As much as I’d like to deliver the next exciting installment of ‘God is in the detail’, I’m afraid Edward’s second birthday is going to have to take priority. You’ll have to wait. But in the news, series nine guest star Maisie Williams plans a follow-up to John Barrowman’s foray into slightly filked musical showstoppers:


A previously unseen outtake from the first episode of ‘Death to the Daleks’ makes its way onto the internet:


And not everyone approves of showrunner Steven Moffat’s hopes of resurrecting an old enemy.


See you next time.


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Review: ‘Face the Raven’

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Warning: spoilers and general weariness therein. If you enjoyed this episode, I seriously suggest you don’t read any further. I am probably just going to make you cross.

It’s 1997. I’m in a university common room watching Star Trek: Generations. This is a film that’s been hyped up beyond belief, and one which will be notable for its decision to kill Captain Kirk not once, but twice. If you are William Shatner the author, neither occasion counts. As for the rest of us, we will sit and scratch our heads and wonder why on earth this was given such colossal media exposure, given that the end – when it does come – is really not that big a deal. Kirk is murdered by Malcolm McDowell; his final words, to a reflective Jean-Luc Picard, are “Oh my…”

It’s 2013. A pretty girl is strolling through a haunted house in the company of three talented British actors. She is light, sparkly and fun, unconsumed by gravitas, self-importance or nastiness. I like her. This will not last. She will become, as is the destiny for all modern companions, an exercise in sociology, something more than a cipher but less than a person, warping around stories that should, by rights, be warping around her. She will become a plaything of the writers, as all characters ultimately are, and she will suffer for it. But this week, she is allowed to be a companion – someone who follows and just enjoys herself. There will be times in the future that I lament the loss of this side to Clara. These days, when it is there, it has a kind of smugness attached to it.

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It’s 1998. I’m in a darkened cinema. On the screen Leonardo DiCaprio is clinging to a raft. The boat sank half an hour ago but Leo doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to die. There is clearly room for two on the raft, but Kate Winslet isn’t budging. The woman behind me to my left is using up an entire box of Kleenex, James Horner’s mournful score all but drowned out by sobbing and sniffling. Leo shivers and mutters something about going on. “Oh, for fuck’s sake,” I am thinking to myself, “WILL YOU PLEASE JUST FUCKING DIE?”

It’s 2001. I’m in another cinema watching a bunch of young child actors walk through a visually stunning set. It is an alley in a hidden part of London, cut off from the rest of the world. John Hurt is selling wands. It’s 2015 and I am looking at a different set but the same set. That in itself is not a problem. There are disguised aliens in human form. This is an excuse for another press release, one that says “Cybermen! Judoon! Sontarans! Ood!”, all of whom appear for approximately three seconds each. I am trying to ignore the fact that none of these creatures behaves the way you would expect them to, even in a refugee camp. I am wondering when they are going to do anything except whisper “Murderer”.

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It’s 2014. Steven Moffat is on the phone to Sarah Dollard. He says he would like her to write a crucial episode for series nine in which Clara dies. Sarah says she would love to but that she doesn’t have any ideas for stories. Steven says that’s not a problem: no story is needed, as long as Clara dies.

It’s 2009. A Time Lord has made a semi-noble sacrifice; he’s given up his life for Bernard Cribbins, whining like a puppy in the process. He wanders off to die. It will take fifteen minutes. It’s 2015. An English teacher who has snogged Jane Austen has become reckless. Earlier she was dangling out of the TARDIS. Now she has gambled with her life, and lost. She takes approximately seven minutes to die. I know this because I spend most of it looking at my watch.

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It’s 2015. I’m watching Maisie Williams whine about how crap it is to be immortal, trudging through events feeling as if things will go on and on forever. It is something I can relate to. It is slightly later in 2015 and the character has turned up again, and is no more fun than she was last time. She has dark markings on her neck and a sinister connection to a large black raven. It is like watching Brandon Lee. The raven looks a bit fed up. I am wondering if the batteries need changing.

It’s earlier in 2015. I’m reading another press release about how heartbroken I’m going to be when Clara leaves. I cannot ignore these announcements because it is my job to read them. It’s 2015, this evening. Murray Gold is clearly making up for lost time after last week. The strings are like eating five buckets of candy floss in a single sitting and having to vomit into your own mouth. Clara walks into the middle of the street in slow motion. We see the death from about five or six angles. It is a technique often used in the 1970s. It doesn’t work here.


It’s 2036. A fifty-year-old Jenna Coleman is being interviewed in a dark studio for a new DVD. She says she is proud of her final story. She says she hates it. She says she was pleased with the character arc. She says it was more fun just being a companion and that she fought against the changes Steven Moffat imposed. She says she thought Sarah Dollard turned in a terrific script. She says she wanted a stronger narrative. Pick one.

