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Near the end of "The beast below", there is this exchange between Amy and The Doctor:

Amy: Have you ever run away from something, because... because you were scared, or... or not ready, or just... just because you could?

Doctor: Once, a long time ago.

Amy: What happened?

Doctor: Hello!

I have virtually no idea what could "Hello!" mean in this context. The only interpretation I could think of is "What happened? - I met you!", but this doesn't make sense to me at all.

What could this "Hello" mean?

1
  • I could have sworn the Beast Below was a 9th doctor story, huh Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 17:42

5 Answers 5

24

You are overthinking it; it's him being something between dramatic and silly.

Basically, he's saying the outcome of the actions long ago is...well, he's here now, so "Hello."

I.e.,

  • "Once, a long time ago." [Things started]
  • Lots of stuff that he's not mentioning happened, the eventual result being:
  • "Hello." [He's here; starting this thing.]

He's giving a very abbreviated version of his own history, and the 'Hello' makes it clear that the person he is describing is himself.

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  • 2
    Thanks. Maybe I am, but actually I am translating the subtitles into my native tongue, so I'd like to know what I'm doing;-). This exchange stumped me, and I didn't want to invent something nonsensical. Also, I'm very new to Doctor Who, so it could have been some reference I missed or something like that.
    – mbork
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 23:32
  • 13
    Nope; it's him trying to be cute and understated. The equivalent here (that many of us could do) would be "Almost 10 years ago, some guy came to a website and started answering questions he read there that occasionally involved Dr. Who.." "Oh? What happened to him?" "Hello." (i.e., he's still here, answering questions, and you are talking to him.)
    – K-H-W
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 23:34
  • @mbork: "Hello?" is sometimes used idiomatically similarly to "wake up, is your brain asleep?": i.e. "isn't it obvious", with a connotation of "think about it again and you'll figure it out". But this case isn't pitched as a question, so I think it might be directly referring to the fact that they met recently. i.e. "that's why we're here together right now, doing this" Commented Nov 1, 2020 at 7:46
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    The Doctor uses similar phrasing in The Eleventh Hour: The Doctor : You're not the first to have come here. Oh, there have been so many. And what you've got to ask is, what happened to them? The Doctor : Hello. I'm the Doctor. Basically. Run. "Hello" is the answer to the question "What happened to them?" just as it's the answer to question "Have you ever been frightened"
    – Andrew
    Commented May 24, 2023 at 0:07
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As K-H-W said I think he's pointing to the fact that his running away from Gallifrey was how he ended up being the explorer of space and time that Amy knew him as, if he hadn't run away he just would have remained on Gallifrey like most Time Lords. But there may be another layer as well, it could be a subtle callback to a memorable exchange in "The Sound of Drums" (transcript here) where the Doctor described the initiation of new Time Lords on Gallifrey where they were forced to stare into the Untempered Schism, and said that different Time Lords had different reactions:

JACK: But all the legends of Gallifrey made it sound so perfect.

DOCTOR: Well, perfect to look at, maybe. And it was. It was beautiful. They used to call it the Shining World of the Seven Systems. And on the Continent of Wild Endeavour, in the Mountains of Solace and Solitude, there stood the Citadel of the Time Lords, the oldest and most mighty race in the universe, looking down on the galaxies below. Sworn never to interfere, only to watch. Children of Gallifrey, taken from their families age of eight to enter the Academy. And some say that's when it all began. When he was a child. That's when the Master saw eternity. As a novice, he was taken for initiation. He stood in front of the Untempered Schism. It's a gap in the fabric of reality through which could be seen the whole of the vortex. You stand there, eight years old, staring at the raw power of time and space, just a child. Some would be inspired, some would run away, and some would go mad. Brr. I don't know.

MARTHA: What about you?

DOCTOR: Oh, the ones that ran away, I never stopped.

11

He means that him being there, on the city carried on the space whale with Amy is the direct result of him running away. His saying "hello" to answer Amy's question is to basically to say "this right now is what is still happening because I ran away".

I note your comment about translating subtitles. "Hello?" is a common phrase in English used to respond to certain questions to point out an "obvious" answer - it's a bit of a shorthand for "yes I am" or "yes this is it" (usually accompanied by pointing at or waving around "it"). The Doctor's body language when he says "hello" indicates he's just pointing out the situation.

Spoiler for later seasons:

Later on, when the Doctor meets Clara she spells it out - he started running and never stops.

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  • While I do not know the scene referred to, I think it worth mentioning that Hello! can, in my experience, be used to warn somebody off probing too far, along the lines of a metaphorical “Hello, what are you doing here in my private space”.
    – PJTraill
    Commented Nov 2, 2020 at 22:36
  • Maybe, but that is not really what is being conveyed in this scene.
    – HorusKol
    Commented Nov 2, 2020 at 22:56
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Saying "hello", particularly accompanied by a wave of the hand, is a typically British way of saying "I'm here". It can be sarcastic, or for humorous effect.

Basically, the Doctor is saying that he ran away once a long time ago and he is still running away.

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  • I wouldn't say it's exclusively British. It's fairly common in US English as well, and probably other dialects and even other languages. (At least I could see this working with e.g. a "bonjour" or "hola" just as easily...) Commented Nov 2, 2020 at 18:26
  • @DarrelHoffman I didn't say exclusively - I said typically. And Doctor Who is British. I'm guessing that the OP isn't, otherwise they wouldn't be struggling with it.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Nov 2, 2020 at 20:44
  • Indeed, neither British, nor even a native English speaker.
    – mbork
    Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 5:07
  • I'm British and I can say that your right in a way but the way I interpreted it is that the doctor was referencing when he ran away from Gallifrey with Susan stealing a T.A.R.D.I.S Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 21:34
  • @Lily_Potter_1234l Yes, exactly. Amy asks "have you ever run away", he said "yes a long time ago" - meaning exactly what you said. When she asks "what happened?" and he says "hello" it's like saying "here I am". He's still running away, or he's where he is now as a result of it.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Feb 20, 2021 at 16:34
0

He's saying "hello!", as if feigning that they've just met. As if feigning that Amy knows nothing about him yet.

Because surely, if they had, and if she did, she'd already know what he does "for a living", right?

That was the answer to her question, "what happened when you ran away?"

"This is what happened. Me is what happened."

It might seem a bit strange, but for a native speaker this is something of an idiom.

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    I don't think he's literally feigning or pretending that Amy doesn't know him yet. If this interpretation is right at all, I think his meaning is more a long the lines of referring to the fact that they met (recently). (Agreed with the 2nd part, that the real meaning is "this / me is what happened", and that it's somewhat idiomatic.) Commented Nov 1, 2020 at 7:48
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    @PeterCordes It's an ironic feign, obviously not literal. I used the term "as if". :) Commented Nov 1, 2020 at 16:08

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