Figuring Out Doctor Who's Lingering Mysteries

"The End of Time" wrapped up the Russell T. Davies era of Doctor Who with a bang, but it left a bunch of unanswered questions behind. Perhaps the solutions are already right there in front of us. Speculation time!

I'll try to avoid any overly obscure questions like, "What happened to that nice doctor fellow Martha was engaged to?" or pedantically fannish quibbles like, "Why does the Doctor keep insisting he's 906 when he was already 953 in 'Time and the Rani'!?" I'll also skip questions like, "Did the Master survive?" because at this point it's pretty clear that the Master always survives, even when he dies. Instead, let's focus on the big mysteries of "The End of Time", in particular ones that the characters themselves note are still unexplained. Let's start with a relatively easy one.

Figuring Out Doctor Who's Lingering Mysteries

Was that really Rassilon? Like, the Rassilon?
As an uber-geeky old school Doctor Who fan, the most surprising part of "The End of Time" was when the Doctor suddenly addressed Timothy Dalton's President as Rassilon. For those unfamiliar with all of Doctor Who's nearly fifty-year history, Rassilon was known and revered by all Time Lords as the founder of their society. First mentioned in the 1976 story "The Deadly Assassin", Rassilon was credited as the ancient Gallifreyan who harnessed the power of a supernova to make time travel possible. He then became the first Lord President, and ruled for an undisclosed length of time before passing into history.

His biggest role in the classic series was in the twentieth anniversary special "The Five Doctors", in which four of the Doctor's incarnations, a bunch of old companions, and a host of enemies are brought to the Death Zone, a region of Gallifrey used in ancient times for what were essentially massive gladiatorial battles. The whole thing is part of a frankly ludicrous scheme by a rogue Time Lord to create a safe path to the Tomb of Rassilon, which lies at the heart of the Death Zone, so that he can gain Rassilon's secret of immortality. At the very end of the special, we see a projection of the apparently deceased Rassilon, who congratulates the victorious Doctors for playing his game successfully.

So what's he doing, seemingly alive and well in "The End of Time"? There is, of course, a precedent for Time Lords resurrecting fallen members of their race to fight in the Time War. As the Master explained in "The Sound of Drums", this was precisely why the Time Lords brought him back from the dead. If they were desperate enough to gamble on a genocidal lunatic, why not also bring back your first and greatest leader too? Of course, if Rassilon really was immortal - a point "The Five Doctors" dances around - he might just have been resting in his Tomb, awaiting a vast enough crisis to necessitate his return.

Either way, there's a long precedent for his descent into villainy. In "The Five Doctors", the Second Doctor explains to the Brigadier that there were rumors that Rassilon was actually a cruel tyrant, who crushed all who opposed him. The expanded universe has explored this side of Rassilon at great length. The novels Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible and Lungbarrow, both by Marc Platt (who wrote the classic Doctor Who serial "Ghost Light"), traced Rassilon's rise to power and the often brutal steps he took to consolidate control.

The Big Finish audios have also dealt with Rassilon, casting him a similarly devious light. Voiced by Don Warrington (who played the president of the alternate Britain in "Rise of the Cybermen"), Rassilon lives on in the Matrix, a sort of virtual reality computer system that houses all of Gallifrey's accumulated knowledge. He is depicted as a genocidal figure that has schemed throughout Gallifrey's history to destroy all species that show even the slightest chance of gaining access to time travel. He attempts to use the Eighth Doctor as a weapon against a race known as the Divergents in his final bid to ensure the Time Lords' continued supremacy.

As such, there's every reason to think that that really was the original Rassilon, back in the flesh and supremely villainous. In any event, what's the alternative? That this was just some other Time Lord that happened to also be called Rassilon? I somehow doubt that Rassilon is a common name, even on a planet called Gallifrey. Now let's look at some more difficult questions.

Figuring Out Doctor Who's Lingering Mysteries

Who was the mysterious woman in white?
This is one is absolutely massive - it's a big enough question that Wilf even interrupts the Doctor's epilogue to ask him about it - but it may already be answered. Pretty much all available evidence points to the fact that Claire Bloom played the Doctor's mother. It was rumored by the British tabloids way back in April, it was sort of confirmed by outgoing executive producer Julie Gardner in the commentary for part two of the "End of Time" (although fellow commentator Russell T. Davies remained far, far more ambiguous on this point), and it's the explanation that's most in keeping with Davies's overall approach to Doctor Who. Case closed. Or is it?

