What. An. Episode. Although a story mostly confined to one floor of a single spaceship, series ten finale The Doctor Falls materialised a myriad of classic Master moments, Doctor Who’s most intriguing cliffhanger yet and, yes, plenty of hidden Easter eggs.
From references to Tom Baker’s regeneration to the sweetest of Doctor Who callbacks, current showrunner Steven Moffat buried a chest of treasures for Centauri-eyed viewers in his penultimate episode. Here’s the top seven we unearthed…
1. “I know you’ve fallen”
A fantastic reference to the most understated Doctor Who death here: at the episode’s start, while the two incarnations of The Master speculate on how many regenerations The Doctor has undergone, and which method they should use to dispatch him next, Missy gloats to the tied-up Doc, “I know you’ve fallen”. Indeed, The Doctor has plunged to his ‘death’ in the past, specifically in 1981 story Logopolis.
During that series, Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor battles The Master, with the fight seeing The Doctor slip from a radio telescope dish (well, a bit of scaffolding in front of a primitive green screen). As The Master (played by Anthony Ainley) escapes the scene in his Tardis, the fallen Time Lord has visions of his companions and enemies of past before regenerating into Peter Davison’s celery-donning Doctor.
Missy might not remember whether she’s the next regeneration of John Simm’s Master, but she didn’t forget that. And neither did showrunner Steven Moffat, who even referenced it again in the episode title: The Doctor Falls.
2. Musical wheelchairs
Thought the chemistry between The Master and his future incarnation Missy – basically the same character – was scarily self-indulgent? Well, this Easter egg won’t shake that feeling: turns out John Simm’s Time Lord gave himself a massive call back within the first few minutes of the episode.
On the hospital’s rooftop, John Simm’s Master trundles The Doctor’s wheelchair to the balcony’s edge, a deed harking back to the last time the rogue Time Lord was at the height of his powers. During the beginning of series three finale Last of the Time Lords, Simm’s character delivered a fantastically dark and funny musical number which saw him parade David Tennant’s Doctor around in a similar chair.
3. “Would you like a jelly baby?”
In perhaps the most obvious reference to classic Who, The Doctor Falls saw our favourite Time Lord let loose his sweet tooth once more. As Capaldi’s character enters the barn housing Cyber-Bill, he runs into one of the ship’s native children and cheerfully offers them a Jelly Baby.
Of course, this was the confectionary of choice for Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor and a trait almost every proceeding incarnation has flourished, from Colin Baker’s hidden paper brown bag of sweets to Matt Smith’s gibberish line “I’ve reversed the Jelly Baby of the neutron flow!”
The Twelfth Doctor has shown a liking for the gelatine goodies previously in his run, flaunting a cigarette case full of the sweets in Mummy on the Orient Express.
4. “It’s the scarecrows!”
It may not have been an intentional reference, but there are certainly parallels between the battalion of floor 507 residents and the scarecrow-battling villagers from 2007 episode The Family of Blood.
In that Tennant-era adventure, The Doctor and inhabitants of fictional 1913 hamlet Farringham deploy rifles and sandbags to defend themselves from a horde of animated scarecrows.
It’s an incredibly similar scenario to the one we see in The Doctor Falls, with a small rural community living within the ship forced to battle an army of Mondas Cybermen with low-tech firearms. Although not exactly the potato-sack-headed baddies from The Family of Blood, the villagers tie these fallen Cyberman to wooden crosses in the style of scarecrows.
And then there’s this: while watching from their dormitory window, one of the floor 1057 children even shouts out during the first Cyberman attack “it’s the scarecrows – new ones!”
We rest our case.
5. “Without hope, without witness, without reward”
If you missed this one then place yourself firmly on the Tardis naughty step. While pleading with Missy and The Master to stay and fight alongside him, The Doctor repeats a line that’s been liberally sprinkled through the series 10 scripts: “without hope, without witness, without reward”.
As we know from episode six, Extremis, this phrase starts off a passage in River Song’s Tardis-patterned diary, with Doctor’s wife continuing: “In the deepest pit, without hope, without witness, without reward. Virtue is only virtue in extremis.
“This is what he believes, and this is the reason above all, I love him. My husband. My madman in a box. My Doctor.”
Remember now? It’s this line that sways Missy back to the Doctor’s side, after the pair both echoed the words during Missy’s execution ceremony.
6. “Sontarans perverting the course of human history!”
Award yourself a handful of Jelly Babies and a wooly scarf if you spotted it: this line was another reference to Tom Baker’s time on the show. When the injured Doctor wakes in the Tardis towards the end of the episode, he blurts out a jumble of sentences, all connected to his previous regenerations. And Capaldi kicks off this rant with the Fourth Doctor’s first ever line (well, murmur): “Sontarans! perverting the course of human history!”
It’s not the first time Capaldi’s incarnation of Gallifrey’s finest has delivered this phrase. During series nine episode Listen (another story penned by Moffat), a confused Doctor wakes ranting about those time-meddling potato men.
Consider this two call-backs in one. Don’t say we do nothing for you.
7. “I don’t want to go”
Just after delivering Baker’s first line on the show, Capaldi’s Doc follows up his regeneration rant with a repeat of Tennant’s heartbreaking last line before he transformed into Matt Smith: “I don’t want to go.”
Granted, Capaldi’s delivery isn’t as tear-inducing – his Doctor is merely regurgitating the phrase through a cocktail of confusion and anger, after all – but still, it’s a poignant call-back that establishes the premise of the upcoming Christmas special: a Time Lord wanting to run from his regeneration, one that he’s helpless to avoid.
BONUS CALL-BACK: in the same bewildering rant, Capaldi also repeats the phrase “when The Doctor was me”. This was Matt Smith’s last line on Doctor Who, “I will always remember when the Doctor was me.”
Doctor Who will return this Christmas