Steven Moffat Takes on Jodie Whittaker's Doctor in the Latest Doctor Who Short Story

The Doctor battles the sinister, familiar sound of the Umpty Ums...or does she?
The Doctor battles the sinister, familiar sound of the Umpty Ums...or does she?
Image: BBC

Doctor Who’s ongoing short story series is one of the most lovely things to come out of this otherwise pretty grim period of social isolation we all find ourselves in right now. It’s giving us beautiful little snippets, and samples of things we’d never thought we’d actually get—like former showrunner Steven Moffat taking on a 13th Doctor tale.

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Posted to the official Doctor Who website today, “The Terror Of The Umpty Ums” sees the Doctor face a killer cyborg disguised as a young boy in a children’s home, eager to wreak bloodthirsty vengeance upon humanity. Sort of.

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It’s very Steven Moffat—who had just written another Who short last week, to go along with the Twitter re-watch of “The Eleventh Hour”—even if this is the first time he’s getting his hands on Whittaker’s incarnation of the Doctor. Operating on the fringes of the story, she is suitably clever (even quoting a few of her former incarnations, specifically ones Moffat helped bring to life across his tenure on the show), and there’s a lot of dealing with things that are not what they seem in reality, as well as, of course, a twist or two. It’s about the power of stories, and how they help us in trying times, befitting the current moment.

Oh, and about the dread sound of the Umpty Ums, of course.

Like I said: very Steven Moffat, and how much that works for you is probably predicated on how much you enjoyed his time as showrunner on the series. But whether or not you were the Moff’s biggest fan, it’s great to continue to see these stories coming out—some big, some revelatory, some just earnestly sweet and brief, a breeze of Doctor Who in a world that could desperately use the Doctor on our screens again. As we’ve said before, we would not mind these kinds of initiatives sticking around long after we’ve overcome the current pandemic lockdown.


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James is a News Editor at io9. He wants pictures. Pictures of Spider-Man!

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One other big bit of Who news to come out during the last couple of days, during Time Space Visualizer’s video interview with Philip Morris (the globetrotting Indiana Jones of returning lost television treasures to the BBC archive, including the famed return of Web of Fear and Enemy of the World from Nigeria in 2013) he straight out confirmed that there are at least SIX missing episodes that he knows of that are in the hands of private collectors that haven’t yet been returned to the BBC. (In some cases because they’re afraid of the backlash from fans for not having returned them sooner.)

On one hand, yes it’s heartbreaking to learn that prints exist in the hands of people who don’t want to (or aren’t comfortable) returning them to the BBC.
But on a positive note... today we learned that at least six more missing Hartnell/Troughton episodes are confirmed to exist in the world! That’s six more than there were yesterday. And not only that, Philip Morris knows exactly where they are and who has them. They are no longer lost episodes, just.... ones we can’t get to right now.

And if the people holding these prints consider themselves fans, and as Philip Morris points out, they very likely do considering they went to such lengths to obtain these prints which were being discarded by the BBC in the first place, then they (or their families) will almost certainly do the right thing and return them... eventually. Even if it’s posthumously.

The saddest part of this is that many older fans who were alive to see these serials as they were original transmitted may no longer be with us by the time these prints inevitably make it back into the hands of the BBC. As they themselves age (as well as the prints, which one hopes are at least being preserved in better conditions than those canisters recovered in Nigeria) here’s hoping they come to the realization sooner rather than later that the clock is ticking for all of us, and there are many classic series fans out there who would like nothing better than to see at least one more recovered Hartnell/Troughton adventure before they go.

I’m in my mid 40's now, so I live in hope that all 6 episodes (and maybe more) will be returned during my lifespan... preferably before I get too blind, deaf, or senile to properly enjoy them. But every time I pop in my Web of Fear or Enemy of the World DVD’s I always feel a pang of regret that my mother passed away just a few months before Web of Fear and Enemy of the World were released to the public. Troughton was her doctor (any my favorite as well) and I know she was very much looking forward to the chance of finally seeing them.