Doctor Who series 11’s penultimate episode may have been the strangest yet, full of complex ideas about parallel worlds, exiled consciousnesses and the difficulties of grief.
And so perhaps it’s no surprise that we have more questions than ever when we look back on Ed Hime’s Norwegian head-scratcher It Takes You Away.
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Check below to see what we made of the episode’s biggest mysteries and plot holes – and watch out for spoilers from hereon out.
Why did Erik bother barricading the house?
Look, we get it – Erik wanted to scare his daughter into staying indoors at all times while he visited her mirror-mum, and like any normal parent he decided to invent a roaring, vicious monster in the woods that could eat them up at a moment’s notice.
But why bother barricading the entire house when he knew the monster was fake? Yes, it was part of the effort to convince his blind daughter that the threat was real (father of the year over here), but given how much the rest of his plan relied on her poor eyesight, why wouldn’t he just pretend to barricade it?
Hell, he could’ve just played barricading noises over his oddly waterproof outdoor sound system for the same effect.
How did Erik know how the mirror world worked?
Here’s a thought – Erik says he abandons Hanne because he’s worried about leaving the mirror world (or Solitract Plane, if you’re nasty) and never being able to return. But presumably, in order to carry out his rather drawn-out plan of setting up a fake monster to trap her, terrified in the house, he had to have known that he was leaving?
In other words, had he gone through the mirror already? If he had and returned, his excuse for leaving Hanne behind doesn’t hold water – and if he’d never been, his actions make no sense. Unless he was just doing the whole thing anyway, and the mirror world was just a coincidence. Hmm…
Why did Erik and Hanne have Norwegian accents?
By this stage in the series you probably know how the Tardis translation circuit works (if not, here’s a quick guide), telepathically translating any language into one its passenger can understand.
So it was no surprise to find Norwegians Hanne and Erik speaking English – but why did they still have accents? When the gang travelled to India, everyone they met was speaking in Urdu but they still had English accents, so what’s different here?
Well, there are a few options. Maybe the Tardis has a whimsical idea of what accents to give people, maybe Hanne and Erik actually WERE speaking English with their natural accents so there was no need to translate, or maybe it was a creative choice in a children’s TV show that we’re massively overthinking.
Who played Hanne?
Ellie Wallwork, who is blind in real life, played Hanne in It Takes You Away. An actor, singer and songwriter, Wallwork has previously appeared in the 2012 Polish film Imagine and BBC drama Call the Midwife.
Why does Hanne know so much about the monster when it’s not real?
When the Doctor and her crew first encounter Hanne, she’s full of information about the monster she believes is living in the woods. She knows when it hunts, how dangerous it is – and when she believes it’s attacking she repeats the mantra “it takes you away” over and over again.
But when we find out the truth – that her dad made up the monster by playing scary noises – it becomes less clear how Hanne added all that up to the fairly detailed idea of the monster she had in her head. And where did the whole “it takes you away” thing come from? Is that something her dad told her, or just something she came up with herself? There are some big gaps that need filling in.
Why didn’t the Doctor notice the string had been cut?
When travelling through the anti-zone, the Doctor goes all Theseus and tries to mark her path with a ball of string, which she ties to a rock and gradually unfurls so they can find their way back.
It’s not a bad plan, until the nasty goblin Ribbons cuts the rope, leaving them stranded – but what we can’t work out is why the Doctor didn’t notice the taut string suddenly going slack until it was pointed out by Ribbons.
Maybe she had other things on her mind.
Who played Ribbons?
Though you might not be able to tell under all the make-up, veteran comedy actor Kevin Eldon (who’s been in a string of comedies, including I’m Alan Partridge) played the greedy anti-zone monster, making his Doctor Who debut. Though given how little you see of him, he could probably sneak in again without anyone noticing…
Has Ribbons really always lived in the anti-zone?
Speaking of Ribbons, at one point the creature reveals that he isn’t visiting the anti-zone, and has in fact “always” been there.
To which we say….huh? How did he build a life inside what is essentially a smoky cave? How did he learn any semblance of language, let alone a system of barter, or build the floating lanterns? And why wasn’t he more surprised to meet visitors? Is there a lot of foot traffic in an anti-zone?
Sadly, we can’t ask Ribbons himself after his unlucky encounter with some flesh moths.
Well spotted! Once the Doctor, Yaz and Graham travelled through the mirror into the Solitract plane they became mirror images of themselves, with their haircuts, clothes and actions flipping from the usual arrangement.
Watch closely, and you’ll even notice the right-handed Doctor uses her left hand to wield the sonic screwdriver, and we’ve written a bit more about this clever trick elsewhere.
Is Erik the worst dad alive? And why do they leave Hanne with him?
OK, let’s get this out of the way – Erik is the worst parent ever. Not only does he ABANDON his grieving and visually impaired child in the middle of Norway, he also creates an elaborate lie to imprison and traumatise her for the time she’s left without him.
Meanwhile, he’s off chilling with his alternate dimension ghost-wife. Frankly, the biggest mystery of this episode is why the Doctor leaves Hanne under his care at the end of the episode, instead of putting a call into Who-cial services…
What is a Solitract?
According to the Doctor, the Solitract (we checked the spelling) is a “consciousness” or “energy” that existed at the beginning of time, that was incompatible with the scientific rules and matter of our own universe and was holding it back from fruition.
Legend says the Solitract was shunted into a different plane, where it was trapped alone for eternity – until the time of this episode, when it decided to create another dimension, pull over some people to hang out with and just hope reality didn’t collapse (spoiler alert: it almost did).
To quote Mandip Gill’s Yaz, it’s basically “a separate exiled universe that is also a consciousness” – though it’s sometimes also a talking frog with the voice of Sharon D Clarke. We all have layers.
Does the Doctor have grandparents?
The mystery of the Doctor’s family life has been puzzled over by Who fans (Whostorians?) for many years, and we’ve even had a stab at deciphering it ourselves.
And now, It Takes You Away has added a whole gang of grandmas to her family tree.
“I had seven, but Granny Five was my favourite,” the Doctor tells Yaz.
“She also said that Granny Two was a secret agent for the Zygons, but she seems bang-on with this one.”
We’re still waiting for the big Who family reunion.
Did Grace know what she was doing?
During the episode, Bradley Walsh’s Graham is put through the wringer again when the Solitract begins impersonating Grace (Sharon D Clarke), using its infinite power to recreate his dead wife and her memories exactly.
Later, it’s revealed that the Solitract is acting through Grace – but we’d like to think that in those early scenes, she was something of a sleeper agent, who truly believed who she said she was.
Look, we can’t deal with people being mean to Graham, OK? It’s nicer to think about it this way.
Yes, at one point Yaz did suggest the Doctor “reverse the polarity” of something, nodding to the catchphrase of Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor.
It was a nice callback to an incarnation of the Time Lord that’s had quite a few nods this year, as we explain in more depth here.
It Takes You Away was the penultimate episode of this year’s Doctor Who, which means we just have the series finale left – plus a New Year’s Day episode.
So far, the BBC are keeping it firmly under wraps, but we’ve done some digging and weighed up what we DO know about The Battle of Ranksoor Av Kolos.
Spoiler alert – they probably all survive given that the special is due to air just a few weeks later…
Doctor Who continues on BBC1 on Sundays
This article was originally published on 2 December 2018