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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

Doctor Who blogging: “Heaven Sent”


[previous: “Face the Raven”]

warning: spoilers!

Well, that was awesome, right? The Doctor runs around a castle that’s really a constantly shifting maze, pursed by a Mr. Death who’s come about the reaping, sometimes going to his mind palace that is the TARDIS to mope about Clara. It’s like It Follows meets Cube on whatever planet Myst was supposed to be happening on.

That mind-blowing moment when the Doctor realizes that he’s done this all before! Many times. It’s like he’s playing a game and dying and rebooting and trying to get a little further each time. It’s like Edge of Tomorrow except without the remembering on each go-round.

And then it all falls apart. It starts falling apart the moment the Doctor says to “Clara,” “I can remember it all — every time.” It keeps falling apart as you poke at the notion a bit more.

Because everything doesn’t reset every time the Doctor leaves a room and/or when he dies and reboots himself. If it did, the painting of Clara wouldn’t age:


Or else everything else would have to age, too: curtains would rot, food would spoil, and so on.

If everything reset, the identical clothes would not be there for the next Doctor to find and change into:


After the first time the Doctor left wet clothes there, they should have disappeared during the reboot. (What did that first Doctor change into? Maybe he went around naked — wouldn’t have mattered if no one else was there. Except he wouldn’t have known no one else was there that first time.)

Why is bird written in the dust still there after each reboot? Why don’t the skulls disappear? How was the Doctor able to write a message on a floor tile and then bury it in the garden



if everything was resetting?

It’s not a real sky the Doctor is seeing above, so why does it reflect time passing outside a simulation occurring in an artificial virtual environment? Why don’t the positions of the stars reset?

And here’s the biggest one, the one that I realized first and that paved the way for my realization of all the other problems: Why doesn’t the wall of four-hundred-times-harder-than-diamond stuff reset with each reboot? I mean, apart from the curious idea that a punch could ever make any impact whatsoever on such a material, no matter how many billions of years you go at it. How is he able to achieve this glacially paced chipping-away at all?

This isn’t nitpicking: this is the core of the story not hanging together at all. This goes way beyond a typical SF problem like “If I’m out of phase, why don’t I fall through the floor?’” Except I suspect that’s precisely what we’re supposed to accept it as.

The only possible in-context explanation is that the designers of this torture chamber wanted the Doctor to be able to figure out what is going on and how to escape, even if it would take him a torturously long time. But that doesn’t make any sense either. Unless that’s going to become clear in the next episode, but the recent history of this show doesn’t lead me to believe that that is very likely. It would be interesting if the Doctor was all wrong about what information his torturers were after — maybe they couldn’t have cared less about this Hybrid stuff and wanted his secret recipe for chocolate chip cookies — but that also doesn’t seem likely. Not only is the Doctor of late a magician and a myth and a fairy tale, he’s also almost supernaturally able to divine exactly what is going on all the time.

The issue of the confession dial appears to somewhat problematic as well. In the previous episode, the Doctor told Ashildr that he had no idea how the dial worked. Which is either a lie, and he does know, or it’s not a lie, and he really doesn’t know. Neither of which computes. If he’s lying about his knowledge about the dial, why would he be carrying around something that could become his own personal hell?



How could he not be expecting something like this to happen? Is he wasn’t lying about the dial, then what was his purpose in carrying it around, and what was he expecting to happen with it?

But the worst part of this episode is this: Somehow the Doctor can remember every iteration of his time in the dial (which is yet another thing that doesn’t make any sense; how is he acquiring those memories?). So he is effectively more than two billion years old. How is he not insane? How does he go back to being someone who can at least pass for being relatively well-adjusted after this?

But I guess two billion years is what it takes for the Doctor to go from “Gee, I sure would love to find Gallifrey, my poor lost homeworld” to “I’m going to destroy you all, you bastards.”

So now the Doctor is the “hybrid” prophesied to destroy the Time Lords. What makes him a hybrid? Please oh please oh please don’t let it be that his mother was human…

Random thoughts on “Heaven Sent”:

• Wait. Is there writing on the wall there on the left?


Another angle reveals that it is the opening narration about the thing that follows you around your whole life. Why is it on the wall?

• Telepathic lockpicking?


Yeah, there’s a good reason why you can’t telepathically communicate with doors: Doors don’t have brains. Doors don’t have minds.

• Great quote:

“I’ve finally run out of corridor. There’s a life summed up.” –the Doctor

[next: “Hell Bent”]

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  • Ryan Morris

    The clothes don’t leave the room because they weren’t a part of the room originally. The rooms don’t entirely reset to how they were originally, they just alter any changes made to their interiors. The clothes weren’t an original part of the room, neither were the skulls, therefore they remain.

    The diamond wall doesn’t reset because that is an active link to Gallifrey, how could it reset? It’s a live teleportation link. Plus it was designed for the Doctor to see that room once, admit defeat, reveal his confessions. It never occurred to the Timelords that the Doctor would find that loophole and do this, why would that impenetrable diamond wall ever need to reset?

    I can’t help but disagree with everything in this review. Sometimes plot doesn’t come first, Heaven Sent was not an episode that favoured plot. Sleep No More was an episode that prioritized plot, made absolutely zero sense whatsoever, and you gave that a positive review. Respectfully, I’d like to know why you preferred Sleep No More (the absolute weakest of the season) to this (the absolute best)?

  • Cyruptsaram

    This is one of those Moffat paradoxes, I believe. Theoretically, the only way the Doctor could have arrived through teleportation was by killing himself and giving the machine energy. Hence, without the first journey through the maze, the Doctor could never have arrived inside the confession dial in the first place. However, in practice this happens and so everything that follows happens as well. He would never have visited Room 12 had he not seen the written message in the garden plot. But the fact that he’s been able to teleport into the confession dial, because he killed himself, because he allowed the Veil to catch up with him, because he reached ‘Home’, because he visited room 12, because he found the message. Effectively, as I understand it, there’s no beginning, just infinite endings – until the cycle is broken.

  • RogerBW

    I know people for whom “hey, it’s all neat stuff, who cares if it doesn’t make sense” is a legitimate statement of criticism. I’m afraid I’m not one of them. I don’t get on with magical realism either; to say “this weird thing does whatever the plot needs it to do” just seems lazy to me.

