I really didn’t want to have to think too hard about this episode; it’s on my list of things I may get round to seeing again if I ever run out of X-Files, the likelihood of which is minimal. But a gentleman’s dedication to his crusade to find the SERIOUS AND IMPORTANT CLUES in these stories knows, it seems, no bounds, or at least relatively few. Pay attention, class: we could be here for the duration.
In the first instance, look at this opening image of the Drum, as used in the recap.
The word ‘Previously’ is in the process of forming, but it’s no coincidence that when I was scanning for clues and subtleties, my image grabbing software stopped on this THREE TIMES. Clearly this image is watermarked in some way. But what does it mean? Well, for a start the word ‘sly’ is derived from the Old Norse word ‘sloegr’, meaning ‘cunning and crafty’, and as we’re all aware VIKINGS ARE GOING TO FEATURE IN NEXT WEEK’S EPISODE.
But let’s leave the etymology aside, and look at the word as an acronym. An acronym for Safety, Liquidity and Yield – stock market lingo, but also a CLEAR AND TRANSPARENT reference to the contents of the episode (Clara and the others in the Drum spend the whole time trying to find a place of safety; the Doctor is almost forced to yield to his seemingly inevitable death; and the whole thing takes place underwater). And, of course, SLY is the airport code for Salehard. WHICH IS IN RUSSIA. (Salehard is, coincidentally, the closest town to the Polar Circle, WHICH IS WHERE THE LAST CHRISTMAS SPECIAL WAS SET.)
Here’s the Doctor, in the abandoned military town.
Look at those twin dolls. Are they Russian? No, they appear to be standing still. Note their twin-like appearance. This is an UNAMBIGUOUS reference to the Grady twins, who appeared in The Shining, a film set in a haunted hotel – just like another episode of Doctor Who that happened to have been written by Toby Whithouse. I’d say “You couldn’t make it up”, but that’s because NOBODY DID – IT’S ENTIRELY DELIBERATE.
Twins also feature in The Parent Trap, the 1961 Disney comedy in which Hayley Mills played twins Sharon and Susan, which also happens to be the names of two of the Doctor’s companions (yes, there was a Sharon; look it up). The songs for ‘The Parent Trap’ were written by the Sherman brothers, both of whom also provided songs for Mary Poppins – a film that has strong ties with Doctor Who – while rearranging the letters in ‘Sharon McKendrick’ leads to ‘ark mensch dornick‘, both a reference to ‘The Ark In Space’, and its immediate successor, ‘The Sontaran Experiment’, in which the Doctor goes off to look at rocks.
Here’s a spookily empty lounge.
One word: snow globe. And we’re back with St. Elsewhere (see this entry) and the conviction that this is NOT REAL. Note also the presence of the Autons in the back – human pretenders who are NOT REAL. Note also the lampshade, which is pink. Note that the last time we saw Danny Pink was in an episode where things are NOT REAL. I don’t think we need elaborate any further. I’ve got a nagging feeling somewhere in the back of my head that we should, but I am dismissing it, as it is NOT REAL.
Next: El Doctor, wandering once more through the town.
The poster – as you might have guessed – is our focus here. The six tanks evoke six different stories:
‘The Magician’s Apprentice’, in which the Doctor rides into a medieval banqueting hall on top of a tank
‘The Daleks’ Master Plan’, in which the Monk’s TARDIS briefly assumes the shape of a tank
‘The Power of Three’, in which UNIT roll a tank over a Shakri cube
‘Robot’, in which the Brigadier unsuccessfully endeavours to destroy the K1 robot with a tank (and in which an organisation entitled Think Tank features prominently)
‘The Runaway Bride’, in which the Webstar is annihilated with the aid of tank fire
‘The Time of the Doctor’, in which a broken tank is spotted on Trenzalore.
What do all these stories have in common? Well, I think you know that, don’t you? So we needn’t dwell on it. It is obvious to anyone who isn’t an idiot. Suffice to say that the THREE Dalek stories, not to mention the POWER OF THREE, the fact that ‘The Runaway Bride’ is the first episode of series THREE, and the fact that the newly regenerated Fourth Doctor tries on THREE costumes before deciding upon his iconic scarf and hat combination should give you some clue.
But it’s the chap on the right that is of particular interest. Clearly his pose is meant to mimic this one.
River Song, of course, and her triumphant entry into the TARDIS. The longest river in Russia is the Yenesei-Angara-Selenge River – words that can be rearranged to form ‘Venereal energy series, again’. Those of you who have not blanked the first series of Torchwood from your heads will recall ‘Day One’, the early episode that dealt with Carys Fletcher, sexual predator in a quite literal sense, as her victims exploded at the point of climax. THIS IS A CLEAR SIGN THAT CAPTAIN JACK WILL COME AGAIN.
Of course, this chap also looks a little like the Mandarin, so…
Well, you know, red and all that.
Finally, to the TARDIS.
OK, kids. Here’s where it gets complicated.
The trick here is to examine the shapes. The circles are a dead giveaway, although we must ignore the one at the bottom, which is a red herring, for obvious reasons. But the presence of the Doctor himself is significant, and suggests an obvious arch-type shape. Hence, with a bit of trickery:
Note also that there are two Doctors in this scene, necessitating the doubling of such a thing. Look, to cut a long story short, if we mash all this together we get this:
Case closed, and padlocked, and lost on a luggage carousel somewhere in Bulgaria. Or maybe Salehard.