Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Rachel Talalay
“When, at last, you rise to go, there will be another shadow next to yours. And your life will then be over.”
In a world unlike any other he has seen, the Doctor faces the greatest challenge of his many lives. And he must face it alone.
As gears turn inside the walls of a castle, a mysterious figure, with blood on his hands, makes his way into a room with a teleporter. He flips a switch and collapses to the ground, his body fading away into oblivion, as the teleporter activates, materialising the Doctor inside its chamber. The Doctor steps out of the teleporter, looking around the room. He bends down to grasp some of the sand on the ground, the memory of Clara’s death still fresh in his mind. He then threatens the ones responsible for bringing him there, promising to never stop until he finds them.
The Doctor steps out of the teleporter room and into a circular corridor, filled with windows and a monitor. Looking out one of the windows, he sees that he’s inside the central tower of a castle. He speaks out to whoever captured him, again, mentioning that the technology in the teleporter means he can only have been moved a maximum of one light year from where he was before, and he knows he’s still in the same time zone he was in before, so all he has to do is wait until nightfall, and then he’ll be able to use the stars to figure out where he is.
Walking down the corridor, he finds a shovel, covered in dirt, leaning against one of the walls. He starts shouting again, trying to get the kidnappers to come out and face him. At that moment, the monitor in the corridor activates, showing the Doctor himself on the screen. Seeing that the image is being projected from something outside one of the windows, the Doctor runs over to said window and looks outside. He sees a hooded figure in another window, looking right at him. It is from this figure that the footage on the monitor is coming from. The Doctor backs away from the window in fright, watching as the figure turns and moves away.
Looking at the monitor, the Doctor watches as the image moves down a corridor. The Doctor finds the particular corridor, and sure enough, the figure is coming towards him. The Doctor runs down another corridor to a door, but finds the door locked. He turns back in time to see the figure enter the hallway and realises he’s seen this creature before. He turns back to the door and uses an old trick he knew when he was younger, to form a psychic link with the door, getting it to unlock.
He opens the door, only to find a wall. He turns back to see the Veil coming closer and closer to him. Unfortunately, he can’t see a way out of this situation. As the figure reaches for him, the Doctor admits that he is scared of dying, and the figure freezes. The Doctor wonders if this is because of something he said. He notices that even the flies that were buzzing around the figure have also frozen in place.
A noise causes him to step over to the window. He watches as the sections of the castle begin to revolve, rearranging themselves. He turns back to the door to see the wall slide open. Running through the new opening, the Doctor finds himself in a bedroom.
The Doctor grabs one of the flowers, but freezes when he notices a portrait of Clara sitting on top of the fireplace. He smiles sadly at the picture, before grabbing a minature magnifying glass, so he can take a closer look, not noticing the nearby monitor. The monitor is showing that the figure is on the move again, and is entering the bedroom.
The Doctor deduces that the painting is very, very old, before noticing a fly on it. He quickly turns and sees the figure. He talks about a time when he was a child. He had seen a dead, old woman, who was covered in veils. It was a hot day, so flies were buzzing around her corpse. The sight of this, gave the Doctor nightmares for years. He recognises the figure as that very nightmare.
As he tries to question the Veil, he pulls out petals of the flower, letting them drop to the ground. Avoiding letting the Veil touch him, the Doctor deduces that the castle is some type of torture chamber. The Doctor refuses to play along, and runs over to grab a stool, throwing it through a window. He then jumps through the window himself, falling down towards the misty depths below.
The Doctor walks into the TARDIS, apologising for being late. He says it’s because of jumping through the window and asks if he should reveal how he got out of that situation alive. He turns to look at Clara, who is standing near a chalkboard, with her back to him. On the TARDIS monitors, the Doctor can see the fall, revealing that he isn’t really in the TARDIS with Clara. He is actually still falling, but has sped up his thinking process to slow down his perception of time. The TARDIS he is standing in, is a “storeroom” within his own mind, which he has created to give himself more time to think.
The Doctor reveals he had smelled the salty air earlier, which means that the castle is standing in the sea. But jumping from a great height into the water doesn’t guarantee that he will survive, so he needed to know the exact distance between the window and the water, which is why he threw the stool through the window. He listened for the splash of the stool reaching the water, which took seven seconds. Other things he had done in the room, including dropping the magnifying glass and the flower petals, were to determine other factors that he used to determine if he could survive the fall.
The Doctor successfully dives into the water, but falls unconscious, represented in the mind TARDIS by everything turning off. The lights start turning back on and the mental manifestation of the Doctor wakes up to the sound of Clara writing on the chalkboard. He looks at the chalkboard to see what is written: Question 1 – What is this place? The Doctor asks why he can’t just sleep. On another chalkboard, question two appears: What did you say that made the creature stop? The Doctor asks if he has to know everything. On a third chalkboard appears another question: How are you going to win?