  • Jemcat

    I thought the execution of this was fabulous all around. Superb direction, editing, lighting and above all Peter Capaldi was sensational (of course as this was written for him and it was a really amazing performance which hopefully will garner him all kinds of awards) but what was the purpose of the story apart from an extended exercise in doing something because you have the skilled craftspeople to do it and you’ve always wanted to do it. I really did like a lot of the ideas behind it in pieces (the rotating castle, counting off the seconds by clicking fingers, the underwater graveyard and skulls, looking at the stars) and it was truly beautiful to look at but what was it about and where does it take us in the story and what does it mean? I just don’t think it’s enough to say it was an extended mood piece and not be too literal when all series, Moffat has thumped on about plot threads, finding answers and resolution and then we hardly advance any of these at all. This would have been a terrific one-off mid series but it seems to undermine the momentum as we have only one episode left to wrap up everything and the kitchen sink and make sense of the shaggy canine stories this year.
    A lot of the clever-clever stuff felt like rummaging around in Sherlock’s leftovers (Clara’s back and the blackboard and the questions and the flower petals falling in slow motion – dear God kill me now). What was the purpose of the monster apart from being able to employ that tall dude who was the snake guy in the first episode and throw the dirty sheet from Listen over his head? Why would the big bad use this bizarre method to find out about the hybrid (and really, who gives a sh*t about the hybrid anyway?). The dialogue sounds profound under the blanket of Murray Gold’s insistent score and the masterful delivery of Peter Capaldi, but most of it was trite or rambling Moffat-y tosh which will no doubt be dredged up down the track as one of those bread crumbs he loves so much. And please dear God, it is not the equivalent of a deep and meaningful pronouncement on something to compare it to something else (Sad is happy for deep people, hell is heaven for bad people etc etc etc). Too much of this was gifs made into life and snippets of dialogue to be passed around admiringly as if they stemmed from some great oracle. Of course there was some great stuff too – Moffat is a brilliant crafter of words but there were too too many words to make any sense of most of this.
    I really enjoyed watching the super craftsmanship of this episode and lots of ooh moments but like the dude in the dirty sheet running around, there was nothing underneath.
    Sorry for the rant and sounding like a complete b*tch but I just feel like I’ve been hoodwinked big time and let down by what on the outside was really a bravura episode of television making in the technical sense, but without any emotional connection and advancement of a series arc, it was sound and fury, signifying nothing.
    Oh and when did they decide to drain all of the fun and light-heartedness out of this show. How much death, revival, death, portent of death, doom of death, shadow of death can the show take. Hopefully Steven Moffat has gotten all of this out of him this year and we can return to something which the whole family can enjoy. Sent the hubby and cat to sleep in under 10 minutes this week – a new record.

  • Radek Piskorski

    Thank you. I agree with everything you say, except that Sleep No More was the weakest, as I thought it was very cool.
    And I don’t think the Doctor actually remembers all the iterations.
    MAJ is clearly nitpicking.

  • Radek Piskorski

    I think not. The first time he teleported there was as designed by the bracelet, with the teleporter’s own energy.

  • mickche

    I would agree, except you mentioned not enough time passing for writing in the sand to fade, when the blood stains on the floor instantly vanished at the reset. So, that would mean that if he had written “bird” in blood it would have vanished, but not if he had written it in sand? As the blood is introduced into the room, rather than as part of the interior.

    There is a question of the skulls. Does he drop the skulls from the same tower each time, and if so, wouldn’t they pile up rather than spread, or is there an assumption that due to the long time period, the water has caused the skulls to smooth out.

  • Cyruptsaram

    I thought we saw the Doctor’s bloody hand pull the lever, but I must have been mistaken.

  • The Doctor clearly states that he does remember, which might have something to do with the energy transfer, I dunno.
    But yeah, the rest of MAJ’s issues are nitpicks and she didn’t seem focused on the emotional core of the episode at all.

  • The skulls might have either sunk or disintegrated after many years.

  • The stars in the sky are not anything the Doctor alters, and yet they change.

    You spent a lot of time refuting what I said (which I could also call grasping at straws) but you haven’t explained why you liked this episode. What makes it the best of the season?

  • Nope, the Doctor clearly states that he remembers. I quoted the line of dialogue.

  • What’s the emotional core of this episode?

  • A lot of the clever-clever stuff felt like rummaging around in Sherlock’s leftovers

    I was terribly afraid, the first time around in this episode, that the Doctor jumping out the window to his certain death was going to be waved away the same way Moffat did with Sherlock jumping off the building. I’m so glad that didn’t quite happen.

    Sorry for the rant and sounding like a complete b*tch

    Stop that! You’re not a bitch. You’re a passionate fan who’s disappointed. It is permitted. :-)

  • Jemcat

    I’ve certainly given this series a go and have seen every episode – gave up on a lot of last year’s – hoping that it would start to chime with me but too much clever clever, empty, empty. The narrative is continually sacrificed for the cool moments (which indeed are usually awesome) but so much over the last year or so isn’t even internally consistent within its own structured universe. The individual parts are impressive, particularly the acting from Peter Capaldi which is always first class, but there is no connectivity in the narrative. We get to one cool thing, then it’s discarded because there’s another cool thing up ahead. There is no sense of any journey in the show or any sense of earned emotion; it’s all about the viewer being shown a bunch of the Doctor’s or Clara’s selfies taken randomly in front of awesome stuff.
    I just feel now that I am peering in from the outside, nose pressed against the glass, looking into a room full of joyously happy Doctor Who fans celebrating the latest cool episode and how many posts it generates trying to work out whether the cool thing means this or that and how that links back to that muttered line three series back because her hair is parted on the same side which must mean that the Rani is actually controlling the matrix which is of course (smacks head) actually a physic projection from the Doctor’s future refracted through his companion who is actually his future transdimensional echo whom he set up to remind himself that he is the Doctor. They are all having a great time but I feel no connection at all to what is going on.
    Normally, I’d just go ‘meh’ and check out until the next series as it did last year and in series 6 and 7A but this year there is so much of the technical side to admire and I really did want to like it but it’s still empty empty.
    Checking out now until series 10 – as delightful and talented as Alex Kingston and Peter Capaldi undoubtedly are, the thought of a sex storm of quippage and double entendres finished off with a sickly sentiment for Christmas is as enticing as brussell sprout pudding.
    And yes, I am being bitchy. Isn’t that what the anonymity of the internet is for?
    Cheerio until 2016

  • RogerBW

    “I watch Doctor Who now. Doctor Who is cool.”

    In the old days it knew it wasn’t cool, and didn’t try to be. Now it’s a property with vast appeal, so it doesn’t need science fiction fans any more.

  • Most of your gripes seem to stem from the fact, that you didn’t actually understand the episode. That’s a little disappointing. I’ll line them neatly up for you here (I should add, that this doesn’t seem to have been a problem for almost any other reviewer – maybe this genre isn’t for you? I thought they were all pretty obvious, even literally explained in the episode).

    “I can remember it all — every time.” He isn’t referring to his deaths in the confession dial.

    The clothes don’t “reset”, because they aren’t the room. The rooms themselves reset.

    Why were the clothes there in the first place? This paradox is addressed previously in “Before the Flood”.

    Both the skulls as well as the diamond wall are outside the castle, and hence do not reset. Again, limited to the rooms.

    The writing in the sand doesn’t reset, because the room hasn’t reset yet.

    The painting of Clara most likely looked like that from the beginning. We are never let to believe anything in the castle was “shiny new” to begin with.

    For all we know, it IS the real sky he is seeing. Everything lead us to believe so. Why do you think it’s not?

