This week’s episode of Doctor Who ended on one hell of a cliffhanger, with the Doctor revealing that he’d gone permanently blind after spending a bit of time unprotected in the vacuum of space (he’d previously implied it was only a temporary affliction).
It was a brilliant shake-up to the series that few saw coming, partly due to some computer trickery by the BBC – if you look at certain scenes from this week’s episode in the previously-released series trailers, the Doctor’s eyes look normal, whereas in the finished episode they were altered (presumably in post-production VFX) to look injured and bleary, as you can see below – and may also have provided the added bonus of giving an excuse for Peter Capaldi to run down corridors a little less frequently, after previously needing surgery on his knee due to Doctor Who-related strain.
Peter Capaldi’s Doctor as he appeared in the series 10 teaser, left; as he appeared (with cloudy eyes) in the finished episode, right
Anyway, if you’re wondering exactly how long the Time Lord’s new condition will last, clues are pointing towards it continuing for at least a couple more episodes. In turn, this leaves the Doctor in a more vulnerable position than we’ve ever seen him before, bringing plenty of new storytelling opportunities as this series continues. Hooray!
But first, a look to the future. The trailer for next week’s episode Extremis makes clear that the Doctor’s blindness will be a significant theme for that adventure, with Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor keeping his injuries a secret from companion Bill (Pearl Mackie) by popping on a pair of shades (which we assume are the “sonic sunglasses” previously used by the character in the 2015 series).
And if we look at trailer footage and pictures from upcoming stories it looks like this fashion choice is set to continue in the following episode (called The Pyramid at the End of the World), with preview images (below and main image) showing the Doctor still in his shades as he tackles an international disagreement.
After this, preview images and clips don’t show the Doctor in his sunglasses again, suggesting that his eyes may have healed (of which, more later) – but then again it could just be that he just stops wearing them because Bill finally realises he’s still blind. Either way, given that this secret between the pair is also part of the larger series arc, this could explain why series showrunner Steven Moffat is credited as co-authoring episode 7 with guest writer Peter Harness, the only instance of a full collaboration between writers this series (though in fairness it’s also not the first time Moffat has co-written an episode with a returning scribbler, meaning it might be a coincidence).
After that, while trailers do show the Doctor taking part in various adventures that appear to feature his full sight, this doesn’t necessarily mean he can see – we’ve already witnessed him piloting the Tardis and reprogramming computers while blind, and considering his eyes were partially healed at the end of this week’s episode to look like they’re functioning correctly it could be that he’s just remained very capable.
A scene from series 10 episode 9
A scene from series 10 episode 10
With that said, shots of the Time Lord from episodes 9 and 10 of the series (including the above) certainly seem like he’s fully sighted, so there’s definitely a good chance that he’ll be back to normal sooner rather than later.
As to how we think his eyes will be healed, we’ve gone into that extensively elsewhere, but we’re wondering if the much-teased early regeneration for Capaldi’s Doctor will result in a return for his sight and no physical change, in a similar way to how David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor repaired some injuries without fully regenerating in 2008 two-parter The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End.
The Twelfth Doctor apparently regenerating
And if it is a regeneration that heals his eyes, the above image (taken from a series 10 trailer) could hint that it actually will take place in episode 7. Note the soldiers: The Pyramid at the End of the World has already been confirmed to have a military storyline, while the triangle symbols on their arms could relate to the titular ancient structure, so it’s not too wild an idea to imagine this regeneration is taking place in that episode.
And doesn’t THIS scene (below) from one of the trailers look like a man who may have just regained his sight after a surprise partial regeneration, which based on the light fittings seems to have taken place in the very same room?
We rest our (very circumstantial and vague) case. The Doctor will be blind until he isn’t (which may be two weeks from now), unless he actually still is and we can’t tell. Simple.
Doctor Who continues on BBC1 on Saturday 20th May at 7:25pm