At that moment, the Doctor full regains consciousness in the water. As he floats in the water, the Doctor makes a horrifying discovery. On the sea bed are many, many skulls. He quickly swims back to the surface, ending up at the base of the central tower. The Doctor walks inside and into a room with a lit fireplace. Warming his hands with the fire, the Doctor discovers an identical set of his clothes next to the fireplace. The Doctor takes the duplicate clothes and trades them with his own, making sure to place his clothes exactly as the other set were placed, before leaving the room.
The Doctor finds a small room, with arrows pointing to a missing section of the stone floor. He looks up at the nearby monitor, noting that the Veil keeps coming for him. He asks why does it do that. In the mental TARDIS, Clara writes on a chalkboard again: Wrong question! Upon asking her what the right question is, he gets a written response: Not why. What?
The Doctor walks over to the monitor, pondering on the fact the Veil is tracking him. He realises that the Veil is trying to terrify him, as the monitors are set to show him where it is at all times. The castle and the Veil are a killer puzzle box designed to scare him to death.
The Doctor heads down another corridor that leads him to an outside garden. He notices a rectangular mound of dirt in the center of the garden, and a shovel nearby, which means something is buried beneath the mound that he is supposed to dig up. Grabbing the shovel, the Doctor contemplates whether to start digging, as it could be a trap, or a clue left by a previous prisoner. After all, the presence of the skulls proves that there were others here before the Doctor. Noting how slow the Veil is moving, the Doctor deduces he has an hour before it arrives, so he starts digging.
Some time later, the Doctor is still digging, having not found whatever is buried, when he notices flies buzzing near him. Running to the nearby monitor he sees that the Veil is strangely standing in one place, staring at a smooth surface. The Doctor opens the door to leave the garden, only to discover the Veil standing on the other side. The Veil quickly tries to enter the garden, but the Doctor manages the force the door shut, and props the shovel against the door in a way to keep it shut. The Veil continues to try to force the door open a few more times, before walking away. The Doctor looks at the monitor and notes that the Veil has walked into the room with the missing section of the floor. Wondering where its going, the Doctor looks around. The door is the only way in or out of the garden. He grabs the shovel and resumes digging
Hours later, when night has fallen, the Doctor stops digging and looks up at the stars. He frowns in confusion, noting something wrong with them, before resuming his digging. His shovel hits something. Digging with his hands, the Doctor uncovers the missing section of the floor from the other room. On it, words are written: I am in 12. At that moment, the Veil emerges from the ground nearby, having dug its way from the room to the garden.
The Doctor walks into his mental TARDIS again, thinking about how he is going to get out of this situation. He tells Clara to ask him a question and she writes something on the chalkboard: Tell no lies. She then rewrites question two again. The Doctor did note that it was when he admitted to being scared to die, that the Veil stopped. But, it’s not just the truth that the Doctor’s captors are trying to get out of him. They want his confessions, the secrets he never tells anyone. The problem is that there are truths the Doctor can never tell, not for anything. But now he is scared and alone.
Back in the real world, the Doctor confesses that he didn’t leave Gallifrey all those years ago because he was bored, but because he was scared. The Veil backs off and the castle shifts again. The Doctor quickly climbs out of the hole and escapes from the garden. The Doctor then makes another discovery. The castle is standing in the sea, alone, with no other land anywhere nearby.
As time goes on, the Doctor uses his hand to tap out the seconds it takes for the Veil to walk from one side of the castle to the other, where he is, in order to work out how much extra time he can get before the Veil shows up again. During this, he is trying to locate room 12, having noticed that the rooms are numbered, but due to the castle rearranging itself, the rooms are not in the correct order. He has also noticed that most rooms, after he has left them for a while, reset to the condition they were in before the Doctor arrived.
The Doctor returns to the teleporter room, and looks at the nearby console. He then notices that two cords of the console are attached to a nearby skull. Detaching the skull, the Doctor notices that its owner had written one word in the sand before he died: bird. The Doctor wonders what it could mean, as he watches the word disappear from the ground.
A wall nearby slides open, leading to a staircase. The Doctor uses the staircase, emerging at the roof of the tower. Setting the skull on a ledge, the Doctor looks around, knowing he is missing something. Earlier, he had located room 12, but found a wall behind the door, meaning he has to give another confession to access the room. The Doctor knows that the room is a trap of some kind. This whole thing is someone’s game that the Doctor can’t stop playing, a game that everyone who came before him has lost.
Looking up at the stars again, the Doctor asks what is wrong with them. They are all in the wrong place for this particular time zone. If he didn’t know better, he would say that he has somehow traveled 7,000 years into the future, but he know for a fact that he hasn’t time traveled.
