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Arc Watch: Doctor Who: “Rogue”

🏳️‍🌈 Terrific episode, relatively light on arc stuff.

Arcs

  • Calm Down, The Actress Is Just Called That: Susan Twist appears only as the portrait of the Duchess’ dead mother. Of her characters so far, two of them are bad mothers, one is a bad ambulance, and a fourth reluctantly abandons a space station full of babies. In addition, Mrs Merridew was a maid. That’s a real throughline of playing, broadly speaking, caretakers. Her character next week is called Susan Triad, and S. Triad is an anagram of TARDIS.
  • The Mavity of the Situation: Dr Who invented tarmac in 1902. A lot of fuss is made about Ruby not introducing future ideas to the 1813 folks, who are listening to ye olde Billie Eilish at their ball, but in the end the only people she actually says things like “OK” and “cushy” and “TV” to are Rogue and one of the Chuldur.
  • The Pretenders: The Chuldur take the shape of, “cosplaying” as, people from 1813 and intend to go on to do so in London so as to cosplay the planet to death, their cosplaying is fatal to the subjects of their fandom.
  • Still Figuring It Out: Dr Who has his first gay romance with Rogue. This is who he is now. 🙂
  • It’s About Timeless: A hologram display of Dr Who’s previous faces includes, amongst the traditional regenerative lineage and recent unnumbered additions like the Jo Martin incarnation and the John Hurt incarnation, an incarnation of the character as played by Richard E Grant, who played two separate incarnations of Dr Who in Scream of the Shalka and The Curse of Fatal Death, both generally ignored by the show as it’s existed since 2005.
  • Guardians of the Playground: Rogue has a handful of d20 dice in his ship. That’s games. The Toymaker is games. Hmm? Cosplaying is roleplaying, too.
  • The Boss Is Not Rhetorical: Rogue, a bounty hunter, refers to his “new boss.” Rogue does not appear to know about Dr Who before the events of this story, and, though he might have vaguely heard of Time Lords and Gallifrey, does not know where the latter is.

Theories

No huge changes, but I think Theory One and Theory Three may be connected.

  • Theory One: What character archetype in RTD’s take on Doctor Who does a lot of Waiting? Jackie, a year, not knowing. Francine, a year, for a shot. Sylvia, for Donna, for so long. What if the One Who Waits, and thus the Boss, is the Toymaker’s mum? Connecting this to Theory Three, if Susan Twist is playing a series of caretakers, and I think the One Who Waits is the Toymaker’s mother… Dot dot dot…
  • (No development) Theory Two: Ruby Sunday is an experiment engineered (or, perhaps, a story told) to infiltrate the TARDIS. The nominative similarity with Mundy Flynn, played by future companion actress Varada Sethu, links them explicitly — Mundy may be another experiment in the series. They also feel like they’re in an RTD and Moffat mode, respectively — Ruby very much a Rose type, Mundy’s early appearance fairly explicitly invokes Clara. Keep an eye out for a funny grey-haired white guy called Tuesday.
  • (No real development) Theory Three: I think Susan Twist is part of some kind of cosmic corrective, the spellcheck chasing down a typo. The cosmic corrective may be the result of the damage done to the TARDIS by Donna spilling coffee on it.
  • The Mega Theory: Look, I don’t honestly think all three of these are true, but wouldn’t it be neat if they were? What if Donna spilling coffee on the TARDIS created some kind of manifestation that takes the form of Susan Twist, left unchecked becomes the Toymaker’s mother, and then, with all the power in the world, creates Ruby, leaves her behind at the church on Ruby Road so she can infiltrate the TARDIS so she can reconnect with Dr Who? That would be too tidy, wouldn’t? Wouldn’t it?

Arc Watch: Doctor Who: “73 Yards” & “Dot and Bubble”

Missed last week — I was busy turning in my graduation project. But let’s catch up.

