Since the beginning of the television series, Arrow, the CW’s DC shows have referenced the long-running BBC television show, Doctor Who on a fairly regular basis. These are references from the 2016-2017 seasons of Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, and The Flash.
Arrow and the rest of the CW’s Arrowverse has featured many former Doctor Who actors, including Colin Salmon as Walter Steele in Arrow, Arthur Darvill as Rip Hunter in Legends of Tomorrow, Arrow and The Flash, John Barrowman as Malcolm Merlyn in Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow and The Flash, and Alex Kingston as Dinah Lance in Arrow. The most amusing of these is, of course, Arthur Darvill who played the companion Rory Williams to Matt Smith’s Doctor, and who now leads his own merry band of time travelers in Legends.
Legends of Tomorrow References
Corrupt Time Masters and Villainous Time Lords
The first season of Legends of Tomorrow featured the Time Masters, a group who are supposed to be guardians of time, but as the season progresses are shown to be corrupt. On Doctor Who, the Doctor is a Time Lord who escaped his own planet, Gallifrey. In the Classic series, when the Doctor met other Time Lords, such as the Meddling Monk, the Master, the Rani, or the War Chief, they were often villains. When the Doctor returned to Gallifrey, he, more often than not uncovered corruption at the heart of his own society. Even when the Doctor was put on trial by his own people, the Doctor ended up uncovering corruption and conspiracy and challenging it. When the new series started, Gallifrey was simply no more, destroyed in the Time War. Over the ten-plus years of the New Series, we have learned more about that conflict, but the tendency for corruption of power on Gallifrey certainly hasn’t stopped. There is, then, a certain resemblance between the corruption Rip Hunter uncovers at the heart of the Time Masters and the corruption the Doctor faces on Gallifrey every so often.
Where have We Seen This Before?
In the second season of Legends of Tomorrow, the Waverider has a new computer console. This six-sided console looks very similar to the TARDIS console.
This is especially true when you consider the TARDIS console room is redesigned on a regular basis on Doctor Who.
Lily – Second Doctor Cosplayer?
In the second season of Legends of Tomorrow due to Martin Stein meeting his younger self, when he returns to the present he meets his daughter – Lily Stein. Previously, Martin and his wife, Clarice had no children. Now, they have a brilliant daughter, a physicist named, Lily. Lily, though with her black string ties, white shirts, and black jackets or cardigans dresses more like the Second Doctor than she dresses like the other intelligent women on the CW shows, such as Caitlin, Felicity, Kara, or Sara.
Rip Hunter – Missing in Time with an Personality Over-Write
In the second season of Legends of Tomorrow, Rip Hunter is missing in time. When the Legends find him, his personality has been hidden and over-written as a form of protection. Because of this he doesn’t know who he really is (he thinks he’s a film student), nor does he recognize the Legends.
This is eerily similar to the final three episodes of Series 3 of Doctor Who, in which the Master as played by Sir Derek Jacobi has hidden his personality inside a pocket watch to hide himself from the Time Lords. With his personality hidden – he doesn’t remember being the Master or even being a Time Lord – he thinks he is a scientist. When the watch is opened, not only does he remember being the Master, he regenerates into John Simm.
Rip Hunter also remembers but is immediately captured by the Legion of Doom and re-programmed to do their bidding.
Legends of Tomorrow – Curiously American Doctor Who?
Of course, the entire premise of Legends of Tomorrow, that of a group of Time Travelers out to preserve history and prevent or reverse aberrations in the timeline, does in many ways remind one of Doctor Who. Now, for much of it’s history the Doctor and his companions have treated history as a prime vacation spot – but also as the “foreign country that’s a nice place to visit but you wouldn’t want to live there”. In other words, the Doctor and his companions neither set out to change history nor set out specifically as a goal to stop others from changing history. Nevertheless, a frequent plot in Doctor Who is that someone or something is out, deliberately or merely by their presence, to change history and the Doctor must stop it. Certainly, Daleks invading London in the 1980s would have an effect on history for example. So the ability to interfere, to change history, or in some cases to not change history, are frequent plot threads in Doctor Who.
In the Supergirl episode, “Star-Crossed”, Winn’s alien girlfriend frames him for stealing the painting, Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh. Starry Night also featured heavily in the Doctor Who episode, “Vincent and the Doctor”. Although Vincent Van Gogh and Starry Night are both famous, so it is perhaps not surprising that on Supergirl, Winn would be framed for stealing that particular painting. But the show could have had any Old Masters painting stolen for plot purposes or it could have been a modern painting as well (and in many ways, modern art would have suited the plot better). That “Starry Night” was chosen seems like a deliberate reference.
Single Combat for the Planet
In the two-part season 2 finale of Supergirl, she challenges Rhea “for the planet” as a way of stopping the Queen of Daxam from conquering Earth. In David Tennant’s first episode, “The Christmas Invasion”, the Doctor (David Tennant), having discovered the invading force are using “blood control” to control and threaten a fourth of the population of Earth, challenges the aliens to single combat – “for the planet”. The Doctor wins his fight against the aliens. Supergirl eventually defeats Rhea, despite Rhea using Kryptonite against Kara. However, Rhea doesn’t accept defeat and calls in her guards.
The Doctor Who plot point of “blood control”, is very similar to the way Myriad is used in the first season of Supergirl to control National City citizens.
The Flash References
“It’s like one of those scientific romances by that Wells, chappie”
The claim to fame for HR Wells in Season 3 of The Flash is that he is a writer of “scientific romances”. This is the exact term used for HG Wells’ writing in “Pyramids of Mars” and “Time Lash”. HG Wells is mentioned fairly often on Classic Doctor Who. Also, having a character named HR Wells – just saying.
Savitar’s Back-up Plan
After HR Wells sacrifices himself to save Iris West, Savitar has another brief plan that he describes to Barry: he will split himself across all time and these splinters will rule time and incidentally destroy Barry’s life. In the classic Tom Baker episode, “City of Death”, Scaroth – last of the Jagaroth, has been split across time after his spaceship crash lands. Because these different versions of Scaroth are in contact with each other mentally they make money by having copies of priceless cultural works made back in time and hidden to sell later. For example, he has Leonardo Da Vinci paint six copies of the Mona Lisa. Although Savitar isn’t able to attempt his back-up plan – it sounds like it was inspired by Scaroth.
When All Else Fails – Reverse the Polarity of the Neutron Flow
In the season finale, as Cisco is trying to get the satellite and computer systems working after an explosion at Star Labs, he says, “Hey Wally, Can you reverse the polarity on the neutron flow?” This references the Third Doctor catch phrase to “reverse the polarity of the neutron flow”. It is a brilliant nod.
Paradoxes Take Time to Set
In The Flash, once Iris is saved, Cisco and Barry discuss that it will take time for the change to catch-up to them. This plot point gives Savitar a little bit of last-minute time to try and save himself. None of Savitar’s last-ditch efforts succeed, and he disappears from existence. In Doctor Who, especially during Matt Smith’s time as the Doctor – time continues to be malleable for a short period before becoming fixed. On the other hand, important details in time are often referred to as “fixed points” especially by David Tennat’s Doctor. This fluidity of time, where time paradoxes act more like a wave taking time to reach the shore rather than being instantaneous, is also seen in Legends of Tomorrow Season 2.
Doctor Who references in Arrow, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, and The Flash are pretty common and range from actors from the British series appearing on the Arrowverse shows, to quotes, to plotlines. But I do not feel the Arrowverse is copying Doctor Who, rather, it adds to the fun.