OK, it’s now been a week since the finale to season 7 of Doctor Who. In this week’s blog post I’m going to be talking about the implications of that ending, and speculating on what we might see in the 50th anniversary special in November.
*SPOILER ALERT* It should go without saying that this blog post will contain spoilers for anyone who hasn’t yet seen “The Name of the Doctor”. So, with that warning out of the way...
At the end of “The Name of the Doctor” it was revealed that John Hurt would be playing some form of the Doctor in the 50th anniversary special. This wasn’t a massive revelation as this spoiler had already got out after he had hinted in interviews as to what his role would be. But what wasn’t revealed is that he would be playing some forgotten incarnation of the Doctor, an incarnation who didn’t live up to the name of “The Doctor”.
So, who exactly is he? In “The Name of the Doctor” the eleventh Doctor said that what the John Hurt Doctor did was done “in the name of peace and sanity, but not in the name of the Doctor.” For me, as well as, I’m sure, many other Whovians out there, this immediately makes us think of one thing – namely, the end of the Time War.
It is widely believed (although not firmly established) that the ninth Doctor’s first appearance in “Rose” took place not long after he had regenerated from the eighth Doctor – a regeneration which we’re yet to see on screen. It has also been speculated that the eighth Doctor’s regeneration came about at the end of the Time War. In “The End of Time” we’re told that the Doctor brought about the end of the Time War through the use of something called “The Moment”.
One theory for the identity of the John Hurt Doctor is that he is some form of the eighth Doctor – that somehow Paul McGann’s Doctor became him, and then he went on to end the Time War. But I have another theory.
The regeneration from Paul McGann’s Doctor into Christopher Eccleston’s has never been seen on screen. In fact, no firm details have yet been given for it. So, who’s to say that McGann regenerated into Eccleston? What if McGann regenerated into Hurt, who then in turn regenerated into Eccleston? That would then make John Hurt the real ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston the real tenth Doctor, David Tennant the eleventh, and Matt Smith the twelfth.
This wouldn’t break any continuity that has been established so far. There have been scenes where all of the Doctor’s previous incarnations have been seen – for example, there were drawings of them in “Human Nature”, and all appeared on screen in “Nightmare in Silver” when we were inside the Doctor’s mind. In both of these instances there was no John Hurt Doctor, but this doesn’t mean that he wasn’t the real ninth Doctor. We are told that what he did wasn’t in the name of the Doctor. It was clear that the eleventh Doctor didn’t like what the John Hurt Doctor had done. And so, after he had regenerated into Eccleston, he could simply have blocked out the John Hurt Doctor in his mind. He could just have pretended as best he could that the John Hurt Doctor had never existed, as he got on with his life as best he could. Blocking him out would involve leaving him out of the drawings in “Human Nature”, and not having him appear in “Nightmare in Silver”.
If this is all correct, then it’s very easy to work out what it was that the John Hurt Doctor did that so upset his future incarnations – the most likely explanation is that he used “The Moment” to end the Time War, wiping out the Time Lords in the process.
However, this isn’t the only possible explanation as to who the John Hurt Doctor is. In “The Name of the Doctor” the Great Intelligence states that one of the names the Doctor will one day be known as is the Valeyard. The Valeyard was a character that appeared in the 1986 season long story “The Trial of a Time Lord”. He prosecuted the sixth Doctor, aiming to have his life terminated so that he could have his regenerations, and realise himself – he didn’t yet truly exist. The Valeyard was said to be an amalgamation of the Doctor’s darker side, existing between his twelfth and final regenerations.
And so another explanation for the John Hurt Doctor is that he is another form of the Valeyard, who went back in his own timeline to use “The Moment” shortly before McGann regenerated into Eccleston (maybe even causing the regeneration himself).
There would be no problem with this and the eleventh Doctor recognising the John Hurt Doctor as himself at the end of “The Name of the Doctor”. Doctor’s have met each other before and remembered what their future selves look like – the second and third Doctor’s met each other on screen on two occasions (in “The Three Doctors” and “The Five Doctors”), and on the second occasion the second Doctor could remember his previous encounter with the third.
It would also make sense that the John Hurt Doctor is seen in the Doctor’s timeline at the end of “The Name of the Doctor” if he is a future incarnation of the Doctor. This timeline came about at the very end of the Doctor’s life, far (we hope) into the Doctor’s future, and so any and all of his future incarnations could be found here as well.