Let's try to just look at what's in the episodes themselves. Claire Bloom appears in two capacities in "The End of Time" - as some sort of vision to Wilf, and as a dissenting Time Lady made to kneel behind Rassilon when the Time Lords reenter the universe. She doesn't speak in the latter appearance, but the Doctor definitely appears to recognize her and understand what she's trying to relate to him about the Gallifreyan diamond. Oh, and the musical selection "The Doctor's Theme" plays when the Doctor first makes eye contact with her. (Specifically, it's the part that Russell T. Davies has jokingly called "Flavia's Theme", so named because the woman singing sounds like she's singing from the Time Vortex and Chancellor Flavia was a Time Lady in "The Five Doctors." If you want to take that to mean Claire Bloom actually played a regenerated version of a minor supporting character from the early eighties...well, be my guest.)

As far as her interactions with Wilf go, they mostly consist of a whole bunch of cryptic statements, prophecies, and calls to arms. She calls Wilf "an old soldier", which is in keeping with somebody presumably still living through the Time War. When he actually asks her who she is, her only response is, "I was lost. So very long ago." When he later asks the same question to the Doctor, he gets no response. Instead, the Doctor stares off at...somebody. He either looks at Wilf, Donna's mother, Donna, or some combination of those three. Exactly who you think that somebody is depends on how you want to interpret the rest of the evidence.

You see, there are a couple alternative theories that have circulated since the transmission of "The End of Time." Both focus on old companions of the Doctor, and neither is completely ridiculous. (OK, they're both kind of ridiculous. Just not completely.) The first possibility is that this is actually Susan, the Doctor's granddaughter. In that case, the Doctor looked first at Wilf, then at Donna, indicating the common relationship. The fact that the woman in white said she was lost long ago makes sense for Susan, considering she was stranded on a post-apocalyptic Earth by the First Doctor (this decision made slightly more sense in context).

Then there's the possibility that Claire Bloom actually played Romana, the Time Lady who traveled with Tom Baker's Doctor. In that case, the "lost...long ago" line would probably refer to the time she spent in E-Space, a pocket universe distinct from own. Romana is also one of the few characters other than the Doctor who we have seen regenerate, so there would be some precedent for bringing in a new actress to play the part. (On the other hand, there's really no reason why they couldn't have just brought back Lalla Ward, who was the most recent Romana in the series and still plays the character in Big Finish audios. Indeed, her husband Richard Dawkins already appeared in the series, in "The Stolen Earth.")

The other slight point in Romana's favor is that the character appeared during on the most popular eras of classic Doctor Who, so her return would make slightly more sense from an audience recognition standpoint than that of, say, Susan. Oh, and in this scenario, the Doctor simply looked at Donna, because they were both his companion. Of course.

All of this might seem rather hugely unlikely, and it probably is. Claire Bloom, in all likelihood, really was the Doctor's mother, and so the Doctor looked at Sylvia Noble, then her daughter Donna, in keeping with their common maternal ties. The one thing that still doesn't quite make sense is the significance of her being lost, but that might be explained by her actually being dead for a long period before the Time War. Along with the Master and Rassilon, the Time Lords might well have brought back everyone to fight in the Time War, including the Doctor's mother. If nothing else, it would explain why previous incarnations of the Doctor had claimed his family was dead and gone.

Figuring Out Doctor Who's Lingering Mysteries

Why are the Ood so advanced?
In just a single century, the Ood have gone from creatures without free will to beings with tremendous insight into time and space. Ood Sigma can reach more than two millennia back in time to summon the Doctor, and the Chief Ood can sense weaknesses and coming alterations in the fabric of time. The Doctor remarks that this is a problem, but he never gets a chance to follow up on it. The Doctor says, "Something is advancing his species way beyond normal", and the Elder Ood later offers that "The Ood have gained this power to see through time because time is bleeding."

But I'm not entirely convinced that the latter explains the former. Even if this is true, why have the Ood in particular been granted this gift? It might have something to do with their natural telepathy and the power of the main Ood Mind, but it still doesn't logically follow in and of itself that this should grant them mastery of time. And anyway, the Doctor seems to be just as wowed by their advanced architecture as he is their temporal abilities. I suspect there's a bigger story here.

Something sentient is actively driving forward their development, and I'll go ahead and suggest the intended goal might be the creation of a successor race to the Time Lords. After all, they're surprisingly decent candidates. They are naturally peaceful and benevolent, with an apparent preference for non-interference. They take rather naturally to the mindbending nature of time travel, what with events happening simultaneously two thousand years apart.

