“A lot of inconsistencies but it’s very very interesting!!”
Doctor Who canon is far from straightforward – understandably, given the show’s been on the air for almost 60 years, its internal history is packed full of contradictions and confusions. So it can be tricky to keep track of what’s what…
All the same, Spyfall – Part Two – the concluding chapter of series 12’s premiere – might have just dropped a bit of a continuity clanger.
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The episode, of course, sees the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) once again pitted against the Master (Sacha Dhawan) and at one point in the story, these two eternal foes take a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower and reminisce about old times.
Remarking on the freezing temperature, the Doctor says that being at the top of the Tower is “worse than Jodrell Bank.” “Did I ever apologise for that?” the Master asks, only to reply “Good” when the Doctor confirms that he did not.
This exchange would appear to be a nod to a serial from Doctor Who’s classic series, Tom Baker’s last in fact – 1981’s Logopolis.
In the climax to that story, the fourth Doctor (Baker) falls from the top of a radio telescope after a battle with the Master (Anthony Ainley), triggering his regeneration into the fifth Doctor (Peter Davison).
Location filming for this sequence in Logopolis were originally planned to take place at Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire, but ultimately took place at Crowsley Park – a country estate owned by the BBC – instead. A scale model resembling Jodrell Bank’s Lovell Telescope was used in place of the real deal.
The trouble is… the scenes in Logopolis were not supposed to take place at Jodrell Bank, even when the plan had been to film there. The tussle between the Doctor and the Master actually took place at the fictional ‘Pharos Project’ – planned to be represented by Jodrell Bank (and eventually represented by the aforementioned model).
Jodie Whittaker in Doctor Who series 12 (BBC)
So why does the Doctor refer to an encounter with the Master at Jodrell Bank? It’s likely a goof – though if we’re being generous, there are a couple of possible explanations to smooth out this continuity wrinkle…
Maybe, in the Whoniverse, Jodrell Bank and the Pharos Project are one-and-the-same? Perhaps the Pharos Project is part of Jodrell Bank (though that’s never indicated on-screen)?
Or maybe Jodrell Bank became the Pharos Project? If the Doctor had visited Jodrell Bank at a point in time before it became the Pharos Project, she could be forgiven for using its old moniker here. (Jodrell Bank definitely exists in Doctor Who world, having been referenced in stories including 1966’s The Tenth Planet, 2008’s The Poison Sky and 2010’s The Eleventh Hour.)
Alternatively, maybe the Doctor and the Master had a different, off-screen encounter at the real Jodrell Bank and their conversation in Spyfall – Part Two doesn’t refer to the events of Logopolis at all? Get on plugging that gap, Big Finish…
Doctor Who continues next Sunday at 7:10pm on BBC One