Doctor Who story arcs

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In both the original run and since the 2005 revival, the long-running British science fiction television programme Doctor Who has featured a number of story arcs. A story arc is an extended story which takes place over a large number of episodes or serials, characterised by a gradual unfolding of plot points and introduction of narrative devices which come together in the arc's climax and dénouement. While character arcs exist over the course of many stories, they do not necessarily take the shape of an expanded story arc.

References to these arcs have since been made in both Doctor Who and its spin-offs such as Torchwood. Early seasons would feature story arcs that made up extended serials such as The Trial of a Time Lord but also loose umbrella titles such as The Key to Time. The new series has continued this trend with the introduction of "arc words" that are recognisable to the larger viewing audience such as "Bad Wolf", "Torchwood" and "Mr. Saxon", which also constitute the story arcs for individual seasons.

Classic series[edit]

The classic series sporadically featured loose story arcs at several times in the series, often spanning half of a season or a full season. Several story arcs were later released on DVD as boxsets; for example, The Key to Time

The Key to Time[edit]

The Key to Time is the umbrella title that links all six serials (26 total episodes) of Season 16 of Doctor Who. The arc was originally conceived of by producer Graham Williams, who had proposed it as part of his application for the producer's job in 1976.[1] The arc was released in both European and North American markets as a boxed-set of DVD's on 24 September 2007.[2]

The name refers to the powerful artifact that maintains the equilibrium of the universe. The Key's power is vast and considered too great for any single being to possess, so it normally exists split into six segments that are hidden across the universe, their true nature disguised from most others. The White Guardian, fearing that the balance of the universe is coming undone, requests the Doctor, Romana and K-9 to locate the six parts for him so that he can temporarily stop time in the universe and restore the proper order. The White Guardian gives the Doctor a special wand that will guide the TARDIS to each piece and, on touching the piece, reveal its true nature; the Guardian also warns the Doctor of the Black Guardian, his counterpart that seeks the Key for his own purposes.

The first segment is disguised as a chunk of mineral rock (called Jethryk) on the planet Ribos. The second is the planet Calufrax, shrunk to miniature size by the space-hopping pirate planet Zanak. The third is the Great Seal of Diplos, which has been stolen by a criminal of that planet. The fourth is part of a statue on the planet Tara. The fifth has been consumed by the squid Kroll, causing it to turn into a gigantic monster. The final segment is actually a living person, Princess Astra. In the final episode, the Black Guardian, disguised as the White Guardian, attempts to take the Key from the Doctor. However, the Doctor sees through the figure's charade and orders the segments of The Key to Time to once again become scattered across all of time and space, bar the sixth, which he reinstates as Princess Astra. Afterward, the Doctor decides to install a device called a randomiser into the TARDIS navigation system for a period of time to make his following voyages unpredictable to evade the Black Guardian.

Elements of the Key to Time return in later works. The Black Guardian returns in the 1983 three serial arc, The Black Guardian Trilogy involving the Fifth Doctor and Vislor Turlough. Key 2 Time is a series of CD audio plays released by Big Finish Productions. Over the course of three stories, the Fifth Doctor must hunt down the redistributed segments of the Key, which are decaying the dimensions around them. The Doctor soon discovers the decay is a direct result of his actions in the first search for the Key, his attempt to assemble the Key using a makeshift sixth segment disrupting the balance between the segments and causing them to decay. The story ends with the Key being reassembled and the Doctor subsequently destroying the Key in the Chaos Pool where it was first made, undoing the damage it has caused and preventing anything from ever using the Key again. The three stories are The Judgement of Isskar, The Destroyer of Delights and The Chaos Pool.


All serials of season 18 are linked together by the central theme of entropy. Within the season, the stories Full Circle, State of Decay and Warriors' Gate form the sub-arc known as The E-Space Trilogy.[3] The trilogy saw the TARDIS accidentally pass through a Charged Vacuum Emboitment (CVE) from its normal universe, N-Space, into a smaller one called E-Space. The trilogy served to introduce Adric as a companion in the first story Full Circle and marked the departure of companions Romana and K-9 Mark II in the final story Warriors' Gate. The season culminated in Logopolis where we learn that the CVEs were created by the Logopolitans to combat an Entropy field that ends up growing out of control due to interference by the Master, destroying Logopolis and threatening to destroy the entire universe.

