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.


  1. As a side note, Dorium says "Doctor Who?" more like "Doctor...Who?...Doctor....Who?"

  2. Interesting thoughts, although I would have no problems with finding out that the Doctor's real name is in fact Roger. It would certainly explain the fact that he's been running around space and time as The Doctor, as no one would take him seriously if he was simply Roger.

  3. Nice article, but what if the Doctor's real name is John Smith?

  4. This is a really interesting theory and I think it would be interesting to learn more about the Doctor's identity. But part of me agrees with the first comment here, it sounded like there was a pause between Doctor and Who. So could the question be about someone or something else entirely?

  5. For those who go off Lungbarrow, The Other is explained a bit more. Some people ignore Lungbarrow, esepcially RTD et al, but I don't know. I really enjoyed its concepts. It's too boring and average to have the Doctor appear so 'human' all the time. If you knit Lungbarrow together with corresponding nuggets of information scattered mainly through the novels (you'd therefore have to ignore the contradictory stuff, or at least come up with a belting story to tie it together), you get a much more tasty picture of the Doctor. Son of Penelope Gate (19th C. human adventurer) and the Time Lord Ulysses (sic), who later washes up on Earth as a professor called Joyce, he had a brother called Irving Braxital who left Gallifrey first and his younger brother, The Doctor, followed his example. Braxiatal was a bit of a mysterious git, emphasis on the 'git'. But I liked him. I guess I could go on to with the hints and the insinuations, but I just don't have the will to! I just hope he turns out to be more than he is as the Doctor being like everyone on Earth is atiny bit of a cop out. As was killing off the Time Lords. Lazy writing in my view there RTD & co. Personally, I'd prefer it if his name did in fact turn out to be John Smith. He'd be really bemused when he tells people what his name is "I've been telling you for years!". What-oh!

  6. Nice theory, and it does sound like something Moffat would do, as far as the The Question is concerned.

    If The Doctor isn't The Other, if they do go into that, I suspect that Moffat would make The Other a woman... or River o.O

  7. About Dorium, he was given more than a little to the dramatic. That was probably just a dramatic pause on his part. I'd be surprised if there were any more to it.

  8. If the reappearance of a missing jacket for one very short eye blink is important, then we can discount noting else that catches our eyes or ears, until the story is played out. Moffat delights in both red herrings and subtle clues. Sometimes the clues are cleverly disguised as red herrings.