Look, we’ll say it – there’s been a LOT of mysteries in Doctor Who lately, from the evil plans of Swarm and the Doctor’s Timeless Child history through to that weird floating house in the latest episode.
But one of the lower-key riddles is also bubbling along in series 13 – what’s the deal with Vinder? Played by Jacob Anderson and billed as more important than most of the guest stars (he’s been grouped with series leads Jodie Whittaker, Mandip Gill and John Bishop), we meet Vinder in episode one as the custodian of a remote space station, where it appears he’s been assigned as some kind of punishment.
In episode two, Vinder (aka Serving Commander Inston-Vee Vinder of Kasto-Winfer-Foxfell) meets up with Yaz in the Temple of Atropos, where the duo run into Swarm (Sam Spruell). The skull-faced baddie then describes Vinder as “shamed, disgraced and rejected”, mocking him for seeking “redemption” for some past misdeed.
But what could this have been? And who are the mysterious bosses who have cast him out, leaving him to bitterly tell them to “go to hell” with every report he made? Well, some fans may have an idea.
Remember, in this series we’ve seen the Doctor tracking down operatives from The Division, the secretive Time Lord black ops unit that she was apparently a part of in her early years before the memories were wiped from her brain. To that end, she’s tried (and failed) to interrogate ex-Division operative Karvanista (Craige Els) – but what if she’s actually stumbled upon someone else from the organisation by accident?
Take a look at Vinder’s clothes – the gold detailing and ponytail hairstyle, while a little scruffier, are very similar to the uniform look for The Division operatives that we’ve seen on-screen (like Gat, below). Add that to his knowledge of outer-space concepts the Doctor isn’t aware of (he’s heard of the Temple of Atropos, she hasn’t) and it begins to look likely that Vinder might come from the world that’s been removed from the Doctor’s memory.
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Before the series started, Jacob Anderson told Radio Times magazine that Vinder was a “fighter pilot” and “man of honour” – clearly crucial traits that haven’t really been showcased in the series yet. Perhaps that sense of honour is what could have caused him to fall out with his morally murky paymasters, after a career flying missions for The Division?
Notably, he also tells Priest Triangle he needs to make contact with his "home planet", but said planet is never named – is this a cheeky tease that he could be from Gallifrey?
Of course, it’s all speculation – but given how important The Division looks to be to this series, we wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Vinder has more ties to the Doctor’s quest than first appears.
Either way, it looks like we’ll get some answers soon. The dreamlike trailer for next week’s episode Once, Upon Time looks to delve into Vinder’s memories (that man he’s shaking hands with, who turns into Yaz) and a potential Division tie-in (that shot of him, Yaz and Dan holding Division weapons), so it could be that we’ll get our answers for this particular theory sooner rather than later.
Listen to the new episode of the Radio Times Doctor Who podcast:
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