So, we have two possible explanations as to who the John Hurt Doctor is. If I had to put money on one of these, I would say that he is the real ninth Doctor.
As to what it was he did that was so terrible, as already stated, I think using “The Moment” to end the Time War is the most likely explanation. It would be hard to think of anything else. The 50th anniversary story is going to have to be something pretty special, and the Time War (and the consequences of it) was one of the most significant events in the Doctor’s life, but one which we have seen very little details of on screen. If ever there was a time to show us what happened in the Time War, this would be it.
So, what else might the 50th anniversary special have for us? Well, we already know that David Tennant and Billie Piper are coming back as the “tenth” Doctor and Rose. But we don’t yet know which version of the “tenth” Doctor it is – the real Doctor, or the human copy Doctor we saw go off with Rose at the end of “Journey’s End”. My guess is it being the human copy Doctor – who I predict will die during the 50th anniversary special.
We already know that classic enemies the Zygons will be in the special. They possessed the ability to take on the form of specific humans, masquerading as them. It has also been reported that the Daleks and Cybermen will be present as well. We also know that Joanna Page will be playing Queen Elizabeth I in the episode.
So, based on my predictions so far as to who the John Hurt Doctor is, and what we know will be in the special, here’s my predicted synopsis as to what the story will be in the 50th anniversary special:
The human Tennant Doctor will find a way with Rose to break back into our reality where he seeks out and meets the Smith Doctor. Human Tennant Doctor will say that he’s found a way to undo what the Hurt Doctor did – ending the Time War and wiping out the Time Lords – and can find a better ending to the Time War. The Smith Doctor will be apprehensive about this at first – the plan will involve crossing his own timestream, which is a very dangerous thing to do – but he eventually agrees to try.
We then see them go on an adventure, travelling throughout the John Hurt Doctor’s timeline, which crosses over with the timelines of Doctor’s 1-8. We see the John Hurt Doctor regenerate from the McGann Doctor. (N.B. Even though Paul McGann has said he’s not in the 50th anniversary special, seeing him in it isn’t out of the question. After all, we saw the Hartnell Doctor in a new scene in “The Name of the Doctor”...) We see all three Doctor’s travelling throughout time and space, encountering Queen Elizabeth I, Daleks, Cybermen, Zygons, and many others, as the John Hurt Doctor seeks out “The Moment”. We also see some crossover’s with all of the previous Doctor’s (appearing in a similar way to how they appeared in “The Name of the Doctor”).
Whilst Tennant and Smith seek to stop the John Hurt Doctor acquiring “The Moment” – including entering into an uneasy alliance with the Daleks at one point (your enemy’s enemy is your friend, if only for a while) – they ultimately fail to stop him. They then have to confront him to try and stop him from using “The Moment”.
With some help from a Zygon masquerading as one of them, they succeed in doing this (with the human Tennant Doctor dying in the process), rewriting the Doctor’s timeline, and the ending of the Time War. The John Hurt Doctor ends up regenerating into the Eccleston Doctor, but the Smith Doctor hurries out of there, as his timeline is becoming too confusing, and time itself could be damaged if he sticks around any longer. His whole timeline from that point has been rewritten, but he still exists as the Smith Doctor, with the full memory of the now false timeline which has consisted of the revived series to date.
These actions prevent the Time Lords from being wiped out – we even see some of the Doctor’s family and learn something about his granddaughter, Susan. This of course makes the Doctor exceedingly happy.
However, there are other changes as well – most notably, the as yet unseen event where the Doctor revealed his true name to River Song is rewritten, and now never happens.
However, by preventing the Time Lords from being wiped out, he’s also prevented the vast majority of the Daleks from being wiped out as well. The ending of the Time War has been rewritten. The Time War is back on. The Doctor will have to fight the full might of the Daleks again – and this will be the subject of the Christmas special...
So, that’s what I think is going to happen. My predictions could turn out to be quite accurate – or I could be completely, totally, and utterly wrong, and Steven Moffat has something completely different planned for the 50th anniversary special, as he goes out of his way to surprise us (and I would very much like to be surprised). I guess we’ll just have to wait six months to see just how right – or how very very wrong – I am...
Next Week: It’s ’Orrible Being in Love (when you’re 8 ½)