Monthly Archives: May 2013
As promised, here is the final version of ‘Parting Clouds’…
“Slow, careful steps took her out into the night, damp grass pressing up between her toes. A light breeze raised goose bumps on her arms and she clutched her nightdress around her more tightly. Wispy trails of silver hair drifted about her shoulders. Vaguely she wondered how long it would take this time for someone to notice she had gone missing and come to fetch her back to bed…”
For the “story behind the story”, click here.
*** SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you haven’t yet watched the Series 7 Doctor Who finale ***
The internet has exploded. Since last night series finale, The Name of the Doctor, Doctor Who pages have gone into meltdown. This does not surprise me. What surprises me is:
(a) how many people were confused by the storyline
(b) how many people over-think it and come up with crazy theories
(c) how many people refuse to let go of theories that have been explained away
So this is my two cents on various topics. I’d apologise in advance to non-Whovians, but there is clearly something wrong with you. Come back when you’ve watched Blink
Number of Regenerations
In the classic episode The Deadly Assassin, it is stated that a Time Lord can regenerate twelve times. Yet there have been contradictions, exceptions and loopholes, one of which being that Time Lords can be offered a new cycle of regenerations (The Five Doctors). It is not even necessary to weigh up the evidence really. What people tend to forget is that the show has had different writers who deal with things in different ways. In the Sarah Jane adventures, Russell T Davis deliberately included dialogue where the Eleventh Doctor stated he could regenerate 507 times. If you read his book A Writer’s Tale, he explains that he did this for a laugh at the fandom because they seem to forget that canon has and always will contradict itself. He found it amusing that the fandom seem to cling to some canon while dismissing others. The fact of the matter is, if the BBC want to continue the show beyond thirteen regenerations, they will.
The Secret of the Doctor
The big reveal last night was the secret of the Doctor. The secret was not his name as expected. Only River still knows that (and maybe Clara who had begun to remember events that occurred in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS). The secret was the existence of another of the Doctor’s regenerations, played by by legendary actor John Hurt. When Clara is confused that she has only seen the eleven faces of the Doctor, the Eleventh Doctor says, “I said he was me. I didn’t say he was the Doctor. My real name… that is not the point. The name I chose was the Doctor. It’s like a promise you make. He’s the one who broke the promise.” More on that later.
Not the Valeyard
One theory is that this Doctor (who I shall call Doctor Hurt for sake of ease) is the Valeyard. No. I mean, I’m happy to be proven wrong but – no. The Valeyard is hardly a secret that the Doctor would want to keep hidden at all cost. Every classic fan knows of his existence. The Time Lords knew of his existence. Further, the Great Intelligence says, “The Doctor will have other names before his life is through, ‘the Beast… the Valeyard'”. While the Great Intelligence may or may not yet know about the existence of Doctor Hurt, he certainly knows about the Valeyard. So again, not a secret.
While it could be argued that the Nu-Who characters (with the exception of the Great Intelligence) would not know of the Valeyard, the Valeyard is hardly a game changer for Doctor Who – and Moffat specifically said that The Name of the Doctor would change the show forever.
It has been theorised that Doctor Hurt is the Doctor prior to William Hartnell’s Doctor. Again, no. The Eleventh Doctor’s words, “He’s the one who broke the promise” proves that there was a promise to break, i.e. that Doctor Hurt came after the Doctor chose his name. End of story.
A Future Incarnation
There are a lot of people out there who think Doctor Hurt is the 12th Doctor, or at the very least, a future incarnation of the Doctor. While it can be argued that the Doctor may now know his entire future since stepping into his own timeline, Eleven specifically said, “He is my secret”. He wasn’t surprised. He wasn’t shocked. Eleven knew about this incarnation before he stepped into his own timeline.