It’s 2015 and I am watching a middle-aged actor and his younger sidekick do their best with tedious dross. I watch Capaldi keep the Doctor’s rage in check. It is good but it is not enough to save the episode. Maisie Williams pouts and looks uncomfortable, as she always has. It’s 2015 and my wife says she fears she may be corrupting my ability to enjoy the programme. I point out that I watched ‘Before the Flood’ while she was in the bath and came away no happier.

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It’s 2015, early Sunday morning, and I watch the last five minutes of ‘Earthshock’. I am struck by how quick it is, even when you know it is coming. It’s 2015, two weeks ago, and I am watching ‘The Zygon Inversion’ and the Doctor has just made another cryptic remark about how sad he was to have thought that Clara was dead. I note how quickly he seemed to recover from Adric’s death. I remember that Adric was a douchebag.

It’s 2015. I am watching Jenna Coleman trying out for that BAFTA. I decide she’s done enough to secure a nomination. It’s 2015 and I am spent and exhausted and I need a new companion in the TARDIS and, if possible, a new chief writer at the helm. More to the point, it is not me who needs this; it is Doctor Who that needs this. It’s 2015 and I am looking out of the window at the tattoo parlour across the road, and wondering if it’s still open.

9_10 Face The Raven_0.46.26.00 S9-10_Raven

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God is in the detail (9-9)

Can you hear me? Right. Good. Important announcement: DO NOT READ THIS. You cannot unsee it. Insanity lies therein. It’s too late for me. I’m seeing patterns everywhere, and they haunt my dreams like images of childhood bullies and doing the school run stark naked. You still have a chance. Get out now, while you still can. Before it’s too late.

First, congratulations are in order to Chris Kibbey, for being the only person to take a public stab at last week’s homework – getting it absolutely correct into the bargain. The answer, as I’m sure you all know by now, is ‘START PAIN NOW LATER’, which is a clear and direct reference to the upcoming ‘Face the Raven’, in which it is looking increasingly likely that Clara will die, and which – according to Capaldi – is set to be “sad over a number of weeks”. Furthermore, having broken the cipher, we may rearrange the letters of this message to form ‘AIRPLANE TWATS TORN’, which hearkens back to the events of ‘Death In Heaven’. Obviously.

Anyway, well done Chris, and having dealt with this we may now move on to look at ‘Sleep No More’. There were the usual abundance of CRYPTIC BUT IMPORTANT messages hidden in assorted visual clues, but we start with one of those crew-identifying close-ups.

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First, look at the dots beneath Nagata’s 8/10 survival rating. Eight solid red, each corresponding to the first eight canonical Doctors. The subsequent black represents both the War Doctor and also the Valeyard, and we may therefore conclude that the Doctor will spend the series finale tussling once more with his darker self, before meeting up once more with John Hurt.

However: Nagata shares her name with Nagata Acoustics – which “provides comprehensive consulting to achieve the proper balance among architectural, acoustical, visual stage and other space requirements”, and which has offices operating out of Los Angeles, Paris and Tokyo. Of note: Los Angeles was visited by the Eleventh Doctor (‘The Doctor and the Nurse’), the Tenth Doctor visited Tokyo with Martha (‘Operation Lock-up’) and the Fourth Doctor famously hung out in Paris in ‘City of Death’. Note that the actors for ALL THREE DOCTORS appeared in ‘Day of the Doctor’. Figure that one out.

Now examine this:

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Once more, dots are the key. Each of the red dots on the visual display on the left corresponds to a different Doctor, thus forming a central chain of six Doctors around the cylindrical column in the centre. On the left and right, a further two, thus leading the total once more to eight. YOU WILL NOTE THAT THE FIRST IMAGE ALSO CONTAINED EIGHT. THIS IS LEADING UP TO THE RETURN OF PAUL MCGANN.

More than this, the presence of all eight Doctors surrounding the column neatly (and intentionally) summarises the finale of ‘The Light At The End’, in which the first eight Doctors perform a time ram on the Master’s TARDIS (which, in several stories, took the form of a column), thereby undoing his diabolical scheme.

Finally, consider the eye-type display at the bottom left. We’ve already discussed the Valeyard, an evil counterpart to the Doctor sandwiched between two late regenerations – and this is linked to him. Sit down for this next bit, because it’s something of a belter. The presence of the white dot on the bottom, positioned neatly between the ‘3’ and ‘4’ sections on the dial, purports to another Watcher, one that was present in UNIT in the 1970s / 80s / whenever, during the scene in ‘Planet of the Spiders’ when the Doctor regenerated.

Except that this Watcher was not needed; in the end, the Doctor’s regeneration was facilitated by the mystical Cho-Je. Therefore, this Watcher remained drifting, unused and unrealised; this Watcher thus become the Valeyard. (The close alphabetical proximity of ‘U’, ‘V’ and ‘W’ – used for significant words in that last sentence – is not a coincidence.)

