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'Doctor Who' The Girl Who Died (Photo: BBC)

There’s an interstellar face-off between warrior races, in which one side has not only stolen all the best warriors but also drunk their testosterone too, leading Clara and the Doctor to try and forge an army from spirited (but not terrifically warlike) farmers and a young girl who already feels out of step, even at home. And there’s a moment of supreme clarity for the Twelfth Doctor.

That’s what The Girl Who Died was all about, but did you get all the references? Take a look and see…

When Odin first appears as a head in the clouds, there is a distinct visual echo of the face of God from the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Here’s Odin…

(Photo: BBC)
(Photo: BBC)

…and here’s God…

The Victorian cricketer W.G. Grace plays God in 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' (Photo: Cinema 5/EMI Films)
(Photo: Cinema 5/EMI Films)

Incidentally, the face of God, as animated by Terry Gilliam, is actually the face of the Victorian cricketer W.G. Grace.

“Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow” is thrown in here (and mocked) as a knowing wink to fans of the Third Doctor. Although only used once in full during his tenure in the TARDIS (he said it in “The Sea Devils”), the phrase is considered something of a catchphrase for him, especially as he took rather a liking to reversing the polarity of things in general. So much so that he got to say the whole thing again when brought back for the 25-year anniversary episode “The Five Doctors.”

Maisie Williams isn’t the only fandom-crossing casting in this episode. Merlin fans may struggle to recognize him under the beard and eyepatch, but Odin is played by David Schofield, who also played King Alined:

David Schofield as King Alined in 'Merlin' (Photo: BBC)
David Schofield as King Alined in ‘Merlin’ (Photo: BBC)

The Doctor’s yellow yo-yo is back! First seen flying from the fingers of the Fourth Doctor in his regeneration story “Robot,” the yo-yo popped up (and then back down again) a few times after that. It was used to test gravity in “The Ark in Space” (just as it was later in “Kill the Moon”), and often came out to act as a distraction when the Doctor was in a tight spot. It is also not the first time he’s used the yo-yo as an instrument of Arthur C. Clarke‘s third law—”Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” The Fourth Doctor once told his warrior companion Leela to play with his yo-yo just to pass the time, and she believed that doing so kept the TARDIS in flight.

Oh and the Seventh Doctor was found to have a gold yo-yo in his possession in the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie. Fancy!

The Doctor’s 2000 Year Diary is an upgraded version of the Seventh Doctor’s 900 Year Diary (as seen in the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie), which was itself an upgraded version of the Second Doctor’s 500-Year Diary (first seen in “Power of the Daleks”). Of course, rather than cover their whole existence into one book, other people just buy a new diary as the need arises, but then the Doctor is not like other people:

In order to humiliate Odin into going away, the Doctor threatens to upload the clip of him recoiling from a carved wooden dragon set to the piece of music most commonly associated with the British TV comedy The Benny Hill Show. Boots Randolph‘s “Yakety Sax” was used as a the wacky soundtrack to various high-speed japes and chases, and has become known as “the Benny Hill theme” ever since (although technically it wasn’t used as the theme music).

The Doctor renames his Viking army so he doesn’t have to remember their actual names. Lofty is a common British army nickname denoting extreme height, although it was (and possibly still is) also given ironically to the shortest soldier. The British sitcom “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum” illustrated this, by giving the nickname to short, rotund Gunner Sugden. Noggin the Nog comes from a British children’s cartoon of the same name, in which Oliver Postgate—the man who created the Master’s favorite TV show The Clangers—narrated a Viking epic of his own:

When the Doctor finds out Lofty is not only the village blacksmith,, but also the baby’s father, he quips, “You’ve been at it hammer and tongs,” a phrase that dates back to the 1700s—taken from blacksmithery—that denotes hard and vigorous work. It has also been pressed into service within British slang to refer to sex, making the Doctor’s comment an innuendo that Benny Hill would be proud of.

To find out the true significance of the Doctor’s choice of face, and why the Eleventh Doctor would choose to regenerate using the face of Caecilius, the man the Tenth Doctor saved when Pompeii erupted, you’ll need to go back and watch “The Fires of Pompeii,” but it’s clear he was worried that starting a regeneration cycle from scratch might erase his prime directive, to be the man who saves people. This, plus the phone call to Clara in “Deep Breath” suggests that the Eleventh Doctor wasn’t at all sure who he would become if he had to start again.

(Photo: BBC)
(Photo: BBC)

Ashildr makes a speech about her unique position—”the girls all thought I was a boy, the boys all said I was just a girl”—that hints heavily at what happens to her at the end of the story. The Doctor refers to her as being “a hybrid,” which echoes the Time Lord prophecy Davros mentioned in “The Witch’s Familiar”, in which two warrior races are “forced together to create a warrior greater than either.”

As we left Skaro with the Daleks and Missy still having a chat, we may not be done with this idea yet. There again, that prophecy could also (at a push) describe River Song.

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By Fraser McAlpine