    Your gripe with door telepathy kinda just shows that maybe this just isn’t the show for? I mean, a Tardis isn’t possible either. Neither are adamantium claws, travelling through wormholes, or any number of things in any sci-fi show or movie. If you don’t like that, people just don’t watch it. Comes with the territory. I thought it was pretty funny.

  • butting

    As I read it: being alone. Grieving. Being pursued by the inevitable.

    All of which add up to Gallifrey, and that’s been looming since the first mutterings of being a war criminal and of the Time War. Me, I think the episode earned his arrival there.

    Odds and sods:

    1. The door “telepathy”… I think was the Doctor, truly desperate, meeting either the first of the rotations by accident (or would the Veil have frozen? may need to rewatch), or evidence that the game was rigged (which could explain the first, unseen, iteration, as well as the unreset Room 12, and the eternally-ancient portrait of Clara).

    2. “The hybrid is me” is ambiguous.

    3. I think a lot of us were thinking of Cube. I was also thinking Tanith Lee, and various Ballardian dystopias, which added up to… I honestly think this is the purest SF (with a strong dose of mythic fantasy) that Doctor Who has done in a long time.

    4. The starfield as we first saw it was from an Earthly perspective, only after 7,000 years of walking through the plot. Didn’t have any trouble buying that here.

    5. Characterisation-wise, getting inside the Doctor immediately after losing a companion he was particularly fond of (and losing her through his own inept guidance over time; I maintain that she wasn’t so much badly drawn as marginalised by his well-known egotism)… that’s as necessary for his character as having his self-damning view of the Time War demolished by Day of the Doctor.

    There were gaps in my viewing of, um, around two years of Tom Baker, much of Colin Baker, and all of McCoy, and I think I vaguely remember the demons from “Chap with the wings, five rounds rapid” from childhood — and for my money this is possibly the best episode I’ve ever seen. Largely because it was such elemental SF (for once), but partly because the problem, solution, and resolution were so purely from the Doctor’s character, and partly because any weaknesses in companion relationships were reframed by being purely and indisputably from his own perception this time.

    (Though I’ve never come to a conclusion about the line about “mechanicals” in The Doctor’s Wife. It was definitely deeply meaningful — Gaiman’s very alert to layered words like that — but the implications of him viewing humans as Shakespearean clowns is slippery.)

    But I’m a sucker for acting and dialogue first, and the early use of “My day couldn’t get any worse, let’s see what we can do about yoors” had me ready to just drink the think in.

    And I also think the rampage he’s promising to continue is going to illuminate his line to Clara: “I’ll be the judge of time.”

  • Danielm80

    I liked the episode a lot, but you lost me with your last paragraph. I’ve never bought the “If one thing makes no sense, then nothing has to make sense” argument. If a story is based around an outrageous idea–a man who can fly or a giant lizard who attacks Tokyo–then everything else in the story has to seem completely rational. Otherwise, it’s impossible to take the story seriously. That’s why J.K. Rowling went into so much detail about the rules and history of Hogwarts, and it’s why Batman Begins explained the practical benefits of dressing up as a bat.

    Of course, some stories don’t even try to be taken seriously. Movies like Moulin Rouge and The Rocky Horror Picture Show are so over-the-top ridiculous that it becomes part of the appeal. But “Heaven Sent” isn’t one of those stories. It’s an episode about really serious themes: Grief and martyrdom and social responsibility. The plot holes are a distraction from those themes. Also: A psychic door is just a dumb idea. And I say that as someone who kind of misses the robot dog.

  • This episode was about “Grief and martyrdom and social responsibility”??

    And sure it’s silly. But tons of things are silly in Doctor Who, and aren’t meant to be taken 100% seriously and overthought as fitting deeply into the plot. There are a million plotholes and contradictions in Doctor Who, practically every episode. I’m saying that if these are things, plotholes and funny little scenes that doesn’t necessarily make a ton of sense, that you heavily dislike, then obviously Doctor Who is just not really the kind of show you should be watching.

    It’s like watching X-Men and being annoyed at the utterly idiotic portrayal of how evolution works, or Transformers and being frustrated with all the violence.

  • We do. That’s the n’th time he’s doing that. We don’t start at the “beginning”, we start 7000 years after the last episode.

  • I couldn’t have said it all better myself.

  • Thanks for your condescension. As someone who has been a reader, fan, and writer of science fiction — including Doctor Who — for decades, I’m pretty sure I know whether this genre is for me. But your concern is noted.

    “I can remember it all — every time.” He isn’t referring to his deaths in the confession dial.

    Then what is he referring to?

    The clothes don’t “reset”, because they aren’t the room. The rooms themselves reset.

    So why does the blood reset?

    The writing in the sand doesn’t reset, because the room hasn’t reset yet.

    Why hasn’t it reset? If the rooms reset every time the Doctor leaves them, the sand should reset mere moments after he arrives and leaves the teleport room.

    The painting of Clara most likely looked like that from the beginning.

    But the age of the painting is one of the things that clues in the Doctor to the fact that he has been there a long time.

    For all we know, it IS the real sky he is seeing. Everything lead us to believe so. Why do you think it’s not?

    What leads you to believe that the sky is real? Besides the fact that it changes? What leads you to believe that it is not part of the VR simulation like everything else? And how on Earth could the dial stay in place for two billion years (which is what would be required if the sky were real)? No one moved it in all that time?

    Your gripe with door telepathy kinda just shows that maybe this just isn’t the show for? I mean, a Tardis isn’t possible either.

    So you’d be okay with literally anything happening on this show? Because your argument means there is never any basis to call anything implausible.

    You accuse me of not being a proper SF fan? I propose that this suggests that you aren’t one. Even SF needs rules.

  • The starfield as we first saw it was from an Earthly perspective, only after 7,000 years of walking through the plot.

    But why would that sky be designed to change to reflect the passage of time when nothing else does?

    Characterisation-wise, getting inside the Doctor immediately after losing a companion he was particularly fond of

    But as with all the other emotion Moffat has been trying to ram down our throats for years now, I cannot buy any of it. I don’t feel it. He has not dramatized it. The Doctor’s grief here over losing Clara seemed all out of proportion to what we’ve actually seen. We’ve been told lots about their relationship, but I need to see it and feel to buy it.

  • “Thanks for your condescension. As someone who has been a reader, fan, and writer of science fiction — including Doctor Who — for decades, I’m pretty sure I know whether this genre is for me. But your concern is noted.”

    I wasn’t being condescending, I was pointing out how the plot works, since you seemed to have missed it. You getting your panties in a twist over this doesn’t help your credibility. Have a good day.

  • FSLB

    I really enjoyed this episode – I thought it was amazingly acted and directed – even the musical score was usually good.

    My take on the various inconsistencies was that this is essentially a simulated environment – it’s designed for force the Doctor to yield information so it alters itself to achieve that goal by setting up a puzzle that ultimately proves to be unsolvable. The people who designed it want the Doctor to be aware of the passage of time within the dial (and allow things to appear to age and move the fake sky) because when he realizes the true nature of where he is and the paradox he’s stuck in it will drive him to despair and he’ll give up the information.

