Hey deus, have you seen my machina? A look at the real meaning of ‘deus ex machina’.

If there’s one technical drama phrase that people struggle to understand, it’s Deus Ex Machina.

Most people get that it’s Classical Greek for ‘god from the machine’, many can tell you that it derives from Greek drama. Some can even explain that, originally, the gods in Ancient Greek drama were lowered down onto the stage by a sort of crane contraption – the god in the machine.

Then things get a bit confused.

Confusion No. 1: The solution needed the intervention of enormously powerful beings. It was a Deus Ex Machina!
Confusion No. 2: I didn’t see the solution coming! It was a Deus Ex Machina!
Confusion No. 3: The resolution was rushed! It was a Deus Ex Machina!

No, no and no.
A genuine Deus ex Machina (D.E.M.) needs all of the following:

1. A seemingly unsolvable problem WHICH HAS
2. A sudden and abrupt resolution BY
3. A previously unknown character, character ability, object or event.

In the beginning… (or, Quick – a Serpent!): Confusion No. 1
The first two surviving commentaries on the use of the D.E.M. were made by Aristotle (384-322 BCE) and Horace (65 BCE – 8 BCE). Aristotle was a philosopher and teacher, whose commentary is a surviving set of his lecture notes on poetry and drama.

Horace was a practising poet. His advice on the D.E.M. is remarkably brief:

Neither let a god interfere, unless a difficulty worthy a god’s unraveling should happen…

The intervention of the Bad Wolf, in Parting of the Ways, is an example of a problem that really does need a god to unravel it. The Dalek Emperor has declared itself a god, the Doctor’s about to be exterminated, and he can’t bring himself to press the button that will kill half Earth. The only possible solution to unravel this mess is for The Machine (the TARDIS) to create a temporary ‘Dea’ and hoist her down into the middle of the action.

Just in case you hadn’t got that Bad Wolf is a Dea Ex Machina, she reappears in The Day of The Doctor – this time as the persona of The Moment. Again, she’s a god-like conscience from the machine. However, in The Day of The Doctor she isn’t a D.E.M. in the dramatic sense. Not because she isn’t a previously unknown character providing an unexpected resolution to the Doctor’s dilemma about burning Gallifrey by means of her god-like powers, but because her intervention is the inciting incident for the plot.

Why? Aristotle has this to say about the Deus Ex Machina:

… the unravelling of the plot … must arise out of the plot itself, it must not be brought about by the Deus Ex Machina…

However, he then (and remember, these were his lecture notes) goes on to give two examples of what he actually means. One is a play called Medea (Euripides), the other is a scene in the Iliad (Homer).

For those of you unfamiliar with several thousand year old works of literature, the climax to the play Medea involves her making a sudden soaring getaway in the supernatural chariot of the god Helios. Admittedly, Helios has been mentioned in the play as Medea’s grandfather – but the chariot is, to say the least, a bit unexpected. Okay, a lot unexpected. Never even mentioned until it appears, in fact. Medea takes rides in her Granddad’s flying chariot? Since when?

The reference to the Iliad is more interesting from our point of view. In an epic poem of considerable length – in which gods are intervening (with extreme prejudice) right, left and centre – Aristotle only thinks one scene contains an actual D.E.M. It’s not having gods in the plot that he objects to. It’s using the power of the gods/enormously powerful beings to 1) send two serpents to 2) strangle the old bloke who’s 3) just about to figure out that the Greeks are inside the Horse!

So what does this mean for Doctor Who? Well, as both Horace and Aristotle agree, enormously powerful beings are fine, especially if you happen to be nicking, sorry, adapting a story that already has them in. Time Lords are fine – which is good, because the Doctor is himself an enormously powerful being who drops down out of the sky and tears down your world. There is no problem in Doctor Who with the inciting incident being a Time Lord (especially if they’re called The Doctor and their Machine is a TARDIS that looks like a police box). There is, equally, no problem in Doctor Who with the solution to the problem being a Time Lord (especially if they’re called The Doctor and their Machine is a TARDIS that looks like a police box).

