What do transdimensional time and space machines, sonic screwdrivers, and the Linux-based Ubuntu operating system have in common?


They’re all used in the Doctor Who universe!

Ubuntu is no stranger to the worlds of Doctor Who. The lab of enigmatic character Joshua Naismith is full of computers controlling his ‘immortality gate’ in the final episodes of the 10th Doctor’s run (which aired back in 2009). Sleepy computers display the (then default) Ubuntu logo screensaver.

Now, like the 10th Doctor’s actor, the distro has made a reappearance!

During a conversation between characters in an episode of Doctor Who: Redacted (an official audio drama spin-off about the hosts of a podcast keeping tabs on TARDIS sightings), the OS powering alien super-computer Mr Smith (once owned by iconic companion Sarah Jane Smith) is queried:

Shawna: Right; what OS does Mr Smith run on?

Rani: He doesn’t quite run on a normal operating system…

Abby: Are we talking Linux? Ubuntu, TempleOS…?

Rani: It’s a Xylok…

Shawna: Wait, is that an alien OS?!

Sorry if you were expecting more — but hey; they could’ve name-checked macOS, Android, and Windows (bet the Daleks use that one). Hearing Ubuntu and Linux mentioned at all in a mainstream entertainment franchise is pretty awesome.

K9 and Mr Smith
K9 would’ve liked Ubuntu far more than Mr Smith

For context, Mr Smith doesn’t run Ubuntu because it’s actually a sentient, highly-intelligent crystalline life form from space known as a Xylok.

It was trapped in the earth’s crust following a spaceship crash back in who-knows-when, only being freed by a volcanic eruption in the 1800s. Sarah Jane Smith found it, took it home, and it helped her build a computer to live in (housed in her attic, and activated by saying “Mr Smith, I need you”).

Why a computer? Spoilers sweetie! There’s more than meets the eye (ear?) to this Xylok, as explored in the first series finale of The Sarah Jane Adventures (if you love Doctor Who and haven’t watched it, do it: it’s great, and the 10th and 11th Doctors appear in a few episodes).

If you’re interested in hearing Ubuntu mentioned then the segment in question begins at 20:10 – quantal-ifably fitting, eh? — during Doctor Who: Redacted series 2 episode 5, which is available to stream on BBC Sounds.

Thanks to Nicholas for sending this my way!

Doctor Who