    I took his ‘I remember everything’ remark to be about Clara’s death instead of him literally remembering every time he’d been through the process (which if you accept it’s a simulated environment is not impossible, but I think that level of recall would drive even the Doctor mad before too long), he’s despairing that no matter how many times he performs the loop, Clara will still be dead.

  • Danielm80

    Y’know, I could even buy the idea of a psychic door if Moffat had made the effort to set it up. The Doctor Who universe already includes psychic paper and a sentient phone box. If we’d seen evidence that the door incorporated some sort of artificial intelligence, then the scene would have made some sort of sense, within the pseudoscientific logic that’s been established over the past 50 years.

    Instead, the Doctor’s thought process seemed to work like this:

    I’m looking at a plain old wooden door. It appears to be generations, if not centuries, old. So it’s clearly a sentient being constructed with advanced technology. I’ll try to talk to it with my mind.

    There’s pseudoscience and there’s nonsense.

    Also: Upvoting your own comments doesn’t make them any more convincing.

  • Stephen Robinson

    I’ll try to base this on what’s shown and not what I think is going on, though I confess I might cross the line here and there:

    The Confession Dial is intended to draw information from the Doctor (or whoever is inside it). Its purpose isn’t just to kill the inhabitant. The Doctor says that the one being interrogated is the “most important person in the room.”

    So, the *goal* is to break the prisoner (by the way, I think with some minor tweaks, this would’ve made a great PRISONER episode). The only way out ultimately is to *confess* and the barrier is insurmountable. Note that the Doctor almost breaks on the weight on what’s ahead of him after just 7,000 years. This most likely piles on further and further… until any other person would just give up.

    It’s clear that killing the Doctor isn’t the goal, and the resetting of the rooms — and arguably even the ability to use the teleporter to “reboot” himself — might even be part of the plan. If the Dial knows enough about the Doctor to draw on his memories, it should know that he would try to find a way out — he likes puzzles. His captors just never imagined he wouldn’t break, and I think that’s why the last room doesn’t reset. And why he can not the passage of time*. I mean, if *I* realized I’d been there after 7,000 years and barely put a scratch in the wall and would have to do this again and again for what most would consider eternity, I’d tell them what they’d want to know. That psychological torture aspect is precisely why the Doctor “remembers” as soon as he sees the wall — not even his own skulls or the clues he leaves for himself can do it — so I think the captors *want* him to remember, as it would make him more likely to just give up.

    The only thing I’m fuzzy on is what happens if the Doctor dies before being able to reboot? Is it possible that they would just start over again?

  • Stephen Robinson

    He states that he can remember when he sees the wall. This is when he almost breaks in his “mind Tardis” and wonders why he can’t just lose. However, he had no memory of his previous experiences when he began each cycle (to the point of repeating lines of dialogue). Is this like living “2 billion years” though? Hard to say. I do agree with you that I find it a bit frustrating because I don’t think the true weight of it will influence the character we see moving forward.

    This was my complaint back in 2007 after LAST OF THE TIMELORDS. The Doctor spent a year confined to a wheelchair and sleeping in a tent on the floor, but he spent more time moping over the loss of Rose. The Doctor also wasn’t much different (emotionally at least ) after 1,000 years fighting a war .

  • Anthony

    I don’t think the sky is designed to change or reset. It’s just that the top of the dial itself (apparently more “bigger on the inside” TL technology?) is open to the real-world sky, so that’s what the Doctor sees.

    …which then creates a whole new set of plotholes, because then, WHY go to all that trouble of procuring the dial, then just dump it in a random field outside a Gallifreyan city? And how did the Doctor know that the stars were wrong, if he didn’t have a frame of reference to know what they were wrong for? Or if he DID know what frame of reference to use, then did he know he was looking up from Gallifrey all that time? And then, if it IS open to the real-world sky and he saw the real-world motion of the stars, did a billion years of real-time happen?

    I agree with pretty much everything else you pointed out about the plot, though. I enjoyed the atmosphere and (most of) the characterization, but the plot, like everything written by Moffat, is more concerned with creating individual “cool/memorable scenes” than the framework that sustains those scenes. The only way the whole thing works if it’s ALL happening on an allegorical level, the same way he kept retreating into the “mental Tardis” for bits of narration, and absolutely nothing about the proceedings except the teleportation happened on a physical level.

  • The emotional core
    A) The Doctor’s grief over losing Clara. And yes, I know you don’t feel it and neither did I, until Peter Capaldi convinced me to in this episode. I understand if he failed to do the same by you.

    B) Being in his own personal hell. As time passes, the Doctor begins to slowly understand he’s been here for a very long time and that this place was designed to keep him guessing forever. That’s a terrifying thought.

    C) Reliving the same personal hell over and over for 2 billion years just to get a crystal wall open and realising it at the very last minute. Others have already explained why the wall didn’t change. Think of how many times he died and remembered dying.

    Now, as for the crystal wall punching, we know Time Lords are tougher than ordinary humans. It makes sense that the Doctor could punch like a hammer. Given that he knows he’s about to die, he might’ve even used some regeneration energy to make the most of it.

    As for the telepathic door-opening, it’s supposed to be a reference to Susan’s early telepathic abilities. And in the classic series, the Doctor sometimes had “one-off superpowers” like hypnosis(in Survival) and transmigration of object(in the Ambassadors Of Death). It was a minor quirk/deus ex machina then and it is now.

    The confession dial could’ve been a Time Lord artifact he didn’t entirely understand, but he kept it around and later gave it to Missy for safe-keeping in case he was really going to die on Skaro. I mean, he randomly had the Hand Of Omega, why not that?

    The rooms only reset when the Doctor told a truth, NOT when he died. So it’d make sense that the word “bird” would still be there, along with the writing on the wall(which he might’ve written himself, given that we saw him spend a day or so before finally punching the wall).

    The painting would’ve been dust in 7000 years. I don’t get why it was there to begin with, though.

    The Doctor doesn’t go insane because he has selective memory(remember Last Christmas?). He deleted the unnecessary parts.

    My theory about the stars is that they’re the representation of the dial’s “inner clock”. But really, you might as well ask where the oxygen or the soup came from.

    I’m really sorry you couldn’t get into this episode, it’s my favourite of the show so far(and I have seen the classics). I’m glad you’re so sensible though. You’d be a great companion.

  • Stephen Robinson

    If I may, I’d like to express my non-glee about the return of the Time Lords. I thought it was a great idea to eliminate them. They were never that interesting after THE WAR GAMES, and even in THE DEADLY ASSASSIN, they came across as, well, dull… like a futuristic Parliament. Gallifrey and the Time Lords as concepts from that point never stood out as great sci-fi nor delivered any particularly good stories.