What is needed is for the solution to the plot to arise naturally out of the plot. In the Day of The Doctor, the solution – while manipulated by The Moment – arises naturally from the Zygon sub-plot. It comes out of the Doctor’s moment of self-realisation – ‘The Doctor’ would never destroy Gallifrey; to be ‘The Doctor’ he has to find another way. The ‘other way’ comes out of his observing and using the stasis cubes. The Dea from the Machina may have intervened – but we don’t need to worry about it. The intervention is an integral part of the story.

I didn’t see that one coming: Confusion No. 2
That the solution to the plot should arise naturally out of the plot doesn’t mean you should be able to work out the finale in advance. Let’s go back to Aristotle again:

Two parts, then, of the Plot – Reversal of the Situation and Recognition – turn upon surprises…

Reversal of the Situation (Peripeteia) and Recognition (Anagnorisis) are both something Steven Moffat is exceptionally fond of. Reversal is what it sounds like: a sudden change in the action which reverses the situation. The Doctor and Amy are having a nice chat with that crewman from the Alaska – and discover in the middle of the conversation that he’s a Dalek zombie. You, the audience, are supposed to be surprised.

If you look at the script of Asylum you’ll see that the surprise was set up – the confusion with dates, the previous use of Dalek zombies – but a Reversal is still supposed to be surprising.

Reversals don’t have to be from Good Situation to Bad Situation (though, strangely, we’re generally more willing to accept a sudden Reversal to Bad). Later on in Asylum, we discover that the Doctor’s secretly given Amy his nanobracelet – reversing her situation. This situation arises out of plot and character (Amy needs a nanobracelet, the Doctor has one, he’s alien so probably less affected by the nanobots – and he’s that type of heroic geek anyway). It is, however, still a surprise. Did anyone see it coming?

Because a Reversal is supposed to be surprising, it – like Recognition – often gets the minimum amount of build-up. This can be a problem if you miss the relevant dialogue, let it float past you as seemingly unimportant, or even missed the episode in which the Teselecta played a starring role. 😉

Recognition (Anagnorisis) is another plot device which is supposed to be a surprise – either for the characters, the audience, or both. Basically, it’s a change from ‘ignorance’ to ‘knowledge’. Aristotle again:

The best form of Recognition is coincident with a Reversal of the Situation…

The revelation that Oswin is a Dalek is ‘recognition’. Moffat’s very fond of placing his ‘recognition’ at the end of an episode or at the end of the series. How did the Doctor know about the events in Blink? Because Sally Sparrow met him after it had all happened for her – but before it had happened for the Doctor.

Again, the fact that you didn’t know a vital piece of information doesn’t make something a Deus Ex Machina. Provided, that is, the lack of that information is an equally vital part of the plot. In Blink, part of the plot is that Sally doesn’t know where this information is coming from. In Series 6, it’s deeply important that nobody knows that the Teselecta was used until afterwards. [See wibbley-wobbley, timey-wimey for an explanation of why River must shoot the Doctor].

Two minutes to go and no solution: Confusion No. 3
The most popular cry of all. But a rushed solution – considerably more common now that stories last 42 minutes instead of 88 – doesn’t a D.E.M. make.

The Reversal at the climax of Power of Three, for example, isn’t a Deus Ex Machina. Rushed, yes. But that’s not enough. We’ve already seen the cubes’ ability to stop hearts reversed by a defibrillator. We know the Doctor’s screwdriver can reprogram computers. It may be a seemingly insoluble problem with a rushed solution by our favourite Lonely God, but condition 3 doesn’t apply – the solution comes from pre-revealed abilities.

The Big Friendly Button at the climax of Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS isn’t a Deus Ex Machina. This time it’s a pre-revealed object. Firstly, we see it roll across the exploding TARDIS control room and see Clara try and pick it up. Secondly, we see it as the Remote for the Magno-Grab. Then the Doctor pick-pockets it from Van Balen…

There’s also the problem that one audience member’s ‘rushed solution’ is another’s ‘sudden Recognition and Reversal’. These are not only fine – Aristotle thought you couldn’t have a really good, complex drama without them.

Peering through a crack in the sky – the Time Lords strike back
There’s a major Recognition and Reversal in The Time of The Doctor, at the climax of the episode. The Doctor is dying – a predestined death that he hasn’t the power to change. He can’t change his own future. Of course, he mentions sadly and almost casually, he could have changed it once. When there were Time Lords.

