According to the Doctor Who TV review, “The Magician’s Apprentice: The Good, The Bad and The Nerdy” by Gustaff Behr:
Despite having low reservations given the direction of the series lately, there weren’t a lot of things lacking in this episode. This is genuinely a great Dalek story. It really is, but I do take some offense at using ‘the Doctor is dying’ trope yet again. This has been three major storylines in three different seasons, notably Series 6 (Silencio), Series 7 (Trenzalore) and now Series 9 (Skaro).
Also, why do we keep saying this is his greatest battle or darkest hour? I thought Trenzalore was his greatest battle. But River said Demon’s Run was his darkest hour. I’m confused. And these are just two examples. Stop trying to escalate things needlessly. You can create a sense of urgency by just having the characters say ’this is gonna be a tricky one’. Things like ‘this battle will be my last’ is just trailer bait and cheapens the ‘final’ battles and ‘darkest’ hours that have come before.
I thought I would appropriately expand on this so we get the bigger picture that the ‘the Doctor is dying’ trope extends as far back as Series 4 (Your Song Is Ending), and Series 4B (He Will Knock Four Times). Before I do this, however, I will need to address the vantage points of the Executive Producers: Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat.
The Vantage Point of Russell T Davies
Much of what we can understand through his time as Executive Producer is as simple as this: Earth is the center of the Whoniverse. This is shown through most of his major narratives. These include Rose:
Aliens of London and World War Three:
The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances:
The Parting of the Ways:
And The Christmas Invasion:
With Series 2, the show began to expand beyond Earth in stories, but fundamentally, the major stories continued to take place on Earth. These include Tooth and Claw:
The Girl In The Fireplace:
Rise of the Cybermen and The Age of Steel:
Army of Ghosts and Doomsday:
The Runaway Bride:
The Shakespeare Code:
Daleks In Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks:
Human Nature and The Family of Blood:
The Sound of Drums and Last of the Time Lords:
Voyage of the Damned:
The Sontaran Stratagem and The Poison Sky:
The Unicorn and The Wasp:
The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End:
The Next Doctor:
Planet of the Dead:
And The End of Time:
I believe from Russell T Davies is in danger through the eyes of the companion. We are watching the events through the eyes of the companion and relate to the Doctor in this way. Earth is the center of the Whoniverse through the companion.
The Vantage Point of Steve Moffat
This is much different from Steve Moffat’s vantage point. Whereas Earth is the center of the Whoniverse through the companion, in Moffat’s Whoniverse, the Doctor is the center of the Whoniverse and we are watching events through the eyes of the Doctor. This includes The Eleventh Hour:
Victory of the Daleks:
The Time of Angels and Flesh and Stone:
The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood:
Vincent and the Doctor:
The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang:
A Christmas Carol:
The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon:
The Doctor’s Wife:
The Rebel Flesh and The Almost People:
A Good Man Goes to War and Let’s Kill Hitler:
The Wedding of River Song:
The Doctor, The Widow, and The Wardrobe:
Asylum of the Daleks:
Dinosaurs on a Spaceship:
The Angels Take Manhattan:
The Bells of Saint John:
Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS:
Nightmare in Silver:
The Name of the Doctor:
The Day of the Doctor:
And The Time of the Doctor:
From Steven Moffat’s vantage point, the Doctor is clearly the center of the Whoniverse.
‘The Doctor is dying’: Series 4 and Series 4B
During the episode, Planet of the Ood, Ood Signma prophesizes the Doctor’s oncoming death, with his statement:
Ood Sigma: I think your song must end soon.
Ood Sigma: Every song must end.
Doctor: Yeah. Er, what about you? You still want to go home?
Donna: No. Definitely not.
Doctor: Then we’ll be off.
Ood Sigma: Take this song with you.
Donna: We will.
Ood Sigma: And know this, Doctor Donna. You will never be forgotten. Our children will sing of the Doctor Donna, and our children’s children, and the wind and the ice and the snow will carry your names forever.
This leads to what would be the false cliffhanger depicted The Stolen Earth:
However, because the Doctor doesn’t die in that story, this prophecy remains intact through the rest of Series 4, as seen here with Carmen in Planet of the Dead:
Carmen: Doctor? You take care now.
Doctor: You too. Chops and gravy, lovely.
Carmen: No, but you be careful. Because your song is ending, sir.
Doctor: What do you mean?
Carmen: It is returning. It is returning through the dark. And then, Doctor? Oh, but then he will knock four times.
This means that the prophecy exists in both parts of Series 4.
‘The Doctor is dying’: Series 5, Series 6, Series 7, Series 8, and Series 9
During Series 5, many stories depict various elements associated with what would be the Doctor’s demise. River Song in Flesh and Stone states the following:
River: It’s a long story. Doctor. It can’t be told, it has to be lived. No sneak previews. Well, except for this one. You’ll see me again quite soon, when the Pandorica opens.
Doctor: The Pandorica. Ha! That’s a fairy tale.
River: Doctor, aren’t we all? I’ll see you there.
Doctor: I look forward to it.
River: I remember it well.
Other elements include the painting by Vincant van Gogh:
These all leads to the Doctor’s imprisonment in the Pandorica:
During Series 6, the Doctor doesn’t just die once, but ‘The Doctor is dying’ trope is utilized three whole times. The first time in The Impossible Astronaut:
Let’s Kill Hitler:
And lastly in The Wedding of River Song:
During Series 7, Trenzalore and his imminent death isn’t touched upon until The Name of the Doctor:
He eventually regenerates in The Time of the Doctor:
During Series 8, things do change making Earth the center of the threat for a change:
With Prologue, we are again facing the Doctor’s imminent death: