If Shaw and Einstein couldn’t cheat death, what chance have I got? Practically none.
- Mel Brooks
Or (if you want to be all obvious about it)
I think a man’s duty is to find out where the truth is, or if he cannot, at least to take the best possible human doctrine and the hardest to disprove, and to ride on this like a raft over the waters of life.
Me: Okay. Ummm… Right. Shall we just run through the references or can I do a quick smug thing about being right?1
Him: Do a quick smug thing about being right.
Him: I know you’re going to do it anyway.
Me: I am going to do it anyway, yeah.
Him: You’ve already done it twenty times.
Me: I know, I know, I know. We’ve still got to see what happens next week, but I do feel quite chuffed that – to a certain degree – I nailed a lot of that. Okay. First off, Missy. That came as a shock to – oo – nobody, I would’ve said. That was obviously what was going to happen.2 She’s so good.
Him: Didn’t you think that she was going to be Meglos at one point?
Him: Among the thousands and thousands of theories that no-one else’d come up with?
Me: No, no, no. It was just one of these things. All of the way through the series though, it’s been the case that… Look. You can back up anything. So, I go with all my ideas about the Meddling Monk and The Chase and... Stuff still could happen. The whole iPads thing is certainly relevant, for example. And there’re things that’re still confused. Michelle Gomez is amazing. I hope they don’t force her to regenerate next week, because I’d like her to stay on. It was great. Really, really good. Right, let’s move on. Electronic Voice Phenomena. Do you know anything about that?
(We’ll have a brief moment of silence here as a special nod to the many, many sea badger fans who’ve not been writing in to ask whether it’d be making another appearance. It will. And that wasn’t it.)
Me: EVP. It's where, “Don’t cremate me,” came from.3 What did you think of that episode? Neither of us said anything while we were watching it. Not really.
Him: I guessed several plot points. As jokes.
Me: Ha! Yeah. “Danny’ll get run over. Oh, Danny’s been run over.”
Me: That wasn’t a huge shock. Peripeteia’s quite harsh though. D’you think Steven Moffat’ll actually kill him? Do you think Danny’s dead?
Him: He is dead.
Me: Really? Clara’s going. She’s definitely going.
Him: Steven Moffat’s said he’s going to do his whole ‘brutal’ thing.
Me: Yeah. Well, that’s it then.
Him: He’s gonna go all Russell T. Davies on this.
Me: It was very Russell T. Davies. Dark Water. Torch Wood. It’s Doomsday all over again. The bit about, “Cybermen from cyberspace. Why’s no-one ever thought of that before?” I dunno. To me, that felt like the author’s voice was intruding. Speaking through the character there. You know I was saying that I’ve got this idea that, because of the stuff that I was writing for that other website last year, that all the ideas for this series are 'mine'?4
Me: Right. Well, the last piece that I wrote was the one that had the reference to Deep Breath and the hand that grabs your ankle – that was a piece called The Time Cave. Ummm… And that’s all that I’m going to say. When we were watching Dark Water, I was thinking, “Ooo. There we go.” It doesn’t mean anything though. You can take anything that you want and you can prove it, but that doesn’t make it real. The whole Greek Tragedy ‘theory’ – I don’t actually believe that’s what’s been going on. I do think that you can see it within the series, but just as a logical conclusion from the progression of the story. And Steven Moffat’s stories are variations on the same processes. It’s all prestidigitation.
Him: Halfway through this one you shouted, “I’ve written this series of Doctor Who!”
Me: Ha! Yeah, I did. But I was joking. And what didn’t I shout?
Me: Alright then. At the start. The bit when Clara’s phoning Murray Gold?
Me: Remember that? What did she say?
Him: I don’t know.
Me: “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!”
Me: Fair play, Murray Gold did a good job in that episode. There were a couple of bits where I noticed the music-
Him: Oh, you’ve always quite liked him in the finales.
Me: Rachel Talalay, the director, has done a fantastic job with it. The performances were great. Very quickly, just to return to Greek Tragedy for a moment. I’d better say this here. One of the very few instances – as I’ve mentioned in Doctor Who and the Song of Goats-
Me: - when the Greek Chorus- Shh. Don’t laugh. - the Greek Chorus has appeared in Doctor Who before - apart from scripts written by Donald Cotton - in Vengeance on Varos. Now, Etta, half of the Chorus in Vengeance on Varos, is Clara’s Nan.5
Him: That’s nice.
Me: Yeah. Read nothing into that. What did you think about the section in Mount Doom?