Let’s move on. How’s your reading?

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As you’ve anticipated, numbers are the key. They repeat, so I’ve isolated the specifics:

39900076 – Gagan Rassmussen

8880234 – Osamu Chopra

633389 – Deep-Ando

HJSSLL56890 – Daiki Nagata

H999267 – Leverrier

474T000 – 474

00002458888C – The Doctor

Clara Oswald

And I’ll give you this, and we’ll say no more about it, except that I recommend opening it in a separate tab so you can read it properly.


Finally, this piece of wall writing, which I’ve lightened for the sake of clarity.

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The ‘Fast Forward’ and ‘Rewind’ symbols are CLEAR AND UNAMBIGUOUS INDICATORS that the next adventure will take place in both the Doctor’s past and also his future. Note that the figure beneath is both LOOKING TO and POINTING TO the LEFT. You know why that’s important. YOU KNOW.

However, that top image. It’s a difficult one, isn’t it? Unless you’ve been to a supermarket recently.


Why is this significant? Well, if you know your Big Finish you will recall that Arabella Weir played an alternate version of the Third Doctor, living out her exile on Earth in the guise of an alcoholic supermarket trolley stacker. There were VISITING TIME LORDS and DODGY TROLLEYS and a TIME LORD WHO HAD CHANGED GENDER. And there was vodka. All this points towards AN ENFORCED REGENERATION at the hands of the Time Lords, which will then be undone in time for the Christmas special.

And speaking of vodka, I think I need some now. I promise not to get trolleyed.

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Nap time

Three images for today, two from ‘Sleep No More’. One I can’t get quite right, despite best efforts, but never mind.


The second one will only make sense if you’ve seen Bing. To anyone who has, it was kind of obvious.


And talking of CBeebies, anyone who was watching last week will probably have seen the episode of Topsy and Tim in which Mossy the dog shuffled off this mortal coil – an episode that I really didn’t expect to have me in tears, but there you go. Blame the hormones. In the days following the episode’s transmission, the CBeebies Facebook page has been awash with memes showing Mossup (the real life dog who played Mossy) Photoshopped into various places, leading to some confusion from stupid people (“Hang on, isn’t she dead?”) and at least one person saying “THIS IS NOT APPROPRIATE!”, when a better choice of words would surely have been “I WAS NOT EXPECTING THIS!”

Mossy_1 Mossy_2

So naturally, I did one as well. Because why not?



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Review: ‘Sleep No More’

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Disclaimer: What follows is not exactly a review, because this is the sort of episode that defies conventional reviewing. It is a dramatised behind-the-scenes look with the reviewer’s opinions shoehorned in; it is completely fictional, and any similarity to real situations is pure luck. Please take it in the spirit in which it was intended, i.e. hastily written and not terribly funny.



[A Thursday afternoon sometime in December. MARK GATISS sitting on a sofa, in conversation with STEVEN MOFFAT – who, unbeknownst to Mark, is playing Candy Crush on Facebook, even while thumbing through a script on his desk.]

STEVEN: Sleep deprivation’s been done, Mark.

MARK: Not like this.

STEVEN: The X-Files managed it twenty years ago.

MARK: It’s topical. Didn’t you see that whole propaganda speech I put in about hyper-productivity and how everyone’s going to be able to do more? That sort of thing’s always fun to tear down. The junior doctors are going to love it.

STEVEN: I’ve already got Peter Harness doing immigration. We can be topical but I can’t be seen to be too left-wing. The Mail already have me on speed dial.

MARK: This isn’t like the others. They don’t go mad and start killing everyone.

STEVEN: They don’t?

MARK: Page thirty.

[Moffat thumbs. Reads. Nods.]

STEVEN: Anything else I should know?

MARK: I wanted the computer to sound like GLADos.

STEVEN: Fine, but I’m casting British. We don’t want a lawsuit.

MARK: Hey, you Frankenstein, me Igor.

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PETER [reading]: “What used to be sleep in your eye has turned into a carnivorous life form.”

JENNA: Oh, you are shitting me.

PETER: Yeah, that’s – I’m pretty sure that’s not in the script, Jenna.

[There is laughter, with an underlying tension.]

STEVEN: Problem, Jen?

JENNA: This is utterly ridiculous! You’ve written –

STEVEN [pointing at Mark]: Hey, he! He’s written –

JENNA: I mean, he’s written, whatever, he’s written a monster that’s made out of sleep dust.

MARK: It’s never been done before, though.

JENNA: No, because it’s a fucking stupid idea! It defies common sense and logic! It’s the worst kind of pseudoscience! It’s worse than Spitfires on the moon! This is supposed to be new levels of realism and my suspension of disbelief just had its strings cut.

STEVEN: Don’t hold back, Jenna, tell us what’s really bothering you.

