Doctor Who has been full of lovely self-references and in-jokes over the years; some obvious, some not so obvious (and some probably the result of a bored mind). Collected here are some of Blogtor’s personal favourites. Incidentally, I’ve resisted using any use of the question “Doctor who?” as this will be the focus of another list coming soon…


A nice, quick and obvious one to kick off with. The Poison Sky in
2008 very specifically referenced 2005’s The Empty Child with Davey T’s
Doctor asking a bemused Colonel Mace, “Are you my mummy?” Oddly, he
doesn’t reply or ask, “What you talkin’ about you weirdo?” Mind you, we wouldn’t have heard him if he had due to our
collective guffaws.

Ok, this one is a slight cheat. And a crossover with The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy at that. Check out Tommy B having a read of Oolon Colluphid’s book The Origins of the Universe and being rather disdainful about its accuracy. Of course, Oolon was mentioned in the aforementioned Hitchhikers, which was written by Douglas Adams – the script editor on this season of Doctor Who.

Actual in-japery can be found in the amusing opening sequence where Romana tries on some new regenerations before deciding on Lalla Ward.


This joke wouldn’t really have
worked with Peter Davison at the helm – “Saturday! Good! Good. I like
Saturdays!” proclaims The Tenth Doctor (despite it being the end of the
universe – apparently). Can’t imagine The Fifth Doctor saying “I like Mondays!”
Anyway, it’s a knowing nod to the very day that Doctor Who is synonymous with – for many of us, the show is the very essence of Saturday – and a great way to kick off a finale.

Also, fans of “spatial genetic multiplicity” had a chortle when the Gwen Cooper/Gwyneth conundrum was finally answered.


Poul (pictured right), that poor bastard. Thankfully, in the Twenty10s, nobody suffers from “robophobia” though I think the Church of England have something to say about it (and robosexuals). But back in the Seventies, a different time [steady – Ed.], it went under the name “Grimwade’s Syndrome”. Which sounds pretty nasty, to be honest.

Of course, some of you may know that the use of “Grimwade” was actually a reference to then production assistant (and future director of stories such as Kinda and Earthshock and writer of Mawdryn Undead amongst others), Peter Grimwade. Apparently his first wife was, wait for it, a robot…


“I’ve got all sorts of souvenirs. All the posters. I had a long correspondence with one of the founder members too, soon after it started. Although I never got to see the early days, I know it’s not as good as it used to be but I’m still terribly interested.”

Sound familiar? Yup, Whizz Kid (pictured left) was the archetypal Doctor Who fan (just check out that bow-tie for timey-wimey-wibbly-wobbly-ness) with his “it’s not as good as it used to be” mantra and collect-everything-he-can mentality. In 1988, it was quite timely as fandom hadn’t been so fannish for that long. Spot on from the production team. Some years later, The God Complex would imitate this character, somewhat less successfully I have to admit due to the fact that Who~fans seemed to have moved on (though I’m sure some do still exist in that fashion). Also worth pointing out that Ace tries on Tom Baker’s scarf and one of Mel’s costumes for more in-gaggery from The Greatest Show in the Galaxy.


Now, there are a lot of
references to the past there are in here, but the one that really counts
as good old in-joke is Davey T’s almost final words to the lurve of his
life Billie P. Staggering against a wall like a Who~fan on meeting John
Barrowman at a convention, The Doctor tells her, “I bet you’re gonna
have a really great year,” after she says it’s 2005.

Of course, we all had a really great year that year. *sniff* #memories


Oh I do like this one, quite subtle. The Ninth Doctor, who older readers may remember was played by Christopher “I’m Not A Grump” Eccleston, turns to Charles Dickens, after claiming his “fan” status, queries Charlie, “that American bit in Martin Chuzzlewit, what’s that about? Was that just padding or what? I mean it’s rubbish, that bit.”
The key word here is American. Russell T Davies, showrunner at the time, made no bones about his disdain for the Paul McGann 1996 TV Movie which was, by and large, an American production (yes, it was filmed in Canada – I know).  A lot of criticism was aimed at this “Americanised” version of Doctor Who and this is perhaps, if not definitely, what the subtext is here.


In a world where pop culture t-shirts are made instantly and without a second’s thought (or imagination), along comes SteeMo to show off his street smartz. As soon as his 2005 episode The Empty Child aired, a tee was made (by a fan) with “Are You My Mummy?” emblazoned on it and look what he did in Blink. As soon as we hear The Doctor say, “The angels have the phone box,” Larry purrs, “I’ve got that on a T-shirt.” It’s a funny line in its own right, but there’s added giggles for those in the know.