People have been theorising for a long time that the Doctor is the third mysterious person who along with Rassilon and Omega created Time Lord society. While this may be true (and I like to think it is) the idea that Doctor Hurt is the “Other” is not very likely. The Other has never been referred to onscreen directly. Most viewers will not even be aware of this vague and obscure possibility in Doctor Who canon. As such, using the Other as a “big reveal” will have little or no emotional impact for viewers… and that makes bad television. Furthermore, if the Doctor was the third person, this would likely have been during his first incarnation and the logic therefore falls down in the face of my “Doctor Zero” arguments above.
An older Eighth Doctor
Nope. Clara specifically said she’d seen all eleven faces of the Doctor. This includes the Eighth Doctor. Clara does not recognise Doctor Hurt so there is no reason to think that he is an older version of the Eighth Doctor.
One of the most popular arguments is that Doctor Hurt is an incarnation of the Doctor between his 7th and 8th regenerations (i.e. between the 8th and 9th Doctors). By his own admission, Doctor Hurt made some rather terrible decisions, and this has led to fan speculation that Doctor Hurt is the Doctor of the Time War.
It would seem that this feels right for many fans, myself included. Doctor Hurt looks burdened and battle-weary. The Time War has been an elusive piece of Doctor Who canon, inserted by Russell T Davies as a way to get rid of the Time Lords. When pitching to the BBC, this was one of the changes made in order to make Doctor Who appeal to modern audiences. The tantilising nature of this off-camera history has bestowed the Doctor with an even greater air of mystery and has created a desire within the fandom to find out more about this part of the Doctor’s past. Delving into the Time War might then be a good tactic of keeping audiences interested in the show.
And yet there is something contradictory about this theory. The Time War is hardly a secret. The Doctor has admitted to essentially committing genocide by putting the entire Time War, Time Lord and Daleks included, into a Time Lock. His actions, and his heart(s)break, has not been something the Doctor has actively hidden. If Doctor Hurt is an incarnation between Eight and Nine, is it possible that he could have done something even worse during the period of the Time War?
Furthermore, there is an important distinction that needs to be made here. When Clara says she has only seen the eleven faces of the Doctor, Eleven makes it clear that he does not consider Doctor Hurt to be “the Doctor”. Eleven considers himself to be the eleventh incarnation of the Doctor and therefore has effectively disowned Doctor Hurt.
This is why I have titled this section “Doctor Eight-point-five”. If this theory is correct, Doctor Hurt does not have a number as the other incarnations do. Which leads me to…
The REAL Ninth Doctor
“What I did, I did without choice – in the name of peace and sanity,” says Doctor Hurt, to which Eleven responds, “But not in the name of the Doctor”.
What isn’t clear is whether Doctor Hurt consciously rejects the name of the Doctor, or whether it is only his future incarnations (presumably Nine, Ten and Eleven) who reject him. And this really is the crux of it.
What makes the Doctor, the Doctor?
Eleven says the name of the Doctor is a promise. Who then, decides whether that promise has been broken? Doctor Hurt believes he had no choice, that his actions were inevitable, if not justifiable. And Eleven is effectively arguing with himself, different personalities notwithstanding. Who has the power to decide whether an incarnation of the Doctor deserves the name? If Doctor Hurt believes himself to be the Doctor, can that right be taken away by a future incarnation? Or is Eleven simply in denial? He certainly has kept this man a secret.
Clara only saw the eleven faces of the Doctor. Why should this be tied in to the name of the Doctor? She entered his time stream and she didn’t see or have anything to do with Doctor Hurt, but he was there. Clara didn’t go and rescue Doctor Hurt from the Great Intelligence. And presumably, the Great Intelligence didn’t, or wasn’t able to, change Doctor Hurt’s history. Yet Doctor Hurt was there in the time stream. I could do my head in trying to work that one out, but I suspect this is some Moffat-y plot hole that cannot really be explained in any way that makes any real sense. Perhaps he was Time Locked by his own actions and somehow managed to propel a future incarnation of himself, Nine, out of the Time War?? Okay, now I’m just grasping…
Despite Eleven rejecting his previous incarnation, and Doctor Hurt being ambiguous about whether he considers himself to be the Doctor, it should be remembered that at the end of the episode, this happened:
Someone thinks Doctor Hurt is the Doctor.