JENNA: Shut up. Look, it’s as bad as that episode of Red Dwarf where Chris Barrie was gonna clone himself out of dandruff. And that was supposed to be funny.

PETER: Yeah, that one was funny, actually.

JENNA: Was. I don’t know. Yeah.

MARK: Look, it’s – they’re gonna look horrible. In my head, I mean, they’re like big brown things. Big wrinkled brown things with enormous mouths.

STEVEN [to the room]: Don’t spread that around, everyone, it’s not on the list of controlled leaks.

JENNA: Made of sleep crust.

MARK: Yeah.

[There is a very tense pause.]

JENNA: Probably a good thing this guy wasn’t trying to cure the common cold.

[A burst of laughter across the entire team, and the tension’s gone.]

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[Lunch. REECE SHEARSMITH is sitting with ELAINE TAN.]

ELAINE: So how’d you get the Adventures in Space gig, anyway?

REECE: Oh, Mark owed me a favour. I said I really wanted to play Troughton.

ELAINE: For one scene.

REECE: There was supposed to be more of it, but it’s on a cutting room floor somewhere.

ELAINE: It didn’t make the DVD?


ELAINE: It wasn’t really acting, though, was it? You just sort of turned up in a wig and did a bad impression.

REECE: But it needed to be there. It’s the whole transition thing.

ELAINE: And by the time they found out you couldn’t actually do Troughton, it was too late.

REECE: Exactly.

[They clink cappuccino mugs.]

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[A chase is being filmed. JENNA is running up a corridor; all of a sudden she trips and falls.]

ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Cut! OK, reset, we’ll go again.

JENNA: Owww! Shit, I think I twisted my ankle.

PETER: Oh, Terry Nation would’ve loved you.

JENNA: Shut it and help me up.

FIRST UNIT DIRECTOR: Jenna, you all right?

JENNA: These shoes are abominable. Why couldn’t I have worn the Faith ones? They were great. They were flat.

FIRST UNIT DIRECTOR: Listen, costume’s not really my department, but I think it was the cameras, they needed decent eyelines for the handhelds –

JENNA: It’s not my fault I’m short!

PETER: Listen, Caroline John managed a weir in a miniskirt, and that was in January. You can do cope with gratings.

JENNA: I’d like to see the Doctor manage this in heels.

PETER: So would half the audience, I think.

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[An abandoned power station somewhere. Neet Mohan and Bethany Black wander corridors.]

BETHANY: Quiet. Little too quiet.

NEET: Are you in character?

BETHANY: No, I mean generally. What is it? Something’s different.

NEET: No idea.

BETHANY: I think it’s Murray Gold.

NEET [sucks in teeth]: I knew there was something different about this week.

BETHANY: There it is.

NEET: I find it refreshing. Certainly a change from the usual overwrought stuff. At least you can hear the dialogue.

BETHANY: You say that like it’s a good thing.

NEET: It’s not?

BETHANY: The problem is it sounds like dialogue. It doesn’t – look, in real life situations, like the one this is supposed to be mirroring, people don’t do complete sentences. They talk over each other, they –

NEET: I know that, I’m just, I’m just saying –

BETHANY: – interrupt each other, there’s no –

NEET: – look, we don’t want to alienate the audience, right? If it’s too Woody Allen people are gonna switch off. We’re already pushing the envelope.

BETHANY: Please! The envelope is still on the table. The sealant is still applied. The corners are undamaged. The –

NEET: You know, I think I prefer you in Hulk Smash mode.

BETHANY: Whatevs.

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[PETER and JENNA are between takes.]

PETER: It’s different though, you’ve gotta give it that.

JENNA: It is different. It’s like nothing we’ve ever done before. But the rushes are giving me nausea.

PETER: Do we even have those anymore?

JENNA: You know what I mean. There are just so many cameras.

PETER: And for the first time I can look at them without the fanboys ranting about the fourth wall!

JENNA: It just wasn’t what I thought it was gonna be.

PETER: Listen, Blair Witch was low-tech because it wouldn’t have worked any other way. The multi-camera thing is part of the story.

JENNA: Yeah, about that, am I missing a page? Is this one of those things where they only send it out to you, and you’re not supposed to tell me?

PETER: No, I think Mark’s lobbying for a follow-up.

JENNA: Hence the ending.

PETER: Hence that.

[Awkward pause]

PETER: You’re not gonna say anything, are you? ‘Cause we don’t want a repeat of the read-through.

JENNA: I’m just saying, why don’t they turn on the sprinklers? Boom. Problem solved.

PETER: Because they don’t have sprinklers.

JENNA: They have space-sprinklers.

PETER: Don’t start that again.

JENNA: Hey, I got him to put it in.

PETER: Look, it’s not Ibsen, but it’s better than the Daleks one.

JENNA: My nephew’s written better than the Daleks one, and he’s seven. You’re just defending it because he gave you Shakespeare.

PETER: I really, really want that nomination.