This is Clara’s change from ignorance to knowledge, her Recognition. She now knows that there are people who can change the future – and they’re on the other side of the Crack in the wall. So she does the sensible, logical thing. She asks them to change it. Since she doesn’t remember the Doctor’s real name, she can’t use it as a password – but she can tell them why she thinks his original, Gallifreyan name doesn’t really matter.

Whereupon we get the Reversal: the Time Lords reappear as a big crack in the sky, sending down a metaphorical bolt of lightning that gives the Doctor an entire new regeneration cycle.

Despite the big light in the sky and the shiny golden glow, this still isn’t a Deus Ex Machina. As in the Iliad, where we have the gods intervening every five minutes but only one actual D.E.M., the Time Lords are a long standing bunch of intervention experts (even in the post 2005 series).

That they can send a message through the crack is known (“Doctor Who?”). That speech can get from this side of the crack to them is known – how else can they tell when the Doctor’s said his Gallifreyan name, to let them know the situation’s safe? That they can send energy fields through the crack is known – they created the truth field around Christmas. Finally, that they can grant another cycle of regenerations, in exceptional circumstances, is also known.

That they choose to intervene isn’t surprising; the Doctor represents their one vaguely reliable contact in their home universe. Sheer self-interest means they’d save his life, even if they’re not grateful for his efforts in saving Gallifrey. 🙂

So: Condition 1 (seemingly insoluble problem) met. Condition 2 (extremely sudden reversal/resolution) met. But not Condition 3 – the plot has developed the Time Lords’ opportunity and motivation, and the ability displayed was previously known. They may be acting like gods from the sky, but they ain’t acting like gods from the machine. 😉

It’s the real thing
We’ve already examined one genuine Deus Ex Machina (actually a Dea Ex Machina) which corresponded to Horace’s maxim of ‘only when you have to’ – Rose as Bad Wolf. That Russell T. knew perfectly well what he was doing is demonstrated by his having her effectively winched into the action via the TARDIS.

Another perfectly formed D.E.M. can be seen in The Bells of St. John. It’s very obviously a little joke, a ‘this is what a D.E.M. really looks like’. In The Bells of St. John the Doctor suddenly announces that his motorbike – which up to this point has been a perfectly ordinary motorbike – took part in the anti-grav Olympics. Then he rides straight up the Shard.

It’s a D.E.M. – Condition 1? Check – the Shard is in lockdown, so he can’t solve the problem of getting into Miss Kizlet’s office by anything but ‘divine intervention’. Condition 2? Check. There’s no discussion, puzzlement, planning – just a simple announcement. Condition 3? Check. The bike looks like a bike, has never done anything but act like a bike, and the Anti-grav Olympics aren’t mentioned at any previous point in the episode.

To add to the joke, we then discover that the ‘Doctor’ is in fact a Spoonhead being remotely operated by the real Doctor. The ‘Lonely God’ is indeed coming ‘from the machine’.

In Conclusion
A Deus Ex Machina needs more than a god, a Time Lord, or even a machine. It is not the use of ‘divine intervention’. If your fictional hero spends an entire episode refusing to answer a question from the ‘gods’, don’t be terribly surprised if the ‘gods’ intervene by the end of Act Three…

A D.E.M. needs more than a surprising solution. Surprising solutions are an expected part of drama. In fact, they’re considered to be a sign of a good, complex drama.

A D.E.M. even needs more than a rushed resolution.

What a D.E.M needs is a problem solved by pulling a solution out of nowhere (‘nowhere’ in the sense of ‘and I rewatched it twice on iPlayer, and I still can’t spot the set-up’).

I can use my Granddad’s flying chariot. My motorbike has anti-grav. Looking in the TARDIS gave me glowy eyes with Mad God-skillz.

That’s Deus Ex Machina.

And Finally
There’s another little D.E.M. joke in The Time of the Doctor. Again, there’s an insoluble problem which gets solved abruptly by ‘divine intervention’ and the use of a previously un-revealed … well, that would give too many clues.

But as in Bells of St John, there are clues.

So – can you spot the real thing?


