True to reports that the newest incarnation of the time-traveling hero known as the Doctor would be unburned by references to its past, the Season 11 premiere of Doctor Who felt like a brand new show. Jodie Whittaker's first outing as the titular Time Lord found the Doctor grounded, both literally and metaphorically, in a story involving working-class people and relatable stakes.
But even though "The Woman Who Fell to Earth" felt groundbreaking in its simplicity and diverse casting strides, Doctor Who still had plenty of nods to its long history, some of which were subtly hidden in plain sight.
Here's a guide to nine big Easter eggs and references to the larger Doctor Who canon strewn throughout "The Woman Who Fell to Earth." Obviously, spoilers ahead!
For nearly the entire episode, the Doctor can't remember her name, and in fact, says she's "looking for a Doctor." This kind of short-term amnesia has happened to the Doctor before. In the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie, the 8th Doctor (Paul McGann) couldn't remember who he was after regenerating either. Also, in the early moments of the first 12th Doctor (Peter Capaldi) episode "Deep Breath," the Doctor also wasn't sure exactly who he was.
Recruiting a Cop
One of the Doctor's newest companions, Yaz (Mandip Gill) is a traffic cop who accidentally stumbles on an alien conspiracy. In the 11th Doctor's first episode, Amy Pond was dressed as a police officer, even though she really wasn't one. But perhaps more relevantly, in the very first episode of the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood, police officer Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) also stumbled onto secret alien-activity. New Who showrunner Chris Chibnall wrote for Torchwood a lot, including the episode after the debut, called "Day One."
A Long Nap
The Doctor needs to sleep off her regeneration in this episode, which isn't really an Easter egg but instead just straight-up continuity.
With the possible exception of Matt Smith's 11th Doctor, most versions of the character spend a lot of time in bed during their first episode. In David Tennant's first episode "The Christmas Invasion," the Doctor is in bed and pajamas for nearly the entire episode. He even sword fights an alien in his pajamas.
Spoons Instead of Weapons
When the Doctor constructs her new sonic screwdriver, one ingredient she seems to throw into the mix is a few spoons. When she sees one spoon, she smiles broadly. This seems to be a reference to the 12th Doctor’s affinity for using a spoon instead of a sword. In "Robots of Sherwood," he won a sword fight with just a glove and spoon.
A Speech About Family
The deepest cut in "The Woman Who Fell to Earth" was without a doubt when Yaz asked the Doctor is she remembered her family. When the Doctor responds, "I carry them with me," her ensuing speech is a subtle parallel of a conversation the 2nd Doctor (Patrick Troughton) had with Victoria (Deborah Watling) in the 1967 episode "The Tomb of the Cybermen."
After the debut of “The Women Who Fell to Earth,” several fans noticed this heartbreaking connection and posted the side-by-side conversation to Twitter.
The New Costume
As is tradition, Jodie Whittaker's 13th Doctor wears the clothes of her previous incarnation for the majority of the episode but ends up getting a new outfit by the end of the episode. And just like her predecessors, the 13th Doctor doesn't agonize over her decision very long. Obviously, as fans have been noting since her costume was first revealed, the long coat is a nod to the numerous flowing coats worn by previous Doctors, while the suspenders seem like a very specific nod to Matt Smith's 11th Doctor.
Grounded, Without a TARDIS
For the first time in a long time, the TARDIS doesn't make an appearance in this episode, at all. And, it looks like that the search for the TARDIS will occupy at least a few more episodes, if not the entire season. But, the Doctor has been separated from the TARDIS before. In fact, nearly the entire run of the 3rd Doctor's (Jon Pertwee) adventures took place on Earth after a severe banishment from the Time Lords. In the first of these 1970 Earthbound episodes "The Spearhead From Space," the Doctor doesn’t fly the TARDIS at all.
The Accidental Companions
At the end of "The Woman Who Fell to Earth," the Doctor accidentally zaps Graham, Ryan, and Yaz across space and time along with her, even though this wasn't her intention. In the very first episode of Doctor Who, "An Unearthly Child," the 1st Doctor (William Hartnell) had accidental companions, too. In addition to their Granddaughter Susan, the Doctor inadvertently kidnapped Susan's teachers Barbara and Ian, too. In fact, the number of companions the Doctor has right now is exactly the same as in the very first episode in 1963: three!
Old-School Theme Music
"The Woman Who Fell to Earth" didn't have an opening title sequence with theme music and is also the first episode of Doctor Who to feature a new composer. Segun Akinola replaces Murray Gold, the composer for the show since 2005.
So far, Akinola's approach to the music has been less bombastic than Gold's, including a very retro-version of the closing credits theme music that sounds straight from 1963. But there was one awesome musical Easter egg. When the Doctor first appears in the train scene, that classic dum-dum-dum thrumming briefly played like a heroic fanfare.