Ok, ok, everyone is still collecting the pieces of their brains after all the revelation and questions that Fugitive of the Judoon brought to the table.
Is it possible that the relationship of Jodie’s Doctor and her companions will fade until one of them throws the towel? When was that Jack from? Who is the Lone Cyberman? Many questions, but by far the one who left us most without reaction during the episode was, “WHO IS THIS NEW DOCTOR?”
Very well. Played by Jo Martin, the newest Doctor left a question mark over our heads. Is she from the future? Or the past? Or a parallel universe? Well, according to Chibnall, “She is really the Doctor. No tricks, no alternative universes”, so this would theoretically take this option out of the list… but let’s slow down. Let’s analyse all the possibilities that this new Doctor brings to Doctor Who!
A pre-Hartnell Doctor?
One of the rumors that haunts the fandom the most in these last months is that Chibnall would insert something about 13 Doctors BEFORE the 1st Doctor.
As scary as this scenario seems, this idea is not strange to Doctor Who’s continuity. Even though the status of “original” was always going to be attributed to William Hartnell, there were moments in the franchise where this was put to test.
The Brain of Morbius
In this 1976’s serial, for instance, the 4th Doctor faces Morbius. At a certain point, there is a mind clash between the two Time Lords, where we see all the Doctor’s incarnation until that point. Baker, Pertwee, Troughton, Hartnell… then suddenly we see completely unknown faces. Who are these people? Why do they appear before Hartnell? Shouldn’t he be the first?
For a long time there was speculation about those faces. Were they pre-Hartnell? Was the Doctor just using a trick to deceit Morbius? Or incarnations of Morbius himself? According to Philip Hinchcliffe, the producer, they were the Doctor’s faces from previous incarnations. Since this confirmation broke the rules already established in the show, most fans and writers chose to ignore or simply come up with strange solutions to these so called Doctors.
The Other and the Cartmel Masterplan
The Other, thanks to his mysterious nature, was always a reason for doubt in the fans’ minds. We know that, just like Rassilon and Omega, he was one of the Founding Fathers of the Time Lords’ society. So far, so good. What really gets us is his relationship with the Doctor. After all, is he the Doctor? Or one of the Doctor’s ancestors? Did he reincarnate into the Doctor? And where does the Cartmel Masterplan fits in all this? Let’s go.
Cartmel Masterplan is the name given to the narrative line originally conceived by Andrew Cartmel, Marc Platt and Ben Aaronovitch. It consisted in deepening the origins of the Doctor and tie it with the origin of the Time Lords society, creating the concept of the Other.
The plan started to take form during seasons 25 and 26, with references spread within them. Eventually, the story would culminate in the stories that would follow, which never saw the light of day thanks to the 16 year hiatus. The concept was then taken to the Virgin New Adventures books like Time’s Crucible and Lungbarrow, but there were a few changes that left the Other’s story even more cloudy.
According to the Masterplan, the Other is indeed the Doctor in a different life, long before Hartnell or even the scared little boy in the barn in Listen. At a certain point, the Other would have reincarnated into the Doctor through the looms. The looms deserve an article on their own, and are the cause of great confusion for the show’s continuity. But just to make things easier for now, let’s just say that the more purist Time Lords are born through genetic engineering, and not sexually like you and me…
Anyway, back to the Other and the Doctor. Let’s say the Other is a glass jar. The Time Lords took this jar, passed it through a crushing machine, took the dust that was left and put it into another glass jar called the Doctor. Get it?
The good thing about the Plan and the Other is that we would have an explanation to the faces seen in The Brain of Morbius, and consequently, a possible explanation of where exactly Jo Martin’s Doctor fits in.
There’s only one problem. If the TARDIS got stuck in the form of a Police Box during the events of An Unearthly Child, how is it possible that the Jo Martin’s TARDIS already has this shape if she was pre-Hartnell? This tiny detail might theoretically take this possibility out of the list.
Something that’s not so strange for the show’s continuity are situations where the Doctor is cloned. Over more than 50 years, we’ve seen it happening many times. We had it in the classic series, in the modern series, in the expanded universe… And of course, it happened in many different ways, since Daleks cloning the Doctor (or making robotic replicas), to the process of meta-crisis.