  1. @Bluesqueakpip

    A wonderful explanation. Previously, I wouldn’t have know a D.E.M if it had walked up to me and formally introduced itself 🙂

    So, with tongue planted firmly in cheek (and because I’m in a particularly silly mood) I’m going to suggest that the ‘seemingly unsolvable problem’ was how to cook a turkey while your guests are sat, ready to eat, at the dining table. The ‘sudden and abrupt resolution’ was provided by The Doctor using the TARDIS’s ‘previously unknown ability’ of being able to cook a turkey at ‘gas mark 300 years’ 😀

  2. Great post @bluesqueakpip. It’s odd that DEM is called so frequently when discussing Doctor Who. It usually becomes pretty clear that the users don’t really understand what it is and how it works. I’ve always suspected its overuse is down to the fact that dues ex machina sounds rather sexy and intellectual. The user thinks it automatically makes them sound smarter than they are, when in fact misuse makes them look spectacularly dumb.

    Like @Timeloop, my original thought went to the wig, the surprise reveal with previously unknown abilities, but I look forward to being proved wrong.

    Generally, I think it’s been a term that’s been misused throughout history though. DEM is a term that followed another popular genre writer of his time, John Wyndham, and it was similarly misapplied to a number of his books. In the 1957 Midwich Cuckoos he has a pretty obvious dig at his critics. Gordon Zellaby, his academic lead who becomes the tutor to the mind reading alien children asks a friend how he thinks this story will end. With a dues ex laboratory, the noble white coated technician declaiming Eureka and solving the problem? The end of the book sees Zellaby and the children engulfed in an explosion which turns out to be an explosive that Zellaby has patiently constructed. It was still labelled a DEM by some critics who had obviously missed the clues of a developing plan, and the fact that Zellaby couldn’t divulge his aim to the narrator of the book. Only Zellaby, through careful reveal in the book was shown to have mastered any sort of resistance to their mind reading capabilities. He acted alone to ensure his plan succeeded and produced a sudden, dramatic and entirely non-DEM end.

    It was the sly idea of the dues ex laboratory that grabbed me though. I think a popular modern alternative wordset might be stories who resolve a situation entirely with technobabble. Quite a few writers of past, present and probably future should shuffle their feet in embarrassment and hope that term never takes off.

    Ultimately though, another question. One of the grand-daddies of genre fiction, War of the Worlds. The aliens being wiped out by the common cold. DEM or not, in your opinion?

  3. Excellent, thanks.  I knew the constant invocation of DEM in grumpy Grauniad comments was muddled and incoherent, but I didn’t have a clear and coherent understanding to set against it.  Now I do.  @Bluesqueakpip, we owe you.

  4. @fatmaninabox – alas, the turkey fails condition 2. It doesn’t have an abrupt resolution.

    The turkey problem is discussed over two scenes; the Doctor also admits that he doesn’t know whether vortex cooking will work. The turkey then carries on cooking for several centuries and gets mentioned in another couple of scenes. It’s a ‘resolution that arises naturally from the plot’.

    @Timeloop – the wig fails the D.E.M. test because it’s not ‘previously unknown’. It was a necessary part of the plot for it to be ‘previously unknown’ in-story (the Doctor was using it to hide stuff he might need, so kept it secret) – but practically the entire audience knew Matt was wearing a wig.

    So it’s a moment of Recognition rather than a D.E.M. – for both Clara and the audience. 🙂

    Thank you both.

  5. @PhaseShift – no, people don’t understand. They go on the web, they see a lot of people saying ‘such and such an episode contains a DEM’ and they think that’s what it is. I can certainly get why people think it means ‘divine intervention’, because ‘god out of the machine’ sounds like divine intervention.

    HG Wells was a biologist by training. It’s ages since I’ve read War of the Worlds, but as I remember it, he sets up the climax by having the narrator see the Martians draining humans of their blood and either eating it or transfusing it (can’t quite recall).

    If you’ve got a reasonable amount of biological or medical knowledge, that definitely puts the ‘killed by microbes’ out of the DEM class because an untested, untreated blood transfusion is a superb way to make sure the Martians get a lovely big dose of human microbes. I dunno about the common cold – they probably also had ‘flu, chicken pox, the clap… 😀

  6. @Bluesqueakpip Great post, thanks. And one that no doubt will be referred to many times in the future.

