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Arc Watch: 2023 Specials Novelisation Update, plus a correction

Well, alright, with the ideas from Arc Watch in mind, I’ve read through the novelisations of the 2023 anniversary specials, and come up with… exactly one and a half idea.

Outside of the usual narrative expansion — an hour of TV doesn’t tend to fill 120 – 200 pages of prose — the novelisations do sometimes shed some additional light on things we’re looking out for. They’re not1Don’t say canon. true to the continuity of the television series, and I don’t think we can use them for new arcs, new information, but I do think think there may occasionally be bits and bobs worth noting here.

The Star Beast

  • Gonkage: The novel includes some memos, articles, emails from characters on- and off-screen between chapters to fill in some details about the world of the story. One of these emails reads as follows.

    18 November

    To: Rose Noble

    Re: Latest shipment

    Hey lovely Rose

    Just wanted to say the latest shipment of your toys has safely arrived in Abu Dhabi. Thank you for packing them so well.

    I’ll let you know how soon I need another shipment, though probably not until early in the New Year. Everyone here absolutely loves them, especially my friends in Fujairah and Dubai. Even my dad says to tell you that, and I quote, ‘Rose has an amazing, imaginative product that is unique.’ See, told you! Your designs are going down a treat and everyone is talking about them.

    Happy Christmas to you and your mum

    Leila x

    I think that’s good enough to close the book on Gonkage — the idea that there’s any mystery to the woman in Abu Dhabi buying Rose’s toys is clearly not something this book is thinking about.

The Giggle

  • The Mavity of the Situation: Even the Toymaker, who you might almost expect to be “above” that kind of change, refers to it as mavity in his narration.
  • While reflecting on her inability to ever talk about her job outside of work, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart recalls:

    Every now and then, she’d crack and start to talk about how she was brokering a fragile peace with the Earth’s Original Owners and she was losing sleep about how long it could be maintained. She’d start to explain it all — how the leader of a junta somewhere had broken into a nest to steal ancient weapons to finish a grubby civil war. How she’d had to attend a Silurian funeral then sit down with the leader of the nest and stop him from wiping out an entire country. The words just poured out of her and down the conversational sink. Awkward looks, coughs, nervous silences. ‘It’s a metaphor, isn’t it?’ someone would say. ‘Oh, you are clever, Kate!’

    This goes on into a further reflection on the Sunnydalian tendency of Earth’s humanity to just… not really want to talk about the things that don’t add up, but I’ll be god-damned if this doesn’t feel like setup for the as yet officially unannounced UNIT spinoff The War Between the Land and the Sea, which, and I know I said the novelisations aren’t good for New Threads, I’m sure we’ll get more hints towards in due course. Let’s call this thread Original Owners.

A small correction

I said in the Arc Watch post for The Church on Ruby Road that I didn’t think Susan Twist, who’d played Mrs Merridew, also playing the woman in the crowd at Ruby’s gig meant anything. In the words of the released script:A WOMAN in the CROWD - a woman we’ve seen as Mrs Merridew in Special 2, a woman we’ll see a lot more of - YELLS: WOMAN: Give it some welly! TRUDY: All right, I said sorry! Okay?! WOMAN: Give’s a bit of Steeleye Span! Can you do Gaudete?I stand corrected. I still think the idea that it’s a twist to do with Susan just because she’s called Susan Twist is patently ludicrous, but let’s keep an eye out for Mrs Merridew going forward.

(I’ve just read three novels for this blog, so it’s not gonna be me, but if anyone wants to pick through the rest of the scripts to see if there’s anything interesting in there, go ahead and file your report with me.)

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    Don’t say canon.

Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Futurama Theory

Content Warning: Spoilers for both the 60th Anniversary Doctor Who Specials and the Futurama movies

When the titles of the 60th Anniversary Specials were first announced it immediately struck me that two of them were almost exactly the same as the titles of two of the Futurama movies. Little did I know at the time that I had just uncovered the greatest plagiarism scandal in the history of… well, I’m getting ahead of myself and I should probably present the evidence first.