    It bugged me that Moffat not only brought the Time Lords back but ignored/retconned the compelling twist that RTD gave us in his last episode: The Time Lords had gone bad, arguably more evil than even the Daleks. It brought us back to the somewhat sinister characters from THE WAR GAMES, who outright *murdered* the 2nd Doctor. THE DAY OF THE DOCTOR, unfortunately, felt like Moffat focusing on something he shouldn’t have: The idea that the Time Lords, even if bad, were a small segment of the entire population of Gallifrey (so blowing up the entire planet to stop them would be like blowing up Earth to stop Nazis or ISIS). The image of children playing on Gallifrey reminded me again of futuristic Parliament. It was so… normal. I would rather that Gallifrey’s sole occupants be… Time Lords. Yes, RTD confirmed that they all started out as children but that didn’t have to mean there still were any left.

    So, now the Time Lords are maybe bad again? After they saved The Doctor in TIME OF THE DOCTOR? Who knows where Moffat is going with this. I think the *only* positive of the Time Lords being around is that if you’re going to have the Master running around, this provides a common enemy for them — and there would be times when the Master might even work with the Time Lords. It makes the Master more of a wild card than just… evil Doctor. And I never bought the idea of the Master as just the “Doctor’s opposite.” That is more subtly the Daleks and the Cybermen — the individual vs. the collective.

  • IndieRepub

    Death, loss, grief, suffering, being alone, coping, surviving, pain, endurance, bargaining, and 1000 other things that are intimately familiar to people dealing with suffering through loss.

  • IndieRepub

    I appreciate your desire to have 100% answers, but you’re really going to have to suspend disbelief a little bit to enjoy sci-fi. Why not just go back to a time when Clara was alive and pick her up again? And what about that episode where a tear from Amy on a blue book brought the doctor back from not existing? You’re asking things from Moffat that have never been part of the series.

    With regards to the Doctors response… he’s always been very protective regardless of his personal attachment to the person he’s protecting. Like the story of why he chose the face he did, even though he barely knew that fellow. Remember though… he’s afraid of loss. He’s afraid of getting too close to people. So he holds back and probably expresses less. Clara, on the other hand, has been happy to show herself getting close to him. To me it makes sense…

  • if it IS open to the real-world sky and he saw the real-world motion of the stars, did a billion years of real-time happen?

    Two billion years, and as I noted in another comment here, this would also require that the dial not move at all for two billion years. Which is absolutely ridiculous.

  • until Peter Capaldi convinced me to in this episode. I understand if he failed to do the same by you.

    Capaldi’s performance was great. But he was acting an emotion that seemed to come out of nowhere.

    you might as well ask where the oxygen or the soup came from.

    If it’s all a VR sim, though, then there’s no real need for either actual air or actual food.

    The rooms only reset when the Doctor told a truth, NOT when he died.

    But, again, the blood: It disappears without a truth being told.

  • I appreciate your desire to have 100% answers

    Nope. That’s not what I desire.

    but you’re really going to have to suspend disbelief a little bit to enjoy sci-fi.

    I know how to enjoy SF, thank you very much. I’ve been doing it my whole life.

  • Yes, and these are things we are experience at some point. And yet, none of it rings true to me.

  • butting

    (Your point below about enjoying SF is very much why I delurked, incidentally. I was boggled by how effectively the episode worked on me, and right here is the source of the best-put opposing views in the face of all the gushing that an episode like this can be expected to provoke. Still not convinced, but the discussion on this page is the very best I know of.)

    I don’t think it’s a VR sim, as you’ve raised elsethread: I think the starfield was the view from the dial, floating in space. As for how it survives billions of years of wandering stars, and billions of years of supplying oxygen, I can only point to other happily handwaved Gallifreyan tech from Who both old and new.

    I think part of why it’s worked so well on the likes of me is that this series has had more than a few shades of the Douglas Adams era, enough that the notion of a tower evokes Dirk Gently (given the tight relationship with Doctor Who of that story). Which is a good setup for an attempt at more experimental SF, and in service of that I’m ready to forgive a few wobbles as long as the outcome is (a) good Who, (b) good SF, and (c) rewarding. In order: it’s a unique telling, the SF holds, and the Doctor both addresses his shortcomings re Clara and finally reaches Gallifrey. Um. I’m going to need to justify those last two, aren’t I?

    For SF: it’s a character piece, and the elephant I’m seeing in the room is that someone’s placed him there, for very specific reasons. The points you’ve picked up don’t make sense unless we allow either (a) lazy steamroller writer or (b) in-story intelligence, and I’m going with the latter. The objections around the reset anomalies make perfect sense if someone’s shaped the dial for a very specific result, and I’m not convinced by the Doctor stopping at the confession-as-end-goal hypothesis. So exactly who set up this very specific, very personal, very customised trap for the Doctor, and what were they hoping to achieve? Confession? Death by self-torture? Eternal stasis? Finally forcing his way through to Gallifrey? The clockwork motif suggests someone prepared for any of the four, and someone Gallifreyan. So in a character sense he’s arriving a Gallifrey in a very specific mood, as a result of someone else’s plan, and I’m expecting him to have Thoughts on that coming up soon. (Very likely in the shape of a Very Bad Day; his antagonist is presumably hoping that the fact of Gallifrey will wrong-foot him, which if intentional suggests a degree of hubris I’m not sure even Missy could approach.)

    This feels like careful and deliberate withholding of detail to me, rather than lazy storytelling. Comparing with the raves elsewhere, I think it’s reasonable to say that it only raises questions when poked at like we’re doing here.

    (I was vague on the origins of the dial. Some digging reminds me that the confession dial first appeared in the story when he delivered it to the Sisterhood of Karn in Prologue, where he suggested that leaving the universe might be an outcome. If he’s his own antagonist I may feel slightly disappointed.)

    Back to the SF point: I contend that a story that quietly leaves an elephant like that in the open is one that works. And as a long-term viewer, I love that the payoff is a long-term arc (calling back to Day of the Doctor, if not to Ecclestone’s very first mention of the Time War).

    For Clara: I maintain many of the weaknesses of her character have been the result of the Doctor alternately palling around with and lording it over her; it’s tradition to read companions as our proxies, but these two years have drawn the viewpoint deeper and deeper towards the Doctor instead. (I hope to hell that’s intentional on Moffat’s part. It’s obviously a contentious read.) I think the Oswalds reinforced that: either/any Oswald is purest companion (and audience proxy), and the Doctor’s recognition of that is an admission of shortcomings on his part with the relationship he’s had (or exploited?) with Clara. Looking back at previous episodes, the spiralling inwards could only result in a single-character chamber piece.

    (It also seems to hint at a future female Doctor, and I can only bloody hope.)

    As an episode I read it as examining how the Doctor perceives his companions (which is why I can’t help thinking of Gaiman’s “mechanical” line) and looking closely (and not altogether approvingly) at the workings of his mind. His solution is repeated bloodyminded martyrdom, which is a shift from his personality as we know it: whereas the usual solution is “be bloody clever”, here cleverness isn’t a quick fix. The ultimate solution is unsettling and out of character (though not as nihilistically bleak as The Prestige, which comes very much to mind), which risks the episode being atypical Who, and not in a fun way like Blink.

