Sunday, October 9, 2011

What It Really Means When We Ask "Doctor Who?"

Silence Will Fall when the Question is asked "Doctor Who?" but what does the question mean?  A lot of people have interpreted the question literally, what is The Doctor's true name.  I think that misses the point entirely. What good would it do us to know that The Doctor's real name is Elbin Smartleportal? Would it enhance your understanding or appreciation of The Doctor in any way?  No.
Can that really be all that Steven Moffat is building up to? I don't think so.

It is my theory that the question is not what is The Doctor's name, but literally "Who is he?". What is The Doctor's true role in the universe? Is he really just a renegade Time Lord who grew tired of life on Gallifrey? Or is there more to The Doctor than we've been lead to believe? Does The Doctor have secrets he's kept to himself that have only been hinted at? Classic Who began to hint at greater mysteries right as the show was cancelled.

Towards the end of The Seventh Doctor's run script editor Andrew Cartmel felt mystery needed to be restored to the character of  The Doctor. Cartmel felt that years of explanations about the Doctor's origins and the Time Lords had removed much of the mystery and strength of the character of the Doctor, and decided to make the Doctor more than a mere Time Lord. Elements of this effort were liberally scattered through Series 25 & 26.

When Doctor Who was cancelled that effort, known now as "Cartmel's Masterplan" was cut short. It was revived to some extent in the New Adventure novels. Perhaps Moffat plans to see Catmel's vision to completion as New Who faces some of the same challenges.

So what was the masterplan? What was the mystery regarding The Doctor? It was the implication that The Doctor was one of the three founding fathers of Time Lord society, the mysterious The Other.

The Other was a shadowy figure in Time Lord history, one of the founding Triumvirate of Time Lord society. The other two members of the Triumvirate were Rassilon and Omega.

Of the three, the Other's origins are the most obscure, with the circumstances of his birth and appearance being a mystery. Like Rassilon, various contradictory legends surround the Other, some hinting that he had powers surpassing that of Rassilon or Omega, and some even suggesting that he was not born on the Time Lords' home world of Gallifrey. Even his name is lost to time, which is why he is simply referred to as "the Other".

Could it be Moffat plans on revealing The Doctor's true nature? I believe so. It may not be the exact fufillment of Cartmel's plan, but I think it will be a fufillment of his vision, to introduce a new backstory to The Doctor and reintroduce mystery.

I look forward to seeing how it will all play out.  Let hope it's more that just finding out the Doctor's name is Roger.