Now, just to be clear this is not actually a legal threat, this is just a little observation I made when watching the specials. Unless of course Fox Comedy Central Hulu would like to pay me for my analysis or @Daily for their almost-lawyer skills.

The legal claim theory is that the Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Specials are a retelling of the Futurama movies, or, alternatively, the Futurama movies are a wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey parody of the Doctor Who Anniversary Specials.1It’s a little known fact that time travel was actually invented around 1998, but Disney suppressed it, because they feared the ability to go back in time would weakened their copyrights. There’s a great documentary about it in a now defunct timeline.
This theory is definitely not solely based on the resemblance between the titles. It is the product of a deep critical analysis of both pieces of media as well as an extensive study of behind-the-scenes material and interviews that I personally conducted; it is not primarily the product of vague memories of a series of movies I last watched a decade ago.
I think the best way to illustrate the similarities is to give you a quick plot rundown of the Futurama movies and show you how with just swapping out some names and a few minor details things start to sound a little too familiar.

“The Star Beast” is “The Beast With a Billion Backs”

Some time after Fry the Doctor and his former roommate companion Bender Donna have parted ways a rip in the universe spaceship crash lands above New New York in regular old London.

DOOP UNIT goes to investigate the rip ship while Fry the Doctor sneaks his way onboard into the temporary base. DOOP UNIT decides to do what they do best shoot a missile guns at the problem. Purple tentacles tendrils made of light appear out of the rip ship and hypnotize anyone they touch.

The titular Beast Yivo Beep, who is neither male nor female and uses the pronouns shklee/shklum just The Meep, tricks everyone into thinking shklee the Meep is benevolent by taking them on a date due to the Meep’s cuteness. However Leela the Doctor reveals Yivo the Meep’s true motive is to fuck everyone fuck everyone up.

At the end Bender Donna goes to retrieve his friend retrieves her memories and they banish the Beast to their own universe prison through some, let’s be honest, handwavy science fiction. Anyway it’s got something to do with love and being yourself.

“Wild Blue Yonder” is “Into the Wild Green Yonder”

The Dark Ones Not-Things who’s shape is unknown have no shape of their own and their only goal is to win the evolutionary arms race win the violent games of the universe and destroy all life destroy all life.

The Dark Ones Not-Things can read people’s minds and take over their mind take on their shape. Fry The Doctor has to figure who is real and who is being mind controlled being imitated by the Dark Ones Not-Things.

Fry The Doctor incorrectly identifies himself Real Donna as the Dark One the Not-Thing and leaves himself Real Donna to be destroyed by the Omega Device the explosion, but the real Dark One Not-Thing is revealed at the last moment and destroyed.

“The Giggle” is “Bender’s Big Score”

Due to time shenanigans a double of Fry The Doctor gets to live out a domestic life with his dog Seymour Donna giving him the closure he never got and reversing the previously sad ending of Seymour sadly waiting for Fry’s return Donna losing her memory of the Doctor.

All of which allows Fry the Doctor to heal and mature and eventually become the wiser Lars 15th Doctor he met before.

“The Church on Ruby Road” is “Bender’s Game”

It’s a Fantasy one. There’s goblins in both. I think. It’ll definitely fit, ok. We’ll know by Christmas when I blow this case wide open.


A few more similarities that aren’t directly related to the plot, by the way I’m fine, I’m not some crazy conspiracy theorist, I’ve just uncovered the craziest conspiracy.

  • Bender’s Game was followed by “Rebirth”, a fresh start for the show after a long hiatus. It aired on a new network, but with the original writers, directors and actors returning
  • The next season of Doctor Who is considered a new start and internally referred to as season 1. It is being produced by new production company headed by a returning writer.
  • The only episode title we know of of the next season so far is episode 2 “The Devil’s Chord,” one of the most famous episodes of Futurama is “The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings” in which Fry gains the Robot Devil’s hands allowing him to play music as well as him.