Blink also gets extra in-gag points for the almost hilarious “wrong size windows on the TARDIS” one-liner. “Fans” had debated on an internet forum (don’t go there kids, only bad things happen there) that the new TARDIS windows were of incorrect dimensions (as I say, don’t go there unless window-measuring is something you’re particularly keen on). Moffat, ever the wag (and one-time forum dweller), picked up on this and prepped his acerbic penmanship to eviscerate these “humans”.


“This is BBC television, the time is quarter past five and Saturday viewing continues with an adventure in the new science fiction series Do…

Dot to Dot? Dorothy In Space?? Just what was the name of that show the announcer was about to blurt out as Ace was leaving the house??? Given that the story is set in 1963, I think we can guess. (Yet, pedants note, it’s quite bright outside for November at tea-time, yes?)

It’s certainly the most brazen and obvious of the in-jokes here, though many are critical of its placement within the story. But given that it was broadcast in an anniversary year (the 25th), we can forgive them such a shoe-horned clanger. Can’t we?


There’s a few knowing gags going on here, possibly. We’ll get the casting of two-time Doctor Who, though never actually a “proper” one, Richard E Grant (Scream of the Shalka, The Curse of Fatal Death) out of the way as it’s tenuous at best.

But let’s take a look at Clara’s entrance into the TARDIS and The Doctor’s expectant, almost smug, face waiting to hear that line for the first time again. It’s like he’s us! But good old Ozzy is too smart for that (or maybe even SteeMo is) and beams that the Time Lord’s ship is “smaller on the outside!” Not only a fabulous tip to 49 years and a bit of Whostory but an amazing joke from Moffat.

And then there’s her gravestone. I’m assuming you all freeze-framed it like I did and studied the date? Well, in case you’re not like me, check it out in the picture above – she was born on November 23. Blimey. That’s a coincidence! #smirk

Interestingly, and I use the word quite wrongly, her initials spell “COO” – like a pigeon or how Scottish people say “Cow.” Her “back” initials spell “AND” as in – “AND what was the point of that joke Blogtor?”


Visit the LISTS page for more “fun”!


  1. "COO" or "OOC", for "Out Of Character". The same for "AND", which becomes DNA if read backwards.

    Should we see something in that? I really don't know ! But it's interesting anyway. 🙂

  2. Oh, I'm disappointed. I would've gone with the Lazarus Experiment, where the Doctor says, "It shouldn't take that long to reverse the polarity. I must be out of practice!"

  3. For Clara, not only was she born on November 23, she also died aged 26, the same age as the show was when "rested"……

  4. I always thought that the "where's my mummy" quote was funny! And on top of these jokes referring back to the Doctor’s history, I think that the Doctor always has the funniest comments on situations. The best part is every generation has their own way of approaching the jokes! I always look forward to what sly joke or comment the doctor will have in each episode. Just to top off the episodes, the side characters comments with the Doctor’s comments just make everything perfect!

  5. I think stretching a bit with the American comment in The Unquiet Dead being a reference to the telemovie. The more obvious in joke in reference to that was in Journey's End, where the Doctor makes disparaging remarks about being half-human…

  6. Indeed, Ry A. I'm not too familiar with Russell's "disdain" for the TVM. I AM, however, familiar with his comment from the special before the premiere of "Rose" describing parts of the TVM as "some of the best Doctor Who ever made."

    And we also have his borrowing two moments from the TVM in "Rose" as well…

  7. Problem with Clara's birthdate is the in-joke would have worked better if they'd made her born in 1863. What's wrong with making her a few years older?

  8. What's wrong with making her a few years older is it would ruin the second part of the reference – she died when she was *twenty six* like the show. It was also the second time we saw her die. Like the show. And she had dual roles, entertaining kids and adults, like the show.

    Clara is the metatextual embodiment of the series within the series.

  9. You missed RTD's best dig at the TV Movie, from "The Parting of the Ways":

    "That makes [the Daleks] half-human"


  10. Brilliant line from Clive's wife in 'Rose': "She? Someone's come about the Doctor, and she's a she?!"

    Perhaps saying something about the fandom prior to 2006 being mostly male-orientated?!

  11. Don't forget Donnas quote – 'I mean that's like meeting Charles Dickens, and he's surrounded by ghosts, at Christmas.'
    Nice nod there 🙂


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