The Mulholland Drive / Doctor Who Connection

I can still remember where I was when I saw Mulholland Drive. It was an evening showing at the local theatre – Lynch movies got limited release, at least in my hometown – and it was a one-night-only performance. I went with a friend from the office who loved David Lynch almost as much as I did. Earlier that day, we’d been giggling about the stupidity of the over-zealous Capalert – a Christian film review service who deducted family suitability points from The Straight Story (one of the gentlest, kindest films you’ll ever encounter) on the grounds of ‘terror of runaway lawn mower down a hill with the rider’. Some people simply have too much free time – and that’s me saying that.

Twin Peaks aside, I’ve always been something of a maverick when it comes to my admiration of Lynch. Blue Velvet, for example, bores me to tears. I get it, for sure, but I find Rossellini embarrassing to watch, and MacLachlan’s Heineken affirmations quite horrendous. Conversely, I am quite the fan of Dune. Everybody loves The Elephant Man, and I think we can all at least agree that Eraserhead is a masterpiece, can’t we?

But Mulholland Drive. It always felt like the film that Lost Highway wanted to be and didn’t quite manage. Lynch’s 1997 tour-de-force is a brooding, violent piece of work, in which Bill Pullman murders his wife and wakes up as Balthazar Getty (which, if Getty’s rumoured on-set behaviour is anything to go by, is something of a trade-down). Without wanting to give anything away, Mulholland Drive is based around similar themes of betrayal and revenge and identity, but it feels far more coherent and satisfying, with some electric performances from the leads. Doesn’t mean I understand it, though. There’s two hours of slow-paced, occasionally surreal film noir, and then [MONUMENTAL SPOILER], which turns the entire film on its head.

“What the hell was that?” I remember saying when we left the cinema. “What just happened? What did we just watch?”

“Don’t mess with it, man,” came the reply from Jon. “It’s Lynch.”

I kind of have to be in the mood for Mulholland Drive, even when I know how it ends. That probably explains why I only got around to watching it for the second time just the other week, despite the fact that it was purchased a decade ago as part of a box set I picked up in HMV. But on this particular Saturday I was feeling dark and freakish, so Em and I got the boys in bed as early as we could, and made a night of it.

And all I could think about was Doctor Who.

I mean, the connections – such as they exist – are (probably) entirely coincidental. I doubt that Dave’s a fan, for one thing – I suspect he’s more of a Prisoner buff.  There is one interesting link to Classic Who and one link to New Who, specifically an episode that wouldn’t air until ten years after Lynch’s movie hit the art cinemas. But anyway. Let’s start with the slightly more obscure material. In the first instance, you have the grinning old lady.

Mul_Old Lady

Said old lady appears in the final act, in a nightmarish closing sequence, but even in this early appearance it’s clear that she’s not all that she seems. Which sort of happened in this episode.


Marginally less tenuous (but not much) is the link between the Club Silencio’s Master of Ceremonies and a classic Who character.



Oh, perhaps it’s the moustache.

But these are mere trivialities. The meat is to be found further in. First there’s the monster behind the diner. One of the most enigmatic of all characters, with a multitude of possible origins and meanings. But as it turns out, there’s a far simpler explanation.


So now you know. Most conclusive of all, however, is the mysterious box that is suddenly found inside Betty’s handbag halfway through Rebekah Del Rio’s spellbinding performance of ‘Crying’. Never mind the fact that it’s blue, and far bigger on the inside. We’ve seen it elsewhere.


Haven’t we?

As Jon would say, “Don’t mess with it, man. It’s Lynch.”

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4 thoughts on “The Mulholland Drive / Doctor Who Connection

  1. Frivolous Monsters

    I saw the film – showing for one night only – in Bangor. My first experience of David Lynch. Possibly the last. I felt robbed. So did the people I convinced it was supposed to be a good film. We weren’t impressed at our screening!

    • reverend61

      Crumbs. Yes, Lynch is something of an acquired taste and if you’ve not encountered him before, Mulholland probably isn’t the best place to start. Wild At Heart is arguably more accessible, if you can put up with Nicholas Cage. Or you could just watch Twin Peaks, at least up until the episode where they identify Laura Palmer’s killer.

  2. I love this film, although you definitely have to be in a certain frame of mind to enjoy it. All I can think of now is that small blue box, that is so cool and freaky.

    • reverend61

      It was! As I said, I don’t know if Lynch was a fan. But it would be nice to think it was simple coincidence. That would fit with his style of film-making.

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