Arcs

  • Sweet Christmas Baby:
    • 73 Yards: The Woman who follows Ruby says something to people, including Carla, to make them run away from Ruby, abandoning her forever, explicitly weaponising her anxiety about having been abandoned and not knowing why. Ruby says she used to be able to make it snow “once upon a time,” making what seemed like a weird side effect of remembering her origin story more of a superpower.
      The Woman’s gestures and the words she mouth, though their content is not directly narratively… true, do feel like they connect to Ruby’s abandonment thematically: “Bless you. Thank you so much. That’s so kind of you. When you gave me that little thing, it was just so precious. How am I ever going to repay you.”1I try not to refer to behind the scenes material too much — what’s on the screen is what’s on the screen — but this is from the Doctor Who Unleashed for this episode.
  • Calm Down, The Actress Is Just Called That:
    • 73 Yards: Ruby explicitly recognises Susan Twist as the hiker.
    • Dot and Bubble: Ruby and Dr Who again recognise Susan Twist as Lindy Pepper-Bean’s mother, with Dr Who explicitly connecting her face to the one used by the Ambulance on Kastarion 3.
  • The Pretenders:
    • 73 Yards: The folks at the pub pretend to be both scared and simple, but instead are just bastards. Ruby pretends to be a conservative person to join the Roger ap Gwilliam campaign. Roger ap Gwilliam may or may not be Mad Jack, but all things considered, he’s extremely up front and not pretending to be anything he’s not.
    • Dot and Bubble: The folks in Finetime pretend everything is fine and normal but live in an explicitly segregated society. Lindy and Hoochy Pie pretend to care about environmentally friendly sourced clothing, but then Hoochy Pie eagerly declares she’ll buy a hundred. Ruby pretends to work for Finetime to talk to Lindy, and to be clueless to gently guide her to the conclusion she wants her to come to. Ruby and Dr Who pretend not to be in separate rooms. Dr Who pretends not to be fucking exasperated with these people, and condescends to Lindy. Ricky September had to change his surname to something weirder to access some of the privilege of Finetime. Ricky September pretends rescue is coming from the Homeworld, and that he hasn’t seen that everyone on the Homeworld is dead.
  • Still Figuring It Out:
    • Dot and Bubble: Dr Who is, for the first time we’ve seen, confronted with the reality of life as a Black man — the racist people of Finetime will simply distrust him for no reason other than the colour of his skin.
  • Original Owners:
    • 73 Yards: It doesn’t go anywhere in this episode, but Dr Who literally says the rumoured title of the UNIT spinoff “the war between the land and the sea” out loud.
  • How Much?:
    • The Devil’s Chord: Dr Who is shocked by how much Susan Twist as the Tea Lady charges for a tea.
    • 73 Yards: Ruby is shocked by how much the woman at the pub charges for a Coke.
  • The Mavity of the Situation:
    • 73 Yards: Ruby changes her timeline by becoming the Woman and stopping Dr Who stepping on the fairy circle. By stopping Dr Who stepping on the fairy circle, she may or may not prevent Mad Jack’s release, and may or may not prevent Roger ap Gwilliam’s rise to power. Though Dr Who no longer goes into detail about what makes him the most dangerous Prime Minister of all time, he does still say that bit. In the revised timeline, she says she’s been to Wales thrice instead of twice, but can’t quite recall the third time, which has been unhappened.
  • Those Who Step On It:
    • Space Babies: Ruby doesn’t look where she’s going and steps on a butterfly and the butterfly effect causes her to become a lizard person.
    • Boom: Dr Who doesn’t look where he’s going and steps on a landmine.
    • 73 Yards: Dr Who doesn’t look where he’s going and steps on a fairy circle.
  • Lady of the Water:
    • 73 Yards: Mrs Flood says the events of this episode are “nothing to do with me.”
  • Black Cats and Ladders at the Edge
    • 73 Yards: The stepping on the fairy circle erases Dr Who, locks the TARDIS, and sets the events of the story in motion. The folkloric legend of Mad Jack is… implicitly connected to Roger ap Gwilliam. The Woman is very much in the mode of Welsh folk horror. The cliffside the TARDIS lands at is at the border between the land and the sea.
    • Dot and Bubble: Finetime is surrounded by the Wild Woods, which Lindy expresses a light superstition-esque fear of. Hoochy Pie calls the idea of a box that’s bigger on the inside “voodoo.” She expresses their commitment to racial segregation as their “God-given duty to maintain the standards of Finetime,” their racism a religion that will get them killed.
  • UNified Intelligence and Skyscraper-Building Taskforce:
    • 73 Yards: UNIT continues to evolve, and is now explicitly a companion-recruiting organisation, which Kate calls a tradition.
  • Knowledge Lord:
    • 73 Yards: Dr Who references Roger ap Gwilliam for no particular reason — his dropping of future knowledge often seems to be connected to things that are about to happen to him, and some instinct in him may have been trying to warn Ruby.
  • Ruins of the Fourth Wall:
    • 73 Yards: Stepping on the fairy circle removes Dr Who and with him the title sequence.
    • Dot and Bubble: Dr Who and Ruby spend most of the episode talking to Lindy through the Dot and Bubble technology, essentially a cellphone, which is how many viewers will be watching this series.