The Trial of a Time Lord[edit]

The Trial of a Time Lord is the title of the fourteen-part serial that encompasses the entirety of Season 23. In the serial, the Sixth Doctor stands accused of transgressing the First Law of Time, with adventures from his past, present, and future examined and used as evidence of guilt or innocence. As the case unfolds, it becomes clear that the Doctor is the victim of an elaborate conspiracy, with his memories of recent events blurred due to the circumstances of him being removed from time, the evidence against him being either doctored or missing crucial information, and his prosecutor, the Valeyard, having an undetermined final objective. The story concludes with the Doctor defeating the Valeyard- identified as the manifestation of his own evil nature- and being cleared of all charges against him.


Main article: The Curse of Fenric

Fenric was an ancient evil since the dawn of time who used "wolves", descendants of a Norsemen tainted with Fenric's genetic instructions, in order to set traps for The Doctor.[4] The Doctor and companion Mel Bush encounter Ace on Iceworld on the planet Svartos, who explains to Mel that she is a human who failed a Chemistry exam yet was swept up to Svartos by a "time storm" when experimenting with explosives in her bedroom.[5][6] In Silver Nemesis, the Doctor moves pieces on a chess board in the study of one of that serial's antagonists, Lady Peinforte. The plot lines converge in The Curse of Fenric, where Fenric and the Doctor reveal that Ace's arrival on Svartos and the chess set in the study were "pawns" used by Fenric to interfere in the Doctor's life.

Revived series[edit]

In the revived series of Doctor Who, story arcs span an entire series. Under Russell T Davies, these arcs involved a repeated phrase that generally went unnoticed by the characters, only receiving any actual story-based attention when they were explained in the finale. In contrast, Steven Moffat's arcs have been evolving storylines woven through individual episode plots, with entire episodes dedicated to more information given to the characters.

The Time War[edit]

Main article: Time War (Doctor Who)

The Time War is an arc created on the revival of the series and continued throughout, alluding to actions that the Doctor had done prior to his ninth reincarnation. The Time War was known to have involved a massive battle between the Daleks and the Time Lords, which resulted in the apparent destruction of both races and the planet Gallifrey. The Ninth Doctor lacks awareness but believes that he was responsible for the actions that destroyed both races, and is burdened with the weight of that decision and that he is the last Time Lord in the universe. However, the Doctor discovers that some of the Daleks and Davros had escaped, and later encounters the Master, confusing him as to whether the destruction at the end of the Time War was complete.

The nature of the Time War is more detailed in the Eighth Doctor Adventures, where it is shown that the Time Lords were seeking to ascend to become beings of pure consciousness, fully aware and dismissive that they could destroy the universe by doing so. The Daleks formed uneasy alliances to fight the war with the Time Lords, while the Time Lords turned to their own allies to help; the war is deadly and costs great numbers across the universe. The Eighth Doctor, even knowing what the Time Lords had planned, tries to avoid the conflict but is drawn in to try to help defend Gallifrey. Recognizing he must come to make hard decisions, he opts to purposely regenerate into a previously unknown incarnation with a more hardened personality that calls himself the "War Doctor", forgoing his own personal promise to try to help others under the name "The Doctor".

With the Daleks waging direct assault of Gallifrey and the planet's defenses nearly exhausted, the War Doctor opts to steal a sentient weapon of mass destruction called "The Moment" that would wipe out both Gallifrey and the Daleks but end the war for the sake of the rest of the universe. The Moment instead opens timeslips to bring the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors to meet their former self. They agree to help share the War Doctor's burden to activate the Moment together, but just before they do so, the Eleventh Doctor's current companion Clara Oswald suggests there may be a different option, prompting the three of them to devise a new solution - to enclose Gallifrey in a pocket dimension, frozen in time until they can be rescued, which would keep the Time Lords safe while allowing the Daleks to kill themselves in the crossfire. To the rest of the universe, this would still appear as if both sides had obliterated each other. This solution is only possible due to the Doctors' working with their past and future incarnations and their respective TARDISes to complete the complex calculations to safely execute the plan.