    I think the risk paid off. The Doctor dying billions of times over on his way to literally punching his way to Gallifrey seems in keeping with the scale of the mythos around that part of the worldbuilding.

  • Stephen Robinson

    The only way it makes sense, I think, is if the “prison” is designed with the Doctor in mind (he states as much), so a deliberate puzzle is provided. He is meant to get further and further to the breaking point when he realizes how long he’s been in the loop.

    There are *some* questions I can wait until the next episode for answers. For example, I rewatched the ending when the Doctor escapes, and it seems like the confession dial was in the pocket dimension or somehow linked to it. I still don’t know the Time Lords’ motivation and frankly, I’m not entirely confident in Moffat’s ability or even interest in answering these questions fairly.

    Hitchcock, I think, might have first used the term “fridge logic” — the sort of questions/plot holes that hit you after seeing a film/show when you’re reaching into the fridge for a snack later that night. Hitch was fine with those sorts of plot holes — what he considered fatal were the ones that immediately pulled you out of the film.

    Moffat — at his best — writes to this type of Fridge Logic. BLINK and SILENCE IN THE LIBRARY/FOREST OF THE DEAD are good examples. Neither hold up all that well upon close scrutiny but are effective viewing at the time. At his worst, and this occurs more often, I think, the questions he raises become immediate obstacles to enjoying what you’re watching.

    Moffat’s weakness, which I don’t think Hitchcock shared, is a reliance on sentimentality and grand emotion to provide cover for plot holes and narrative inconsistencies. Danny overcomes his Cyber-programming and leads the other Cybermen to stop the Master’s scheme. The Cyber Brigadier shows up to save his daughter. We’re meant to be so caught up in the feels over stuff like this that we don’t ask “huh? Wait, was 3W real at one point? And did The Master create the after life?”

  • Stephen Robinson

    We don’t know anything objective about the castle. We only know what the Doctor is telling us, and he’s an unreliable narrator. This is not to excuse anything but just to underscore one frustration I have with the episode or rather with this style of storytelling.

  • He lost a companion. Even if you didn’t like the character, the Doctor HAD spent over 900 years with Clara Oswald. That’s a fact and just that timespan alone would make the person important to someone. He lost someone he cared about, someone we could see he considered a friend for 900 years. Even in theory, that’s tragic. Nothing “out of nowhere” about it. I hate Clara, but that scene still drove me to tears.

    It’s not a VR sim, the Doctor was physically transported into it. Otherwise his body would’ve been someplace else and it wasn’t. Besides, he would’ve noticed he wasn’t getting hungry and mentioned it.

    It could’ve reset also because the drone switched on when the new Doctor arrived.

  • RogerBW

    This is why I call the show fantasy rather than SF – it’s not the subject matter (spaceships vs unicorns), but the way it’s handled. A story where the Power of Believing Really Hard is more important than anything else is barely even fantasy – it’s pantomime.
    What’s more, it doesn’t have any dramatic tension. There have been so many last-minute inventions to save the day (what Andrew Rilstone tends to call the Baddy Destroying Device) that we, or at least I, just don’t believe it any more when someone says “this is more dangerous than ever before and nothing we have will fix it”. Eh, you’re just going to come up with something.

  • Stephen Robinson

    New WHO just doesn’t feel like sci-fi to me. The “science” is so close to magic that it might as well be HARRY POTTER or STAR WARS. And it doesn’t fall under the “significantly advanced technology” criteria either… it really feels like magic and fantasy. Even The Veil is a horror movie monster. I know there is the modern WHO assertion that the Doctor fights “monsters,” but even in the gothic horror period, there was a solid sci-fi base behind the “monsters” (SEEDS OF DOOM, for example). The Daleks and the Cybermen are spot-on “sci-fi” monsters because they are commentaries on the dark road science could lead us. The Veil is a creature from nightmares. Also, the Doctor as a *child* saw a dead woman rotting away? Did he grow up in a third-world country? It’s a cool background for a monster… but it just doesn’t jibe with what should be the Doctor’s background.

  • Stephen Robinson

    My issue with the spare clothes is that it’s an unresolvable paradox. How did they get there? I can’t think of a convincing situation where he’d leave his clothes to dry if there weren’t a dry set for him to wear instead. The first time he takes the dive and winds up in that room, he will either dry himself off the best he can by the fire or continue running for his life while soaking wet. I doubt he’s worried about a head cold when the Veil is after him.

  • Stephen Robinson

    Yeah, there’s the first season’s *literal* deus ex machina of Rose becoming “Bad Wolf.” That’s pure fantasy but at least it’s somewhat internally consistent — the “energy” from staring into the time vortex changed her. Contrast that with the third season’s… well, I don’t even know what to call it… where the power of prayer restores the Doctor to health. That’s just as fantastic as “Bad Wolf,” I suppose, but there’s no logic behind it. “Use the countdown” was not sufficient explanation for the plan Martha came up with.

    But that was RTD at his arguable worst. Moffat openly is writing fairy tales: THE BIG BANG and THE WEDDING OF RIVER SONG.

  • Stephen Robinson

    How could the Doctor have spent 900 years with someone with a human lifespan? Do you mean that he’s known Clara for that long? Sure but that has long bugged me since TIME OF THE DOCTOR. He should barely remember her (he’s already almost senile).

    I also think Moffat is ignoring his own back story. He *chose* to have the Doctor marry River Song, but then he decides to have the Doctor see his mother-in-law instead right before he regenerates and now it’s Clara who gives him the strength to fight on in his nightmare hell. Rose doesn’t even make an appearance.

    I’m not trying to be continuity obsessed. It didn’t bother me that the 4th Doctor never mentioned Susan or Jamie. However, the new series keeps making each companion the most important person in the Doctor’s life (he actually *stops* being the Doctor, arguably “breaking the promise” of his name, after losing Amy). His relationships keep resetting like the rooms in his confession dial. And I think after a while, it becomes dramatically lazy.

  • Harry Potter is a lot more rigorous in the rules of its fantasy than Doctor Who has been in recent years.

  • RogerBW

    I’m not sure what the right term is for this “anything can happen” style of story-telling? Mythic? Fairy-tale, as Stephen suggested?

  • He keeps dumping her on Earth after every adventure. In Series 9, he’s already 2000 and a few hundred(according to Capaldi, anyway). Which means that he’s doing the same thing he did with the Ponds… keeping them around longer by having less adventures.
    The Doctor said in Last Christmas that he can delete memories at will plus the Second Doctor once said that his memories can “sleep”, hence why he still remembers all his companions, but at the same time, doesn’t.
    Although River Song is arguably his longest running “companion” or constant, but A) He just lost Clara and B) He told goodbye to River and hasn’t seen him since Time Of The Doctor.

  • Danielm80

    Over the past several years, the Doctor has encountered vampires, ghosts, and Santa Claus. There’s always a scientific, or pseudoscientific, explanation, of course, but Moffat is hardly even disguising the fact that he’s writing fantasy stories.