Him: I pointed that out.
Me: Would you like to expand?
Him: That’s basically the end of that. That’s all that needs to be said about that point.
Me: "A clock’s a time machine."
Him: That’s from Danger Mouse.
Me: That’s from Danger Mouse, yeah. Do you think it explains the opening titles?4
Me: I think Dark Water proved precisely why we’ve currently got the Doctor wearing Peter Capaldi. Outstanding. And Jenna Coleman? Oh good grief. I can’t see her being around at Christmas.
Me: Yeah. I don’t think she’s going to be around after next week. Unless Danny is. It’s going to be Divine Intervention. The only thing that’s going to save this now – again, going back to Aristotelian recipes for Greek Tragedy – is if the Doctor can ‘save’ Danny Pink. But… I don’t think he can.6 It’s gone beyond that point. Clara could go and join him though. Like you said about the Cybermen being a cover version of the Silence when they’re sat in the x-ray water – Steven Moffat does repeat-
Him: Do you think that came as a surprise to no-one as well?
Me: Well, everyone knew it was going to be the Cybermen.7
Him: Yeah, I know. But do you think that was… “Oh yeah, they’ve got the exo-skeleton.” Do you think that came as a surprise to no-one as well?
Me: I thought that was really good.8
Him: We both realised that at the same time.
Me: Yeah, yeah. I notice that Steven Moffat has quite pointedly – and, as I’ve said before, the author’s voice has come through here – he’s made the Cybermen scary again. And, that’ll make sense to anyone who’s been following the graffiti.
Him: What is it with him and giving things comfy chairs?
Him: When they have no need of comfy chairs?
Me: They managed to get the “Doctor Who?” thing in again. “Doctor who?” “Doctor CHANG!” I thought that worked well, because it didn’t feel forced. With Series Pond/Clara, having everyone saying it all the time it reached the point where – running gag or no - it wasn’t working. That whole series wasn’t firing. I’ll still argue that’s because The Day of the Doctor was more important than anything else. And that’s partly what The Time Cave’s about as well.
Him: Steven Moffat didn’t write it until, like, three weeks before it was shown in the cinemas.
Me: Ha! Yeah. “Mister Moffat, we started filming this morning and we were wondering if you had a script for us?” Lovely nod there to The Thick of It. On the psychic paper.
Him: “Another government visit? Why so soon? What’s with all the swearing?”
Me: I thought that was nice. There was one bit that had you in fits. When they were talking about the iPads?
Him: Actually, it was you that was in fits at that point.
Me: We both went. What was it?
Him: “iPads? We have Steve Jobs.”
Me: Ha! And it’s interesting that the Nethersphere - or the Underworld. Yes! Called that one! – is part of Inception. Those Cybermen. They’re butch.
Him: They were sort of like… Whichever Batman film that was that had all of the-
Me: I know the one. Go on.
Him: - all of the ridiculous Batman details.
Me: The shots of the Batnipples and the Batbottom. Batman and Robin, you mean? Yes, yes, yes. Kudos to J.R. Southall for calling the whole Master being female idea before the series started. And the Matrix.
As you can see in The Curse of Fatal Death – where, despite the fact that Steven Moffat was very keen not to be seen as being a part of fandom, much more a professional writer who happened to be a fan, rather than the other way around. I don’t mean he would remind people he was a professional writer as often as possible - his credits spoke for themselves, so he didn't need to point them out to people – but he did keep himself at a careful distance from fandom. Because he was a professional. Which makes sense. He had a career in television and Doctor Who left more of a taint than it does today. But – when he came to write The Curse of Fatal Death, he kept slipping in all these references to The Deadly Assassin, amongst others. Little, subtle points that only a fan would notice. And, in Dark Water-
Him: Was it the same number of breaths done by an extra?
Me: No, no, no. When the 3W introductory message is scrolling up and Missy’s reading – that’s the start of The Deadly Assassin. It’s the only Doctor Who story that starts with scrolling text – predates Star Wars too. Could be a reference to Python, but I don’t think so. Not that one. Tomb of the Cybermen! And, well done, Cardiff Museum – really working hard for your appearance fee this year. Right. How many Python references? I’ve got three.
Him: Well, I pointed out one of those.
Me: Go on.
Him: You’ve missed out the ‘e’.
Him: On the notes. You’ve missed out the ‘e’.
Me: Never mind. Which one’s that?
Him: That just says, “Bring out yrrrrr."
Me: “Bring out your dead!”
