TV Series

From Bubble Wrap to Bubble Traps – A Brief History of Bubbles in Doctor Who

By Paul Lang

Today is National Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day in some parts of the world, which got us thinking about the role bubble wrap – and other types of bubbles, for that matter – has played in Doctor Who. Here are 10 bubblicious examples…

Blowing bubbles

Kerblam! (2018)

When mega retailer Kerblam built their latest warehouse on Kandoka’s moon, it was a miracle of robotic technology and automation, with one major drawback – no jobs for humans! To get around this, the company promised there would be employment for 10,000 of the people who lived on the planet below. That wasn’t enough for warehouse cleaner Charlie – he hatched a despicable plot to murder thousands of Kerblam customers by sabotaging their deliveries, using explosive bubble wrap that blew up when popped! It was the perfect plot – after all, who can resist popping a big sheet of bubble wrap? Luckily the Doctor, Graham, Ryan and Yaz managed to prevent the Kerblam Men from setting off with their deadly deliveries and a major disaster was averted – although Charlie himself was blown to bits in the process.

Communication problems

The Doctor’s Daughter (2008)

When Martha Jones found herself trapped on Messaline with a pair of fish-faced creatures called the Hath, she faced some serious communication problems. The Hath weren’t native to Messaline so they couldn’t breathe the air there, leaving them to rely on a special liquid-filled breathing tank attached to their mouths. This meant that every time they spoke, all Martha could hear was the sound of bubbling as their breath blew into the liquid! Despite this unusual language barrier, Martha and her new Hath mates soon found a way to communicate non-verbally so they could work together, and Matha was devastated when one of them died saving her life.

Bubble trouble

The Doctor’s Wife (2011)

The Doctor, Amy and Rory were puzzled when a white distress cube suddenly appeared at the TARDIS door – especially when it turned out to contain a distress call from a Time Lord. At the time, the Doctor thought the rest of his people were all dead, so he was overjoyed thinking one might have survived. He decided to follow the box, even when it led them right outside the universe into its own special bubble. The Doctor struggled to find a way to adequately explain this concept of a bubble universe to his baffled human friends, but it was definitely something to do with a big bubble and a little bubble, and possibly a plughole as well.

Memory makers

Logopolis (1981)

Have you ever suspected that reality as we know it might have been created by a load of white-haired old blokes doing hard maths in their heads to make stuff exist? Well in that case, you would be right – if you were on the planet Logopolis, at least. The brainy boffins there used bubble memory – a non-volatile data storage medium where patterns of information are stored on magnetic film – to store their calculations, so they could still access them even if they were left without power. Smart! And probably prudent, since the Master turned up and killed them all.

Bubbling over

Victory of the Daleks (2010)

As if Winston Churchill didn’t have enough to worry about during the Second World War, he also had to contend with the Daleks sneakily infiltrating his Winston top team using a robot scientist they’d built. They even gave “Professor Bracewell” human memories so even he didn’t realise he was a Dalek creation – but this was ultimately their undoing. His creators had equipped him with knowledge far beyond human understanding, but as a “human” he was happy to use it against them! Bracewell had imagined mavity bubbles that could sustain life outside the atmosphere of Earth, and Churchill convinced him he could go large with the concept. Thus, a whole squadron of Spitfire planes were able to head into space – each one safely inside Bracewell’s bubbles – for a dogfight with the Daleks. Tally-ho!

Bubbling under

The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood (2010)

Bracewell might have mastered mavity bubble technology for use in the air, but the Silurians – ancient humanoid reptiles who’d been in hibernation under the surface of the Earth since before humans came along – put them to use underground. By employing a combination of geothermal technology and mavity bubbles as a transportation system, they were able to zip from their underground city up to the surface.

Bubble world

The Wedding of River Song (2011)

River Song killed the Doctor on the banks of Lake Silencio. It happened at a fixed point in time. That was a fact. But what if it wasn’t a fact after all? That’s the question that was answered when River created an alternative reality by refusing to pull the trigger. A whole bubble universe was created where time had gone seriously wonky. Charles Dickens, Cleopatra and Winston Churchill were all alive at the same time, the Roman Empire was still going strong while the BBC was transmitting. The Doctor had to fix time, which he did by marrying River then kissing the bride. What a way to save the day!

Time to pause

The Trial of a Time Lord (1986)

When really bad stuff is going down, the Time Lords have the ability to seal specific people in a time bubble, leaving them in limbo until the time is just right for them to do whatever they’re about to do. They apparently used one such bubble to contain the warrior king Yrcanos on Thoros Beta so he’d charge in and cause havoc at the perfect moment. Although it was later discovered they’d tampered with the official account of those events, so they may not have actually happened like that at all. So there may have not been a bubble after all.

The bubble at the end of the universe

Hell Bent (2015)

After helping Clara cheat death by plucking her out of her own life in its last moments, the Doctor was desperate to restart her heart, and his efforts took them all the way to the last five minutes of the universe. There, he found his old frenemy Me, previously known as Ashildr. Me was sitting in a reality bubble on the last fragment of Gallifrey at the very end of time enjoying the show as the last stars died, and she had some harsh truths to tell the Doctor about how he had to let Clara go. That really burst his bubble.


Time and the Rani (1987)

When the Rani enslaved the peaceful people of Lakertya, she employed various mean means of keeping the population under her control. Most wicked of these were the tripwire traps she scattered around her base to deal with anyone trying to make a run for it. The Doctor’s friend Mel had already seen a young Lakertyan called Sarn trigger one of these traps, and watched in horror as a large bubble surrounded her before lifting off, slamming into a cliff face and exploding. Poor Mel herself was nearly the next victim of the bubble traps when she triggered one, but after grazing the cliffs it landed in the pool of water below, where it bobbed around long enough for her new friend Ikona to defuse the bomb in its base and save her life.


Series 11 is available to buy on DVD, Blu-ray and Steelbook where you can relive that moment from Kerblam! in glorious high definition. Click here to find out where to order it in your region.

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