Addendum II

We’re back, baby!
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    It’s a little known fact that time travel was actually invented around 1998, but Disney suppressed it, because they feared the ability to go back in time would weakened their copyrights. There’s a great documentary about it in a now defunct timeline.

Arc Watch: Doctor Who: “The Giggle”

This post also appeared on my personal blog.

We take some money to the bank, but several bills are still left unpaid.


  • Why The Long Face: We’ve said goodbye to the Final Tennant incarnation, and Donna’s suggestion that the face coming back and immediately finding her was because of Dr Who’s deep-rooted need “to come home” feels right and true to me, even if some details never quite get ironed out. Resolved.
  • Still Figuring It Out: The Final Tennant incarnation’s personality is clearly also a thread we can set aside, because, well, one, it’s really the same question as “why did the face come back,” and two, clearly we’re never gonna deal with it again, because that story is over. Resolved.
    My guess that the Gatwa incarnation’s personality was shining through has clearly been disproven — there was no trickery, the Final Tennant was simply a totally legitimate incarnation — but clearly the Gatwa incarnation’s personality is gonna be building on Final Tennant’s increased emotional openness. Love it.
  • Couldn’t Keep It In: Donna’s exposure to Dr Who’s mind and memories comes to a head with her using it simply to accurately back up the feeling that the time has come for Dr Who to take a break, and he does so. Resolved.

The World Around Us

  • UNified Intelligence and Skyscraper-Building Taskforce: If Dr Who accepts the Vlinx, the Zeedex, Mel’s lift off the Zingo, so must we, but it’s quite a lot, isn’t it. I, too, remember when this organisation was secret. Companions are offered high-paying jobs at least in part on the basis of who they are to Dr Who, though Donna does have to show off her Mad Skillz first.
  • In Flux and It’s About Timeless get another round of shoutouts. The Toymaker references the Flux as part of a meticulous stage performance on the subject of the death and destruction Dr Who leaves in their wake. Later, he says “I made a jigsaw out of your history. Did you like it?” suggesting he’s either responsible for or at least taking credit for Dr Who’s messy history and the recent revelations about the Timeless Child.
    The Flux is still a likely candidate for being “the new Time War.” Even if, after the Final Tennant incarnation, Dr Who no longer carries the trauma of it with them the way they did that of the Time War, it’s a good, cheap motivation for antagonists, and an interesting new flavour for the universe — the actual narrative effect of the Time War was fairly limited to large military forces like the Sontarans, and to groups with access to time travel, we never really felt it the way you’d imagine “half the universe has been destroyed” might be felt. Curious to see how the Flux is handled in the 2024 series.

Backseat Stories

  • The Boss Is Not Rhetorical: Clearly the One Who Waits and the Toymaker’s legions are the same story as the Boss, clearly this is setup for a larger wave of antagonists in the 2024 series and beyond. All of this is only maybe two or three steps above Bad Wolf-ing, but still, it’s an arc, something to look for.
  • Guardians of the Playground and Black Cats and Ladders at the Edge: The universe is defined as not just being subject to the rules of order and chaos but the rules of play, too. I wonder what all those gods we’re thinking about now make of the reduced size of the universe.
    We get direct shoutouts to the Gods of Ragnarok (The Greatest Show in the Galaxy,) to the Guardians of Time and Space (presumably the White and Black Guardians from the 1978-79 and 1983 seasons,) and the line “I gambled with God and made him a jack-in-the-box,” and then the revelation that the Master is trapped in the Toymaker’s gold tooth. Does the Toymaker consider the Master up there with those other entities?
    Being a science-fiction show, of course none of these entities are gods — but a god is simply the only thing we can call somebody — something — with an amount of power traditionally only described by mythology.
    Invoking a superstition slash game at the edge of the universe is allegedly what let the Toymaker in, but it sets a stage eager for gods and goblins, magic and myth.