If you're looking for parallels within the stories, both parts of "The End of Time" begin with the elders of the respective races - the Ood in part one, the Time Lords in part two - sitting in counsel, discussing threats to their existence and various prophecies. Ood Sigma even functions a bit like the lone Time Lords in classic Doctor Who stories like "Colony in Space" or "Genesis of the Daleks", where they direct him the Doctor to his mission. (Although his role in bringing the Doctor to his regeneration more recalls the Watcher in "Logopolis." But that was sort of a Time Lord too.) My guess is that this is a story thread that will be picked up at a later date. But what is the greater force that is doing all this to the Ood, you ask? Well, to answer that, there's another question I need to tackle.

Figuring Out Doctor Who's Lingering Mysteries

What's the deal with Wilf?
The Doctor has been wondering about his connection to Wilf since series four, and he spends a decent amount of their conversation in the cafe in part one wondering about it. He doesn't arrive at any clear answer, although it might be useful to look at his immediate follow-up to the question, "Why you?" The very next thing he says is, "I'm going to die", and considering what we learn about Wilf's role in the Doctor's regeneration, there might just be some significance to that. Wilf is significant because he's part of the prophecy, and that's why he keeps meeting the Doctor.

Well, maybe. But that just seems to shift the problem back a level. Even if Wilf is important only insofar as he's part of the prophecy of the Tenth Doctor's death, that doesn't answer why that prophecy exerts so much influence over events. Something still seems to be manipulating their lives in ways that can't be just coincidence. In previous arcs, figures like Bad Wolf Rose and Dalek Caan have proven capable of manipulating events in similar ways, but their influence over time apparently ended with the conclusions of their respective stories. But perhaps something else is going on.

There's a lot of talk in "The End of Time" about how there is a grander design at work, and that idea recurs throughout. Joshua Naismith thinks he's in control of his Immortality Gate, but he becomes ensnared in the Master's latest insane plan. The Master thinks he has finally destroyed humanity forever and created an army capable of conquering the universe, but all he's really doing is setting the stage for the return of the Time Lords. Even once you strip away the actions and manipulations of the Time Lords, there are still plenty of things in "The End of Time" that appear to be the work of still some larger plan by something even greater than the Time Lords.

In fact, this brings up another, perhaps even more important question about the woman in white. Honestly, it doesn't really matter whether she's the Doctor's mother, granddaughter, or former companion. How exactly did she manage to communicate with Wilf at all? How did she break through the time lock to communicate with him, particularly when getting through at all was almost insuperably difficult for the rest of the Time Lords? And even if she had figured out a way to project herself, when exactly was she doing this? There didn't seem to be all that much time between the Lord President calling for a vote and leading his people to Earth. Unless we missed the scene where all the Time Lords took a couple hours to deliberate, it's not obvious when she could have squeezed in the time to drop all these hints to Wilf.

Let's see if we can't put all of this together. There's an entire race whose development is being massively accelerated, perhaps with the purpose of making the Ood the new Time Lords. (Even if that's too much of a stretch, they clearly have an incredibly strong connection to time, perhaps second only to that of the Doctor.) There's an unimportant old man whose life keeps intersecting with the Doctor's in ways that far too improbable to be the result of mere coincidence. There's a mysterious but benevolent woman in completely white clothing that keeps showing up to steer events towards the best possible conclusion for the Doctor and, indeed, all existence. If I didn't know any better, I'd say this is all the work of the White Guardian.

For those who haven't memorized every detail of the classic series, the White Guardian was an almost omnipotent figure who first appeared in Tom Baker's fifth season on Doctor Who. He sent the fourth Doctor on a yearlong quest to find the missing pieces of the Key to Time, a mystical object that would allow him to stave off the growing influence of his evil counterpart, the Black Guardian. True to his name, the White Guardian always wore completely white ensembles whenever he appeared, something he shares with Claire Bloom's character. Perhaps she appeared with the assistance of the White Guardian to act as his agent in the fight to protect cosmic order? (Interestingly, the White Guardian was the one who first brought the Doctor and Romana together, meaning she has some experience working for him. Make that another point in Romana's favor then.)