Following this, the War Doctor is relieved that he did not have to destroy Gallifrey but still is weighed down by his choices, something that he chooses to bury in his memories when he regenerates into the Ninth Doctor and that haunt him through future regenerations. The Eleventh Doctor, now aware that Gallifrey is in fact safe, seeks to find a way to free it from that pocket dimension. However, the Eleventh Doctor regenerates before he can do so, leaving future rescue of Gallifrey to his Twelfth incarnation and beyond.

Bad Wolf[edit]

Main article: Bad Wolf
The words "Bad Wolf" as aerosol graffiti on the TARDIS in "Aliens of London".

The phrase "Bad Wolf" first appeared in The End of the World episode of the revival series in 2005, when the Moxx of Balhoon spoke the phrase, "Indubitably, this is the Bad Wolf scenario". The phrase then appeared in every story of that series thereafter. It also occasionally appeared in the 2006 to 2008 series and even in 2013 as the show celebrated its 50th anniversary, as well as in online and print spin-off media; in the latter, it often constitutes an in-joke or a continuity nod. It was eventually revealed that "Bad Wolf" was actually Rose Tyler, who had gained godlike powers after absorbing the energy of the time vortex at the heart of the TARDIS, while attempting to get back to Satellite 5 to help The Doctor defeat the Daleks in "The Parting of the Ways", which granted her omnipotent reality warping abilities.

When she arrived, Rose destroyed the entire Dalek fleet, including the Dalek Emperor, and brought Captain Jack Harkness, who had been killed by the Daleks, back to life; he became effectively immortal as a result. She also took the words "Bad Wolf" from the sign in Satellite 5 and spread them through all space and time as clues for her past self to return to Satellite 5 and save the Doctor (i.e., to do what she had just done).

The Doctor then had to extract the time vortex from Rose before it killed her. He did this by kissing her and absorbing the energy himself, which saved her life but caused all the cells in his body to start decomposing, so that he had to regenerate.

I am the Bad Wolf. I create myself. I take the words. I scatter them ... in time, and space. A message to lead myself here.
— Rose Tyler, in "The Parting of the Ways".


Main article: Torchwood Institute

The 2006 series featured "Torchwood" as its arc word, an anagram of "Doctor Who" that was used as the codename for the new series of Doctor Who while filming its first few episodes and on the 'rushes' tapes to ensure they were not intercepted.[7]

The word first appeared in Doctor Who in the 2005 series episode "Bad Wolf", as an answer in the game show, The Weakest Link. The actual "Torchwood" arc of Doctor Who spanned from "The Christmas Invasion" to "Doomsday".[8] The word was seeded throughout the 2006 series as a means for the BBC to introduce the basis for a spin-off series, Torchwood, set in modern-day Cardiff and involving a mysterious organisation which investigates alien activities and crime. The series features John Barrowman as former companion Jack Harkness and premiered in October 2006. References to Torchwood have also since reappeared in Doctor Who. The Doctor and Rose repeatedly encountered mentions of "Torchwood" throughout the series until the episodes "Army of Ghosts" and "Doomsday", which included Torchwood as an integral part of the plot. Here the Doctor meets the organisation, and learns they have been monitoring him (his Tenth incarnation) since his encounter with Queen Victoria in "Tooth and Claw". As a conclusion of the story arc, the Torchwood Institute's London branch was destroyed. In addition to episodes of the 2006 series, the organisation was given a similar treatment to "Bad Wolf" in spin-off material such as web literature, webcasts and novels.

Mr Saxon[edit]

Main article: Master (Doctor Who)
The political poster used by Saxon during his Prime Ministerial campaign.

The name "Mr Saxon" has appeared several times, beginning with a newspaper headline in "Love & Monsters" in Series 2 (2006) where it is stated that "Saxon leads polls with 64 per cent", and continuing with a mention of him in dialogue in "The Runaway Bride" (2006) where he served ordered a military strike as Defense Minister, where it become established as the new arc word for Series 3 (2007), as well as establishing him as an important and influential figure in the human world. In "Smith and Jones", the first episode of the third series, his name is mentioned in a radio broadcast stating; "It all just proves Mr. Saxon right, we're not alone in the universe." A "Vote Saxon" poster is seen in the background when Martha Jones is invited into the TARDIS by the Doctor; an identical poster had previously been seen in the Torchwood episode "Captain Jack Harkness". The arc was more thoroughly explained in "The Sound of Drums" (2007), which connected the rise of the mysterious Mr Saxon as a new Prime Minister to an old enemy of the Doctor's, as well as the fall of Harriet Jones (Penelope Wilton) from office at the Doctor's own hands after she ordered Torchwood to shoot down the Sycorax spaceship during "The Christmas Invasion".