The Other Threads

  • The Pretenders: In addition to the previous two week’s big beats on this theme: The Toymaker appropriates German and French culture etc. like he did Chinese culture in The Celestial Toymaker. We all have internalised biases and bigotries, but who we are is what we let come out, the Giggle robbing us of that identity. Evil embedded in puppets embedded in all television, the thing we love being a cover for hatred. In the end, Dr Who gets to stop pretending to be okay. The line is never drawn this explicitly between them, but the Toymaker and Rose Noble, toymaker.
  • The Mavity of the Situation: No “mavity,” but there’s still a thread here of meddling in time and getting away with it — if all of the history of television had the Giggle in it, what might removing it retroactively do?

On the docket

  • No updates on the state of Gallifrey (The State of the Home Planet) or Rose’s toy-buyer (Gonkage).

Arc Watch: Doctor Who: “Wild Blue Yonder”

I love a bottle episode, I love a little creepy horror one. Is that good for Arc Watch? No. Low on arc stuff this week, I have no reason to believe the Not-things are anything but one-offs, but there’s still loads of stuff here. I clearly just needed time to get back into the swing of things.

The Bigger Picture

  • In Flux and It’s About Timeless: We pick up some of the detritus of the Chibnall era with an acknowledgement that, one, a significant part of the universe was destroyed in the Flux, and two, that Dr Who now no longer knows where they come from, doing more with the quite heavy emotional effect these things might have on Dr Who than the Chibnall era ever did.
    These acknowledgements come in the same scene and seem at first glance to serve more as a reminder of the current status quo than to make any kind of progress on them as ongoing issues, and there’s a real chance these are just the new “Time War” and “last of the Time Lords,”but I’ve put them on the docket anyway — if I were RTD I’d want to do something with them.
  • Why The Long Face: They don’t say it out loud, but speaking of the trauma of the Flux, perhaps there’s a reason for the face coming back in Dr Who trying to… you know, deal with the trauma of the Flux. The last time they had this face their personality and attitude were very much coming from trying to stop being the last one — to stop being the Survivor and to try living again. The sheer fucking scale of the Flux mirrors absolutely nothing if it doesn’t mirror the Time War. Maybe nobody is doing this. Perhaps the face is but a comfort face.

Character Arcs and Character Roundabouts

  • Still Figuring It Out: “Is that who I am now?” Dr Who again expresses much more open love and fondness for Donna than they would’ve ever been capable of the last time they had this face. They also notably express aesthetic attraction to a person of the same gender they currently are themselves, which I’m pretty sure is a first in a few ways. Is this the Gatwa incarnation’s personality shining through a face that doesn’t have it?
  • Couldn’t Keep It In: Donna clearly did get exposed to Dr Who’s history since she last saw them, though she denies at the end having meaningful access to the information contained therein. I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle — she’d probably recognise, say, Bill, or the planet Akhaten, and emotionally she probably has some grasp on things like the Flux, because, well, it’s Donna, she’s savvy, but I’m willing to take her word for it that it feels like staring into an inferno. Probably does something to you to have or have had a window to that inferno in your head, though.
  • The Pretenders: The Meep pretends to be cute and harmless, and forces UNIT soldiers to serve a cause they don’t believe in. Donna is forced to live as a version of herself she shouldn’t be, and is infinitely better off for getting to stop, just like her daughter. The Not-things copy people but always let their true selves shine through. Dr Who… pretends to be okay, but you can tell they’re not. Even Destination: Skaro had that Kaled pretending to be good at his job. What might RTD, a queer man himself, be trying to say about what pretending to be something you’re not does to you? I reckon perhaps he doesn’t think it’s good for you.

