The latest episode of Doctor Who, “It Takes You Away,” was a poignant examination of the human experience of grief and loss. It saw the Doctor and her friends stumble upon a Norwegian cabin that had been boarded up, and attempt to help the stranded child who had been abandoned inside the cottage. They soon found themselves plunged into what may be the most confusing Doctor Who adventures in years, exploring a Mirror Dimension inhabited by a cosmic force that ultimately elected to manifest itself as a talking frog.
This was easily the strangest episode of Doctor Who season 11 to date, and many have criticized the plot for not entirely working. But, for all that’s the case, though, it proved effective by virtue of the quality performances from the main cast. Bradley Walsh in particular shone through in “It Takes You Away,” becoming quite possibly the most three-dimensional, carefully-crafted companion Doctor Who has ever had.
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Over on social media, the reaction to “It Takes You Away” was hilarious. For many, this was a powerful and effective episode that tugged at the heart-strings. At the same time, though, it was also the wackiest Doctor Who story since Douglas Adams wrote The Pirate Planet back in 1978. So let’s explore all the key questions raised by this unusual episode.
- This Page: Doctor Who Questions About Norway & The Anti-Zone
- Page 2: Doctor Who Questions About Ribbons & The Solitract
- Page 3: Doctor Who Questions About The Episode’s Ending
14. What Happened In The Woolly Rebellion?
Let’s start with probably the most obscure question of all. When the Doctor sees a sheep, she has a brief surge of terror because she fears the TARDIS has materialized in the midst of the “Woolly Rebellion.” According to the Doctor, in 2211 there’s “a total renegotiation of the sheep-human relationship” – an event that she describes as an “utter bloodbath.” Amusingly, the Doctor’s friends are unfazed, with Graham more interested in the fact he’s in Norway. It looks as though they’ve all gotten used to the Doctor’s chatter.
13. How Did The Portal Get In The Cabin, And How Did Erik Discover It?
“It Takes You Away” leaves a lot of questions unanswered. The most obvious of all is just why a portal to another plane of reality happened to turn up in a random Norwegian cabin, and how Erik discovered it. Perhaps the answer lies in folklore; there are any number of legends suggesting people can get trapped within mirrors. This may not actually be the first time the Solitract has attempted to reach out through mirrors. Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that the Doctor suggests the mirror portal is designed to tempt people into it – “It’s already tried to lure in Graham,” she observed, a first hint that she was sensing a consciousness at work behind all this. Presumably, Erik realized he didn’t have a reflection, reached out his hand, and was unwittingly drawn into the mirror.
12) How Were The Cabin’s “Protections” Supposed To Work?
Young blind actress Ellie Wallwork plays Hanne in the latest Doctor Who, the grieving daughter who’s been left behind, terrorized, in her father’s cabin. Her dad Erik launched an insane plan to keep her in the cabin, setting up loudspeakers to give out the roaring sound of a beast. What’s more, he boarded her in, ostensibly for her own protection – but really to keep her trapped inside. It’s an astonishingly harsh measure, and frankly it’s surprising the Doctor never calls Erik out on his treatment of Hanne. This is also, however, the biggest plot hole in the entire episode. When Erik tells his story to the Doctor, it’s a simple one; he entered the Mirror Dimension, found his wife miraculously resurrected, and never dared leave for fear she would vanish again. He couldn’t bear to lose her twice. But according to Erik’s telling, then, he never had the chance to return home and set up these faux “protections.”
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11. What Actually Is An Anti-Zone?
According to the Doctor, an Anti-Zone is a sort of buffer zone between two realities, existing to keep them apart for the safety of the universe. Everything in the Anti-Zone is designed to make it treacherous and difficult to traverse, with horrific Flesh Moths that essentially act as guards. When the Doctor and her friends first enter the Anti-Zone, it’s presented as a maze, with the Doctor attempting to use a piece of string to ensure they can return home. Unfortunately, she doesn’t notice when the string is cut.
10. Why Have We Never Seen An Anti Zone In Doctor Who Before?
The Anti-Zone feels evocative of the Upside-Down in Stranger Things, a beautifully sinister and atmospheric place. What’s unclear, though, is just why Doctor Who has never introduced the concept before – after all, this is hardly the first time the Doctor has hopped from one dimension or plane of reality to another. According to the Doctor, “Anti-Zones only exist when the fabric of the universe is under huge, terrible threat.” Presumably, no previous alternate-dimension story has involved the precise conditions where an Anti-Zone would be generated.
Page 2 of 3: Doctor Who Questions About Ribbons & The Solitract
9. Who Was Ribbons And Where Did He Come From?
The Anti-Zone is inhabited by the wonderfully sinister Ribbons of the seven stomachs, an alien being who claims he has always lived there. That may well mean he’s part of the Anti-Zone’s defenses, and that the Doctor and her friends were unwise to accept his guidance; notice that he wanders around the Anti-Zone with a lantern, a convenient lure for the Flesh Moths. When sentient beings stumble into the mirror, his obsession with bartering means he takes away their useful survival aids – Erik’s boots, or the Doctor’s “tubular” – and then takes them deeper into the Anti-Zone, where they’re at risk of the Flesh Moths. Unfortunately for Ribbons, his greed gets the better of him, and he moves at the wrong moment. Nobody mourns his passing.
