As this revamp of the show has been so keen to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, Doctor Who season 11 hasn’t been swimming in references to the series’ long and illustrious past. For one, there hasn’t been a single classic monster or villain – not even a whiff of the Daleks. However, there is the odd nod to what’s come before now and again, though they’re usually so subtle that only hardcore fans would notice them.
Take this one from last week’s episode, titled “The Witchfinders,” for example. The installment opens when the Doctor discovers the TARDIS has taken them to 17th century Lancashire in the middle of a witch trial and not the coronation of Elizabeth I, as she was hoping. On the surface, this just seems like another instance of the old joke that the TARDIS has dumped the time travelers in a random place.
However, the name-check of Elizabeth I is sure to raise Whovians’ eyebrows. It’s interesting that the Doctor was planning to bump into Good Queen Bess as the pair haven’t usually got on. Specifically, the Tenth Doctor and Elizabeth had a… let’s say, complicated relationship.
In 2007’s “The Shakespeare Code,” the Doctor was left dumbstruck when the elderly queen ordered “off with his head” when she appeared at the Globe Theater, leaving him running for his life. In 2010’s “The End of Time,” we got a further hint at the duo’s past history as the Doctor admits that he had a fling with Elizabeth, hinting that her nickname “The Virgin Queen” isn’t strictly accurate anymore.
Finally, in 2013’s “The Day of the Doctor,” we got the full story. The Doctor did have a summer romance with the young queen, but only because he thought she was a Zygon and he was trying to foil their invasion (we’ve all heard that excuse before, right?). They even had a secret wedding ceremony, though the Time Lord soon dashed off back into time and space. So, it seems that the reason Elizabeth hated him was because her husband abandoned her.
After all this, it’s surprising that the Thirteenth Doctor was going to willingly visit her ex-wife in last week’s Doctor Who. Maybe she was just trying to bury the hatchet at last?