The Red Lines Page

November 20, 2011

Widow’s peek

Filed under: drwho — Peter A @ 2:20 pm

How splendid to have a peek, during Children in Need 2011, at the forthcoming Doctor Who Christmas Special, The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe.

Being a Doctor Who fan, obviously the most important thing for me to do immediately is to pedantically analyse the title.

So “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe” (38) is comfortably the longest on-screen Doctor Who TV episode title, ahead of:

  • [Update] The Sylvester McCoy story “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy” (31)
  • The Jon Pertwee seven-part story “Doctor Who and the Silurians” (28) which uniquely had “Doctor Who and the…” in its on-screen episode title.
  • “Guests of Madame Guillotine” (27), from the days when the William Hartnell stories named each episode separately — in this case, episode two of a story now known as “The Reign of Terror“.

These counts assume you include “spaces”. But this latest story is still easily the longest even if you only count letters.

Another episode with a count of 27 is “Small Prophet, Quick Return” — which was the first to contain punctuation, specifically a comma. That was 46 years ago, as episode two of what we call “The Myth Makers“.

Other on-screen episode titles containing punctuation are:

Update courtesy of David Darlington (see comments),  also punctuated are:

The shortest on-screen episode title is “42” with a count of two. The TV Movie does not have an on-screen episode title, so that cannot be counted as “zero”. “42” is also the episode with the fewest letters in it (zero), and also has the unusual distinction of having fewer characters appearing in its title (two) than appear in the episode (twelve, including the Doctor and Martha). [Edit] As Paul Rhodes comments (below), it is not entirely unique in this respect.

“The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe” doesn’t use the serial comma (sometimes called the Oxford comma or Harvard comma), which would have upped the count to 39. Despite the serial comma being preferred usage in the US, there’s no suggestion that BBC America will recaption the story as “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe”.

The word “Doctor” has appeared in 14 on-screen episode titles, with half of those within a seven-week period during the Jon Pertwee era:

  • “The Death of Doctor Who” in the William Hartnell story “The Chase” (They called him Doctor Who? Did no-one get the memo?)
  • “A Holiday for the Doctor” in the William Hartnell story “The Gunfighters” (the last time that multi-episode Doctor Who stories had individual titles for nearly forty years).
  • Seven episodes of “Doctor Who and the Silurians”
  • The Christopher Eccleston episode “The Doctor Dances” (also written by Steven Moffat)
  • “The Doctor’s Daughter”
  • Another Christmas episode, David Tennant’s “The Next Doctor” (debate among yourselves whether this counts as a reference to the Doctor or not)
  • “The Doctor’s Wife” (who we all know is really Neil Gaiman as this reveals)
  • The Matt Smith story “Vincent and the Doctor

And the word “Doctors” appears in episode titles on another seven eight occasions: “The Three Doctors” (four episodes), “The Five Doctors” (originally one episode), and “The Two Doctors” (two three episodes).

As you can see, I am greatly looking forward to the Christmas episode (and not just the opening titles). And you’ll also notice I have far too much time on my hands.

Edit: Now with further corrections here


  1. Further punctuation: Time-Flight; The Talons of Weng-Chiang…

    Comment by David Darlington — November 20, 2011 @ 2:40 pm | Reply

    • Excellent, thank you. I have updated above.

      I also mysteriously forgot “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy”, despite that being my original tweet that set this whole thing off.

      Comment by Peter A — November 20, 2011 @ 2:53 pm | Reply

  2. The on-screen titles for various Troughton stories use quotation marks i.e. “The Krotons”, “The Space Pirates”.

    Comment by Jonny Morris — November 20, 2011 @ 3:00 pm | Reply

  3. Plus Rider From Shang-Tu, The King’s Demons, Love & Monsters.

    Comment by Jonny Morris — November 20, 2011 @ 3:06 pm | Reply

  4. ““The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe” doesn’t use the serial comma (sometimes called the Oxford comma or Harvard comma)”

    It does at the start of that paragraph though.

    Comment by merseymal — November 20, 2011 @ 3:33 pm | Reply

  5. I’m glad someone has finally done this. Lack of a comprehensive list and analysis of this kind has been driving me slightly mad, to be honest.

    Comment by Andy Piper — November 20, 2011 @ 5:05 pm | Reply

  6. […] to my pedantic comments about Doctor Who episode titles… brilliantly, my even more pedantic friends and readers have […]

    Pingback by Widow’s peekabooboo « The Red Lines Page — November 20, 2011 @ 5:20 pm | Reply

  7. Tut! Incomplete pedantry. How many other episodes have that “unusual distinct”? Was “Kidnap” the first?

    Comment by Paul Rhodes — November 21, 2011 @ 12:24 am | Reply

    • Indeed! Thanks. I have updated the post

      Comment by Peter A — November 27, 2011 @ 1:57 pm | Reply

  8. The Two Doctors was three parts.

    Comment by Dave — November 21, 2011 @ 10:17 pm | Reply

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