8. What Is The Solitract?
To the Time Lords, the Solitract is a bedtime story, a fairy tale told to help their children get to sleep. It seems there’s truth in this myth. According to the Doctor, the Solitract was a consciousness that existed before the Big Bang, its mere presence was inimical to existence. “Our reality cannot work with the Solitract energy present,” the Doctor explained. “The most basic ideas of the universe just get ruined.” In a typically zany metaphor, the Doctor explains the Solitract is like a kid with “nuclear chicken pox,” who wants to get involved but always ends up infecting everybody else. At first, the Doctor suspects the Solitract may be malicious, but by the end of the episode it’s clear that the entity is simply lonely.
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7. Who “Exiled” The Solitract To This Plane?
According to the Doctor, the Solitract was “exiled” to a separate plane of reality, the Solitract Plane, allowing the universe to come into being. Her word choice seems to suggest that something conscious was behind the Solitract’s banishing. It’s interesting to note that the story of the Solitract appears to be a Gallifreyan creation myth; notice that the Doctor’s story opens with the sentence, “In the beginning.” That’s surely a deliberate, formulaic parallel to the Biblical account of Creation in Genesis, which opens with the phrase, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.” It seems that this episode dropped a hint as to Gallifreyan religion – and, indeed, suggested that the Time Lord deity may well exist.
6) How Does The Doctor Have So Many Grandparents, And Was One A Zygon Spy?
Of course, this is Doctor Who, so the most obscure cosmic revelations happen side-by-side with obscure, random observations from the Doctor. She explains that she was told the story of the Solitract by her favorite grandmother, Granny Five. Apparently, the Doctor had seven grandparents, which raises odd questions about just how Time Lord families work. While the Doctor is happy to learn that one of Granny Five’s fairy stories was true, she still remembers her as an unreliable narrator – after all, she used to claim Nanna Seven was a Zygon spy.
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Page 3 of 3: Doctor Who Questions About The Episode’s Ending
5. Did You Spot The “Mirror Effect?”
It’s easy to miss that, when the Doctor and her friends enter the Mirror Dimension, their images are actually flipped on the screen. Graham and the Doctor’s haircuts are now parted on the other side, Yaz and the Doctor’s earrings have moved around, their clothes have flipped. Even their actions are slightly altered, with the normally right-handed Thirteenth Doctor holding the sonic screwdriver in her left hand. The most easy-to-spot clue to this is Erik’s T-shirt, where the band logo is the wrong way round.
4. Was That A Jon Pertwee Reference?
In one scene, the Doctor is desperately attempting to use the sonic screwdriver to control the portal. “What if you do something it hasn’t dealt with before,” Yaz suggests. “Like you reverse the polarity or something?” It’s a reference sure to delight old-school Doctor Who fans, who would recognize a catchphrase typically associated with Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor. The phrase was created at Pertwee’s request, so he didn’t have to deal with memorizing new technobabble in every episode. “Yasmin Khan, you speak my language,” Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor tells Yaz – and she’s right.
3) Why Did The Solitract Appear As A Frog?
The end of “It Takes You Away” is undeniably one of the weirdest scenes in Doctor Who history. The Doctor walks through a dazzling white light to come face-to-face with the Solitract. “The Solitract is a frog,” she observes, reeling, “who talks like Grace?” As strange as this may be, it makes an odd kind of sense. Grace used to quite like frogs, and the Solitract thus associated the form of a frog with something that brought joy and pleasure. It’s important to remember that the Solitract isn’t really used to interacting with people, so it probably thinks this is a good attempt to get the Doctor to relax in its presence. “There’s me thinking the day had no more surprises left,” the Doctor comments, speaking for pretty much every viewer.
2. How Did The Doctor And Her Friends Get Out Of The Anti Zone So Easily?
Tragically, the mere presence of people from our reality on the Solitract Plane led to its beginning to break down. No longer needed, the Anti-Zone began to shrink and crumble. Given the Anti-Zone was originally presented as a pretty large maze, how did the Doctor and her friends escape before the walls crushed them? The only possible solution to this problem is to presume that the rate of collapse wasn’t standard across the entire Anti-Zone. Instead, it could be that the main passage – which seems to be the center of the Anti-Zone – was the last thing to go.
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1) Is Bradley Walsh The Real Star Of Doctor Who Season 11?
The real star of “It Takes You Away” is undoubtedly Bradley Walsh. It’s important to remember that, for Graham, traveling in the TARDIS is itself an escape from his grief and loss; he simply can’t bear pottering around the house he used to share with Grace. This episode tugs on Graham’s heart-strings from the start, as he remembers that he and Grace always wanted to go to Norway. Then he’s exposed to the Solitract Plane, and is left reeling by the apparently-resurrected Grace. Walsh pulls off a remarkably nuanced portrayal, demonstrating an impressive emotional depth. The end scene is touching, with Ryan finally accepting that Graham is his grandfather.
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Doctor Who season 11 concludes next Sunday.