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.