And if Eleven doesn’t really have the power to decide that Doctor Hurt doesn’t count, then that would make Hurt’s character the true Ninth Doctor. This would make Christopher Eccleston the Tenth Doctor, David Tennant the Eleventh Doctor and Matt Smith the Twelfth Doctor. That certainly would send the fandom into meltdown! It would also, as Moffat promised, change Doctor Who forever.
Regardless, this still brings us back to…
Number of Regenerations
As Eleven says, “My real name… that is not the point.”
Indeed it is not.
Doctor Hurt still counts towards the number of regenerations undergone by this Time Lord, irrespective of what he calls himself. That means he has experienced at least eleven regenerations. Now with Matt Smith’s announcement that he is leaving Doctor Who, the next Doctor will be the twelfth regeneration. And according to a large portion of the fan base – the last.
The future of Doctor Who
Will the future of the show come down to profits and ratings?
One could argue quite logically that it has always come down to that. The show was cancelled once before.
We are in a new era. The budget for Doctor Who has increased, thanks in part to Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner who actively fought to keep stories in tact regardless of the budget. The show is geared towards modern audiences and has become more mainstream since it was reintroduced in 2005. The sheer magnitude of the BBC / Doctor Who franchise is what keeps the show running nowadays. Unfortunately the fan base and entertainment value alone will not keep Doctor Who on air. Popular shows still get cancelled when the bottom line doesn’t greatly overshadow the cost of production.
Crunch time will come towards the end of the next Doctor’s reign. I predict that the BBC will be making some very serious decisions in the next couple of years.
Will the BBC finally decide to deal with the Doctor’s regeneration cycle by extending it, or using it is a convenient plot device to bring Doctor Who to a close?
I can only hope that Doctor Who continues for as long as it is good. And I hope that is for a very long time to come.
Yesterday I had an amazing experience. I was driving home from work, listening to a selection of soundtrack albums. One particular track came on – which I had only heard on TV quite some time ago. It is a beautiful and emotive piece of music. And as I was driving along an almost fully-fleshed fan-fiction story idea filtered into my head. I was so excited by the idea that I sat down at the computer as soon as I got home. In a few hours (around my parents dropping around and taking my kids swimming) I had knocked out a 2,000 word short story.
(5/5 edit: I had some feedback about the pacing of the ending so I’ve removed the story from this post and edited it. I will repost the final draft in my next post.)
Oh, and if you’re interested – this is the music that inspired this story:
Bonus points for listening to the music softly in the background while reading. Extra bonus points if you can listen the “Four Knocks” twice then “Vale”, timing it so that the 2 minute mark of “Vale” coincides with the last page. Okay, maybe that’s pushing it a little. I just love the idea of stories having a soundtrack. Besides, it’s important not to accidentally read the end first.
Oh Gods, don’t do that!
Don’t. Do. That.
Kind comments and constructive criticism is welcome.
Now that I’m waiting for an editor to get back to me with notes about my first draft, I’m finding myself with more time on my hands. And while I’m going about my day – working, doing home duties, playing with the kids – there is this little voice in the back of my mind. It’s a constant presence that sounds like what I would imagine a little, excited puppy would sound like.
“So what’s next, eh? What are we going to do? What are we going to write? You know you want to try a screenplay. How about that drama/comedy you want to write on spec? Or how about you just practice a bit more first by writing an episode of Doctor Who for fun? Or maybe, maybe you should just finish that short story you were working on a while back? Or the fantasy novel? You’re up to the third chapter and last time you read it, only the first couple of pages were shit. Maybe if you started a proper outline for that one you might get back into it…”
I think I’m just stalling because I’ve given myself too many choices. But I’m happy to go with that for now. I feel like I’m swimming around in idea-minestrone. That’s okay. I’ll dance with it a bit more and see where my passion leads