    My vote goes to Tasha Lem turning up in the TARDIS. 1. Clara is stuck on Earth with no chance the Doctor will return. 2. The TARDIS appears when it shouldn’t. 3. Because Tasha Lem has a previously unknown ability.

    It’s even telegraphed by Clara’s question “You can fly the TARDIS?”

    Do I get a prize? Do I? 😀

  7. Haha @Bluesqueakpip – school was never even half this much fun

    @Phaseshift – Completely agree – people splatter jargon about in the hope that it makes them sound clever – add sloppy, lazy writing, strawman etc etc

    I’m with @Craig – definitely a Dea Ex Machina – literally. Tasha Lem – god-like person, from a big (god-like) machine (Papal Mainframe spaceship). It’s one thing to telegraph that she has the key, it’s quite another to find out she can fly the TARDIS – and has done on previous occasions. Woah! Go back a bit there! Why does she go and get Clara anyway? Ostensibly so the Doctor won’t die alone; But Clara’s is possibly the one voice that the Time Lords will believe (given her history of jumping into his timestream etc). And how does she know where to locate her?  There’s a lot more to Tasha Lem than we’ve been told so far…

  8. @bluesqueakpip

    Thanks for the response on War of the Worlds. It’s an odd one in that the term was coined at the time of publishing by a few critics. I think one said something along the lines of “a resolution that comes from the ravings of the lunatic fringe of the Royal Society”. Because cross species transfer of pathogens was still in debate. :-D. You’re quite right – the Martians are set up to consume blood and are breathing the same air (they come out of their war machines) so are viable for any number of pathways to infection. Its one of those examples though that I think depends upon the reader having, or be willing to be introduced to a real concept that may seem out of nowhere. These days it wouldn’t face the same criticism because the level of knowledge of the reader is much more advanced. Ironically, War of the Worlds was one of the ultimate populators of the idea that pathogens can jump species!

    I had a really long protracted argument on-line about this once, and I said the novel wasn’t a DEM, but the 1950s George Pal movie had tried, in its final moments, to make it one with a subtle change of words. The natural cause and effect of evolutionary biology of the novel was confused by an assertion (and praises) that an act of God had created whichever bacteria had felled the Martians. It was literally Divine Intervention.

  9. @bluesqueakpip

    After reading this–the latest in a series of your dazzlingly brilliant, astoundingly knowledgeable, and wonderfully erudite blogs–I am strangely reminded of a Peanuts cartoon, which went along the following lines (and for the purpose of this allusion, I am identifying with Charley Brown):

    Scene: Lucy, Linus and Charley Brown are lying on the grass staring up at the clouds.

    Lucy: “Aren’t the clouds beautiful? They look like big balls of cotton. I could just lie here all day and watch them drift by. If you use your imagination, you can see lots of things in the cloud’s formations. What do you think you see, Linus?”

    Linus: “Well, those clouds up there look to me look like the map of the British Honduras on the Caribbean. [points up] That cloud up there looks a little like the profile of Thomas Eakins, the famous painter and sculptor. And that group of clouds over there… [points] …gives me the impression of the Stoning of Stephen. I can see the Apostle Paul standing there to one side.”

    Charley Brown stares at him in amazement.

    Lucy: “That’s very good, Linus. What do you see in the clouds, Charlie Brown?”

    Charlie Brown: “Well… I was going to say I saw a duckie and a horsie, but I changed my mind.”

  10. And the Papal Mainframe Prize (one set of holographic clothing of your choice, suitable for church attendance and social occasions across the Galaxy) goes to…

    @Craig. For his correct identification of Tasha Lem’s previously unmentioned TARDIS piloting skills as the Deus Ex Machina in The Time of The Doctor.

    1.Unsolvable situation: Clara is stuck on Earth, with no means of getting to Trenzalore.
    2. Abrupt resolution: the TARDIS turns up out of nowhere to take her to the Doctor
    3.Previously unknown ability: Tasha can pilot the TARDIS? Since when?

