I’ve been away from my home here at FGS for a little bit, mostly spending my time scouring the countryside for lost reel-to-reels of A for Andromeda, and writing Jack of All Trades fan-fiction, but I’m back, and it couldn’t be at a more important time. The 7th season of Doctor Who has finished, and we were met with quite the shock-twist at the end of the last episode, “The Name of The Doctor;” namely, the appearance of a mysterious Doctor, played by the fantastic John Hurt.
The interwebs have been abuzz with who he is and what this means, but true Who fans know it’s not as full of wide open possibilities as the casual observer might be imagining. I’m going to share my 3 best guesses at what the hell is in store in the 50th Anniversary special, as well as what it may mean for the upcoming season.
Guess 1: The Retcon
We’ve been given only this information; John Hurt is the Doctor, he’s a persona from The Doctor’s past, and he failed to live up to the name of The Doctor. So, who is John Hurt? Well, keep in mind, The Doctor doesn’t usually talk about himself in the number sense that fans do. We call Matt Smith “11th Doctor,” or “Number 11,” or “That awful chode who replaced David Tennant.” However, The Doctor doesn’t refer to himself that way, and even if he mentions how many incarnations he has had, Mr. Hurt’s Doctor didn’t carry the name of “The Doctor.”
So, since we know it’s something dark and sinister, we can assume that Johnny boy can be The Doctor from the Time War. It’s never spelled out that the 8th Doctor (played in the T.V. movie by Paul McGann) actually fought in the Time War, when The Doctor was, arguably, at his darkest. It is entirely possible, within the canon, that the 8th Doctor was regenerated as this other figure at some point, and that he regenerated into our “9th” Doctor (the Chris Eccleston Doc). This means, the 9th Doctor is actually 10, the 10th is 11, and the current Doctor is 12. Which also means, hey, fuck us all on everything we’ve believed and said and thought since the series came back in 2005.
Guess 2: The Mistake
As I’ve alluded to before, Steven Moffat, the show runner on Doctor Who, doesn’t think very much about us, the fans, and our ability to look at 50 years of history and say “wait, that doesn’t make any sense, because you just re-wrote all the laws governing this universe…oh, and you arbitrarily change them back and forth to fit your shitty story’s needs.” Never-the-less, this puzzle we’ve been left with might be a mistake, showing us something not from The Doctor’s past, but from his future.
The Doctor knows that he must never see what his personal future holds; it was the entire theme of the season finale. However, what he jumped into was the ENTIRETY of his own timestream, and while I’d assume he wouldn’t look around for spoilers in his own future, maybe that’s exactly what Moffat had in mind. We know Matt Smith will be back for one more season after the 50th, but that doesn’t mean that he’s not trying to set up the 12th Doctor, then show the road to getting there.
It’s entirely possible that Moffat finds himself clever enough to do just that, and what The Doctor sees is a future version of himself that he hopes to avoid, but can’t. This isn’t the best argument, but I also didn’t think he was going to do half the shit he did with Rory and Amy, so, I’ve been surprised before (though not nearly as surprised as I was about the horrible, boring conclusion to the “Impossible Girl” story arc…I mean, really?)
Guess 3: The Return…of The Valeyard
Not to sound like an old, angry dork (even though I am, in fact, an old and angry dork), but if you mention The Valeyard to the Doctor Who loving kids today, they will not know what in the Matrix you’re talking about. A simple Wiki search will catch them up…go ahead, take your time…ok? Good. What? You don’t feel like doing a Google search and reading? Fine, you lazy whippersnappers.
The Valeyard, a fusion of the 12th Doctor and the “Final” Doctor (back then, a Time Lord could only regenerate 13 times) was created by the Time Lord’s High Council to place the 6th Doctor on trial. The Valeyard reflected the darkest possible outcome of The Doctor’s actions, and indeed, even the Great Intelligence explains in the season finale that The Valeyard WILL happen in The Doctor’s lifetime. So, the 50th might be another trial of The Doctor, featuring The Valeyard as prosecutor (again), which would theoretically be a good reason to drag out past characters (re: Seinfeld finale). Or, possibly just another zany adventure, where for one reason or another, he crosses paths with The Valeyard. Only wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff will tell.
Which will it be? I’m leaning toward The Valeyard and a trial. However, the “Dark Doctor” retcon Time War story might be a good one too, since the specifics of the Time War have never been fully explained. However, this raises another interesting point; if in fact this is the Doctor from the Time War, and it pushes the number of the Doctors up one, then Matt Smith would be the 12th Doctor, which means that he is part of…The Valeyard. Which means so is whoever replaces him (probably Benedict Cumberbatch…though, maybe not), or there will still be more retconing to make The Valeyard part of the actual “FINAL” Doctor, whomever that may be. Even if it’s something else, whoever follows Matt Smith will, without a doubt, be a part of The Valeyard, and has the potential to be the “Dark Doctor.” I’d look in my journal and tell you exactly what’s going to happen, but as River would say…“Hush now – Spoilers.”