Category Archives: British Television

Twelve Doctors?

Now that Peter Capaldi has been named as the Twelfth Doctor, we can cast aside a couple of clouds that have been hanging over Doctor Who and get back to some proper speculating!

Who the hell is John Hurt’s “Doctor”?

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’ll be very disappointed with the production team if the best they come up with is, “oh, he’s the actual Ninth Doctor, we just never mentioned him before.”  Despite the fact that even in just an episode before, the Doctors were enumerated explicitly – without an extra Doctor.  (And need I mention that during Peter Capaldi’s announcement extravaganza on TV, they repeatedly referred to him as the twelfth?)

That’s either the single most sloppy, half-assed lazy script planning ever (not to mention downright insulting of the audience’s intelligence) or… the answer is something else.

Obviously, this is a fantasy show written by people who have just pulled this stuff right out their asses previously, so we can’t discount the possibility.  It also means the sky isn’t even the limit for possible explanations.  Therefore, I shall engage in a bit of my own ideas-from-ass-pulling and suggest some ways to explain John Hurt.

Let’s consider one of the few things we know:  The Daleks will be in the anniversary special.  Also, let’s consider that the promotional pictures of the Daleks show them moving through the wreckage of architecture that looks remarkably like Gallifrey.  That more about the Time War will be revealed seems a given.

What do we know about the Time War?

  • We think it was started by the Time Lords launching a pre-emptive strike on the Daleks in Genesis of the Daleks.
  • We think it was fought during either (or both) the Eighth or Ninth Doctor’s lives. (Although, there’s good reason to believe that the Ninth Doctor had just regenerated prior to meeting Rose, making an Eighth Doctor war seem more likely.)
  • We know that the Master was recruited by the Time Lords to fight in the war and given a new life (or life cycle), which he promptly ran away from.
  • We know that the Time Lords under Rassilon (original or namesake?) went ape-shit insane and decided to destroy all of time.
  • We know that the Doctor pushed the button to time loop Gallifrey and the Daleks forever.
  • We know that hasn’t been perfectly successful.

Here’s a couple more things we know about the Time Lords

  • They can grant/transfer additional regenerations (Arc of Infinity/Five Doctors/Trial of a Time Lord/The Sound of Drums)
  • They can scoop multiple versions of a Time Lord up for their own purposes (The Three Doctors/The Five Doctors)
  • We also (sort of) know that a Time Lord who meets himself can remember what his future self did when he ultimately becomes his future self.  (Time Crash – I’m taking a liberty using that as canon.)

What does all that mean?

For starters, one possible explanation of John Hurt is that he is the 13th or later Doctor and that he, and perhaps other incarnations of the Doctor, were snatched up by the Time Lords to fight the Time War.

If they were desperate enough to recruit the Master, surely they’d return to their old standby of turning to the Doctor (multiple times) – especially since the Doctor is the Daleks’ greatest enemy.

That the Time War was a multi-Doctor story seems a no-brainer.

Perhaps John Hurt’s Doctor (hereafter referred to as the Nth Doctor) is the version that pushed the button ending the Time War.  Perhaps the 8th Doctor died trying to stop him.  Every Doctor, 9 and after, would share the memory of the crime he himself is someday destined to commit.

That’s just one possibility – here’s another:

Has anyone considered how random the process of regeneration is?  We know that the Second Doctor was offered a choice (and Romana seemed to be exercising some form of regeneration control at the beginning of Destiny of the Daleks) but refused to take it, but the others are characterized as random.

Most of the Doctor’s regenerations have been accidental, uncontrolled affairs, but was the result pot luck or destiny?  Consider: if Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor had survived the fall off his exercise bike and then regenerated a year later, would the form of Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh have been inevitable?

From a television show standpoint, obviously not, the real reason is because of casting concerns, but, trying to put ourselves in the continuity of the Whoniverse, is it a random scrambling or a set progression?

I rather think it’s random and, as such, even the delay in regenerating of a few seconds could lead to a completely different Doctor manifestation.

Again, looking at the Time Lord’s powers, what might have happened if, in the Five Doctors, the Second Doctor had been injured and regenerated?  Would Pertwee’s Doctor and all the subsequent ones ceased to be or would an alternate time line Third Doctor have been created?

The Nth Doctor might be an alternate regeneration – a product of the Time War – still technically the Doctor, but not the one we know.  The Doctor’s road not travelled.

Of course, all of this is pure speculation, but it is fun to speculate.  That’s really all we can do between now and November 23rd.

Why the Doctor Should Not Regenerate Into a Woman

Whenever the time comes for a Doctor to change actors, some bright spark kicks up the idea of changing the gender of the character from male to female.

