Peter Capaldi’s final Doctor Who episode Twice Upon a Time was absolutely chock-full with Easter Eggs, callbacks and reference to series of old, but one potential hint to a classic Doctor has definitely stuck in our minds.
It came when eagle-eyed fans noticed that in the episode’s recreation of the First Doctor’s Tardis console room, one of the walls had been changed from its traditional appearance.
This in itself that notable – it’d be hard to rebuild the set exactly – but fans were intrigued by the fact that the new wall’s pattern instead matched one used in 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor (see main image). Specifically the set reflects the scene when legendary series actor Tom Baker (who played the popular Fourth Doctor in the 1970s and 80s) returned to play a mysterious figure called the Curator, who may or may not have been a regressed future incarnation of the Doctor.
Now it’s been revealed exactly why it appeared, with Doctor Who draftsman Matt Sanders laying out the process that brought it back in a special TV production-themed edition of Doctor Who Magazine.
As Sanders explains in the piece, the issue facing the design team was that in the original Tardis design one of the walls was merely a photograph of the trademark circular roundels, which wouldn’t stand up well on modern TV screens.
“Fortunately, our production designer, Michael Pickwoad, came up with an intriguing solution,” Sanders said.
“For the 50th anniversary story, The Day of the Doctor (2013), he’d designed a wall of hexagonal roundels for the National Gallery scene when Tom Baker appeared as the Curator.
“This TARDIS-style wall was intended as a nod to Baker’s previous role as the Fourth Doctor and to the Curator’s possible relationship with the current Doctor.”
They needed a new wall, and they had an intriguing new pattern – so why not solve the problem with an oblique Easter Egg?
“Our workshop still had the moulds, so we commissioned some new vacuum-formed plastic hexagons, as a modern reinterpretation of the 1960s photographic wall,” Sanders wrote.
“So now fans can engage in a whole new debate about that scene with the Curator. Did that room in the National Gallery actually have a more profound connection with the Tardis? Or was the 2017 art department just trying to save some money…”
For our part, we’re opting for the former – though it’s still as intriguing as ever to find out the behind-the-scenes reasons for Doctor Who’s most intricate callbacks.
The latest Doctor Who Magazine Special, In the Studio, is out now! It takes you behind the making of Doctor Who in studio, from its relatively primitive beginnings at Lime Grove to the cutting edge of modern television production at Roath Lock. pic.twitter.com/08sEwveikb