Doctor Who 12.9 & 12.10 – Ascension of the Cybermen & The Timeless Children

Victoria Walker thinks it’s appropriate that the Doctor has an avatar in the Garda Siochana

Chris Chibnall has pulled out all of the stops in The Timeless Children, and it is certainly a finale to remember. I decided I have not enough to say about Ascension of the Cybermen, so we’ll start there.

Honestly, I found myself rather uninterested by the main plot of Ascension. What was far more interesting was the seemingly unconnected plot set in Ireland, of Brendan the invincible Guard. I’ll be honest, once we see the clock at the end of the episode it becomes quite obvious where Chibnall is planning to take this plot, and its connection to the Timeless Child. One could question the choice of Ireland as the setting for this plot, and now I can be certain in my assumptions about it, we shall delve further. 

In the period chosen (probably somewhere between 1950-1970) Ireland is still an overwhelmingly rural country, serving to provide a very pretty backdrop. This contrasts significantly with the more supernatural elements of the narrative, and especially with the Cybermen plot that is the main thrust of the episode. Often images of Ireland of this sort are presented as overwhelmingly nostalgic, an expectation played upon by much of Edna O’Brien’s work. The electroshock style therapy (is it the mind probe?) cuts through the nostalgic image created by the setting.

Why choose Ireland? One could argue that for the reasons above, you could quite easily set it anywhere remotely rural. Ireland is a historically oppressed country, and much Irish literature reflects this. It seems (from a very limited reading) that a few ideas have been borrowed to construct what is being termed the Brendan plot. One pervading theme (especially from the time of the Great Famine in the mid-nineteenth century to the modern-day) is the exploration of oppression through the experiences of a single individual.  Perhaps Chibnall chose to set this plot in Ireland to reflect some of the lack of agency the Irish people have felt for centuries onto the Doctor. The Timeless Child has never had much agency over their actions until relatively recently.

The Brendan narrative leads well into The Timeless Children. The development of this episode was not difficult to predict insofar as the clues had all been placed, and most fans had gone some way to piece them all together. Being slightly predictable is not a criticism I can properly level at the episode, as it opens a lot of new questions regarding the identity of the Doctor and the dealings of the Time Lords. Chibnall has by and large succeeded in the shake-up of the whole canon, without directly throwing out the bits and pieces we know and love.

It is so undisturbing in terms of the established canon that it does not even significantly contradict Marc Platt’s 1997 Virgin New Adventures novel Lungbarrow. I (in other places) have even gone so far as to argue that this must simply prove the existence of Looms, on which Time Lords are genetically woven in Lungbarrow. We are still taking it for granted that Susan truly is the Doctor’s granddaughter (unless you want to imagine her as his bit on the side). Shobogan physiology is more likely to be different from the Timeless Child’s physiology than it is to be particularly similar, and so it is most likely that Time Lords are woven on Looms as a genetic thread. Lungbarrow does state that this has not always been the case and so the return of Tecteun with the power of regeneration is likely to be the point at which that changed. So, your choice is which you would rather imagine being true.

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