What has happened to The Silver Turk?



TV As you know, I'm not reviewing Doctor Who any more so I can't say whether I thought Sunday's episode, The Haunting of Villa Diodati, was any good or not.  But it did open a canister full of giant maggots for us McGann fans since it takes place on exactly same night, in the same isolated house as when the Eighth Doctor met one of his greatest companion, Mary Shelley.  Which as ever with such things leaves us to ponder - how can two stories happen in the same place at the same time from different eras?

For the initiated, for about ten years in the Big Finish audios, there was a running gag about the Doctor having traveled in time with the actual Mary Shelley.  In 2009, a portmanteau release, A Company of Friends, featured companions from other media (Bernice Summerfield, Izzy Sinclair from the comics and Fritz from the books) and a story about Shelley.  Soon afterwards we were gifted with three stories, The Silver Turk (featuring a Cyberman), The Witch From The Well and Army of Death which were fondly received.  What happens now?

Few other franchises have this problem.  The likes of Star Trek and Star Wars are pretty clear on their canonicity rules.  The former that essentially anything filmed is canon (even The Animated Series these days) and anything else is a fun read.  The latter I've covered at length somewhat elsewhere (although that piece was speculation on what would happen to the EU after Disney took over and in fact they dumped anything which wasn't filmed and started again).  Let's not even get started on the Buffyverse.

Doctor Who's a special case (and stop me if I'm repeating myself) (like you can on this non-interactive page) because canonicity is in the eye of the viewer.  Some take the Star Trek approach.  Others anything performed (so TV and Big Finish).  Some, like the writers of AHistory, include anything which fits neatly into the television continuity.  Others like me consider everything canonical, including the TV Comic strips, whatever was going on in the World annuals in the seventies, the Cushing films and especially Dimensions in Time.

The fact that the Eighth Doctor directly references some of his Big Finish companions on screen during his regeneration scene (all hail Steven Moffat for that) pretty much puts those audios into the canon even if you're one of the conservative ones.  He doesn't mention Mary, but then he doesn't mention the Griffins or anyone who turned up after that episode was filmed like Liv, Bliss or poor old Helen Sinclair.  Nevertheless given that Mary was mentioned in a story featuring one of the regeneration mentions, she counts too.

So how do we square the fact that the Thirteenth Doctor and the fam turned up and had an adventure on the same night as the Eighth Doctor did in the Mary's Story audio before scooping her up and heading off into an adventure and with a slightly different characterisation to the one we saw on screen?  The obvious answer would be the Time War, which is how AHistory ultimately rationalises there being two stories called Human Nature which have roughly the same narratives featuring two different Doctors.

Except, frankly, wiping the Eighth Doctor's Mary Shelley stories from the timeline is unacceptable.  Utilizing the Time War or Faction Paradox or the crack on Amy Pond's wall when she was seven years old always feels like a cop out especially if the idea is that it erases the adventure completely to the extent that the Doctor himself doesn't even remember it for reasons other than living two thousand years and having to take a second or long enough to create some jeopardy in a flagging story line to recollect it.

In which case it's perfectly fine for the Thirteenth Doctor to not remember the earlier adventure.  There's been a lot of hydrogen floating through the Crab Nebulas since then.  Plus there's whole sections of my own life I haven't the foggiest about.  Some people seem to be able to remember their childhood with total clarity.  I can barely remember the 70s and I lived there for six whole years and the early 80s are almost completely gone too these days.  So I can sympathise with the Doctor in this regard.

Interestingly (within a certain narrow bandwidth) the multiple authors of the Tardis Databank page for Mary Shelley ignores The Haunting of Villa Diodati almost completely apart from for some biographical material, preferring to the keep the Eighth Doctor adventures as its orthodoxy.  Almost the first thing the page for the latter story does is suggest its an "alternate account" and history is "unusually flexible around that night".  A lot of Eighth Doctor fans at the Databank.  The war around his biography page is legendary.

But how did both stories happen and in what order?  Twitter user @fantasticalicef offers the following utterly brilliant suggestion:



Not only does this explain the whole business of having two Eighth Doctors land during Mary's Story, but also why Thirteenth doesn't remember, for the reason which is often the case when various incarnations bump into each other, as per Day of the Doctor.

Except the people in the house, notably Mary Shelley fail to mention the events of the night before to the early or late era Eighth Doctors.  At the beginning of the series, the Doctor gave the people she'd met along the way some of the old Donna Noble treatment and erased their memories (something hasn't oddly done since).  So it's entirely possible that some time between this shot:



And this shot:



She popped back and gave everyone the whammy so they wouldn't remember the events of that day (and wonder what happened to the help) ready for Eighth to turn up and throw them back into another similarly terrifying adventure with Mary eventually receiving her Frankenstein inspiration from a different Cyberman.  But of course there's nothing in the episode to suggest that's what she did so perhaps we could stick with the idea that the storm fried their brains too.

None of this is perfect, because of course it isn't, but I'm certainly not part of the crowd which Paul Kirkley mentions in his superb Guardian piece about fickle fandom who are apparently using the discrepancy as another excuse to slam a show which has much improved in its second season with only one properly duff episode and there's always at least one of those in every season, the drama equivalent of your tonsils, absorbing the infection of poor quality writing from elsewhere.

Ultimately it's all about stories, it's all just one long fairy tale and to an extent if you start to try to make everything fit together you're taking away some of the magic (even if it is a fascinating intellectual exercise for those of us who want to add to the fiction without having any talent).  The Doctor says history is swirling around her and in a season which looks to be in the process of making huge changes to the overall premise of the franchise again (will it be looms?) how these two stories fit together should be the least of our fanxiety.

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