Doctor Who series 11, episode 9: Was a huge plot hole just solved? And 7 more HUGE questionsDecember 2, 2018
This week’s episode of Doctor Who left us with plenty of questions – and not just, ‘What were they thinking with that talking frog?’.
‘It Takes You Away’ was half Nordic horror and half a reflection on grief and loss, with a stunning performance from Bradley Walsh as grieving Graham. But even in a jam-packed episode like this, there was even more lurking beneath the surface…
Here are all our queries and theories after series 11, episode 9, with a few potential Easter eggs thrown in.
1. Was a huge plot hole just solved?
In 1996’s Doctor Who TV movie, the eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) declares that he’s “half-human, on my mother’s side” – and it’s suggested he’s not kidding, with other evidence in the film backing up the assertion.
13 years later, though, and two-parter ‘The End of Time’ saw the tenth Doctor (David Tennant) faced with an unnamed female Time Lord who writer / showrunner Russell T Davies later confirmed was also supposed to be our hero’s mother.
So which is it? Was the Doctor’s old lady a mere Earthling or a mighty Gallifreyan?
In ‘It Takes You Away’, our latest Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) claims to have had seven grandmothers. Given how little we know about Time Lord genetics and their means of reproduction, is it possible that all seven of these women were the Doctor’s blood relatives, and that, by extension, the Doctor might – somehow – have more than one biological mother?
It’s a big fat ‘maybe’.
(Spin-off media has Time Lords being not born, but grown, in devices called Looms, emerging in an adult physical form. But this idea has never been referenced on television, and indeed would seem to contradict scenes likes the ones in 2014’s ‘Listen’ that featured a child Doctor. For what it’s worth, Chris Chibnall has stated he’s never read Lungbarrow, the 1997 novel in which the concept was first introduced.)
2. How long has the Doctor known about the Zygons?
The Doctor’s favourite grandmother, Granny 5, apparently alleged that Granny 2 was “a secret agent for the Zygons” – which implies that the Doctor has known about the existence of the Zygons from childhood.
But wait… didn’t the fourth Doctor first encounter the shape-shifting aliens in 1975’s ‘Terror of the Zygons’?
Technically, yes, but watch that story back (and we did) and there’s nothing to suggest that the Doctor hadn’t at least heard of the Zygons before. His first meeting with the creatures in that story actually takes place off-screen.
No continuity errors here, thank you very much!
3. Could the Solitract return?
It’s not entirely clear if the Solitract survives the events of ‘It Takes You Away’, but it certainly won’t be attempting to lure any more residents of our universe over to its hostile climes any time soon.
Is it still alive? And if so, could it resurface in a future episode?
Like many of the so-called ‘monsters’ this series, it wasn’t evil, just misguided… and lonely. And while it’s been established that the prolonged presence of any being from our universe is essentially toxic to the Solitract, Doctor Who breaks its own rules all the time.
Here’s hoping that poor friendless frog isn’t doomed to be alone forever.
4. What caused the Woolly Rebellion?
“In 193 years, there’s a total renegotiation of the human / sheep relationship,” the Doctor warns team TARDIS, describing the events that followed as an “utter bloodbath”.
Taking her at her word, what ever could have caused the Woolly Rebellion of 2211?
We’re imagining a Deep Blue Sea-type scenario, with a mad scientist’s breed of genetically-enhanced super-sheep running wild. Or if you’ve ever seen Black Sheep, the 2006 comedy-horror flick about rampaging mutant lambs, picture something along those lines.
Something for series 12, perhaps?
5. Do vampires exist in Doctor Who?
“We’d know if we were vampires, right?” ponders Ryan (Tosin Cole), when he finds a ‘magic mirror’ – really a portal to another dimension – that doesn’t show either his or Graham’s reflection.
Vampires *do* actually exist in the Whoniverse, though they’re actually aliens (natch) descended from ancient beings who have been around since the beginnings of the universe and are long-time foes of the Time Lords.
The series has also featured a number of other races, such as the Haemovores in 1989’s ‘The Curse of Fenric’, the Plasmavores in 2007’s ‘Smith and Jones’ and the Saturnyn from 2010’s ‘The Vampires of Venice’, who all displayed vampiric tendencies.
The bona-fide bloodsuckers only appeared on television once, though, battling the fourth Doctor in 1980 story ‘State of Decay’.
6. How old is Graham’s sandwich?
Now a seasoned TARDIS traveller, Graham – who’s prone to getting hangry – has taken to carrying a cheese-and-pickle sarnie on his person at all times, “just for emergencies.”
Presumably, he learnt his lesson after the events of ‘Rosa’, in which regular meals went out the window as he and the team fought to stop Krasko from changing history.
The question is, though, does Graham nip to the TARDIS kitchens (we’re assuming there are TARDIS kitchens, given that it’s had a swimming pool and a library) before every single adventure and prepare a fresh sandwich, or has he been carrying the same butty around in his pocket for ages?
Don’t say we never tackle the big questions here at Digital Spy.
7. What’s going to happen in series 11’s finale?
Next week’s episode is the last of the year, with Doctor Who next returning to BBC One on New Year’s Day.
‘The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos‘ – catchy title, that – is written by Chris Chibnall and directed by Jamie Childs, who also helmed ‘It Takes You Away’, plus ‘The Woman Who Fell to Earth’ and ‘Demons of the Punjab’.
The guest cast includes Game of Thrones‘ Mark Addy as Paltraki, Downton Abbey‘s Phyllis Logan as Andinio, The Innocents star Percelle Ascott as Delph and Jan Le as Umsang.
Here’s the official synopsis: 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.
Ooh! What’s more, this week’s ‘Next Time…’ trailer sees Addy’s character suggest he can’t leave the planet because of “the battle” – whatever that means – and features a harsh and sinister voice that rasps, “You gave me my destiny!”
Could this be the voice of the Ux?
8. Who are what is the Timeless Child?
Remember back in episode 11.2, ‘The Ghost Monument’, when the Doctor faced down telepathic rag monsters on the surface of Desolation?
The Remnants plucked a phrase out of our hero’s head which seems to unsettle her deeply. “We see deeper,” they hissed. “Further back… the Timeless Child.
“We see what’s hidden, even from yourself. The outcast, abandoned and unknown.”
Clearly intended to set up future developments, this moment hasn’t been referred back to since, backing up Doctor Who producer Matt Strevens’ suggestion to Digital Spy that this series would be “mainly… standalone”.
Presumably, though, ‘The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos’ will circle back round to the concept of Timeless Child.
Does it refer to the Doctor herself? Some childhood trauma that she’s buried? But if so, what does “timeless” mean in this context? Is the Doctor somehow not a true Time Lord? Is everything we thought we knew about to get turned on its head (again)?
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