In "Utopia", when the resurrected Master (John Simm) attempted to steal the TARDIS, the Doctor used his sonic screwdriver to lock the TARDIS to no more than within 18 months of its last location, which was April 2008: arriving in Britain during the power vacuum left by Harriet Jones' departure at the end of "The Christmas Invasion", set in December 2006, the Master created an alias for himself as "Mr Harold Saxon" ("Mister Saxon" is an anagram for "Master No. Six", "No." being short for "Number"), and quickly rose to prominence as Secretary of State for Defence; he redesigned the cabinet rooms destroyed during "World War Three", established the "Archangel network" of satellites, and commissioned the UNIT aircraft carrier Valiant. Using the Archangel network, Saxon sent subliminal messages encoded in the sound of drums to cause the British people to trust him and ensure his election as Prime Minister. The satellite signal also counteracted the Doctor's telepathic ability to sense the presence of another Time Lord on Earth.

The Master began setting traps for the Doctor through his companion Martha (Freema Agyeman) and her family. He funded Professor Lazarus's genetic rejuvenation experiments in "The Lazarus Experiment", and ensured that Lazarus hired Martha's sister Tish (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) to lure the Doctor. Using the events of "The Lazarus Experiment" at LazLabs as a catalyst, he ensured Martha's mother Francine's distrust of the Doctor, and manipulated her to trace Martha's phone calls on her superphone. When the Doctor, Martha and Jack (John Barrowman) return to Earth in 2008, the Master had established his identity as Mr Saxon, and married Lucy Saxon (Alexandra Moen). He ruled Earth for a year, but was eventually defeated when the world's remaining population – united by Martha's stories about the Doctor – psychically connected to the Doctor, enabling him to rejuvenate himself and overpower the Master.

Medusa Cascade[edit]

Russell T Davies hinted in Doctor Who Magazine that the next arc word for Doctor Who was something spoken by The Master in the final two episodes of Series 3—"The Sound of Drums" and "Last of the Time Lords".[9] He has since stated that there is no specific arc word, but each episode of Series 4 would have an element of the arc theme, which would carry through to the finale.

Four takes a somewhat different approach to the previous series. Russell T Davies says: "You've got to watch and listen closely. It's been seeded for a long time, with small but vital references going all the way back to series one. And remember the Master, in 'Last of the Time Lords', mentioning the Medusa Cascade? Oh, that's going to come back to haunt us..."

— Doctor Who Magazine No. 394 [clarification needed]

Series 4 is seeded with allusions to different planets disappearing. In "Partners in Crime", Miss Foster reveals that the Adipose breeding planet (Adipose 3) was "lost". Donna also makes a passing reference to all of the bees on Earth disappearing. In "The Fires of Pompeii" the Pyroviles tell The Doctor that their home planet of Pyrovilia was "lost" ages ago. In the episode "Midnight", Dee Dee tells The Doctor that she wrote a paper on the lost moon of Poosh. The season's finale, the two-part story "The Stolen Earth" and "Journey's End", sees the climax of many references and events made over the course of the entire revived series. The disappearing bees are explained as bees being alien in origin and leaving the Earth in anticipation of its "theft" from space by Davros (Julian Bleach). The Doctor later reveals that the 27 missing planets (including the three referenced earlier) were a second out of sync with normal time (as were components of the ATMOS devices from the episode "The Sontaran Stratagem") and hidden in the Medusa Cascade, an area of space previously mentioned by the Master and the Doctor, and visited by the latter when he was – in his own words, "just a kid" – ninety years old.

