A book about the making of this episode, "Unnatural Selection", was published by Miwk Publishing.
Big Brother Is Watching you in Light City. Happiness Is Mandatory. Happiness through acceptance. Productivity through happiness. Questions are forbidden. Questions lead to answers, answers lead to knowledge, knowledge leads to freedom, freedom leads to dissatisfaction, and dissatisfaction to unhappiness. The Infotainment broadcasts teach you what you need to know. The adventures of the Hero and his two companions prepare you for your daily work routine. If you notice any illegal behaviour, report to your Conscience. You will be brought to the Editor for Revision.
One day, a prole worker is reported by his lover for asking questions. In defiance, he throws himself off the walkway to his death, and his lover is brought to the Editor to be Revised. But while probing deeply into the Female's mind and body, the Editor notices something brewing in Light City, and he knows that it has a strange connection to the Infotainment and the adventures of the Hero.
The Revised Female, set up with a new husband and a job as a nurse, reports to her Conscience. She's having a lot of trouble lately. After her latest Revision, she's suddenly able to remember bits and pieces of the Infotainment broadcast as though it were her own life. She remembers the Hero of the broadcast and his two companions, and she can almost — but not quite — remember being part of the group. They were playing in the fountain, having fun and asking questions.
Her Conscience brings her to the Editor. When the nurse realises that the Editor is playing games with her, asking questions, talking about revolution, she naturally reports him to the Conscience. But the Conscience has waited years for her to regain her past awareness. Because he loved her before she was Revised. Her voluntary Revision enabled La Résistance to plant a seed into her mind, during the last Revision process: a painstakingly reconstructed memory disc of the Eighth Doctor, a true hero who inspired the Infotainment broadcasts. The memories were cobbled together by the rebels, incomplete, inexpertly implemented, but there. Deep inside the nurse's mind is the consciousness of the Doctor, unlocked by hearing the sound of a child's spinning top. And with it, she could lead the revolution. Because La Résistance is everywhere. In the unused tunnels underneath the city. In the Infotainment broadcast centre, where the rebels secretly whittled away at the episodes' censorship until the true nature of the Hero could be seen by those who want to see it. The nurse can't bear it, and the Conscience is captured by the Editor when she reports him. The Editor says that he's in on the revolution. He just needs to torture the Conscience a little bit first, just for show. And he just needs to know where the Doctor's memories are stored.
When the Conscience fails to crack under the torture, the Editor becomes ever more obsessed with the nurse and her supposed plans for revolution. He follows her across the metropolis, to the docks, outside the walls of Light City. His mind breaks when, for the first time, he sees a life outside of everything he was taught — shapes, sounds, music he doesn't have words for, the forbidden possibility of another world altogether.
The Editor is brought to the city council, to be Revised for his obsessive behaviour and acts of terrorism. He planted bombs. Not the revolution, just him. After all, there was no revolution. He was the revolution: the only member of La Résistance. The nurse was already Revised into the new Conscience days before. And how can there have been a door to the outside at the harbor, if there is no harbor? Travel is forbidden. Harbors don't exist...
And there's the matter of the Conscience's little toy — a spinning top — which triggers something new in the Editor's memories. The Editor knows he's going mad, but he has to find the nurse, has to find the person who has the Doctor deep inside her mind. And he does find the memory disc: hidden inside the spinning top. Ruthlessly, the Editor destroys it, because he loves the State, he venerates the regime.
The nurse is Revised again, this time into the highest authority: the Censor. Because her latent memories of being Charley Pollard give her a very clear perspective: she wants to be a mother, a mother to the nation. And revolution will happen if the nation is ready: if it doesn't need a mother anymore. But like a spinning top, the nation will revolve only in circles: seemingly moving, but staying in place because of the constant urge for revolution. The Editor remembers, finally, that he's supposed to be the Doctor, and that he's supposed to take care of Charley and C'rizz. The Censor shows him a recording of the Doctor, Charley and C'rizz arriving in Light City, messing around in the fountain, playing with a spinning top and chatting about reincarnation.
The Editor has secretly recorded the whole conversation, and broadcasts it on the screen outside while he and the Censor talk. But the Doctor's mind doesn't matter anymore. With the memory disc destroyed, there's nothing that can bring him back. Outside, and with the Censor's absolute approval, the people see their conversation taking place. The revolution is starting, and the Censor and the Editor watch through the window as the whole city starts crashing in on itself.
The Doctor made his bargain: his memories in exchange for his friends' safety. Had he known his memories would be used like this, he would never have consented... because after he left, their minds were exploited as the axis of the experiment. The Doctor, Charley and C'rizz were only in Light City for one day before they travelled on again. The Editor knows that his memories are a lie, because no one in Light City has two hearts, let alone two legs. The citizens of Light City, programmed with the personalities of the three, have risen above their dystopian nightmare after hundreds of generations, and are ready to be born into a new society.
- Amnesiac Lover: The nurse.
- Anti-Villain: The Editor — so, so much.
- Arc Words: For the entire Divergent arc: revolution, reincarnation, evolution, death and rebirth, becoming food for other lifeforms, reptilian into mammalian, fluid consciousness between multiple beings, mother, spinning in a circle, breaking free of the cycle, the next life and the beyond.
- Ascetic Aesthetic
- Big Brother Is Employing You
- Big Brother Is Watching: Almost every scene starts with people watching a recording of the previous scene. Many of which include people telling each other they're not being recorded. The effect is deeply unsettling.
