A poem published in 1681 might offer up insight into Doctor Who’s deeper mysteries, including the identity of whoever is inside the vault that the Doctor and Nardole are guarding below St. Luke’s University.
On Friday, the connections between Doctor Who and Andrew Marvell’s poem “To His Coy Mistress” were made by producer Tony Bracewell in a chat with Den of Geek. Bracewell is convinced that Doctor Who’s showrunner, Steven Moffat, has been deliberately referencing the poem over time; two episode titles in recent seasons resemble lines from the poem.
The poem begins with, “Had we but world enough, and time,” which is lent to Season 10’s penultimate episode: “World Enough and Time.” Similarly, the seventh line, “I would / Love you ten years before the Flood” could be alluded to by Season 9’s “Before the Flood” — which most fans will remember as the one that opens on the Doctor explaining the bootstrap paradox involving Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
Though Tony Bracewell draws further connections to World Enough and Space-Time, a book written by theoretical physicist John Earman about different conceptions of space-time, “To His Coy Mistress” itself offers further fuel for Season 10 vault theories. As the Doctor himself says, “Poetry, physics — the same thing!”
The very title of the poem references a coy “mistress,” which could be an obvious nod to Missy, who confirmed herself in Season 8’s “Dark Water” that “Missy” was indeed short for Mistress, the male form of the Master. The poem itself, though largely about wistful romantic love, also talks about the burden of time and mortality, two things very pertinent for a Doctor about to make his grand exit.
But most glaring of all are lines 25 to 27: “Thy beauty shall no more be found; / Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound / My echoing song.” The symbolic meaning of the “marble vault” is typically thought of as a tomb, but in the context of Doctor Who, the speculation is easy to make given all of the nods to the poem.
All the connections are there: Between Doctor Who and “To His Coy Mistress,” linking together a mistress and a vault, that might just be the most tangential of teases that we’re about to see Missy imprisoned on Doctor Who.
Is Missy the “coy mistress” locked in that “marble vault”? This isn’t the only evidence we have that it’s her, and we might just find out for sure later this week. Either way, she’ll be back sometime this season. The only question is how John Simm’s Master fits into all this.
Doctor Who airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. Eastern on BBC and BBC America.