The Little Things

  • The Mavity of the Situation: Dr Who creates the branding and final look of the Daleks in Destination: Skaro. Here, Donna invents the word “gravity,” which Isaac Newton mishears as “mavity.” Right now these are gags, but butterflies can stack.
  • Black Cats and Ladders at the Edge of the Universe: Speaking of stacking butterflies, an interesting idea in the way using a superstition like the salt-counting thing unsettles Dr Who here. Easy to connect back to the Wrarth Warriors knowing the Meep as almost mythological butchers, to Dr Who creating much of the branding around the Daleks, to “mavity.” Clearly that’s a thread that’s gonna take us to the Toymaker, but that’s the kind of thing you could spin whole seasons out of.
  • The State of the Home Planet: Gallifrey neither exists nor has it been destroyed — it’s just “complicated.” Like it’s in some sort of state of… hybrid flux.
  • Still on the docket: No updates on The Boss Is Not Rhetorical — the question is simply not brought up or even relevant, though the Not-things could of course turn out to have employers later, or something, I don’t know, probably not. No followup to UNified Intelligence and Skyscraper-Building Taskforce or Gonkage, either, because, well, UNIT and Rose don’t appear. Bottle episode, baby. But we’re keeping them on the docket.

Arc Watch: Doctor Who: “The Star Beast”

Oh, right, this is a thing we used to do.

The Big Ones

  • Why The Long Face: “Why did this face come back?” Such a specific way to phrase it that surely the answer must be very, very specific, too. In this episode, all we really get as answers go is, “destiny,” “to save Donna.” Everyone assumes it’s a ploy by the Toymaker, but that was never really his style — putting faces on people was more a Land of Fiction thing. (Obviously the face came back because everyone had fun livetweeting during the pandemic, but how would that translate to the screen?)
    I don’t think it’s the Toymaker, I don’t think it’s the Land of Fiction or any master thereof. You want the payoff to this to play emotionally — it shouldn’t just be “well the celebrity guest star did it.”
  • The Boss Is Not Rhetorical: “Wait until I tell the Boss!” The subtitles capitalise it and everything. But who’s the Meep’s the Boss? The obvious place we all immediately went to is, again, the Toymaker, but does the Toymaker have… flunkies now? He has toys he plays with, so if the Meep is in the pocket of Big Toy, “Boss” doesn’t seem like the relationship here.
    Plus, on the In-Vision Commentary, Tennant asks Collinson whether they know what that means yet, implying they didn’t while Tennant was actively involved in production. Perhaps the answer is in scenes that were shot much later.
    Really, all we have is the word “Boss” and set reports and casting announcements, so, a wild mass guess to the answer: Whoever Jinkx Monsoon is playing?1The rumour is the Terrible Zodin, but I dunno, is that where this is going? It doesn’t feel like that’s where this is going. Much of early days Arc Watch is gut-based.

The Small Ones

Who We Are
  • Still Figuring It Out: “Do I say things like that now?” Dr Who is still exploring their new personality. Clearly a big thing is that the vanity and egocentrism of the last time they had this face has cleared like bad acne, and their anguished cry of “Why did it have to be this?” when forced into a scenario not unlike the one that killed the last version of this face suggests that that well of emotion this face never would’ve been capable of before may be quite deep.
  • Couldn’t Keep It In: Much has been made of the ease with which Donna and Rose simply let go of the metacrisis energy. Is it that easy? Is that story over? Or is this just the start of its final chapter?
The World Around Us
  • UNified Intelligence and Skyscraper-Building Taskforce: Seriously, how is UNIT just fully back in business already again? I’m gonna assume this is just, let’s get this piece back on the board like usual and not worry about it too much, but there’s been quite a lot of shifting that kind of thing around a little too fast recently, and I wouldn’t mind if this one went somewhere.
  • Gonkage: Is Rose’s one customer in Abu Dhabi just one of those RTD background details, or something we should be keeping an eye on? Who would have reason to send money to Donna’s family? Or maybe, who would recognise what her toys were?
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    The rumour is the Terrible Zodin, but I dunno, is that where this is going? It doesn’t feel like that’s where this is going. Much of early days Arc Watch is gut-based.

