Who History: Name Dropping

As most everyone knows by now, the 50th Anniversary Special for Doctor Who will be later this year.  There will likely be some amount of celebration and fanfare as the November date draws nearer – but in the meantime, the current half-series of Doctor Who seems to be honoring the 50th in its own way.  In practically every episode, there’s been some reference to the adventures of a previous Doctor.

Now, some who are used to Moffat’s timey-wimey ways wonder if these references Mean Something – if they’re literally leading up to the plot of the 50th Anniversary Special.  Or if they somehow point to the true nature of Clara.  However, even if they mean nothing beyond a sweet nod to the history of the show, that’s enough to give me the warm fuzzies.  Following are the references I’ve noticed myself – have you caught something I haven’t?

The Snowmen

In this Christmas Special we’re reintroduced to the Great Intelligence.  The Doctor first encountered the Great Intelligence as the Second Doctor in “The Abominable Snowmen,” where robot versions of the cute and cuddly Yeti are terrorizing Tibetan monks.  In a familiar twist, the person behind the yetis is being manipulated by The Great Intelligence, who possess his body at one point.  Just a few episodes later, the Doctor meets the Great Intelligence again in “The Web of Fear.”  This time the Great Intelligence, the robot yeti and a cobwebby fungus have invaded the London Underground.

Which brings us back to “The Snowmen” – The Memory Worm is stored in a box with a map of 60s-era London Underground on it, and mentions the Underground is a key strategic weakness.  Timey-Wimey.

The Bells of Saint John

Once again, the aforementioned Great Intelligence returns.  Also, it’s not a Classic reference, but looks like Amy Pond (as Amelia Williams) decided to keep up the writing gig after breaking into the publishing business (and 50 years of Who includes the later years, too).  And of course we still don’t know what mysterious woman gave Clara the number to the TARDIS – the history of Who gives us numerous possibilities.

The Rings of Akhaten

Notably, the Doctor tells Clara that he’s visited this particular location before – with his granddaughter.  This is a reference to Susan, companion to the First Doctor and, indeed, his granddaughter (though what that really means has been debated endlessly).

Cold War

The Ice Warriors were previously encountered by the Third Doctor.  The TARDIS disappears early on in the episode thanks to HADS – the Hostile Action Displacement System.  Various incarnations of the Doctor have used the system, but we first see it used with the Second Doctor.


Lots in this episode! The end of the Earth is discussed (and even seen) – which might remind viewers of the episode “The End of the World” with the Ninth Doctor.  However, the orange space suit worn at the end of the Earth probably puts you more in a Ten frame of mind, as it’s been worn in more than one Tennant episode. The Cloister Bells ring in this episode.  They’ve actually rung a fair bit in New Who, but it always thrills me when they do, partly because it’s so ominous and partly because it makes me think of “Logopolis,” the last episode with the Fourth Doctor.  Also, the Doctor uses a Metebelis Crystal to amplify psychic power; these were featured in a few Third Doctor episodes, particularly “Planet of the Spiders,” whereupon he regenerated.  Clara tells the Doctor he needs a place to keep umbrellas, and he’s confused – because there’s often been a coat rack/hat stand/umbrella stand in the console room throughout the Doctor’s history.

Journey to the Center of the TARDIS

Like the Cloister Bells, the swimming pool is frequently mentioned in New Who, but it first appeared with the Fourth Doctor in “The Invasion of Time.”  Clara picks up a bamboo-handled umbrella that looks suspiciously like one the Seventh Doctor had.  Many voices are heard emanating from the TARDIS; mostly clearly heard are Susan, the Doctor’s granddaughter, and Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor talking about how Genghis Khan couldn’t break in.

The Crimson Horror

There might be multiple references in this one, but honestly I’m zeroed in on my very favorite of the entire series: you can watch the video clip here. If you can’t watch it, the Doctor tells Clara that the TARDIS doesn’t always go exactly where he means to – and that it took him quite a long time to get an Australian to Heathrow Airport.  Two seconds later he says, “Brave heart, Clara.”  These are both in reference to Tegan, the Australian flight attendant who was about to start her brand-new job when she got pulled into the world of the Doctor.  Naturally, she wanted to be brought back to the day she left, so she wouldn’t miss her first day; easier said than done.  Also, Clara’s burgundy velvet dress and terrible curly hair are an homage to Nyssa, another companion who was brought on roughly at the same time as Tegan, in the transition between the Fourth and Fifth Doctors.  “Brave heart, Tegan” was something the Fifth Doctor used to say; it was also referenced in “The Impossible Astronaut” with a “Brave heart, Canton.”

It’s funny – while I’m watching the episodes I only think of them as having one or two little references thrown in, but when you sit down and add them up it’s really quite a lot!  Have you spotted any I’ve missed?  Are these references getting you excited for the 50th Anniversary?



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