Theories

Not really anything new for any of them, but I’ll just keep these at the bottom here.

  • Theory One: What character archetype in RTD’s take on Doctor Who does a lot of Waiting? Jackie, a year, not knowing. Francine, a year, for a shot. Sylvia, for Donna, for so long. What if the One Who Waits is the Toymaker’s mum?
  • Theory Two: Ruby Sunday is an experiment engineered (or, perhaps, a story told) to infiltrate the TARDIS. The nominative similarity with Mundy Flynn, played by future companion actress Varada Sethu, links them explicitly — Mundy may be another experiment in the series. They also feel like they’re in an RTD and Moffat mode, respectively — Ruby very much a Rose type, Mundy’s early appearance fairly explicitly invokes Clara. Keep an eye out for a funny grey-haired white guy called Tuesday.
  • Theory Three: I think Susan Twist is part of some kind of cosmic corrective, the spellcheck chasing down a typo. The cosmic corrective may be the result of the damage done to the TARDIS by Donna spilling coffee on it.

 

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    I try not to refer to behind the scenes material too much — what’s on the screen is what’s on the screen — but this is from the Doctor Who Unleashed for this episode.

Arc Watch: Doctor Who: “Boom”

In an explosive twist, a Steven Moffat episode turns out to be quite good.

  • Sweet Christmas Baby: The Ambulance struggles to explain Dr Who’s vitals because he’s a Time Lord, and a complex space-time event, which is quite common, as computer reactions to Dr Who go, but then the Ambulance, after calmly noting her name and that she’s over 3000 years old, has the same reaction to trying to analyse Ruby’s next of kin. Having invoked her origin story, snow once again appears out of nowhere — but this time, freezes in mid-air. Hard to tell if that’s relevant, or just a Moffatism — this happened before, very similarly, in Twice Upon a Time. 1I hadn’t noticed this — it’s Ash Taylor who I first saw make the observation that the snow freezing in mid-air had happened in a Steven Moffat-penned episode before.
  • The Pretenders: The Ambulance takes the name and symbolism of something that helps you, but it kills you. The casket AI pretends to be the person whose remains it’s attached to. We live in a blip of history where religions pretend not to be armies. The Villengard algorithm pretends there’s a war on for profit. Mundy and Canterbury both pretend not to like each other, and their delayed confession costs Canterbury his life. The line from the Philip Larkin poem “An Arundel Tomb” Dr Who quotes — “what will survive of us is love” — is not actually meant to be read the way he interprets it; the poem is actually quite sad.
  • Existence of Sunday Implies Existence of Mundy: The actor already announced to be playing a new companion in the 2025 series joins us here early, playing Anglican Marine Mundy Flynn. The connection between her and Ruby’s names is noted. (Worth noting: Varada Sethu didn’t know she’d be back, or a companion at all, until months later.)
    • Let’s evolve Theory Two: If Ruby Sunday is an experiment, engineered to be the perfect companion to infiltrate Dr Who’s TARDIS on behalf of the Trickster or their Brigade… No sensible scientist runs just the one experiment, right? I reckon Mundy Flynn is another experiment from whatever produced Ruby Sunday.
      Bonus thought: Ruby is very much in the Rose style of companion. But Mundy has major traits in common with Amy (a lost love,) Clara (an early appearance,) and Rita from The God Complex (doesn’t join the TARDIS even though you might consider her a prime candidate.) Keep an eye out, perhaps, for a character with a name like “Tuesday” who’s in the Chibnall style. (Which one’s the Wolverine to the other’s Deadpool?)
  • Still Figuring It Out: Dr Who is very energetic, can’t sit still, doesn’t let himself take more than two minutes to admire the dawn of Kastarion 3. Maybe he can be this version of himself again after his last face did the healing, but after making such a point of how self-destructive this is… We good here, Doc?
  • Calm Down, The Actress Is Just Called That: Susan Twist’s biggest role yet here, as the AI running the Ambulance.
    • I think that locks Theory Three down for me: I think she’s part of some kind of cosmic corrective, the spellcheck chasing down a typo. But has that cosmic corrective corrupted the Villengard algorithm, or is it the Villengard algorithm? Does it perceive Dr Who’s meddling as a threat to it in some way? Or is the Villengard stuff just another Moffatism, like so many things in this episode?
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    I hadn’t noticed this — it’s Ash Taylor who I first saw make the observation that the snow freezing in mid-air had happened in a Steven Moffat-penned episode before.

Arc Watch: Doctor Who: “Space Babies” and “The Devil’s Chord”

Aaand we’re back.

The Big Ones

These are the explicit arcs, the ones the show actively calls out as things that are happening.