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[STEVEN is sitting with his feet up; fingers thumb the surface of an iPad. SUE VERTUE is on a laptop on the other side of the room. An iPlayer broadcast of the episode has just finished: somewhat anomalously, the credits roll.]

SUE: Well, that’s gonna freak out the kids.

STEVEN: Always the plan. Come on, you have to hand it to him. A story about getting enough sleep, or else, broadcast just before bedtime.

SUE: Except everyone uses iPlayer these days.

STEVEN: Well, I can’t do everything.

SUE: How’s the Twitter feed?

STEVEN: Oh, it’s downright hysterical. There’s a guy here who decided to explain the word ‘pet’ to the Americans.

SUE: Just don’t go on the Guardian. You know it affects your blood pressure.

STEVEN: I won’t.

SUE: Coming to bed?

STEVEN: Shortly. Need to do the next set of soundbites for the press releases. See you so-

[He looks up from his iPad and notices that Sue is giving him a very odd look.]

STEVEN: Why are you staring at me like that?

SUE: Don’t stay awake too long.

[She dissolves into sleep dust. Steven screams. Cut to black.]

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God is in the detail (9-8)

Ah. ‘The Zygon Inversion’. How do I analyse thee? Let me count the ways. Remember, this is the stuff the BBC DON’T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT, so you’re very lucky to have me on hand to reveal the Hidden Truth. And there is a lot of hidden truth this week; enough to kill a small horse.

Let’s take a look first of all at the clock in Clara’s flat, at the very beginning of the episode.

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6:26 is, of course, a timestamp, and using the same methodology as last week we can draw out the exact lines of dialogue at the 6:26 mark across all previous episodes of the series. Assembling them in order, beginning with ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’ and concluding with ‘The Zygon Invasion’, the list reads thus:

“We bring harm.”

“Help me!”

“Are you sure?”

“Listen, we’ve come from the future and you’re about to send a signal. How do you do it? Is it a special pen?”


“My curioscanner! It scans for curios. I’m just realising how it got its name.”

“It’s her.”

Written out in this manner this is CLEARLY a conversation between a deity and a poor Earthbound worshipper asking for help, and this is a theme that develops further when the number ‘626’ is interpreted in other ways. The notion of mythological deities also figures when we examine episode 626 in the chronological run – part four of ‘The Twin Dilemma’, a story featuring twin boys named Romulus and Remus, both conceived with the help of the god Mars.

And it goes further. Consider season 6, episode 26 of the original run: episode three of ‘The Seeds of Death’, an episode which concludes with a pod that hides a deadly secret, in a story about malevolent warriors from the planet Mars, which features a character named Osgood. NONE OF THIS IS A COINCIDENCE.

Now, the boxes.

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This is this week’s snowglobe moment. Those of you who have seen The Matrix will note the OBVIOUS AND DELIBERATE reference to the two pills that Morpheus offers Neo; the red pill brings enlightenment, while the blue brings memory loss. Memory loss is a key theme to ‘The Zygon Inversion’, particularly during this scene. But there’s more to it than that…

Pokemon Red and Blue are two different entries in the phenomenally successful Japanese series, in which players capture monsters inside golf-sized balls that are clearly bigger on the inside. The Red and Blue Design Hotel is in Prague, a city visited by at least nine incarnations of the Doctor. And in football, Crystal Palace FC are known as the Red and Blue Army; the Crystal Palace was visited by the Eighth Doctor and C’rizz in ‘Other Lives’, and thus this is a CLEAR AND UNAMBIGUOUS clue that the Eighth Doctor WILL BE IN THE SERIES FINALE.

Also of note: the Mire helmet, secured behind glass. Note that when the word ‘Mire’ is reversed (or INVERTED) it reads ‘Erim’, the name of a village in Turkey and also the surname of a number of at least two Turkish academics and one politician. We may therefore conclude that Mr Copper, the clueless tour guide from ‘Voyage of the Damned’, who believed that the people of Earth went to war with Turkey every December, will cameo in the Christmas special. There is no possible alternative. Just don’t tell anyone; the press leak is presumably still pending.

The Tenth Doctor shows up again here:

Zygon_Inver Detail (2)

Note the ROSE-coloured bottles of Rubicon hidden just behind the poor Zygon. In ‘Tooth and Claw’, the Tenth Doctor offers to take Rose to observe ‘Caesar crossing the Rubicon’. Note also that both of actors were in ‘Day of the Doctor’, although Billie Piper played a character with a different name who looked like Rose, just as this week Jenna Coleman played both Clara Oswald and someone who looks like her. Note that in ‘Tooth and Claw’ the Doctor and Rose meet Queen Victoria. Note that Queen Victoria is shortly to be played by Jenna Coleman. Note that Zygons have claws. Sort of. That’s enough notes to be going along with. My brain hurts.

Not-quite finally, observe Clara’s lounge / sitting room / snug / living room.

