terror of the Autons.
Murray Gold had a massive ten season run as Doctor Who’s composer. But before Gold many Doctor Who soundtracks were provided by members of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The Woman Who Fell to Earth sees the debut of a brand new composer, Segun Akinola. The whole vibe of his soundtrack is reminiscent of the 1980s hey day of the Workshop. But it’s his reinvention of the Doctor Who theme that’s truly old school. Outside of 50th Anniversary special The Day of the Doctor, this is probably the clearest the legendary Delia Derbyshire’s original work has figured in a revamped version. Haunting and beautiful and alien.
Speaking of the 60s, it used to be a regular thing, back in the day, for the last scene of a Doctor Who serial to be almost completely unrelated to the adventure the Doctor, Barbara, Susan and Ian had just had. Instead it would effectively be the first scene of their next adventure. And the episode would end in an abrupt cliffhanger that only hinted at the true terrors to come. Chris Chibnall reuses that structure for The Woman Who Fell to Earth. Everything from the Doctor’s clothes shopping on is essentially a new story, and ends with the team (gang? Fam?) being whisked away only to find themselves instantly in deadly danger. It’s so Hartnell you could slap a wig on it and call it Billy.
This is the second time Doctor Who’s featured a grandchild/grandfather team among the Doctor’s best friends (unless you count Tegan’s grandfather in The Awakening). At times Graham O’Brien seems to channel a little of Wilf’s twinkle. They’re both adorable and caring and lend humour to the gang. Meanwhile Graham’s ‘always ask a bus drive’ routine has echoes of Wilf’s Silver Cloak gang. (And I’m dearly hoping it turns into a running gag involving bus drivers on alien planets and throughout history) But whlle Wilf was excited and amazed by the wonders of the Doctor’s life, Graham is the one most likely to point out the lunacy of deliberately running after the monster rather than in the opposite direction.
Kane, Meet Tim. Tim, Meet Kane
The Woman Who Fell to Earth’s villain has a cousin to be found in 20th century Doctor Who. Tim Shaw comes from a planet so cold he needs a special environment suit to survive on Earth. Even in the balmy tropical heat of, um, Sheffield. His skin is also cold it freezer burns to death anyone he grabs by the face. Back in 1987, Dragonfire set the Doctor, Mel and Ace against the villainous Kane. He too was from a planet so cold he couldn’t survive at normal human temperatures. He even had to recuperate in a special freezer chamber. And like Tim Shaw he could burn flesh with his cold skin.
By a strange parallel, Doctor Who’s Dragonfire also features an alien ‘dragon’ with more than a little debt to HR Giger’s famous Alien design while ritualistic hunter Tim Shaw isn’t a million miles away from the Alien’s famous rival the Predator.
Post regeneration hijinks
Yes, this is a bit of an obvious one, granted. But the Thirteenth Doctor’s first night features a number of call backs to previous regeneration stories. Her survival of that epic thousand foot fall seems to be down to the same ‘first fifteen hours of my regeneration cycle’ that allowed the Tenth Doctor to regrow a hand. She also spews up golden regenerative energy in a similar way to the Tenth and Eleventh.
Like the Third, Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, Tenth and Twelfth Doctors she collapses into a healing coma for part of the story and, like the Tenth again, complains about having been woken too soon. And like the Third (eyebrows), Fourth (nose), Ninth (ears),Tenth (teeth). Eleventh (legs) and Twelfth (er… kidneys), she finds at least one body part to single out for delight or dismay. Although her ability to fit almost an entire finger up her ‘so reliable’ nose is a new one for Doctor Who.
The Doctor’s new clothes
The Woman Who Fell to Earth is fundamentally a regeneration story. And what would a regeneration story be without a scene where the Doctor picks out their new clothes? Well, it would be The Power of the Daleks in which the Doctor’s very clothes regenerated into his new outfit instantly, along with his face. Or Deep Breath, actually, where he just pops off in the TARDIS and returns sometime later, from our perspective, fully dressed.
But after three times robbing their clothes from hospitals, and four times finding them in the TARDIS wardrobe, this is Doctor Who’s first charity shop costume scene. Though the Doctor still manages to get her stuff for free by getting Yaz to buy them for her. The charity shop’s a real place (the Kidney Research UK shop on Cowbridge Road n Cardiff) for all you Thirteenth Doctor cosplayers that want a go in a suddenly iconic changing room. But if you do, please make sure to buy something while you’re there!
These are the things that we noticed. Let us know what you saw if they don’t appear above.
The adventure continues…
Doctor Who continues on BBC One at 6.55pm this Sunday with The Ghost Monument by Chris Chibnall. Series 11 stars Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), and Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair).
Still reeling from their first encounter, can the Doctor and her new friends stay alive long enough in a hostile alien environment to solve the mystery of Desolation? And just who are Angstrom and Epzo?