  • His relationships keep resetting like the rooms in his confession dial.

    Beautifully said.

  • Lazy.

  • RogerBW

    Well, yeah, I think so too, but clearly some people like it so I’m trying to come up with a neutral term to describe what we’re talking about.

  • Nathan

    Thank you, I watch a bit of anime every so often and I keep getting the “you just don’t get it” excuse.

    We get it fans, and it’s silly.

  • The unique ideas, the extreme focus on the Doctor, the excellent soundtrack, Capaldi’s performance, the set design, the plotting, the cliffhanger.
    It’s not the best of the season, it’s the best of the series.

  • IndieRepub

    You’re criticizing central tenets of the episode as if there are no alternative explanations than your own, then claiming the whole thing falls apart. The reason room 12 doesn’t reset is because it wasn’t built to reset.

    And your righteous indignation aside, you just posted a big blog post about how you didn’t enjoy this episode when almost everyone else in the world did. It’s the highest rated episode of the modern series. You don’t get to cry foul when someone interprets your complaining as you not enjoying it.

  • Danielm80

    You’re criticizing central tenets of the episode as if there are no alternative explanations than your own, then claiming the whole thing falls apart.

    She’s explained, point by point, why the alternative explanations don’t make any real, logical sense. It’s possible to come up with rationalizations that kind of fill in the plot holes, but only if you make a lot of assumptions and wild guesses, based on information that
    wasn’t in the episode.

    The reason room 12 doesn’t reset is because it wasn’t built to reset.

    You’re coming really close to saying, “It doesn’t reset because it doesn’t reset.”

    Maybe the room, and the entire building, was designed to manipulate the Doctor into taking exactly the actions he did. Maybe there’s a cunning plan that explains all of the inconsistencies. But none of that information was in the script.

    If the season finale clears up all the mysteries, then we can reconsider everything that happened. But until then, we’re entitled to think that the episode was a cryptic mess.

    And your righteous indignation aside, you just posted a big blog post about how you didn’t enjoy this episode when almost everyone else in the world did. It’s the highest rated episode of the modern series.

    Art is not a democracy. Even if “everyone else in the world” really did enjoy the episode,* she can hate it as much as she wants. You can love it as much as you want. Neither of you is wrong.

    You don’t get to cry foul when someone interprets your complaining as you not enjoying it.

    She’s stated very clearly that she didn’t enjoy the episode, and hasn’t enjoyed most of Moffat’s run on the show. But people have been expanding in that to say that, if she doesn’t like this episode, she can’t possibly like any episode of Doctor Who ever…and that she must not like or understand any mainstream science fiction, because if she were a real fan, she’d be willing to overlook even the most glaring plot holes.

    *Personally, I loved some parts and was irritated by others. If you read through this thread, you’ll find a number of people criticizing the episode, and the season as a whole.

  • IndieRepub

    A constructed environment can’t have differences room to room? The entire thing was built by timelords to make him confess. That much is explicitly explained if you pay close attention to this series. The sky changed because the top of the disc was open. You’re coming really close to saying “it all resets because it all resets.” I’m saying a constructed environment built for a specific purpose can contain whatever its makers want it to contain.

    My criticism of her critique is that it’s non-nuanced and shows no regard for the type of plot holes the show normally gives us. There was literally an episode where Amy’s tear brought the doctor back from non-existence. The angels take manhattan deal had the logical consistency of a Ren and Stimpy episode. The woman who lived offered us a critical character in the form of some sort of strange lion-like beast that had no clear motivations other than harming humans, and unclear relevance to Me, who could have easily escaped earth another way. She’d tracked down Clara and therefore could have found the doctor easily. Modern Doctor Who is defined by its hand waving, and unlike most episodes there are legitimate explanations for almost all of the things we saw as this was a contructed environment built by timelords specifically to get the doctor to confess. The doctors extra clothes are the only thing I see that can’t be explained, but even then she’s asking for a level of scientific perfection that almost no show has ever achieved.

  • I would love to see that addressed in a future storyline, after Moffat’s gone.

  • Why were the clothes there in the first place? This paradox is addressed previously in “Before the Flood”.

    This isn’t the Bootstrap paradox. It has a beginning and an end.

  • Chad P

    I was going to try to explain the stars using the dial and its logic, but there are actually holes that the episode makes hard to close. But, a few fixes…

    1) The Doctor’s view of the stars may have been set, initially, by his own expectation of the function of long range teleports. Clearly, the dial pulls from his psyche so this would be consistent.

    2) Clara’s painting may be similar. While the death is fresh in his mind on each iteration, we forget that his friendship with Clara spans (for him) possible hundreds of years. So, seeing it represented as an “old” painting may be consistent with his view of their friendship as “classic.”

    3) As mentioned, the entire complex resets… but that only applies to items initially in the castle, and it only happens after trigger events. So the jacket and the skulls (plural) would be available because they came from the outside.

    4) Keep in mind that the dial was almost certainly hacked by the Time Lords. I doubt the original purpose was “torture the person it was meant for” after all. So the inconsistencies in the structure (the exit portal not resetting) would have been consistent with the hack. If you were creating an automated torture program, wouldn’t you build a backdoor into the program in case you had issues?

    5) The clothing would not have been available the first time, but the Doctor had his sonic. He may have been able to project a set of holographic clothing. But, we know he is not particularly modest about nudity, so running around naked is not inconceivable.

    6) His knowledge of his many iterations is probably not conscious knowledge, it if exists at all. Consider that we’ve already established (in the series) that minds have a limited capacity for storing information. Ashildr exemplifies this (though we have inconsistencies in the series on this point.) So the Doctor is likely aware that he lived for billions of years, but he doesn’t REMEMBER all of it except as an abstract idea.

    This is consistent with the new logic of Doctor Who. Remember Rory, the Last Centurion? He remembered being a Centurion, he retained some of the abilities he learned, but he only remembered it as an abstract for the most part.

    7) People are assuming that the dial passed the time in physical space. I think it is more likely that the Time Lords, being… well… masters of time, used a conditional wormhole.

    …I guess I should explain. ;-)

    Basically, they placed the dial in a time locked moment separate from regular reality (clearly possible using existing Time Lord technology.) We know this is possible because the War Council in the 50th anniversary special wasn’t surprised that the 13 Doctors were going to save Gallifrey by locking it a moment of time… they just didn’t believe that it was possible for an entire PLANET. For the Time Lords to lock a single man and a single dial into a moment… should have been easy.

    The dial remained locked in this moment until the Doctor accessed the exit. When he exited, the dial reconnected with Gallifrey based on its calculations of Gallifrey’s eventual position. The time inside the dial was immaterial from an external perspective

    So the Time Lords didn’t wait billions of years for an answer; they still existed in much the same form as they did when they were time locked. More likely, the Doctor’s time in the dial was a mere instant for them.