    Any other clues? Well, I’d nickname Tash (as a professional nun) a ‘god botherer’. She tends to communicate by means of a god-like big floating holographic face in the sky. And she’s in the Papal Mainframe and using the TARDIS to winch herself down to Earth…

    The god (botherer) from the Machine (Papal Mainframe) is winched down (via TARDIS) to provide the solution to the plot. 😀

    [An Honourable Mention and a set of holographic fig leaves to @ScaryB for coming in second]

  11. @Bluesqueakpip But we did not know that the key can summon the TARDIS? Or did we? I was referring more to the key than to the wig.

    1) Surrounded by angels 2) TARDIS turn up 3) Key can get TARDIS

    And as for the wig: We might have known that the actor uses one but we did not know the Doctor had one. But I agree the wig is recognition.

  12. @Timeloop – he’s used the key to bring the TARDIS to him before – Father’s Day. He’s used a remote control to bring the TARDIS to him before – The Two Doctors. Tasha clearly thinks he can use the key as a remote – that’s why she takes the first one off him. Blink uses a control disk.

    So, no, not a DEM. It’s hinted within the episode that he might be able to use the key as a remote and we’ve seen him use other things as remotes. Previously revealed ability.

    For the wig: well, whether we knew the Doctor was using one depends on how good we thought the wig was … I seem to recall a few people beforehand saying ‘that wig’s a bit obvious, isn’t it?’

    Now we know why 🙂

  13. Lovely post!

    There is, if used sparingly, nothing wrong with the gods descending unexpectedly to sort s***t out.

    In fact, one might wish they could do it a bit more often IRL 🙂

  14. @Juniperfish : You’ve reminded me of a comic strip I once read about God: The Ultimate Superhero. He flies around spotting people in deadly peril and concluding that he gave mankind free will, so it would be wrong of him to intervene.

    (I wonder if Christianity has therefore made DEM even less acceptable to us than it was to Horace and Aristotle?)

  15. @Bluesqueakpip

    Thanks. I never knew what this actually meant and this and your explanation of “reveal” and “recognition” are really appreciated by me. I conclude that the use of the reveal/reversal technique is what most [uninformed] people actually refer to a DEM in the narrative incorrectly. That’s the impression you have given me anyway.

    Your explanation makes it clear that these techniques are perfectly good from a narrative stand point, but I think the question that has to be asked is whether these narrative techniques (especially some of the examples of how reveal/reversal have been used) have been over-used in Who (especially given the length of the story) and/or have been used to hide the lack of a more ambitious, if I may put it that way, idea to resolve the story in the first place ? [specifically thinking about the regeneration example here].




  16. @Nick – ‘no’ would be the short answer. 🙂

    The slightly longer answer is that it really is quite difficult to write a good drama without either a reveal or a reversal, and preferably both. Try and think of one without and you’ll see what I mean.

    [Off the top of my head, I’d go for Waiting for Godot – which is supposed to be boring.]

    Way back at the end of Series 5, on another forum entirely, I remarked that the Smith Doctor thought he was in a tragedy. In fact, he’s playing the starring role in a comedy. Not ‘comedy’ in the sense of funny-ha-ha, ‘comedy’ in the sense of an unbalanced and fractured world that ends up in a situation of balance and wholeness. Symbolised, in Series 5, by Amy and Rory finally reaching their wedding day.

    We also got a wedding at the end of Series 6. Again, classic ‘comedy’ ending. Then finally in Time of The Doctor, the Doctor gets his anagnorisis, his moment of recognition. He’s expecting to die; instead he gets another regeneration cycle. The ‘baby’ being born is The Doctor; the cot was for him (again).

    As to using the Time Lords: well, as I say up above, if your leading actor spends most of the episode refusing to answer the ‘gods’, don’t be surprised if the ‘gods’ decide to take an active role at the end of the play…

  17. @bluesqueakpip

    Absolutely agree, but my question was over used or perhaps another way of stating my question is too simplistically (or better complexly) used in at times, especially as regards arc or plot resolution. Both examples you state above, relate to the meta-narrative (is that the correct term, i’m the first to admit that this narrative analysis terminology isn’t something i ever learned at school of subsequently as a scientist).  I guess you may well find this sort of symbolic underlying resolution to the series arc satisfying given this deeper symbolic meaning, but for me its only an interesting addition to my enjoyment or otherwise, it isn’t sufficient in itself to satisfy me.

