Monday, May 3, 2010


The 'Doctor Who' episode "Victory Of The Daleks" had the Eleventh Incarnation of the Doctor revisiting his old friend Winston Churchill.
Played by Ian McNeice (a favorite character actor of mine, by the way), Churchill comes across as playful and everybody's favorite chubby defender of the realm. But as far as Toobworld Central is concerned, he wasn't the real Churchill. And the Doctor knew this - there's not much you can put past him! - but he accepted the situation and probably played a hand in its set-up.

Toobworld Central has dealt with this sort of situation before, with Prime Minister Green in "Torchwood: Children Of Earth" from last year.
So apparently, those protocols, which were activated whenever there was an alien threat, had been in place for at least the last fifty years. (Of course, another inspiration for this idea comes from both the creative universes for literature and the movies - "The Eagle Has Landed".)

In this case, the real Churchill had to be protected in case these Ironsides "created" by Professor Bracewell did prove to be sinister. Since the Doctor was late in answering the Prime Minister's call for help (by at least a month), it was decided that for the sake of the government's continuity and the bolstering of public morale, the real Winston Churchill would have to be safely kept in hiding. And while he was hidden away, an impostor would take his place in order to reassure the public and to fool the enemies of the United Kingdom.
He was still running things, of course; Churchill would never willingly step aside - he would want to keep his hand in, gripping the throttle of government tightly. Since Toobworld technology is far more advanced than in the Trueniverse (there are secret installations on the Moon, Cyborgs walk among us.), the Faux Churchill was probably wearing a small ear-bud through which the True Churchill was feeding him the information as to what he should say when dealing with the Doctor - the background of the situation, the history of the "Ironsides", who various people might be in the War Room.

As I said earlier, the Doctor had to be in on this deception. And I think we got to see a pre-planned ritual acted out when these two great men met again. The Doctor couldn't be sure he was actually meeting with a Churchill substitute when he arrived and "Churchill" was probably expecting somebody who looked markedly different from the Time Lord's Eleventh incarnation. So a series of passwords and hand signals had been decided upon in the past which could assure both of them that they were dealing with the real thing.

When the Doctor first stepped out of the TARDIS, he wasn't exactly sure of the situation - which is why he left the door slightly closed so that Amy would be protected. She could always slam it shut if need be. But when he saw "Churchill", he must have felt that the situation was sincere and told his new Companion to come out and join him.
To begin the verification process, the Doctor held out his hand in greeting but Churchill turned his expected hand-shake into a gesture of supplication - palm upwards and the fingers crooked in a "give it over" movement. Laughing with relief, the Doctor proceeded to lock the TARDIS even as "Churchill" continued the ruse about his demand for the TARDIS key.

This may have begun as a cover story for what they were actually doing, but "Churchill" was probably just parroting the words of the Prime Minister, who really wanted that key for his own use in the war. But as the Doctor reminded him, "it doesn't work like that."
The Doctor may have been satisfied that he was meeting with a Churchill doppelganger, but the second part of the ritual was meant to satisfy the acting Prime Minister. This time, instead of hand gestures and secret hand-shakes, code phrases were used.

"Must I take it from you by force?"

"I'd like to see you try."

After a moment in which "Churchill" was probably listening to Churchill through the ear-bud and waiting for the Prime Minister's confirmation that this was indeed the Doctor, the pseudo-Winston told his guards to stand down from their protective stance since he had given the correct response.

Watch that scene now again with that interpretation in mind:

I realize there's no way that producer Steven Moffat or the episode's writer, Mark Gatiss, ever had this interpretation in mind. As is the case with almost every TV show I stick my grubby fingers into, they're working on a show which they consider to be within its own version of the world, with no concern about how it jibes with other TV programs. As far as they were concerned, this was supposed to be the real Churchill. That re-introduction at the TARDIS had no other deeper meaning than two men getting re-acquainted and once again sparking what must have been an old debate between the two of them.

Let's face it - as good as McNeice is, he just doesn't come across as a very convincing Winston Churchill. But he does make for a very good Churchill impersonation.
Ooops. Sorry, Winnie.

And besides, there was no way I could let 'Doctor Who' be whisked off to an alternate TV dimension. I had to twist myself with pretzel logic far too often during the RTD reign in order to splain away the discrepancies.

However, it looks as though Moffat has plans to realign everything with his Pandorica storyline this season. So fingers crossed, we'll see by the last episode whether or not all of these splainins are really necessary.......


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