    This would make sense; it is almost certain that they’d have intervened if even a few years for them had passed. Remember, they wanted information; who waits billions of years for a bit of info deemed critical? And had it been linear for them, they’d have caught on to his plan long before it succeeded.

  • the jacket and the skulls (plural) would be available because they came from the outside.

    So what about the blood? Why does it disappear?

  • Chad P

    Excellent question.

    Given that the remnants of the countless corpses also vanish, perhaps the “maid service” of the castle cleans up external dust, debris, and blood?

    I mean, it would have to, really. Otherwise there would be billions of years of Doctor corpse remnants and bloodstains. I’m not particularly satisfied with that answer because it makes the logic of the castle’s “programmers” faulty (how did they miss the large object loophole?) but it works… if you assume that the people tasked with implementing it missed the inconsistency.

    Actually… thinking about it… there would have be SOME sort of programming exception for large objects from outside, or the Doctor would be “reset” to the beginning when the castle reset.

    Bigger question: What was the plan if the Doctor failed to give in AND failed to load his copy from the hard drive? Were his captors going to leave him dead, or was there a failsafe that would have restarted him regardless?

  • Beowulf

    Why are you still watching this stuff, MA? I gave up a long time ago and you seemed to be on the verge of finding something better to do during this series–like reading a really good SF novel.

  • RogerBW

    (Speaking for myself, but I think MaryAnn and I may be coming from similar places.)
    If you had told me ten years ago, when the revival had finished its first season, that five years later I would not only have stopped watching Doctor Who but be actively hoping it would be cancelled again before it left so much of a bad smell behind that it could never be revived again, I wouldn’t have believed you.
    And I think that’s why I hang around and take an interest. This isn’t just some modern disposable show that nobody cares about (who cried when the Minority Report TV series was cancelled?), not some generic filler because we need 42 minutes of sci-fi every week. Or rather it is, right now, but when it’s good it can be so much better.
    I don’t like seeing potentially great material being handled badly. It’s like giving a Kobe steak to someone who’s never cooked anything before.

  • All the workarounds this episode requires make my head spin.

  • Because I still have hope.

  • Danielm80

    Interestingly, the first episode of season 10 is called “The Thing with Feathers.” Unfortunately, the Thing with Feathers seems to be a large, fanged monster that eats children. (There are rumors that the Doctor’s new companion is Emily Dickinson, but, sadly, they seem to be unfounded.)

  • Biran53

    The dial is a puzzle box designed to be solved, but not without SERIOUS work and self-torture. If it were unsolvable, it’d be unfair.

    “Heaven Sent” is perfect.

  • bronxbee

    who said life is fair? where is that written? life is pain and anyone who says different is selling you something.

  • Biran53

    I mean I doubt the Time Lords would have designed the puzzle to work without a solution.

    It’s meant to torture the Doctor, but have a solution so impossibly difficult no one in their right mind would try to best it. That’s why certain things don’t reset. I’m working out the logic of the puzzle.

    Life is never fair, but you start letting that attitude run your life and its pointless.

  • Chad P

    If you like, I can try again?

    “It’s timey wimey 5th dimensional hocus-pocus! Silly human don’t have the maths to understand it!”

    Or something. ;-)

  • Danielm80

    But why would they want to torture the Doctor, if it doesn’t achieve their goals? They want to him to give them an answer, either by solving the puzzle or by admitting he can’t ever solve it and giving in. The puzzle doesn’t need to be fair, just solvable, or not.

  • Biran53


  • And you would think that at some point — like, oh, maybe a billion years in — the Time Lords would say to one another, “You know, I don’t think he’s going to give us what we want. Maybe we should let him out and try something different?”

  • Mankoi

    I have to disagree about the plotholes. The episode is fairly consistent. Stuff that’s part of the room gets reset. Stuff that comes from the Doctor does not. So, the Doctor’s clothes and skull don’t get reset. The “bird” writing doesn’t reset because the dust it’s written in is the remains of the Doctor (presumably it wasn’t there for the first few times until enough Doctor dust had built up. Some of it gets blown away when the wall moves, which is why it doesn’t pile up to be an insanely large mound). That’s also why there isn’t a big pile of jewler’s lenses in the painting room. The Doctor finds it next to the painting. It’s not something he brought with him. The only thing not consistent with this is that the Doctor’s bloodstains do remove themselves, which probably is an oversight. Everything else follows the logic.

    The “I am in 12” stone doesn’t reset because it’s part of the castle. The Doctor even says the castle is drawing him towards room 12. It wants him to go there so he can see that escape is possible, but only if he tells his last secret. That’s also why it doesn’t let him go there until he’s already given up his other secrets.

    The writing on the wall, the picture of Clara, and the stars are all the way they are by design. The castle is made to instill a feeling of hopelessness when the Doctor reaches the final room, so he’ll give up. It does a pretty good job of it as well. The stars let him know exactly how long he’s been trapped. The painting of Clara gives the impression of age early on (which is probably also why the castle supplies him with a way to get a closer look at it), and the writing on the wall hints that he has died several times before. It’s also why the castle gets him to dig his own grave early on. It’s all to hint to him, as much as the audience, what the truth of his situation is. How the Doctor remembers his previous situations is a little iffy. That being said the Doctor has before shown he can telepathically link to past or future selves, so perhaps it’s a trace of that which lets him remember over time.

    As for the clothes, we can see that the castle is a livable space. It has a bed, food, pots and pans, etc. The first version of the Doctor likely took off his clothes, hung them up to dry, and then put on something he found in the castle. Said clothes would reset when he died, but his original clothes would note. (Hopefully any clothes he found wouldn’t reset while he was wearing them, but he does say things reset when he’s away from them, so it makes sense that they wouldn’t.)

    So, all that leaves us with really is the wall he punches through. And… yeah, it’s a plot hole. Yeah, as plot holes go, it’s a biggie. It’s not hard to come up with an explanation. For example, because it’s connected to the real world, it can’t reset. But there should have been a line to explain that. So, I’m not going to contest that one. Most of the other plot holes, however, aren’t.

  • Tonio Kruger

    One would think that after the events of “Image of the Fendahl,” the Doctor would think twice about touching any skulls…

  • Tonio Kruger

    No doubt that episode was inspired by the now-forgotten Jon Pertwee episode in which the Brigadier uttered the once-immortal phrase: “Sgt. Dickinson, that thing with feathers over there! Three rounds rapid if you please.” :-)

  • Tonio Kruger

    Personally, I’m still a bit disappointed that one of the characters from Clive Barker’s Hellraiser series didn’t show up in this episode…

  • Hunter Murdoch

    Hi, I’m not sure if this is really a good theory or not as to why the sky changes, but i don’t think they wanted the doctor to know he was in his confession dial, but they wanted him to think he had been teleported. They planned on keeping him there untill he confessed about the hybrid and they didn’t know how long that would be since he had a whole new set of regenerations to burn through by aging. So to keep him clueless as to where he really was, they made the sky change as it would have outside the dial so that he wouldn’t figure it out.

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