In Heaven Sent, all the rooms reset to some initial state after a while.

  • The fireplace room has dry clothes. Is that its initial state? It is of course implied that those dry clothes belonged to the previous Doctor clone, but if a room resets itself, then there shouldn't be any clothes there. Does this mean that the clothes the Doctor finds are not actually from his previous clone, but rather, placed there by the designers? Did they actually anticipate he would jump into the sea?
  • Clara's painting is "extremely old". This reinforces the idea that 7000 years had passed. But if the room resets itself, shouldn't the painting be restored? Perhaps the "old look" is in fact the initial state of the painting, but this would imply that the castle designer purposefully made it old, which would bear the question: why?
  • spoiler in question title :(
    – RedCaio
    Dec 1, 2015 at 4:13
  • 2
    @RedCaio ah, sorry. Feel free to edit it - I just didn't feel it spoiled anything (it literally just says there are dry clothes and a painting of Clara in a castle).
    – Saturn
    Dec 1, 2015 at 4:15

4 Answers 4


In an interview in Doctor Who Magazine #495, the contents of which have helpfully been copied to Reddit, Steven Moffat addresses these questions.

  • What was the initial state of the clothing in the room?

    He finds some clothes from elsewhere in the castle and wears them while his are drying. The early loop iterations took a lot longer while he was still figuring out all the clues, so he was able to go back and get his original clothes. It was only as the loop tightened that he caught up with clothing from his previous self.

    If the Doctor leaves his clothes for himself in Heaven Sent, was there a previous version who was left naked?

    Naked Doctor Who?? It's AGAINST THE LAW, I tell you. Showrunners have been executed for less. No, of course there wasn't - I sort of wrote that moment to force you to think that the first time round the castle (the first of many times) wasn't the same as the version we saw. By the time Heaven Sent starts, the Doctor has been going round the loop for seven thousand years, and the details have settle down to a fairly precise repeat. But each detail of the repeat takes a while to fix in place.

    For instance…

    He always dives into the water. But the first time he clambers out, he finds himself in a room with a fireplace. He lights a fire, and dries his clothes on the rack. While he's waiting, he finds another set of clothes and puts them on. These clothes are provided by the castle (just as it provides him with soup, and a bed to sleep in) and don't resemble his own - just your basic, ordinary clothes, but in his size.

    The first few hundred times he goes back and puts his own clothes on. But then, as the loop gets tighter (I'll explain in a moment) there comes the time he never makes it, because he's too busy to bother. Next time round, the Doctor finds his own clothes drying for him.

  • Why didn’t the painting reset?

    The painting wasn’t left by the castle designers; it was left by a previous iteration of the Doctor. As Moffat notes, the reset isn’t perfect – this painting is designed to send a message to his future self.

    He knows that some of those hidden messages might just survive, because he knows the castle reset isn't perfect – the dust in the teleport room, the skulls in the water, the way the portrait of Clara he painted (of course it was him, the soppy old fool) has aged.


Speculation of course:

The first few iterations must have been very different. I picture that it took several (many thousands?) of blind alleys where he got killed before finding the wall but still managed to get back and rerun the transporter. After all, he could not have had any of the hints the first time.

At some point, maybe early on, I suspect he just left his clothing behind to dry and never went back to pick them up. I doubt that he would have any qualms about facing an enemy unclothed ("silly human prudishness"). After that, every subsequent iteration had the previous Doctor's clothing waiting for the next one.

With enough iterations, eventually all the paths converged into a stable loop (an attractor, in Chaos Theory language), which is what we see. The whole thing seems to take about a day, so he literally had as many as 2.5 million tries before reaching a stable loop.

About the age of the painting, note that we only see it the first time, never in subsequent loops. We don't know whether it's there for millions of years. I suspect the painting ages and its eventually gone. I suspect that on one iteration he gave himself a lot of time to figure things out and he did the painting himself (there is no evidence that all the initial iterations took merely a day, we could have had weeks for some of them), or maybe he started it in one iteration and then spent several iterations completing it. Eventually it was "done" and the "painting exercise" stopped being part of the iterations and the painting became an item to observe. After tens of thousands of years it becomes an irrelevant rag - a small inconsequential variation of the stable loop.

We only see the stable loops and have to guess at what happened before.

  • 1
    Nice speculation, but there is no evidence whatsoever that the iterations were so different. Everything points to all the iterations being exactly the same.
    – Mr Lister
    Dec 1, 2015 at 8:02
  • “I picture that it took several (many thousands?) of blind alleys where he got killed before finding the wall but still managed to get back and rerun the transporter. After all, he could not have had any of the hints the first time.” — That never usually stops him. Dec 1, 2015 at 8:50

Yes, it would seem to be so, the Doctor didn't teleport to the castle with any other clothes so in this instance it would seem the castle provided clothes. Perhaps the designer was certain the Doctor would be there for an exceedingly long time (without teleporting) and would need different clothes. I would say that they anticipated a prolonged stay over one where he would get wet.

The "BIRD" message seems to be the only thing the Doctor changes. The designer lays the other clues himself to trap the Doctor with a final glimpse of the trapped TARDIS.

Not sure about any reason for making the painting look old, other than to emphasise that Clara is gone. There may be certain elements of the castle that are not refreshed through iterations and so the painting really does age over time.


As for the clothing, the original castle may have just had a robe or similar article of clothing warming by the fire. Why else would there be a rack?

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