Him: “Bring out your dead!”
Us: “Bring out your dead!"
Me: So we’ve got that one. And we also had, “Run away! Run away!”
Him: What’s that a reference to?
Me: Holy Grail. Also. And not only dark water, we’ve got dark themes and some dark ideas-
Him: “Well, I’m no Dark Water Barry.”
Him: I’m surprised you didn’t say that.
Me: Why would I say that?
Him: That’s what you said at the start of Black Water.
Me: That was "Black Water Barry."
Him: It’s the same!
Me: “I’m no Dark Water Barry.” The thing is that no-one’ll know that I just did that in a perfect Welsh accent.
Him: Sounded Australian to me.
Me: I liked the reference to one of Steve Coogan’s favourite Monty Python sketches. “We’ve got an eater.”
Him: Oh yes, that’s right. “We’ve got a burner!”
Me: There’s not much else we can say. That’s just the preamble to the main feature. I hope it’s got less endings than Return of the King.
Him: “Subplot B, subsection A.”
Me: Ha! Exactly. I thought Dark Water was excellent. This has been an absolute delight of a series for me. I’ve loved it. And we still need to find out what the Post-It notes in Clara’s room are for. Two different Christopher Nolan references?9
Him: We know exactly what they mean.
Me: What do they mean?
Him: She’s written them up so she knows what to say.
Me: Why’s Vastra up there?
Him: I don’t know.
Me: Why does it say ‘lying’? It’s not just so I can say, 'hamartia'.
Him: She needs to tell him everything.
Me: Over the phone?
Him: You can’t do that in person, you’ve got to do it while they’re crossing busy roads.
Me: Ha! Okay fair enough. Clara covered a lot of Cardiff very quickly. Luckily for the film crew, Danny got run down next to the back of St Paul’s. I think stuff’s being set up. I also think that next week’s will start in a different location, because that’s part of Moffat’s patter with a two-part trick. Okay, do you want to make a noise like a butch Cyberman?
Him: Not really.
Me: Fair enough. What sort of noise do you want to make?
Him: You could do your ‘perfect’ Welsh accent again.
Him: “I’m no Dark Water Barry.”
Me: “I’m no Dark Water Barry.”
Him: I’m surprised you didn’t even think of that once.
Me: I was distracted.
Him: ‘Dark Water Barry’ should be a TV show.
Me: It should.
Him: About a shark hunter.
Me: You’re about due another Big Finish pitch. Hang on. A shark hunter?
Him: Yeah. “I’m Dark Water Barry. Shark hunter extraordinaire.”
Me: “Unfortunately, I live by a river. So there’s not much call for my skills."
Him: “I don’t have any money. And have never encountered a shark in my life.”
Me: “In fact, I’m really known as ‘Dark Water Barry, local accountant.’”
Him: “A lion tamer!”
Me: And on that bombshell!10
1. Hindsight’s a wonderful thing. And, with confirmation bias, I can chuck out all the bits that don’t match.
2. blah blah it’s the Master blah1
3. This was bold and a bit risky. Personally, I’m impressed. Those three words will work slightly differently for the audience and the Chorus, as well as every single individual within both groups. Steven Moffat doesn’t always cash the cheque, but this time it cleared fine. Horrific and very Doctor Who. Whatever that is.
4. Don’t write in, it’s not for fun.1
5. Don’t worry, I know that Clara’s Nan’s pretend and that it’s just a mixture of Sheila Reid and synchronicity.4
6. ‘cause, causally speaking, Clara set Rupert on the path that’s killed him in the first place. And that's without mentioning the reflection in the iPad, someone's got to pay for that. So, going on Listen, Clara's pregnant. It's been a Long Game, after all.
7. And everyone knew – deep down – it was the Master. This, if you think about it, is a very clever way of giving the audience enough time to get used to the idea beforehand - not counting The Doctor’s Wife and the, non-canonical, Night of the Doctor there. Like I keep saying, until this goes up, we don’t read the post-episode reviews or check out the forums. Well, half of us never go on the forums, and the other half of us only stick our face in from time to time to exfoliate. It’ll be a massive disappointment if fandom’s done anything other than embrace the Mistress.
8. And, let’s be fair, the BBC aren’t going to let Earthshock happen again.
9. You remember Memento, yeah?
10. Yeah, looks like I was wrong about Maebh's sister, Annabel being something other than a terribly clunky end to an episode. Can't win 'em all. It's a fair cop, guv, but society's to blame.