“Then allow me to show you the future.” (Doctor Who: “Destination: Skaro”)

After a gruelling year-long hour trapped in the chaotic pages of Doctor Who Magazine‘s Liberation of the Daleks, Dr Who returns to the small screen by crashing into not just a lab on an obscure little backwater planet known to its inhabitants as Skaro — birthplace of the Daleks — but into his past, present, and future.

We have, of course, been here before. The crash itself is reminiscent of the Titanic slamming into the side of the TARDIS at the end of Last of the Time Lords, the gags remind of the banter from Time Crash mixed with the inspiring-the-famous-author gags from episodes like The Shakespeare Code. The way in which it fills in something we’ve never seen filled in on TV before even though non-televised Doctor Who has probably thoroughly covered the area, reminiscent of the way Sarah rattles off various companions’ fates in Death of the Doctor.

Speaking of contradictions…


Davros is depicted in Destination: Skaro as an able-bodied man at a point in his history where, historically, he’s been depicted as a wheelchair user with a severely disfigured face and body. This is a change made not for budget or time reasons1Though I’m sure Julian Bleach doesn’t mind not having to have the whole face put on. but because, and this isn’t speculation because Russell T Davies says as much in the Unleashed behind the scenes featurette, it’s the Year of Luigi 2023 and the harmful, hurtful cliché of using disability and disfigurement as a shorthand for evil has, in short, got to go. This, Russell says, referring to how Davros is depicted here, is how we see Davros now.

There is some ambiguity in what he says and how — clearly he’s saying, as far as he and the current team are concerned, Davros will not again be portrayed like he was in the past. But does that mean a total reimagining of Davros even in the part of his history we’ve seen before, or just that we won’t see that part of his history again? It may be some time before we find out — another Dalek story is an inevitability, but another Davros story might not be coming along for a while.

Either way, the message is clear: What makes Davros scary is the fascist fanaticism that drives him to create the Daleks — and not his face or his wheelchair. And that implies… other things.


Inevitably some of the kvetching online has included, why now and not in 2008? I can’t claim to know what was in Terry Nation’s heart when he created the character nearly half a century ago, or the hearts of anyone who’s contributed to the character since then. But I have a feeling I know Russell T Davies well enough to know that he just… wasn’t thinking about these things in 2008. Because, well, nobody involved who could’ve made this call was thinking about it in 2008. Nobody involved who could’ve made this call was thinking about it in 2012, 1975, or 2003, either. I’m really happy they’re having these conversations at Bad Wolf now.

When a silent film from 1924 employs, say, cannibal clichés to communicate that the island the characters have landed on is an easily recognisable dangerous situation, no matter how racist the effect of those clichés might then be in the Year of Luigi 2023, the intent at the time probably wasn’t to do a bunch of racism. They’re just using the toys that are in the toy box at the time. And those toys change as we wear them down, as we figure out they’re not equally fun for everyone.

Because the way we think about this stuff evolves constantly. It’s never too late to learn, to catch on, to say, the fun I’m having hurts you and it shouldn’t.

It’s never too late to fix your heart.2Or die.


Obviously this 5-minute comedy scene is just a drop in a thousand buckets. It “counts,” if such a thing matters to you, but its primary purpose is to have some light fun with silly Dalek jokes during a charity fundraising broadcast. My mom liked it, thought it was funny. She’s not thinking about these things at all.

But I think it’s a terrific shot from the second RTD era’s starter pistol: Here we go. This is what matters to us. Nothing is sacred. Let’s go have fun — together.

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    Though I’m sure Julian Bleach doesn’t mind not having to have the whole face put on.
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    Or die.
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