  • The Boss Is Not Rhetorical: More references to “The One Who Waits” and the Toymaker’s legions, and how those are definitely coming. Considering those legions include the Goblins from The Church on Ruby Road, I think this is less an organised force and more just, all these gods and fantasy creatures, they’re tied together by some kind of loose association with the Toymaker. They’re the Pantheon, and there’s a leader.
    • Theory One: What character archetype in RTD’s take on the show does a lot of Waiting? Jackie, a year, not knowing. Francine, a year, for a shot. Sylvia, for Donna, for so long. What if the One Who Waits is the Toymaker’s mum?
  • Sweet Christmas Baby: Ruby’s origin story is revisited, and the memory of it changes so the figure in the black robe now pointed ominously at Dr Who. This manifests, somehow, as the snow from the memory appearing on Baby Station Beta. The snow later reappears when the song in her soul at Abbey Road turns out to be Carol of the Bells. Maestro says a lot of ominous words about what this could mean.
    • Theory Two: Look, a black robe’s a black robe, but once you’ve got a creepy finger in there we’re all thinking of the Trickster, right? It’s a big late-RTD1 idea from SJA that even gets its fingers into Torchwood, the Trickster, and the Trickster’s Brigade, and it never really comes to any kind of apex before his first era ends. I think we’re all thinking of the Trickster.
      Another big idea from RTD1 that never really went anywhere, though it came out once in the form of the “red bicycle when you were 12” line before being abandoned, the script it was supposed to be revealed in being replaced by Boom Town: Rose was originally meant to be revealed to have been an experiment, either engineered or created to be the perfect companion.
      Every time this storyline comes up, it’s all I’m thinking about, and I think a version of that is what’s going on here — and let me connect this to Theory One — and the Trickster is Ruby’s mum, too.
  • The Mavity of the Situation: Ruby steps on a butterfly and instantly becomes a lizard person, the human race presumably having been supplanted by Rubathon Blue’s species. Dr Who flips a “butterfly compensation switch” to undo the butterfly effect. Presumably this would prevent something like “mavity” happening in the future, but “mavity” wasn’t undone — it still says it on the screen on Baby Station Beta, and afterwards, history is changed again in The Devil’s Chord, with Maestro’s interference causing all music since 1925 to have diminished, and Ruby’s 2024 to be long dead, all of which appears to be undone at the end, with There’s Always a Twist at the End seemingly reinserting the true history of music.
  • Ruins of the Fourth Wall: Multiple instances of characters breaking the fourth wall in The Devil’s Chord — Maestro and Dr Who’s jukebox playing the Doctor Who theme, “I thought that was non-diegetic,” Maestro generally, etcetera, all following on from the Toymaker’s eager winking and nodding at the camera for all of The Giggle. Who has this power? The Toymaker and Maestro, obviously, but Dr Who, too. What do they all have in common?