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“Eddie! I think there’s someone in the drawing room!”
“The what-room?”
“The drawing-room!”
“I don’t think I’ve been in there. What, you mean we’ve got a room just for drawing in?”
“God, you’re so common, aren’t you? What do you call it, the snug or the saloon or something?”
“Oh, the lounge!”
“That’s it! Yes, the laaunge! There’s someone down in the laaunge!”

[Parenthesis ends; a moment of silence for Rik Mayall]

Note the three lamps, drawing clear parallels with the three separate Doctors featured in ‘Day of the Doctor’ – the last story featuring the Zygons. The one on the back wall is clearly the War Doctor, given his preoccupation with walls the first time we see him; additionally he is at the back of the room, just as the memory of the War Doctor was pushed (or at least acknowledgement of his existence) is pushed to the back of the Doctor’s mind. The one to its left is clearly the Tenth Doctor, situated as it is on a table with a RED CLOTH, signifying the Tenth Doctor’s RED TRAINERS. And on the right is the Eleventh Doctor, given that the shadow it casts on the wall looks partly like a Fez while simultaneously resembling a Trilby, as worn by –


Who, of course –


Yes, well.

Finally, class, here’s your homework. I know we don’t tend to give homework but your task – should you choose to accept it – is to decode this.

Zygon_Inver Detail (1)

Just the headline in red, that is. I know what it means already, and I’ll tell you next week. But let’s see who can figure it out before I reveal the answer. First correct guess wins my seal of approval, and also a lollipop. A rose-coloured one. Go on, get cracking.

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Review: ‘The Zygon Inversion’

Spoilers, sweetie….

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“The other day a woman came up to me and said, ‘Didn’t I see you on television?’ I said ‘I don’t know. You can’t see out the other way.'”
(Emo Phillips)

I sometimes wonder what Russell T Davies makes of current Doctor Who. Certainly I’m not sure whether anyone ever asks him. You cannot move online for press snippets and paragraph-long teasers from the current showrunner about the ‘fun chase’ that the Christmas special is promising to be, or how devastated everyone will be when Clara departs. I’m of the opinion that Doctor Who ought to stop telling its audience how we ought to be feeling and allow the drama to breathe and speak on its own terms, but that’s another day and another blog post, and one I may write, so let’s not dwell on it now.

But does Russell (yes, my animosity towards the man has evaporated to the extent that I can call him that now) sit in his flat with a vodka and tonic and a curry and cheer on this new, reinvented Doctor? Does he lament the fact that his five-year legacy of the tortured soul has been all but undone? Does he sit and weep while this new chap, the ageing Scot with the impressive eyebrows (because I’ve just finished The Scientific Secrets of Doctor Who, and eyebrows get mentioned practically every page) talks about how close he was to an act of genocide before a soap actress pulled him back from the brink? Or does he nod and smile and say “Yes, that’s probably where I would have gone with it”, and then leave another message on Peter Davison’s voicemail?

We may never know, and in a way that’s fine. But I’ll bet he was watching last night, and thinking “Gosh. I could have had fun with the Zygons.”

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Certainly Moffat has. In a way, this sort of story fits with his writing style like Mary Tamm’s tailored outfits clung to her bosom. There are three ways of writing hidden identity narratives: make the audience aware and play on the dramatic irony; keep them entirely in the dark; alternatively, allow them to spend time believing one thing before pulling the rug out from under their feet. Moffat has done the last one so often that the rug has almost worn threadbare. Vital missing seconds from scenes change allegiances, set booby traps, resurrect the dead. Moffat uses the concept of time like a child experimenting with Playdough, twisting and reshaping it into anything he sees fit. Lest we forget, at the end of series six he built an entire dramatic conceit upon the single use of the word “Actually…”

Peter Harness may have been responsible for the story, but you can feel Moffat lingering at his shoulder. Having spent last week building up to the moment a previously trustworthy character revealed their duplicity, here he does the exact opposite. It’s a trick that doesn’t work quite so well second time around, largely because we do not see an awful lot of Kate until the final act, and she is given a single scene with the Doctor before revealing that her true colours. Still, Jemma Regrave does a convincing sneer.

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We know that we can trust Osgood and the Doctor, so it’s left to Coleman to thicken out the concept. Harness and Moffat achieve this by imprisoning her in a bricked-up flat, where the toothpaste tube is full of what looks like excrement and nothing much works except the TV. It’s a perfect opportunity for a Blake’s 7 marathon if ever I saw one, but Clara discovers that she has a limited control over her Zygon counterpart, as embodied by some rather silly hand movements.