"He will knock four times"[edit]

Main article: The Waters of Mars

It was noted by Ood Sigma in "Planet of the Ood" (2008) that the Doctor's "song" would be ending soon. In reference to the Doctor's encounter with a man he believes to be his future regeneration, in "The Next Doctor", Russell T Davies commented to the Radio Times: "The Doctor finds himself staring at that inevitable day when his tenth incarnation must die." For the 2009–10 specials, beginning with "Planet of the Dead", a prophetic character tells the Doctor, "It is returning. It is returning through the dark, and then Doctor... oh but then... he will knock four times." Subsequently, in "The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith" (a crossover with The Sarah Jane Adventures), the Trickster mentions that "the Gate" is waiting for the Doctor that also foreshadows his death. In "The Waters of Mars", the Doctor contemplates the four knocks; he tries to save the life of Adelaide Brooke (Lindsay Duncan), whose death is a fixed point in time, and tries to prove to himself that he is above the laws of time. Ood Sigma later appears to the Doctor, who takes it as a sign of his impending death. The Doctor defiantly takes part in a number of adventures, one being his marriage to Queen Elizabeth I, to delay the eventuality.

In The End of Time, after learning that the revived Master is key to the return of something else, realizing his association with the Noble family has not ended yet, the Doctor finds himself seeing Wilfred Mott (Bernard Cribbins) again. The Doctor confides in Wilf that he had grown attached to the individual identity of his present incarnation, fearing a literal death while expressing his displeasure towards regeneration as he would cease being himself with "new man" taking over where he left off. Eventually, the Doctor learns that the Master was a pawn to free Gallifrey from the Time Lock, the deed made in Rassilon's design as part of a plan to destroy time itself while Time Lords ascend victorious beyond time and space as beings of consciousness. The Doctor thwarts Rassilon's plan, and believed he would survive until hearing four hesitant knocks—Wilfred is trapped within a sealed radiation chamber that powered the Eternity Gate. Eventually coming to terms that only way to save the old man is by sacrificing himself, the Doctor switches places with Wilf while absorbing the flooding radiation. Holding off his regeneration for as long as possible, the Doctor visits the Companions he had throughout his incarnation's time before finally regenerating into the Eleventh Doctor.

Cracks in the universe[edit]

The crack as first seen in the wall of Amy Pond's bedroom, as seen in The Eleventh Hour, with similar cracks reappearing throughout the series.

In the first episode of Series 5, the newly regenerated Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) meets young Amelia Pond (Caitlin Blackwood) who shows him a crack in her bedroom wall that he recognises as a crack in "the skin of the universe". This crack affected Amy's life, erasing her parents from history,[10] and let Prisoner Zero enter Leadworth.[11] As the Doctor begins his journey with an adult Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), later joined by her fiancé Rory (Arthur Darvill), he becomes alarmed in "Victory of the Daleks" when Amy cannot recall the events of "The Stolen Earth" and "Journey's End".[12] The Doctor is unaware of similar-shaped cracks that appear in various moments in time, such as in the hull of Starship UK in "The Beast Below", on a wall in the Cabinet War Rooms in "Victory of the Daleks" and in a kitchen in "The Lodger". The nature of the cracks is revealed in "Flesh and Stone", when the Doctor discovers that the crack is a result of a time explosion on 26 June 2010, the day of Amy's wedding to Rory and the danger it posed. The Doctor also learns that the cracks are also the result of the TARDIS exploding.

In "The Pandorica Opens", River Song (Alex Kingston) recovers a work of Vincent van Gogh (Tony Curran) showing the destruction of the TARDIS; the Doctor connects the painting with the Pandorica. The Pandorica is revealed as a trap for the Doctor created by his greatest foes from elements of Amy's childhood imagination, designed to lock the Doctor away and prevent the timestream damage that they believe the Doctor will cause, even though the Doctor warns that the time explosion will be caused by the exploding TARDIS. When, in "The Big Bang", the TARDIS explodes with River inside, a sinister hissing voice is heard declaring 'silence will fall'. The explosion destroys every star in the universe and all goes dark, except for the Earth, which appears to have a sun keeping it alive. This light source is revealed to be the exploding TARDIS, having put itself into a time loop at the moment of its own destruction to save River Song. After exploiting a time paradox to escape the Pandorica, the Doctor uses the remaining atoms of the original universe inside the Pandorica to restore the universe to normal—comparing it to cloning a body from a single cell—and closes the cracks, albeit with him sealed away from the universe behind them. He is returned to the universe after Amy, during her wedding, recalls the last words the Doctor said to her as a child. After returning to the universe, the Doctor remains concerned at what caused the TARDIS to explode in the first place. It will be during the events of "The Time of the Doctor", when he finds one crack left unclosed, that the Doctor discovers who was behind the explosion.

