Doctor Who series 12’s penultimate episode introduced a bizarre new mystery to the sci-fi drama, intercutting a story of Cybermen and peril for Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor with a bucolic side story about a foundling baby called Brendan in the Republic of Ireland.
Later, scenes of Brendan’s apparent immortality and torture at the hands of his friends and family added a sinister air to proceedings, and fans were left confused by the sub-plot’s relevance – but series finale the Timeless Children offered some background to what was going on.
Apparently, Brendan’s story was a “filter” placed over other Time Lord memories, hiding their true nature but offering clues as to the background of the Timeless Child. Extracted from the Matrix by the Master (Sacha Dhawan), these memories were then irregularly beamed into the Doctor’s mind, explaining why they kept cropping up in the previous episode.
"Those glitches of Ireland you keep seeing. Those images that were buried deep in the Matrix. Tecteun put a visual filter over it so that no-one who watched it would find it remarkable," the Master said.
"I transmitted them into your mind as you tracked the Cybermen."
But what did it all really mean? Well, after episode nine we all had a lot of theories, including that Brendan could be a Time Lord in disguise or that his life story could be some sort of simulated, filtered version of another life – and as it turns out, the truth was somewhere inbetween.
After the revelation that the Doctor was the Timeless Child – and subsequently the source of all regenerations on Gallifrey – the Master revealed that the Doctor went on to join a Time Lord secret service called The Division, at which point all her memories cut out.
All that was left from then on were the Brendan memories, now revealed to be a simulated retelling of the Timeless Child story left behind by the Doctor’s surrogate parent Tecteun. Like Brendan, the child/the Doctor was found and adopted; had fallen from a cliff and survived; and like Brendan the child had enlisted in a form of police service.
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And while there weren’t any corresponding memories, Brendan’s final fate – retiring from his job and painfully having his memories removed – was subsequently implied to be what happened to the Doctor, with her life restarted in her first incarnation.
“Maybe this is the last gift of a parent. A clue. Or an apology. You can decide,” the Master said of the visions.
“Did Tecteun leave these images for you to decode one day?”
Whether Tecteun did or not, we’re sure Who fans will get to work deciphering the clues themselves. For now, there’s still a little mystery surrounding poor old Brendan that we all need to solve…
Doctor Who returns to BBC One in late 2020/early 2021