I’ll be the first to admit, my immediate, visceral reaction is to respond with, “that’s stupid,” but I’ll admit, that’s an emotional reaction and not one based on any logical reason.

I’m not sure that logic holds true in Doctor Who.  Let’s face it, with the track record of the last few years, they could pull any illogical, stupid excuse out of their collective arses to justify such a change and try to dress it up under that old standby, “It’s such a flexible format, you can do anything!

And, of course, there’s, “He’s a Time Lord, not a Human.  You can’t say what that means.”

Yes, yes I can.  For example, we know from repeated examples that the Doctor’s life depends on his hearts and although he has a respiratory bypass system (Does that mean he can breath through his butt?) he still needs to breath, just less often.  In short, Time Lord biological functions do bear some resemblance to human biology – he isn’t filled with rainbows farted by unicorns – at least, not yet.

I’ll take a stab at explaining why it isn’t very logical that Time Lords would be gender-switchers – even though that’s not why I think he shouldn’t change.

Put simply, like humans, Time Lords/Gallifreyans seem to have biologically similar gender functions. Pairings such as Leela and Andred or Susan and David carry the notion of compatible biology far enough.  Also, assuming that regeneration is still working with the same basic genetic material and that each version of the Doctor is at least a potential recombination of the same genes, not only does a gender swap seem improbable, it confers no evolutionarily beneficial purpose.  How could it provide Gallifreyans with a reproductive advantage?  With the Doctor being the last of his species…  not much point.

There is; however, one circumstance, where it might convey such an advantage.  In certain reptiles and amphibians here in the real world, there are documented cases of spontaneous gender changes – but these always seem to come about in extremely one-sex dominated populations – a necessary step to continuation of the species.  Perhaps, under those circumstances, I could find a compelling excuse.

(For example, if the Doctor and the Master were stranded on an island, and one of them regenerated into a woman…  yes, I could see that as an advantage to both the continuation of the Gallifreyan race and to crap-awful fan fiction writers everywhere.)

But, as I said, the best arguments for a female Doctor are never about plausibility.

They’re about story-telling and role models for young women.

The former is wishful thinking.  There’s no reason to believe that the stories would be any better, nor would they really have any extra flexibility unless they’re going to take Doctor Who down the path of addressing gender issues all the time. They’re simply not going to do that.  Casting the Doctor as a woman would be a gimmick and would not have any meaningful change on the content or pattern of the show, because that’s not what the show is about.

The later argument is the one I find most compelling.  There is a school of thought that says girls need more nerdy female role models.

I agree.  They need to see that women can be smart, intelligent, science-based, competent, inquisitive, compassionate, problem-solving leaders – all those qualities that the Doctor embodies.

They need to believe that a woman can achieve all the things men can do – and not because of some government program that forces quotas or other equality measures – but because they earned it themselves.

I firmly believe that – and that’s why the Doctor shouldn’t regenerate into a woman.

Because a female-regenerated Doctor didn’t earn her place in the TARDIS.  It was handed to her by all the male Doctors that came before.  It’s a cheat.  Hell – it’s an insult.  Romana earned her stripes as a woman and a Time Lord, a female Doctor would have earned neither.  What message does that send to young woman?

By all means, let’s have more female role models on TV and in the movies, but lets make them real ones and not just gimmicks.

114 – Doomwatch – The Devil’s Sweets

Quist and the gang investigate the curious phenomena of increased smoking in Britain.

The Dominators – Review

Back in the summer of 1968, The Doctor was travelling with headstrong 18th century scotsman Jamie McCrimmon and had just been joined by brilliant young mathematician and astrophysicist Zoe Heriot, of the 21st century. This team, with the regenerated ‘cosmic hobo’ Doctor is just about my favourite, so it’s always a pleasure to watch them in action, but this adventure is not one of their best. If you’re a Jamie fan you’ll enjoy the fact that he gets to make a lot of the running in this one, but the Doctor and Zoe are underused and the production show its limitations in both budget and imagination. Continue reading The Dominators – Review

Episode 074 – The Stone Tape

Eugene and guest host Simon review the 1972, one-off teleplay by Nigel Kneale, the Stone Tape.

Episode 023 – First Men in the Moon

Ben, Eugene and guest Simon from discuss the BBC’s new adaptation of H.G. Wells’ First Men in the World.

This adaptation, by Doctor Who’s Mark Gatiss, sets the bar for film adaptations of First Men in the Moon.

— First Men in the Moon Adapted by Mark Gatiss Starring: Rory Kinnear as Bedford and Mark Gatiss as Cavor

Aired 19 October 2010, BBC Four