When asked to provide a novelisation for his barnstorming Doctor Who 50th anniversary spectacular The Day of the Doctor, Steven Moffat had two choices: he could create a faithful, by-the-letter adaptation of the 2013 episode – or he could throw in all the ideas he’d had at the time but hadn’t been able to include, as well as some more extraneous detail just for good measure.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the ex-series showrunner did the latter and created a new version of The Day of the Doctor that alters the plot, adds intriguing new scenes and subtly hints at the future of Doctor Who in a way that just wouldn’t have been possible when it was on TV in 2013 (for example, in a similar way to fellow ex-showrunner Russell T Davies’ adaptation of 2005 episode Rose, Moffat’s book features the presence of Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor).
But perhaps Moffat’s greatest addition to the new adaptation are scenes that finally fill in a few of Doctor Who’s oldest and most lingering plot holes, from weird continuity discrepancies that have haunted fans since the 1960s to modern flubs that don’t really make that much sense when you think about them for too long.
If you want to read the book entirely unspoilt, look away now – or read on for a list of the most satisfying things Steven Moffat finally sorts out.
The River Song question
One of Moffat’s most notable additions to Doctor Who canon is Alex Kingston’s River Song, a time-travelling archaeologist and sometime wife to the Doctor who keeps running into the Time Lord at the wrong points in their relationship.
Back in 2013 it was slightly surprising that River never turned up in the 50th anniversary special, but Moffat rectifies that omission in the print version by adding a few extra scenes where Professor Song gives some advice to various incarnations of the Doctor (though still not impacting the main plot too much).
And where does the “plot hole” element of this change come in? Well, a bathtime meeting between David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor and River finally explains a niggling detail from over a decade ago, when she was first introduced in two-part episode Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead.
In that story, River implies that she met the Tenth Doctor a number of times, and expects this incarnation to know her well – but despite later appearances suggesting she keeps a record of all the Doctor’s faces, the pair never meet onscreen again to explain her expectation of intimacy.
Sure, we might have assumed the pair had run into each other again when the Doctor was in that form, but we never really had confirmation before now. In the new Target novelisation, the Tenth Doctor comments that he’s run into younger versions of River “a couple of times” prior to the events of the Day of the Doctor, and so the way she reacts to him in Silence in the Library makes perfect sense.
More Cushing for the pushing
In one of the new novel’s more meta moments, Moffat also explains away one of the greatest canonical issues in Doctor Who history – where, exactly, do the 1960s Peter Cushing films fit in?
For those not in the know, these films (called Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 AD) were a remake of some early William Hartnell Doctor Who stories, starring Star Wars and Hammer horror icon Cushing as a human scientist who actually invented the Tardis (losing the “the” to become just Tardis) and battled alien nasties.
Obviously, Cushing can’t be counted among the official line-up of Doctors, but fondness for the films has led Who fans to keep him in their hearts – and now the new book finally explains his place in the canon.
According to Moffat’s Day of the Doctor adaptation, the Cushing Doctor Who films do exist in the main Whoniverse, with the actor playing a fictionalised version of the real-life Doctor with the blessing of the man himself.The new book shows posters from Cushing’s films actually hanging in the Black Archive, which Moffat has previously said he wanted to do in the episode that aired on TV – plans which were scuppered when the BBC were unable to get the rights to the artwork.
“Seen them? He loves them,” UNIT boss Kate Stewart explains to Jenna Coleman’s Clara Oswald in the episode when discussing the films.
“He loaned Peter Cushing a waistcoat for the second one, they were great friends. Though we only realised that when Cushing [started] showing up in movies made long after his death.”
That last bit, of course, is a reference to how the late Cushing was included in 2016’s Star Wars prequel Rogue One using cutting-edge CGI – though apparently it was just Tardis trickery instead.
I see your true colours
We’d never really thought of this as a plot hole before now, but Moffat even has an explanation for why the first two incarnations of the Doctor (played by William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton) experienced their adventures in black and white.
Budgetary or production restrictions stemming from its origins as 1960s BBC television? No! It was the result of the first two Doctors being profoundly colour blind, something the Time Lord didn’t even notice until reaching his third incarnation (played by Jon Pertwee).
Tardises, Tardises everywhere!
The triumphant finale of the 50th special, when “all thirteen” incarnations of the Doctor (including the then-unseen Peter Capaldi) turned up to save Gallifrey also gets a bit souped up for the novel edition.
The reason for the Time Lords’ discomfort at having their planet frozen in a stasis cube is explained – in the TV episode there’s no background to their reluctance, but in the book the process causes hundreds of natural disasters across Gallifrey – while Moffat also adds more future incarnations of the Doctor to the rescue effort, with hundreds of Tardises flying around the world to save the people in trouble.
Obviously, in the TV version there were just the thirteen versions of the character we’d met onscreen, as it would have been slightly unfair to expect Moffat to predict the future back in 2013 and include incarnations of the Doctor beyond Capaldi.
Still, in the book adaptation he was able to alter the story to include even more Time Lords – and given that we only see their blue boxes, there’s no reason that we couldn’t assume ANY future incarnation of the Doctor to have taken part in his greatest hour.
In fact, considering a certain scene in the book that we won’t spoil too much, it seems fair to assume Jodie Whittaker’s eagerly-anticipated Thirteenth Doctor is supposed to be among them.
See? Even plot holes that didn’t exist at the time an episode was written can still be fixed years later. Inspiring stuff for obsessive fans everywhere.
The new Target novelisations of Rose, The Day of the Doctor, The Christmas Invasion and Twice Upon a Time will be released on Thursday 5th April, and can be pre-ordered here
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