In 1998, I saw a film called Sliding Doors, starring Gwyneth Paltrow as Helen – whose life branches in two directions depending on whether or not she catches a particular train. In the film, Happy Helen cuts her hair short and dies it blonde, presumably because blondes have more fun; Miserable Helen retains its original length and colour. So too this week Bonnie’s brisk and businesslike demeanour is embodied by a pony tail and bright red lipstick, while Clara spends most of the story looking like she’s just got out of bed. Bonnie strides with a glacial stare where Clara ambles; she could also learn a thing or two from Bonnie’s posture. Coleman brings a distinction to both roles; it’s the first time we’ve seen her play an out-and-out villain, and it works, despite occasional lapses into caricature.

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By the episode’s end Bonnie has assumed the identity of Osgood – so there are now two of them, at least one of which is a Zygon – but it would be inconceivable to think that Moffat will not use Coleman again at some point. “Clara,” he assures us, “will never return”, but at no point has he suggested that Bonnie will not. Indeed, if the nature of Clara’s death (assuming that’s where we’re going) is in any way ambiguous, who is to say that he couldn’t have the internet debating whether he actually killed Bonnie instead? That’s what he does, after all.

The plot of ‘The Zygon Inversion’ is essentially built around the nuclear option. The action sequences are sparse and consist largely of people running away: the Doctor and Osgood escape the police, and then pursue an unmasked Zygon in an empty supermarket only for him to commit suicide rather than spend his life unable to cloak. “I never wanted to fight anyone,” he insists, not long before pulling the trigger. “I just wanted to live here. Why can’t I just live?”

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If last week’s episode was largely about immigration policy and the expectation of assimilation, this week is largely about extreme options and final solutions. We are once more in the Black Archive, with Capaldi raging and shaking in a speech that couldn’t be more obviously ‘BAFTA nomination’ if they’d stuck a flashing subtitle underneath it. The sunglasses are off, the preaching comes thick and fast, and the fact that “Do nothing” is once more the solution is, for once, not to the story’s detriment. It’s an impressive moment, worthy of the best of McCoy, and destined indeed to be recreated by past Doctors at conventions and posted across the internet.

Various jokes pepper the script and some of them are very funny. Capaldi bails out of an exploding plane with a Union Jack parachute – the fact that Spectre opened only last week is almost certainly a coincidence, but it helps. London is described as “a dump”. And the Doctor’s look of incredulity when Osgood reveals she does not know what TARDIS stands for is priceless, even more so when she admits that this is because “I’ve heard a couple of different versions”.



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As with last week, there are misfires. The Doctor’s American accent is almost as dreadful as Missy’s (it’s nothing to do with Capaldi or Gomez, who manage fine; it’s just a criminally bad idea). Various scenes don’t make complete sense: the Doctor’s encounter with the police officers feels like it’s going somewhere and then doesn’t, while the ending is slightly muddled. Structurally, the whole thing feels slightly off-kilter, as if it would have benefited from a pacing rethink.

But in the grand scheme of things, this is nitpicking. We’re two thirds of the way through a series as bumpy and uneven as its immediate predecessor; mediocrity pervaded the Dalek story, the promising ghosts were ruined by time travel, and a fun romp through Valhalla was followed by dreary, plotless philosophy. There’s a risk that in calling ‘The Zygon Invasion / Inversion’ an obvious series highlight, I’m damning it with faint praise, and that’s unfair to everyone. In a year of lacklustre ideas and squandered potential, of course it stands out. But that doesn’t stop it being a darn good story in its own right. And just when all seemed lost. Tweak my diodes and call me Petronella.


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The inevitable John Lewis / Doctor Who thing

Sorry. It’s just that Christmas ad is everywhere today, and I couldn’t not do it.


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God is in the detail (9-7)

Good morning, class. Right, we’ve got a lot to get through, so let’s skip the pre-amble and crack on with this week’s CLUES AND SYMBOLS. Today we’ll be looking at ‘The Zygon Invasion’, which is crammed full of detail. Pay attention, as there may be questions later, but no need to make notes; I’ll be providing a handout as you leave.

First, take a look at this – an image which, for the sake of clarity, I have lightened slightly.

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The dials may appear to regulate temperature or something, but this is a show about TIME TRAVEL and they really ought to be viewed within the context of clock faces. By that rationale, ostensibly the one on the left refers to Matt Smith, as it’s clearly pointing to Eleven, while the right-hand gauge refers to Patrick Troughton.

Except it doesn’t. “It doesn’t?” I hear you cry, audibly enough I suppose although with a little less ardour than I’d have liked. Still, it’ll do. Anyway, to answer your question, no, it doesn’t. It instead refers to THE ELEVENTH HOUR and THE SECOND COMING. In other words, references to Jesus Christ in the Eleventh Doctor’s opening episode. But there aren’t any.

Or are there?


