Doctor Who season 11 might be a fresh and exciting reboot of the show, but it’s still keen to drop in some kisses to the past to keep longtime fans happy. This Sunday’s episode, “Rosa,” for example, sneaked in a reference that calls back to an important location from the Matt Smith era of the series.
The villain of the week was a time-traveling mass murderer named Krasko. He was a new creation, but we learned that he’d served time in Stormcage, a space prison in the 52nd century that’s home to the worst criminals around. Of course, the location should be familiar to anyone who knows their stuff, as it’s the place where River Song was incarcerated after she was blamed for the death of the Doctor in season 6.
Technically, River did serve her sentence, but she broke out with ease whenever the Doctor or the universe needed her. Or sometimes just so she and her Time Lord husband could go off on a romantic getaway somewhere. Once the Doctor erased all memory of himself from the universe, River’s prison time was over and she was free to roam time and space again. Which she did with the help of her vortex manipulator.
Speaking of which, Krasko also had one of these wrist-mounted time machines, which the Doctor calls “cheap and nasty time travel” – echoing the same phrase Missy used to describe the devices in 2015’s “The Magician’s Apprentice.” River got hers from the Doctor’s crooked acquaintance Dorium Maldovar, so it’s possible Krasko received his vortex manipulator from the same source.
The vortex manipulators were originally introduced on the show in 2005 as the method by which Time Agents – like Captain Jack Harkness – traversed through history. It’s possible, then, that Krasko’s the reason for those rumors that John Barrowman was coming back in season 11, as someone found out the device would feature and put two and two together to make five.
Obviously, Doctor Who should mostly be about telling new stories, but it’s always fun when the series remembers its own mythology and as such, we look forward to seeing what other callbacks and easter eggs season 11 has in store.