Doctor Who and the Skye Boat Song

Spoilers for “The Power of the Doctor” follow.

Patrick Troughton had one of the hardest jobs of any actor to play the Doctor; he had to follow the original. Had he failed, Season Four of Doctor Who would have gone down as a forgettable failed experiment. The science fiction series would have died in the 1960s after the lead actor, William Hartnell, was forced out due to his health issues. But Troughton, an amazing character actor, succeeded by all measures, proving that the show could regenerate and renew itself as needed.

Troughton created a Second Doctor who was most unlike his predecessor, delving into silliness and acting the fool where the First Doctor almost always remained dignified and serious. At the same time, Hartnell had imbued the character with a sense of humor and a streak of childlike curiosity that came to serve as the Doctor’s core across many iterations. Playing a younger and re-energized Doctor, Troughton ran with that sense of fun. To cement this, one of the first things he did was to pick up a recorder and start playing tunes. That instrument became the Second Doctor’s signature, even more so than his use of the sonic screwdriver and the tendency of offering people Jelly Babies (something that Troughton did first before Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor adopted it as his own).

Troughton played many tunes on his recorder, but I’m going to focus on one specifically here: “The Skye Boat Song,” which he first played in “The Web of Fear.” That performance is recognizable enough that it got a reprise in 2022’s “The Power of the Doctor,” and it carries more significance than meets the eye.

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The Thirteenth Doctor: Companion Evolution

Spoilers for “Revolution of the Daleks” (2021 New Year’s special) follow.

In its 58-year history, very few episodes of Doctor Who have featured the titular Doctor on her own. Human companions serve an important role in grounding the Doctor and serving as the lens through which the audience experiences the zany journeys. Without companions, the Doctor is just some inscrutable alien, and she has no reason to explain the many bizarre things she encounters in her travels through space and time.

In addition to serving as audience avatars, the Doctor’s companions act as teammates and, on the many occasions where the Doctor gets in over her head, rescuers. This formula has worked consistently for decades, yet there has been some evolution here and there. Under the Thirteenth Doctor, the companions have reached a new stage of development that is both similar to and yet different from the relationship they shared under previous incarnations of the Time Lord.

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The Timeless Children

The Thirteenth Doctor: A Question of Identity

Spoilers for the Series 12 (2020) finale of Doctor Who follow.

Following the huge continuity bombshell dropped by the Series 12 finale “The Timeless Children,” Johnny Spandrell of the Randomwhoness blog posted this thought on Twitter:

That’s quite a fair question to ask. As I mentioned last time, I’m not a fan of stories that exist just to tweak in-show continuity. The Doctor is already alien and somewhat difficult to relate to, being a millennia-old alien being who travels time and regenerates into new bodies upon death. Does making her the foundation of an entire alien society really do anything story-wise?

I argue that “The Timeless Children” does much more than continuity-tweaking. In redefining the Doctor, it opens up many potentially interesting stories in the future. More importantly, it goes back to one of the inherent themes in much of modern science fiction: a matter of identity.

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Doctor and Master

The Thirteenth Doctor: Pros and Cons of Continuity

Spoilers for Series 12 (2020) of Doctor Who follow.

I quite liked the continuity-light approach of the Thirteenth Doctor’s debut season. I felt that relying on new aliens and monsters rather than dredging up the old standards provided more of a focus on who the Doctor was and what was important about her.

That said, my favorite moment in the Thirteenth Doctor’s run definitely comes from the climactic moment of Season 12’s “The Timeless Children,” which is anything but light on continuity:


So even as I celebrate a continuity-light approach, I lose my mind when the show plays a 30-second montage that acknowledges the Doctor’s long history. Why does continuity have that effect, and when does the show’s 50+ years of baggage drag it down?

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The Thirteenth Doctor: Beginning Ramblings


In my mad dash to find wild fan theories and cool thoughts about the recent seasons of Doctor Who, I’ve been disappointed to find that most of the online palaver focuses on the binary issue of whether people should consider Jodie Whitaker’s run as the Thirteenth Doctor good or bad. And, of course, a lot of that discussion boils down to people who don’t like the first female Doctor making some very thinly-veiled sexist remarks and those who do like her dismissing legitimate criticisms as anti-feminist.

It feels to me like there is a vast amount of discussion about the Thirteenth Doctor’s episodes themselves that remain untapped. I plan to explore some of those things that I feel people have overlooked. But before I do, I think it’s a good idea to establish my relationship with Doctor Who so people know where I’m coming from.

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