Biblical narratives are typically avoided in Doctor Who, but that doesn’t stop iconography from making frequent appearances. This, of course, is the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro – itself noteworthy as a location that the Doctor, Amy and Rory singularly failed to visit in ‘The Hungry Earth’ – but most significant is that this exact moment happens at 53:11. Timestamps, as we’ll discover later on, are very important this week, and this particular one may be translated as an embodiment of the Doctor and his TARDIS, if we assume that 11 is the Doctor and ’53’ symbolises a sentient, classically unreliable means of transportation – in other words, a vehicle with a mind of its own.


Told ya.

Next we move to the notice board in the deserted town of Truth or Consequences.

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The first thing to say is THAT’S NOT A ZYGON LOGO, IT’S A TRIDENT. Which, of course, we’ve dealt with before. However, to really get to the meat of what this image is trying to say, we need to examine the posters for the jazz festival, all of which feature a quaver, followed by two semiquavers and a crotchet (all right, quarter note if you’re in the U.S.). Quavers and semiquavers are also known as 8th and 16th notes respectively, and thus if we were to express this sequence mathematically we would get


Merging the two semiquavers gives us a year – 1616 – pointing to something happening on 04 August of that year. But what? Google is on hand to give us the answer. Examination of Fernando Braudel’s The Wheels of Commerce reveals an exchange on that date between Don Hernando Carrillo and Philip III, in which Don Hernando informed the monarch that:

“Everything is kept going by means of silver…and Your Majesty’s strength consists essentially of silver; the day the silver runs out, the war that will be lost”.

From this, we may CLEARLY AND UNAMBIGUOUSLY infer that series ten will feature a Cyberman story, set in seventeenth century Spain. There is no other possible explanation.

Next, have a look inside the Turmezistan building where Osgood was kept prisoner.

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In this game of what looks like Risk we can see:

– 24 red pieces
– 5 yellow pieces
– 9 green pieces

(Note that this is the number of total pieces; each doubled-up piece is counted as two.)

We may break this down in terms of the story running order as follows:

005 – The Keys of Marinus
009 – Planet of Giants
024 – The Celestial Toymaker

Those of you who read our previous edition will remember that ‘The Celestial Toymaker’ has already featured, linking once more back to the IMMINENT RETURN of Peter Purves. However, this also ties in heavily with Jacqueline Hill – or, more specifically, her character Barbara Wright, again for reasons that will become apparent later.

But there’s more, and for this we must specifically examine the patterns laid out by each colour – to be specific:

Yellow (Keys of Marinus): four pieces, representing the four leads, moving away from a box-shaped piece, thus mirroring the characters’ journey away from the TARDIS

Green (Planet of Giants): note the two single circular pieces perched on top of the elongated piece at the edge of the board, symbolising the consolidation of episodes three and four into a single episode three

Red (The Celestial Toymaker): the nearest red tiles form an upside-down letter ‘C’, mirroring the inclusion of a character named Clara in the Toymaker’s lair, and her namesake’s treachery (or INVERSION) at the end of this week’s story.

Back in Truth or Consequences, there’s a gloomy-looking sheriff’s office.

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There is not much to say about this one, except to point out that THE THING ON THE DESK IN THE MIDDLE IS CLEARLY A SNOWGLOBE. And snowglobes, as we’ve already established, are VERY IMPORTANT BECAUSE THEY REMIND US THAT THIS WHOLE SERIES ISN’T REAL.

Finally, let’s look at the lift camera.

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For this, we need to carefully examine the timestamp at the top left. 18:46 is the information to be taken, specifically how this relates to previous episodes in the series. Extracting footage from the six previous episodes (‘The Zygon Invasion’ is, for reasons that should be obvious, not included), I’ve compiled the images shown at each of these points, as well as the deliberate visual clues that stand out. Thus:


And there it is in – well, I was going to say black and white, but it’s really more a sombre shade of dark blue. The first thing to note is that this relates specifically to London, as that is the home of the underground – also known as the Tube. Furthermore, adopting a slightly different spelling for the final image in the sequence enables us to narrow it down quite specifically. In other words, we are looking for a brick building that lies between a cafe, a Boots chemist, an underground station and a post office, within the vicinity of Hyde Park.

And here it is.


This street view image is of a spot right next to a Caffe Nero, itself apparently attached to High Street Kensington station, with a Boots pharmacy clearly visible next door and a post box just about visible in the top image (up the street, next to the approaching taxi). And the location? 12 Wrights Lane, Kensington. And the name of Susan Foreman’s history teacher? Barbara Wright. You couldn’t make it up. I swear.

(Incidentally, the 46th day of 1846 was the day that Parliament discussed the issue of bone-crushing in workhouses, but I did think this was pushing it.)

Categories: God is in the Detail | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Certain gases in the Praxis range

There will be many of you who, like me, have smirked at the recent news about David Cameron’s Photoshopped poppy. It’s not as bad as shagging a dead pig, but still. All the ‘oversight’ excuses in the world won’t wash.

Except I’ve done a little digging, and it seems everyone’s at it. Even in Doctor Who.



Categories: Classic Who | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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