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In the Doctor Who episode Heaven Sent (series 9 episode 11), the Doctor

spends four and a half billion years bashing a passage through a wall of Azbantium by using his hands to punch it again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again ...

Why does he use only his hands for this task? Earlier in the episode he'd seen a couple of spades, which would surely have got the job done much quicker. Even if we assume the spades were unavailable for whatever reason, he could certainly have used his booted feet. When he's standing there

in front of the wall, he could attack it with his feet just as easily as his hands. Surely using his feet would cause him less pain and also create a marginally greater hole in the wall with each blow, possibly cutting down the length of his task by a few million years?

  • If your answer contains spoilers from Hell Bent, please mark them as such, since I haven't watched the finale yet. (This comment will self-destruct in a day or two.) – Rand al'Thor Dec 6 '15 at 1:54
  • I think he wears a ring, which may well be harder than his boot. – Paul D. Waite Dec 6 '15 at 3:14
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    My thought would be he still needs to use his legs to get him back to the teleporter. But that's just guessing. – Radhil Dec 6 '15 at 3:40
  • @Radhil It seems he crawls all the way, in which case his hands are more useful for dragging himself than his legs... – Rand al'Thor Dec 6 '15 at 16:15
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    About the spades, I've been thinking. How about this. What if he can't use any of the props in the castle? Maybe they feel real, but they're all just holograms or something, and they can't be used on the azbantium. He himself is the only real thing in there, the only weapon he has. That's why he writes "bird" in the sand as a hint, after the bird that sharps his beak. Not "dig" or anything to suggest he use the spade. – Mr Lister Dec 7 '15 at 20:56
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He's trapped, and unprepared.

Earlier, he saw "BIRD" written in the dust, but it didn't mean anything to him at the time. Now, with a wall in his way that's harder than diamond, he remembers the story and realizes its significance.

Bird!

That's when I remember! Always then. Always then. Always EXACTLY then!

At that moment he understands what he has to do, how much he's already done, and how much is ahead of him.

But by then it's too late to prepare: the veil is at the other end of the corridor and approaching. The corridor is narrow, so the Doctor can't get past the veil, and trying to hide would be pointless. He doesn't have a spade with him, he can't go and fetch one, nor were his previous cycles able to leave him anything more than one word and the chance to do it all again.

He only has seconds left before the veil catches up with him, so his plan has to be simple and carried out immediately.

(Including convincing whoever's listening that he knows something about the Hybrid.)

Why not use his feet?

Given that the tunnel he makes extends to the floor, presumably the Doctor does use his feet for the lower part, but they can't reach up to the higher part. He also can't risk too much injury to his legs as that could slow his travel to the transporter room, and he knows he doesn't have long after he gets there, from the one-word clue. (Thanks, Radhil.)

Could he make a smaller tunnel? Maybe, but his punches and kicks would be less powerful if he's not able to stand, and time spent squeezing through a narrow space is time he can't use working at the end.

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    I'm not sure how much he actually uses his legs in getting to the teleporter room, since he seems to be crawling most of the way (see comments to Radhil). But you make an excellent point that he actually does uses his feet; +1. – Rand al'Thor Dec 6 '15 at 16:30

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