    For example, my “issue” with the christmas show isn’t the way that it was written or the way the various techniques you’ve explained were used at all. The whole regeneration ending was extremely well written and acted and moving to watch. But I have to ask myself, is Clara asking nicely absolutely the best idea that the production team could come up with to resolve the end of the Doctors regeneration cycle and the beginning of a new one ?

    Arguably, this:

    There’s a major Recognition and Reversal in The Time of The Doctor, at the climax of the episode. The Doctor is dying – a predestined death that he hasn’t the power to change. He can’t change his own future. Of course, he mentions sadly and almost casually, he could have changed it once. When there were Time Lords.

    This is Clara’s change from ignorance to knowledge, her Recognition. She now knows that there are people who can change the future – and they’re on the other side of the Crack in the wall. So she does the sensible, logical thing. She asks them to change it. Since she doesn’t remember the Doctor’s real name, she can’t use it as a password – but she can tell them why she thinks his original, Gallifreyan name doesn’t really matter.

    is clever writing. I wouldn’t have explained it in the terms you have used, but the concept were clearly understandable from the preceding elements of the story, which hasn’t always been the case in the past I think. But, and this is a big but, as an idea in of itself, is it sufficient to deliver the punch line for an entire era ?

    I need to read the debate that I assume has gone on here in the forum on this subject and clearly here isn’t the place to do it 🙂 .

    Thanks again



  18. @Nick – I’ve followed @Arbutus‘s lead and replied to most of this in The Time of The Doctor forum. What I will say to:

    is it sufficient to deliver the punch line for an entire era

    is –

    • Firstly, Clara asking nicely means The Doctor himself never asks for immortality.
    • Secondly, using the crack references the AG series.
    • Thirdly, using the Time Lords to reboot the regeneration cycle for the next 50 years references the BG series.

    So, yes. Whether or not you like the solution, it is an attempt to provide a punchline for an entire era. It uses the Doctor’s character as developed over the last 50 years, a BG attribute of the Time Lords and an AG plotline.

  19. @Bluesqueakpip

    In any solution to the problem which Moffat faced (Capaldi is 13 – which was pretty unambiguously clear from Day of the Doctor) in a situation where he didn’t want to write the series about how the Doctor faced his end, I think any solution you come up with has to have this given to the Doctor freely and not asked for.

    With hindsight, I am now wondering if Matt leaving at the end of series 7 not 8 hasn’t buggered Moffat’s plan. The impossible girl arc now seems incredibly weak to me and without much purpose given the events in the 50th and Christmas episodes. It seems now that they were a long way along with series 8 when they found out about Matt leaving, the production team may well have had to change focus and left the series 7 end hanging a bit. We’ll see in the Autumn :).

    I absolutely agree with your comment above and its not that I didn’t like it, but I would have preferred something else, although the Doctor sacrificing himself to save something is probably the only theme they could have used.



  20. @Nick

    It seems now that they were a long way along with series 8 when they found out about Matt leaving, the production team may well have had to change focus and left the series 7 end hanging a bit.

    Where are you getting that from? Moffat admitted in Entertainment Weekly something I’ve thought since Series 6: Matt Smith’s Doctor was always planned to regenerate at the Christmas Special immediately after the 50th. I suspect Karen Gillan’s and Arthur Darvill’s exit points were also mapped out.

    When Matt turned out to be so successful, they did have a chat about extending his run past that – but like David Tennant before him, he decided that if he didn’t stick to the planned exit point, he’d never leave.

    The Impossible Girl arc isn’t finished – or if ‘The Impossible Girl’ arc is, it’s because it was a set up for Clara’s function/arc in Series 8.

  21. @Bluesqueakpip

    I stand corrected as I wasn’t aware of that fact. We’ll have to see what they have planned for series 8 (and it won’t surprise me if Clara turns out to be important as you say). However, I don’t see how Capaldi/Clara can go back into the Doctor’s timeline to deal with the GI, especially since the grave at Trenzalore probably no longer exists at this point/time in the universe any more. Whatever, there intentions which were shunted off course with Matt’s injury, there’s a hole to be filled.



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