This was very nearly a Back to the Future post. You know I’m always one to throw a grappling hook in the direction of a receding bandwagon, clinging on for dear life even as it disappears into the distance. I mean, I was going to write about how strange it was that Doctor Who‘s become a show about a middle-aged man who becomes fixated with a schoolteacher named Clara.
But we won’t do it. I’m bloody sick of the Back To The Future crap that’s been clogging my timeline for the past eighteen months, before the internet went into meltdown yesterday. We’re celebrating a fictional day visited by characters in an eighties movie and sneering about all the things the writers got wrong when THEY WEREN’T EVEN TRYING? We’re making fake products and producing trailers for fake films that got seven seconds of screen time? Is this really where our creativity’s taken us? I’m tired of it. I’m tired of all the memes that did the rounds two or three years ago warning that “The day they visited” was imminent, and which fooled about ninety per cent of the internet, when it should have been criminally obvious to anyone who ever saw the films that THEY DON’T GO ANYWHERE THAT DOESN’T END IN A FIVE. And I’m sorry, but the conversation between Lloyd and Fox just upset me, because it’s sad to see Michael looking so ill.
I mean, it’s a movie. It’s a big part of my childhood but this was just saturation point. Listen up, everyone: BTTF 2 isn’t even that good. It’s convoluted, confusing and Jeffrey Weissmann is crap. Moreover, it contains a whopping great paradox in that it would have been impossible for Biff to return the De Lorean to Marty and Doc’s 2015 timeline – he’d have gone to a parallel future where they’d have been somewhere else entirely. Once you realise that, absolutely nothing makes any sense.
No, we’ll look instead at ‘The Girl Who Died’, although I’ve ranted a bit so I may have to cut this one short.
Notice the white tree next to the Doctor. Those of you who know your Tolkien will have this figured out straight away: for the rest of you, the tree is (as the LOTR Wiki puts it) “fashioned in the image of Telperion, elder of the Two Trees of Valinor”: ‘Telperion and Valinor’ may be rearranged to form ‘Adopt Nonlinear Liver’, which is a CLEAR REFERENCE to Ashildr’s new hybrid form come the end of the story. (The flowering of the white tree also symbolises new hope and life, which is rather more obvious, and thus not the sort of thing Moffat would have done. No, this is right.)
Also note that there are two visible stumps in this picture, both to the left of the white tree. This, coupled with the fallen trunk on the right hand side, is a clear reference to cricket, and the IMMINENT RETURN OF THE FIFTH DOCTOR.
Now, have a look in the banqueting hall / lodge / whatever the Vikings called it and let’s be honest who cares because THEY HAD HORNS.
The candelabra (centre) is a gift from Odin. Two tiers. Eight on the bottom, four on the top, corresponding exactly with the number of canonical Doctors. Beneath them, a dragon. And what does this have to do with Doctor Who? Well, those of you familiar with prime time fantasy costume drama that isn’t Game of Thrones will remember this:
Coincidentally, David Schofield – co-starring as the fake Odin in ‘The Girl Who Died’ – also appeared in Merlin as King Alined: a word that can be rearranged to form ‘Denial’, which is precisely how the Vikings spend half the episode before the Doctor agrees to train them, but which is also a river in Egypt, the home of Queen Nefertiti, who was in ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’, which also featured an appearance from Richard Hope, who was in Poldark, and A DARK POLE IS HOLDING UP THE CANDELABRA. LOOK AT IT. But not too long or it will etch certain words into your mind, making you a target for ghosts, or telesales pests.
Finally: farm animals.
The chickens at the side have so many layers of meaning we don’t have time to unpack them all. Suffice to say that they appear in ‘The Fires of Pompeii’ (an episode referenced heavily) and also ‘City of Death’ (see below). However, most significant is the Doctor’s affirmation in ‘Blink’ that his Timey-Wimey Detector (which goes ding when there’s stuff) can also boil an egg from up to thirty paces, “so I’ve learned to stay away from hens”. This is one of two major scenes for the Doctor in ‘Blink’, the other being a video conversation in which he instructs Sally Sparrow to, among other things, to “Look to your left”.
How did you find those chickens? Where did you have to point your eyes? Yes, that’s right. (Or rather left.)
You will also notice three ducks, centre stage. Ducks are mentioned in the very first Amy Pond story, in which the newly-regenerated Eleventh Doctor enquires why there are no ducks on the Leadworth duck pond. Veterans will also note that the Ponds’ penultimate story was ‘The Power of Three’. Three ducks. Count ’em. THREE.
But there’s more. The Three Ducks is a hostel on Place Etienne Pernet in Paris, location for ‘City of Death’. Here’s the hostel on Google Maps, along with assorted locations from the shoot, including the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.
(For more details, see here.)
Now watch what happens when we add the two parks (which are significant for obvious reasons that I won’t go into here) and then join the lines up.
IT IS CLEARLY AN UPTURNED TARDIS. As in the one that appeared in this episode.
(Those of you who know your Big Finish will also be aware that Sophie Aldred voiced a military duck with an assault rifle in ‘Zagreus’, but I really thought that was a step too far.)