As he ponders this, the Veil arrives, but before it can grab the Doctor, he mentions the Hybrid. Turning to face the Veil, the Doctor talks about the Hybrid. Long before the Time War, the Time Lords knew the War was coming. There were many prophecies and stories concerning it. One of the prophecies mentioned a creature called the Hybrid, who was half Dalek and half Time Lord, the ultimate warrior. The Doctor confesses that he knows that the Hybrid is real, that he knows where it is, and what it is. He confesses that he is afraid of it. The Veil backs off and the castle shifts again. When it does so, the skull falls from the ledge and into the water, joining all the other skulls already on the bottom of the sea.
The Doctor quickly runs back to room 12, to find that the wall has slid away, revealing a long hallway. Walking down it, the Doctor finds a room, with a semi-transparent wall, with the word “Home” written on it. The Doctor realises that this is the final obstacle. He believes that the TARDIS is on the other side of this wall, one confession away from him. Using the Sonic sunglasses, the Doctor determines that the wall is made out of Azbantium, a mineral four hundred times tougher than diamond. He also determines the wall is twenty feet thick. He then thinks back to the word “bird”, and that’s when his memory snaps back into place.
The Doctor walks into the mental TARDIS, ranting over what he has remembered and what he must do. He tells Clara he can’t keep doing this. Clara writes question three again. The Doctor asks if he can just lose. It would be easy. All he would have to do would be to confess the secret details of the Hybrid. Asking Clara again, why he can’t lose, he sees that she has written something new: No!
The Doctor tells her that he remembers everything, and that she doesn’t understand. He can remember it all, every time, and she’ll still be gone. The Doctor collapses onto a stair, finally letting out his grief over Clara’s death.
Suddenly, Clara is facing him and talking to him. She tells him that he is not the only person who has ever lost someone. It’s the story of everybody. She tells him to get over it, to beat it, to break free. She tells him it’s time to move on. She tells him to get up and win
In the real world, the Doctor stands back up, seeing that the Veil has reached the hallway and is walking towards him. He apologises to it, saying he has no confessions left for it, but he will tell it the truth. Turing back to the Azbantium wall, the Doctor starts punching it, while revealing that the Hybrid is a very dangerous secret that needs to be kept. So, instead of confessing the secret, he will instead get out of here and find the ones responsible for putting him in here. As he continues to punch the wall, he decides to tell the Veil a story from the Brothers Grimm. He continues to do so until the Veil finally reaches him and grabs him, severely injuring him. As the Doctor collapses to the ground, the Veil steps back and vanishes.
Inside the mental TARDIS, the Doctor says that Time Lords take forever to die, even when they are too injured to regenerate. As he says that, in the real world, he starts moving again, crawling out of the room. As the Doctor makes his way back to the teleporter room, he reveals everything he remembered. The castle was created specifically for him. There were no prisoners before him. The stars weren’t in the wrong places and the Doctor didn’t time travel. He’s just been here a very, very long time.
The Doctor reaches the teleporter room and stumbles over to the control panel. Since most of the rooms reset to their original condition, it’s logical to assume that the teleporter room has also done so. As such, inside the teleporter’s hard drive is a copy of the Doctor, as he was when he originally arrived 7,000 years ago. All he has to do is add energy to the teleporter to activate it, and the only energy source he has is himself. He has to burn the old him, to materialise the new one. Hooking up the two cords to his head, the Doctor pulls the switch. Collapsing to the ground, the Doctor only has enough time to write the word “bird” in the sand, before he dies, and his body fades into oblivion, leaving nothing but his skull. At that moment, the teleporter activates, materialising the Doctor in the chamber, exactly as he was, when he first arrived, including the state of his memories, continuing the cycle he has been in for the last 7,000 years. The Doctor continues to repeat everything over and over again, each time getting further into the Azbantium wall.
Finally, two billion years after his original arrival, the Doctor successfully breaks through the wall. At that moment, the Veil falls apart. The Doctor steps through the opening, onto a desert world. The opening closes behind him, and the item generating it drops to the ground. Picking it up, the Doctor discovers he had been trapped inside his confession dial the entire time.
Just then, a boy runs up to him. The Doctor tells him to go to the city and speak to someone important. “Tell them I’m back. Tell them I know what they did, and I’m on my way. And if they ask you who I am, tell them I came the long way around.”
The boy runs off towards the nearby Time Lord city, revealing that the Doctor is now on Gallifrey. The Doctor looks at the dial again and speaks to it. “You can probably still hear me. So, just between ourselves, you’ve got the prophecy wrong. The Hybrid is not half Dalek. Nothing is half Dalek. The Daleks would never allow that. The Hybrid, destined to conquer Gallifrey and stand in its ruins, is me.”