    The song There’s Always A Twist at the End is able to reinsert the true history of music because the walls of reality are still thin, like they were after the Toymaker was defeated. Murray Gold and several other notable music and dance people implausibly play themselves here. The walls are, in fact, so thin the song appears to give birth to Eurovision.
    If the walls of reality are thin, one of those walls is the fourth, and Doctor Who is about TV1It’s about a box that’s bigger on the inside and can show you anywhere, any time. That’s just TV., is Dr Who about to… I don’t know yet.
  • Calm Down, The Actress Is Just Called That: I’d already posted a mea culpa, but that’s Susan Twist in four out of the RTD2 era’s six episodes so far, almost acting as the era’s “Bad Wolf” or “Torchwood.” We’ve now seen Susan Twist portray, in order, Mrs Merridew, an unnamed concertgoer, Baby Station Beta comms officer Gina Scalzi, and an unnamed tea lady, always just kinda there, though The Devil’s Chord lingers on her longer than usual — the show is actively telling you to pay attention. She shouts out The Wicked Lady, a film in which a nobleman’s wife chooses to become a highwayman. She calls the lead “statuesque” when comparing herself to her.
    • (Developing) Theory Three: Crucially, in the form of Mrs Merridew, Susan Twist was present for the “mavity” moment, and now follows one of its instigators like a shadow, a whisper. Is she a side effect? The red line under the typo, a cosmic correction?

The Other Ones

  • Still Figuring It Out: “Is that who I am now?” is still a dominant question — Dr Who is surprised to find out he’s scared, more reluctant to jump into adventure. He says it’s because of the sound the Bogeyman makes in Space Babies, but the same terror — more terror, if anything — is visible on his face when he realises what he’s dealing with in The Devil’s Chord.
  • It’s About Timeless: Dr Who’s status as an adopted orphan is reiterated and continues to be explicitly connected with Ruby’s origin story.
  • The Pretenders: Jocelyn uses the NAN-E filter to pretend to merely be a voice assistant. Babies pretend to staff a space station. The Bogeyman is explicitly created to be a threat. Henry Abinger pretends to be human. Dr Who and Ruby pretend to work at Abbey Road. The Beatles pretend not to care about music even though they feel it deeply in their souls.
  • The State of the Home Planet: The wiping out of the Time Lords is meaningfully reframed as a “genocide” — a big word, a real word, a meaningful word — because that’s what it is, that’s what Dr Who is the sole survivor of.
  • Black Cats and Ladders at the Edge of the Universe: Maestro came into Dr Who’s universe when the Toymaker did, when the walls were thin after pouring salt at the edge of the universe, and then into 1925 when Timothy Drake plays the titular chord, which people believe to be the devil’s.
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    It’s about a box that’s bigger on the inside and can show you anywhere, any time. That’s just TV.
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