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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.
  • 1
    It’s about a box that’s bigger on the inside and can show you anywhere, any time. That’s just TV.

Arc Watch: Doctor Who: “The Church on Ruby Road”

This one took a sec because of the holidays, but here it is, less than a week after the episode. I’ll do a rewatch and Arc Watch summary later this year.

Revolving Around Us

  • It’s About Timeless: Dr Who is open about being adopted, like Ruby, like Lulubelle. It informs the decisions he makes, and breaks his heart when talking to Carla after Ruby is erased. It makes him the Third Foundling, or, perhaps, the Original Foundling.
  • Sweet Christmas Baby: Ruby is adopted, having been left at a church in December 2004. Dr Who saves her from the Goblins going back for her after they fail to eat Lulubelle. Would the Goblins have gone after the Third Baby in this story, Dr Who, if they hadn’t been defeated? Dr Who chooses not to follow the person who leaves Ruby behind. Even Davina McCall can find no information about Ruby’s parents. Ruby now lives with Carla and Cherry, having been the first of Carla’s 33 foster children, and the only one to get adopted.
  • Lady of the Water: Alright, I think “who is Mrs Flood” is its own post, but I’d like to note two observations: One, Mrs Flood’s entire personality seems to change after Dr Who goes back to save baby Ruby. Two, her name is Mrs Flood. Flood. Like a river does.
  • The Pretenders: The Goblins pretend to be bad luck and clumsiness to generate the coincidences they feed on. Mrs Flood is clearly pretending to be just another neighbour. Carla pretends to be okay with her life after Ruby disappears.

Mytholore

  • Black Cats and Ladders at the Edge: The Goblins are fantastical creatures who ride the wave of time and feed on coincidence.
  • The Mavity of the Situation: All the mass and density and mavity is moved to the intelligent gloves. Dr Who meddles again, by going back and saving not just Ruby but also preventing Davina McCall from being killed by a Christmas tree. Did that change her phone call with Ruby?
  • Knowledge Lord: In his encounter with the cop, Dr Who does the thing he does with Gareth in the 1996 TV movie, except this time he backs it up with facts and explains how he got there.

 On the back foot

  • Not This Week: UNIT has no presence in this story (UNified Intelligence and Skyscraper-Building Taskforce) and neither does The Boss (The Boss Is Not Rhetorical) though the Goblins might retroactively be part of the One Who Waits or the Toymaker’s legions or something. The Goblins are fantastical, but not on the level of Guardians of the Playground. No meaningful update re: In Flux.
  • The Long Game: No updates on the state of Gallifrey (The State of the Home Planet) or Rose’s toy-buyer (Gonkage). I’d consider that last one ended, but we’ll see Rose again.

Not happening

  • Calm Down, The Actress Is Just Called That: A lot is being made of actress Susan Twist now having appeared as both Mrs Merridew in the mavity scene in Wild Blue Yonder and as an unnamed concertgoer at Ruby’s band’s gig in The Church on Ruby Road. I don’t think there’s anything meaningful going on here — sometimes actors just appear as different characters in the same show — and certainly, the idea that this is foreshadowing a twist to do with Susan is transparently ridiculous, humans seeing patterns that aren’t there.
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