"Silence will fall"[edit]

One of the many Silents, which serve as the main antagonists of the arc.

While previous series have used an "arc word" to tie episodes together, series 6 used a more serialised plot, encompassing a larger story over the entire run. Series 6 continues to explore the significance of the phrase "silence will fall", left unresolved from series 5.[13] Series 6 also focuses upon the true identity of River Song, who was introduced in series 4 as future ally of the Doctor in his Eleventh Doctor incarnation.

Invited by the Doctor to Utah alongside River Song, Amy and Rory witness his death on 22 April 2011 on the shores of Lake Silencio by an unknown figure in a spacesuit. The three later encounter a two-hundred years-younger version of the Doctor, and vow not to tell him about this death while going to America 1969 on the future Doctor's behalf. Their adventure and initial encounter with the Silence has Amy encounter the mysterious astronaut, revealed to be a little girl. Meanwhile, the Doctor discovers that Amy is pregnant and, while investigating how she can be both with child and without, learns she has been kidnapped by Madame Kovarian and Silence. But the Doctor learns that River is actually after Amy's newborn child Melody, who possesses Time Lord-like DNA due to being conceived aboard the TARDIS during Amy and Rory's wedding night, conditioned into an assassin to kill the Doctor. Though the Doctor learns he failed to rescue Melody, he does learn that she will one day become River Song.

Having escaped the Silence in "Day of the Moon", Melody regenerated into Amy and Rory's common childhood friend Mels and kept a low profile until she forces the Doctor to take them to the past so she can kill Adolf Hitler. But Mels ends up regenerating into the woman they recognise as River. River poisons the Doctor, but Amy, Rory, and the Teselecta convince her to break her conditioning and use her remaining regenerations to save the Doctor. The Doctor takes the unconscious River to the far future and leaves her there to heal. When she recovers, she becomes a student of archeology to track down the Doctor, but is later recaptured by Kovarian and the Silence to play her role in the Doctor's death at Lake Silencio. The Doctor, having learned of his death being a fixed point, leaves Amy and Rory on Earth for their own safety while he traveled the universe for two hundred years. Learning that the Silence are a religious order bent on keeping him from reaching Trenzalore, the Doctor is eventually ready to accept his death. However, River breaks the suit's control over her and harmlessly discharges her weapon, breaking the "fixed point" and causing time to stall, all of history happening at once. To restore time, the Doctor offers to marry River, using it to reveal himself to be in the Teselecta so she can assist in killing him.

With only Amy and Rory knowing the truth after being left on Earth, an incarcerated River maintains the farce that she murdered the Doctor while he uses the opportunity to drop out of sight and erase any information related to himself. Feigning ignorance on her part in the Doctor's past, River assists him as a companion prior to her death in the "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead" two-part episode and had her eventual closure with the Doctor in "The Name of the Doctor". It would be during the events of "The Time of the Doctor", once at Trenzalore and encountering the Papal Mainframe that Kovarian was a member of, that the Doctor learns the reasons behind the attempts on his life by Kovarian and the Silence and that their actions were part of a bootstrap paradox to stop him from causing a new time war.