The White Guardian might seem a bit too obscure a figure to bring back, but he and the Black Guardian are about all that's left from the classic series that would pose truly massive threats to the Doctor. I don't know if Steven Moffat shares Davies's obsession with constantly upping the stakes in every series finale, but just about the only conceivable way to top the threat of the Time Lords would be to place the Doctor in the middle of an all-out war between what are essentially gods. It all fits together so perfectly!

Or I'm just talking nonsense. Probably more likely, really. Speaking of which...

Figuring Out Doctor Who's Lingering Mysteries

Who was that silhouetted figure at the back of the church?
All right, now I am almost quite literally jumping at shadows, but I've got to say - that is one distracting background figure at the start of part one. I thought for sure that figure was going to be revealed as somebody important when I first watched it. The Master, maybe. But apparently not, considering he was still dead at that point.

I'll try to resist the urge to play armchair director, but there just seems like zero reason for Euros Lyn to compose the shot with such a noticeable figure when that person has absolutely no significance to the rest of the scene. Honestly, it's probably nothing, but maybe, just maybe, it's the first clue to something absolutely massive down the road. My money's on an agent of the Black Guardian. Partially because the figure is shrouded in darkness, and also because I might as well get as much mileage as I can out of this whole Guardian idea. You heard it here first!

Figuring Out Doctor Who's Lingering Mysteries

Who was the other dissenting Time Lord?
So, only two Time Lords in all of Gallifrey dared to stand against Rassilon in his moment of triumph. We at least know something about the one on the right, but who was the other one? In all honesty, I'm not even sure if that was a Time Lord or a Time Lady. Either way, the Gallifreyan in question is the only other person with the courage to oppose Rassilon's monstrous plan, and we don't know anything about him or her.

There are a couple obvious points of speculation. From a purely practical perspective, it's more aesthetically pleasing to frame two dissenters on either side of Rassilon as opposed to just the one. Indeed, without a second Gallifreyan to kneel next to her, Claire Bloom might have been just a tad too obvious as a person of significance before the big reveal. That's probably the actual reason for the second Gallifreyan, but once that character is introduced, it does raise the question about who that person is.

The obvious answer is that, if the Doctor's mother is on the right, then the Doctor's father really ought to be on the left. But that seems sort of, well, dumb, particularly in an episode where the Doctor actually talks about how proud he'd be if Wilf was his dad. It doesn't really line up thematically. The better answer is that, at this point, it could be anybody, and Russell T. Davies has left Steven Moffat with an interesting figure to make use of later on should he so choose. After all, this is apparently a Time Lord (or Lady) that's actually worth saving. That's a pretty compelling person to come back to.

(If you want my guess as to his identity, I'll go with the Cockney-accented, generally useless Time Lord Drax from the "The Armageddon Factor", the final serial in the Key to Time season. Because I might as well push my "Everything in 'The End of Time' is explained by The Key to Time" theory to its absurd logical extreme.)

Figuring Out Doctor Who's Lingering Mysteries

What is the Moment, and what did the Doctor do with it?
Every series finale seems to reveal new information about the Time War, and considering we actually sort of see some of it in "The End of Time", it's not surprising we learn a few shocking new details. Although most of what we hear are more details meant to convey the sheer incomprehensibility of the Time War - the Nightmare Child is mentioned again, along with new additions like the wonderfully named Could've Been King and his Army of Meanwhiles and Neverweres - there is one tidbit that might matter later on.

When the doomed Time Lady offers a status report on the Doctor to Rassilon at the beginning of part two, we learn that the Doctor "still possesses the Moment and he'll use it to destroy Daleks and Time Lords alike." Now, from a storytelling perspective, mentioning the Moment may not have any significance in and of itself. After all, it's necessary to establish that this is the last day of the Time War and that the Time Lords know their destruction is close at hand. Since we already know the Doctor was the one that end the Time War, mentioning the Doctor in his capacity as Gallifrey's destroyer makes perfect sense. So maybe the Moment is just a matter of narrative convenience, and we won't hear about it again.

Still, for the first time, we know what the Doctor used to end the Time War, or more accurately we know its name. We can at least assume it is a thing of immense power, and the fact that it is called "the Moment" suggests it has something to do with the nature of time itself. Whatever it is, it seems like just the kind of item Steven Moffat might need if he ever wants to bring the Time Lords back to stay. As such, there's a decent chance that this isn't the last we've heard of the Moment, especially now that the Master is presumably trapped in the Time War and could conceivably gain access to it.

And no, I won't suggest that the Moment is actually the Key to Time. Although now that I mention it...