It’s always a bit difficult writing down thoughts after a first episode of a two-parter, especially in a season of Doctor Who that has revelled in turning things on their head. Even after a second watch of Ascension of the Cybermen (AOTC – the second and better Cyberman story that can have that abbreviation), I can’t predict what on Earth / Telos or anywhere else is going to happen next. But here’s a few musings.

What’s going on in Ireland?

This looks like it could be the first televised Who in Ireland hot on the heels of the first glimpse of Canada in the program in the Tesla episode. I say, it could be. I’m not sure whether Brendan’s story is really in Ireland.

One school of thought is that this could all be a simulation, possibly in the Cyberiad or maybe in the Time Lords’ Matrix. It is rather curious that we don’t have time frames firmly established without captions. Maybe I’ve seen too much media in which there’s a shock reveal that something isn’t set in the time period we think it is. There’s also the fact that he survived a cliff fall despite seemingly being a normal human. But if it’s a simulation, what’s the point of it? I can’t think of one.

Maybe Brendan’s dad and the slightly aged cop are turning Brendan into a Cyberman at the end. And yet, we’re focusing on Brendan’s retirement clock.

The last time the show focussed so much on clocks was in the episode that revealed that Ruth wasn’t just a tour guide in Gloucester. So maybe Brendan’s a Time Lord, though that doesn’t explain his surviving the cliff fall as, well, the Doctor’s had to regenerate from falling off Jodrell Bank as well as from falling off an exercise bank so Time Lords are not invulnerable.

So if Brendan’s story really happened, then who is he and what’s he got to do the price of fish? We were reminded that Graham’s surname is O’Brien, which is a very Irish name, so Brendan could be a relation of Graham. Given the haircuts, Brendan seems to retire in the 70s, and so the time lines might tie up. But, all the hype makes me think that Brendan won’t tie into Graham so much. Also, Graham’s not inherited Brendan’s superhuman strength it seems.

Also, when Brendan’s examined as a kid by the medics, nobody comments on his having two hearts. That said, William Hartnell’s Doctor only seems to have one heart so maybe it’s something that Time Lords evolve over time.

Another theory might be that Brendan somehow grows up to be Ko Sharmus, the guardian of the crossing to Gallifrey. Though I don’t think Ko Sharmus will be that key a character to have spent a third of the episode building him up if he were Brendan.

There’s that long-running gag of Gallifrey being a place in Ireland – it’s gone on for decades – so I think this is a riff of this gag and that there is something Time Lord-y going on here. Also, the Doctor’s always been nervous of regenerating into a redhead which young Brendan definitely is. So Brendan I think is a young version of either the Doctor or the Master and, given the large amount of time spent focussing on Brendan, I think he’s got to be the Doctor. (I don’t know how this would tie into the child Doctor we see in Listen from the Capaldi era, but hey ho).

I also wonder if the reason why we start in 20th Century countryside is to, in part, mess with people’s heads and think they’ve missed Doctor Who and are watching Call The Midwife instead.

In any event, Brendan’s surely the Timeless Child that’s been mentioned every now and again in the Jodie era.

And how does Gallifrey tie into all this?

Ko Sharmus has been smuggling the last survivors of mankind into Gallifrey seemingly for quite some time. How come there is a portal going to there and who set that up? Given we’ve seen a couple of mind wipes this series, I wonder Ko Sharmus has had his mind wiped and that he’s a Time Lord of some description. 

Also, as a fair few humans have gone to Gallifrey, what’s happened to them there? Are they the original Gallifreyans?

In the classic series, we heard of the Shobogans who are outsiders living beyond the cities so maybe those are the humans.

Back in the 1996 TV Movie, we had Paul McGann’s Doctor and Eric Roberts’ Master telling all and sundry about how the Doctor was half-human on his mother’s side. Maybe his mum was an evacuated future-human? That feels too deep a cut though. I suspect Gallifrey’s mostly here so that the Master can run around being all cryptic and hinting at dark secrets.

And what about Doctor Ruth?

I had thought she was from an alternative universe but, if Brendan’s the Doctor, then I reckon Ruth’s pre-Hartnell. Maybe the Doctor kept on having their mind wiped by Time Lord handlers until the time of William Hartnell’s Doctor.

The only other explanation that would be a dark secret would be if Ruth falls between Troughton and Pertwee’s Doctors as we never saw 2nd regenerate into 3rd. However, that’s going to require a lot of explaining to a Sunday evening BBC1 audience.

And that TARDIS of Ruth’s is deliciously old school. So I think she’s pre-Hartnell but I don’t know quite why her TARDIS would look like a police box given that Clara helped the 1st Doctor knick a default TARDIS. Maybe the TARDIS has her mind wiped as well…

So what’s going to happen to the TARDIS crew?

Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor, Bradley Walsh as Graham, Mandip Gill as Yaz, Tosin Cole as Ryan – Doctor Who _ Season 12, Episode 9 – Photo Credit: Ben Blackall/BBC Studios/BBC America

I’ll be surprised if all of the existing TARDIS team return for next season. Toisin Cole’s doing a lot of conventions and so feels like he’s saying au revoir. I can’t quite see how Ryan would go though (and surely the Cybermen won’t kill off yet another companion) – at least, I can’t see how he would leave on his own. He has been having second thoughts about travelling, as has Yaz.

And Graham seemed to get on rather well with Ravio, played by her off Survivors. I think Graham’s going to settle down with her and the other last humans and quite possibly take Ryan with him. Bradley Walsh is often one of the hardest working people in UK TV as well so I think we’ve done well to get two seasons from him.

That would at least give Yaz’s character more time to grow if she stays in the TARDIS.

It’s worth also remembering that while Jodie’s said she’s back for a third season, that might all be a lie and she might be about to regenerate. (I doubt she is though).

My verdict?

So, if I have to say what’s going to happen on Sunday, it’s Graham and Ryan going; Brendan being revealed to be the Doctor and part of a pre-Hartnell regeneration cycle along with Ruth, who’ll make an appearance.

Whatever’s going to happen, I just hope it’s as entertaining and gripping as AOTC was.

I'm a podcast-hosting Doctor Who obsessive with more than a side-line in sports and music (particularly those of a twee / Britpop bent).

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