Trenzalore and "The Fall of the Eleventh"[edit]

Since the end of the Eleventh Doctor's second series of adventures, it had been hinted that his end would soon come. The Silence's bungled attempts to kill the Doctor were to keep a prophecy from coming true – "On the fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the eleventh, a question will be asked; a question that must never be answered." The question itself is "Doctor Who?"; due to the Doctor's time traveling, it is the oldest question in the universe. The Name of the Doctor also reveals that the Doctor is to die on Trenzalore in a great battle. But linked to both the cracks in the universe and the quote "Silence will fall", the Eleventh Doctor's journey has been influenced by the siege of Trenzalore where a Gallifreyian message from outside the universe attracted the attention of the Doctor's various enemies. Trenzalore is covered by a 'truth field', an invisible force that means residents always tell the truth, and the question is being projected onto Trenzalore from the cracks in time - the question must never be answered because if the Time Lords hear the answer to the question, they'll know they've got the right universe and find its way back, and the Time War would 'start anew'. Determined to bring Gallifrey back without restarting the Time War, the Doctor remains on Trenzalore to defend the planet. But as he is revealed to be in his final incarnation, the Doctor ages over the centuries as only the Daleks remained after the siege turns into all-out war between them and the shattered remnants of the Papal Mainframe that resisted being taken over by the Daleks. However, as the Doctor is resigned to his fate, Clara asks the Time Lords to help him and in doing so she convinces them to give the Doctor a new regeneration cycle. This allows the Doctor to destroy the Dalek forces with the energy released as he eventually regenerates into the Twelfth Doctor.

The Impossible Girl[edit]

During the Eleventh Doctor's final series of adventures, Series 7 focused on the mystery behind Clara Oswald and the impossibility of her having multiple lives.

In "Asylum of the Daleks", the Doctor meets a woman called "Oswin Oswald" who has been turned into a Dalek by the inmates of a prison planet known as the Dalek Asylum. She dies, giving her life to save the Doctor, Amy and Rory when the Daleks destroy the asylum. Although the Doctor never saw her human face, he remembers her voice and love for making soufflés. She appears again in "The Snowmen", going by the first name "Clara", in Victorian London, and having no memory of their meeting. She manages to coax the Doctor out of the sulk he has been in since losing Amy and Rory in "The Angels Take Manhattan", and into resuming his adventures. She dies again, having been pulled from a great height by the Ice Governess, a creature brought to life by the evil Great Intelligence. The Doctor notices the resemblance to Oswin because of her love of soufflés, similar phrases, and her gravestone stating her full name – Clara Oswin Oswald.

Interested in finding out how someone can exist as separate, similar people in different points in time, the Doctor takes off to find a third version of Clara to take on as his companion. He succeeds in finding Clara in 2013 in "The Bells of Saint John" when she somehow obtained the phone number to his TARDIS, saving her from death this time. Over subsequent episodes, the Doctor's investigations repeatedly turn up evidence that Clara is just an ordinary girl. The mystery surrounding her appearances is resolved when she and the Doctor go to the site of his future burial in "The Name of the Doctor", where the Great Intelligence entered the Doctor's time stream and ceased to be while scattering himself across the Doctor's timeline to make him suffer. Clara follows into the time stream and, learning of the Doctor's meeting with previous Oswalds, realizes that they are some of the many echoes of herself that save the Doctor countless times over his lives. Luckily, the Doctor rescues Clara from his timeline and she later plays a role in the Doctor's new regeneration cycle in "The Time of the Doctor" and then in giving the Doctor his courage and ideals in "Listen".

In Series 8, the mystery of Clara obtaining the Doctor's phone number is revealed to be Missy's doing.

The Promised Land[edit]

In several episodes of series 8 of Doctor Who, characters who have died earlier turn up in a mysterious place to be greeted by a woman named Missy (Michelle Gomez) or her assistant Seb (Chris Addison) and told they are now in the Nethersphere, which is known by various names that include Heaven, Paradise, and the Promised Land. Even robotic beings from the distant future sought to find the location as depicted in the episodes "Deep Breath" and "Robot of Sherwood".

The Series 8 finale, "Dark Water" / "Death in Heaven", shows that this is an elaborate deception, and that Missy is the Master, who has escaped from Gallifrey and is now in female form. The Nethersphere is revealed to be a virtual reality in a Gallifreyan Matrix Data Slice that has been active since humanity first developed a notion of life after death. The Nethersphere is hidden in London's Saint Paul's Cathedral where Seb, revealed to be an artificial intelligence construct, manipulates the recently deceased into deleting their emotions before the minds are transferred back into their converted Cyberman bodies. Missy's plan is to convert all of humanity - living and dead - into a Cybermen army to be put at the Doctor's disposal. The Doctor declines, and Clara Oswald's recently deceased boyfriend Danny Pink, who was revived as a Cyberman, takes command of the Cybermen army and orders them to fly up high and all self-destruct, and thus to destroy the remainder of Missy's plan. Missy is once again apparently killed, with the Nethersphere eventually shutting down.