- Brain Uploading
- Break the Haughty: The Editor gets very thoroughly broken.
- Call-Back: The fairy tale from "Scherzo" suddenly makes a lot of sense. The nurse also remembers dialogue from many past adventures, most prominently from "Living Legend" and "Neverland".
- Chekhov's Gun: The spinning top.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Hearing Paul McGann torture India Fisher and Conrad Westmaas is deeply unsettling. Especially because he's going for Creepy Monotone instead of Evil Is Hammy this time around.
- Continuity Nod: Axos and Zarbi are mentioned.
- Credits Gag: The theme song sounds a little bit different from what we're used to. That's because it's the opening to the Show Within a Show. The final credits go on for a while longer with a nice synthy outro.
- Deadpan Snarker: Charley gets a beautiful jab in:The Doctor: Buddhism is a relatively simple philosophy, C'rizz. Like children, we're here to learn. If we learn well during our life we're rewarded with nirvana. If not, we're reborn in a new body to try to accomplish what we failed to learn the first time 'round. Easy as falling off a log.Charley: And how many bodies have you had, now?The Doctor: Yes, well. That's beside the point, Charley.
- Dystopia: The classic variety, including a version of the Hundred Flowers Campaign: the Jubilee festival.
- The Ending Changes Everything
- The Evils of Free Will
- Foreshadowing: The cycle of regeneration becomes a major theme in the rest of the Divergent Universe arc.
- Happiness Is Mandatory: "Happiness through acceptance, productivity through happiness."
- Homage: The whole thing is a homage to the concepts explored in Dark City, 1984 and Logan's Run.
- Hour Glass Plot
- In Medias Res
- Ironic Echo: The engineer's rant before he gets executed gets repeated nearly word for word by The Editor.
- Knight Templar: The Editor.
- Language Equals Thought: Questions are forbidden in Light City, because questions lead to doubt and doubt leads to unhappiness. Metaphors are also forbidden, and when the nurse and the Editor are shown glimpses of the outside, their minds simply can't comprehend it because they've never been taught words for the concepts.
- La Résistance
- Laser-Guided Amnesia
- Leitmotif: The episode only has 18 minutes of music; all other background sound is made of various manipulated recordings of a humming top.
- Light Is Not Good: The city is described as a White Void of a place with no shadow. (The Doctor, luckily, brought some Ray-Bans.) There's no way out, you are always being watched and you'll be mind-wiped if you don't adhere to the rules.
- Living Memory
- Loss of Identity
- Meaningful Background Event:
- It's almost impossible to notice without having the script handy, but at one point, the Editor picks up a pencil and draws lazy circles on his desk... picks up another pencil and taps it in a double heartbeat rhythm... then picks up a third pencil and scratches it on the desk impatiently.
- The Doctor's toy soldiers symbolise the proles of Light City.
- Mythology Gag: The Show Within a Show has got several Lost episodes and some were commissioned but never completed.
- Memory Gambit: It appears the Doctor is doing this, hoping to restore his memories and reveal the truth about the regime. It turns out this is part of the City's plan, to make someone think they are the Doctor to instigate rebellion.
- Memory-Wiping Crew: What the Editors do.
- Mind Rape
- Mind Screw: In what must be the understatement of the century, it's casually said that "self-referencing topics can be confusing".
- Mind Wipe
- Mythology Gag: The Infotainment music recalls Jim Mortimore's theme tune for the Doctor Who Audio Visuals.
- Nothing Is Scarier: We never found out what the torture consists of. All we hear is crying and whimpering.
- Only Sane Man: The Conscience.
- Painting the Medium: And done beautifully. It's also the only episode that only has a cast list, instead of proper credits, just to confuse you even more.
- Previously On
- Public Execution: And nobody cares. Nobody can care.
- Reduced to Ratburgers: The Editor. The really nasty part is what he has to use for bait.
- Released to Elsewhere: "Going on holiday" does not mean what it means. You just get mindwiped.
- Running Gag: Apart from Eight developing amnesia as usual, there's also an unintended Running Gag: the Doctor still can't pronounce Dutch.
- Shining City: Played for horror.
- Show Within a Show: There's a version of Doctor Who in this story. Many of its older episodes are missing, and many were never filmed or broadcast.
- Shout-Out: The memory-erasing faction is called Ministry of Tourism.
- Spanner in the Works
- Special Edition Theme Song: The regular opening goes away warbly and into static, like the tuning of a radio, or an old TV, then goes over into a...
- A what?
- Stealth Pun: Editor -> Eighth Doctor.
- Tempting Fate: The Doctor states as he enters the city:The Doctor: "I can't see anything bad happening here!"
- They Should Have Sent A Poet: The Editor seeing the world outside Light City for the first time.
- Thought Crime
- Tomato Surprise: The Editor is really the Doctor... except not.
- Torture Porn
- Torture Technician
- Trigger Phrase
- Un-person: The faceless masses have no names, no identity, and aren't allowed any free will.
- We Are as Mayflies: The inhabitants go through a hundred generations in a human year.
- Wham Line: "Eight [limbs], of course!"
- While Rome Burns: The Censor calmly tells the Editor what is going on while the revolt happens.
- Whole Plot Reference: To Dark City and 1984, with a touch of We.
- World Limited to the Plot: Invoked. The citizens of Light City know that their city is the capitol, and that many other locations exist. But mentioning them, or trying to leave the city, is forbidden. And a "holiday abroad" doesn't mean a holiday abroad. When the Editor experiences the world outside, his mind pretty much shuts down from sensory overload.