The apparent death of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man in Avengers: Infinity War was one of the most tearjerking parts of the 2018 movie, with the young hero dissolving (along with half the population of the universe) into nothing while pleading “I don’t want to go.”
And the moment was all the more emotional for certain Doctor Who fans, who were quick to note the line’s similarity to a famous piece of a dialogue from their favourite TV series – the “I don’t want to go” of David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor just before he regenerated into a new body and left the series for good.
And now, Infinity War’s sequel Avengers: Endgame also seems to have smuggled in a subtle little Doctor Who callback, which if intentional – we’re not entirely convinced it is – could indicate that there’s a Doctor Who fan lurking somewhere in Marvel Studios.
Watch out, because from hereon out we’ll be dealing with some fairly crucial spoilers from Avengers: Endgame.
Perhaps inevitably, the Doctor Who crossover moment comes in a segment where the Avengers are discussing their plan to travel back in time to retrieve older versions of the Infinity stones and undo Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) evil work at the end of the last movie.
In the course of this discussion, they cite several pop culture depictions of time travel including Back to the Future and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (though not Die Hard) as evidence for why the plan will work – but notably, no one name-checks Doctor Who.
It’s a surprise omission, especially considering that the name they choose for this mission – “Time Heist,” as coined by Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man – is actually the name of a Doctor Who episode as well.
Specifically, it’s an episode from Peter Capaldi’s first series with Jenna Coleman when the pair have their memories wiped and have to break into a bank with the help of some accomplices – you remember, it’s the one with Keeley Hawes as an alien banker.
So is this just a coincidence? Well, maybe – Time Heist as an episode isn’t remembered particularly strongly by Who fans, and it’s never a phrase actually used in the script, so it seems reasonably likely that Endgame screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely independently came up with the same expression for (arguably) a more appropriate example.
On the other hand, the expression “Time Heist” is so unusual (Doctor Who is the only thing that comes up if you Google it) that for now, we can’t count out the possibility that the adventures of the Doctor and Clara inspired Avengers: Endgame in some small way – even if it was just to give Paul Rudd something funny to say.
Avengers: Endgame is in UK cinemas now