Other arcs[edit]

Other story and character arcs comprise a number of other episodes across the programme's history and extended works:

  • The Earth Exile term[14] comprises all of seasons seven through nine. For breaking the Time Lord rules of non-interference the Second Doctor is stripped of the ability to use his TARDIS at the end of The War Games and exiled to Earth in the late 20th century, as well as being forced to regenerate into his third incarnation. Throughout this arc, the Doctor is constantly attempting to get the TARDIS working again while also assisting UNIT in thwarting various alien invasions, with the Time Lords occasionally sending the TARDIS to certain locations where certain problems are taking place that they wish to assist in without appearing to get explicitly involved themselves. The Time Lords finally lift the sentence at the conclusion of The Three Doctors.
  • The Cartmel Masterplan was a loose story-arc started in 1986 for the Seventh Doctor's era by script editor Andrew Cartmel. The 'masterplan' was to add subtle hints to the dialogue that there was some dark secret behind the Doctor. This was to add some mystery to the Doctor, since Andrew reckoned that all the mystery of the Doctor had been lost due to the information given on Gallifrey and the Time Lords. The Doctor's companion Ace was also part of this plan, with the Doctor training Ace to become a new Time Lord herself. The arc was to be concluded in a story called Lungbarrow by Marc Platt, but it was originally rejected and replaced in 1989, and the production ceasing on Doctor Who after 1989 meant the arc was never resolved. Parts of the Cartmel Masterplan were worked into the Virgin Publishing The New Adventures, including the novelization of Lungbarrow.
  • River Song: A character arc that has been developed since the Tenth Doctor, River Song is an archaeologist whose encounters with the Doctor are generally reversed to the Doctor's own chronology. As such, during their first meeting she warns the Doctor of asking too much about his future self, warning about "spoilers!", while later meetings, the Doctor avoids revealing her fates to her. River is revealed to be the daughter of the Doctor's companions, Amy Pond and Rory Williams, initially named Melody Pond before she was taken as an infant by agents working for the Silence to be used as a weapon against the Doctor. Further, she possesses limited regeneration abilities due to having Time Lord DNA due to being conceived aboard the TARDIS. As part of his solution to stop the Silence's plan to kill him, the Doctor marries River, a fact that surprises him on his first encounter with River.


  1. ^ "Season 16". Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide. BBC. Retrieved 10 August 2007. 
  2. ^ "DVD News". BBC. 18 May 2007. 
  3. ^ "Doctor Who Episode Guide – The E-Space Trilogy". BBC. 
  4. ^ Briggs, Ian (writer); Mallett, Nicholas (director) (15 November 1989). "Part Four". The Curse of Fenric. Doctor Who. BBC. 
  5. ^ McEwan, Cameron K. (2014). The Who's Who of Doctor Who. New York: Race Point Publishing. p. 50. ISBN 9781937994709. 
  6. ^ Scott, Cavan; Wright, Mark (2013). Whoology: Doctor Who the Official Miscellany. BBC Books. pp. 146–147. ISBN 9781849906197. 
  7. ^ "Doctor Who spin-off made in Wales". BBC News. 17 October 2005. 
  8. ^ All televised Torchwood sightings were confirmed in the "Welcome to Torchwood" episode of Doctor Who Confidential.
  9. ^ "Interview with Russell T Davies" (386). Doctor Who Magazine. 19 September 2007. p. 13. 
  10. ^ "The Big Bang", 2010 Doctor Who episode
  11. ^ "The Eleventh Hour", 2010 Doctor Who episode
  12. ^ "Victory of the Daleks", 2010 Doctor Who episode
  13. ^ Sepinwall, Alan (30 April 2011). "Review: 'Doctor Who' – 'Day of the Moon': One small step". HitFlix. Retrieved 1 May 2011. 
  14. ^ "Classic Episode Guide – Doctor Who and the Silurians – Details". Doctor Who. BBC. Retrieved 2014-02-27. 

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