Just to list some examples, we had a clone of the 2nd Doctor facing the 4th Doctor in the audios The Hexford Invasion and Survivors in Space (which are great to listen to, since the 2nd Doctor is played by David Troughton, Patrick’s son), two clones of the 10th Doctor, Handy and Jenny, in the same series, three clones of the 7th Doctor created by the Master to crash Bernice Summefield’s wedding…
Mostly these cloned died in the end of their stories, with rare exceptions, like Jenny and Handy. But it’s not a far-fetched idea to think that Jo’s Doctor is a clone of the Doctor. Just imagine: the Time Lords might have cloned the Doctor, given her a TARDIS equally locked in its appearance and released her into the universe, but unlike the original, he was a bit more controlled by them, even working for them.
Another Doctor between Doctors?
Well, this is one of the easier ones, after all, our dear War Doctor came about in 2013 to prove that, from the 8th Doctor on, the numbering of the Doctors might get a bit more complicated. Is it possible that Chibnall would pull the same trick and Moffat did 7 years ago, and create another Doctor squeezed between incarnations?
One of the theories that’s been getting more strength is that Jo Martin’s Doctor would be between the 2nd and 3rd Doctors. All the evidences are there: she works for the Time Lords, she has a TARDIS that’s clearly inspired in the looks of the 1960s, and has no idea about the things Gallifrey will go through.
Let’s get to the facts. We never saw the regeneration from Troughton to Pertwee, and we know that between seasons 6 and 7, the 2nd Doctor had a whole set of adventured. They are not just limited to the expanded universe, we actually see “season 6B” in the classic series!
In The Five Doctors and The Two Doctors, we see a 2nd Doctor who’s clearly older, and in the case of Two, it is clear he is “working for the Time Lords”, and we even get an older Jamie saying they should get Zoe. This clearly shows that, in their perspective, the events of The War Games are long gone.
This concept of a Doctor between the 2nd and the 3rd is nothing new. The 1990s were definitely the Wilderness Years, but also a fertile field for production both licensed and non-licensed by the BBC. Among them, there was Devious, that addressed this time of the Season 6B.
The new Doctor would be exactly the “Second-and-a-Halfth Doctor”, interpreted by Tony Garner, since he actually looked like a mixture of Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee. Devious (which by this day isn’t entirely released) is completely outside the official canon, but what if Jo’s Doctor is a way for Chibnall to create his own version of the “Second-and-a-Halfth Doctor”? It is believable.
Something that many people pinpointed that could debunk this theory is the fact that the 11th Doctor was the last one of the first regeneration cycle, due to the fact that we have a Doctor between 8th and 9th, and 10th spent a regeneration “credit” to create Handy. It really makes sense. Following this logic, 10th should have been the last one.
But bear with me: what if we discover that Handy in fact never wasted a full regeneration credit, and that during all this time, the math was right exactly because of Jo Martin’s Doctor? Or maybe we are to discover that the Time Lords gave her an extra credit in the moment she was about to regenerate into the 3rd Doctor as a “compensation for your services”? Time will tell!
And before I forget: You must be thinking “Oh, but she doesn’t know what a sonic screwdriver is”. But see, Jo Martin’s Doctor never really says she doesn’t know what it is. She just makes it clear that she doesn’t need one. Let’s remember the dialogue:
– (Martin) Why don’t you try asking that cute little gizmo of yours?
– (Whittaker) Same person. But you don’t recognize the sonic screwdriver.
– (Martin) Smart enough not to need one.
A stray Watcher?
If you have watched the classic series (or at least watched a video with all the Doctor’s regenerations), when it came to the 4th Doctor to the 5th you were scared by the phantasmagorical figure of the Watcher. And after the scare, the first thing you thought was “who the hell is The Watcher?” Well, first, a correction: it’s not THE Watcher, but A Watcher. This Gallifreyan mummy is not exclusive to the Doctor, but a mysterious figure that surrounds the Time Lords’ society.
It is said that, sometimes, before they regenerate, Time Lords are watched by their Watchers, and in even rarer times, the Watcher merges with their Time Lord during the regeneration (as we’ve seen in Logopolis, in the regeneration from Baker to Davison).
To be poetic, it’s like the Watchers are the guardian angels of the Time Lords. Strictly speaking, the Watchers are the personification of the regeneration “charge” that given Time Lord has. But they can also be the personification of alternative versions of a Time Lord. According to the Valeyard, the Watchers are “the essence of everything that ever was and will be”.
Now think. What if in any of these rare moments of the existence, any given Watcher strayed away from their function and started to think they were an independent being? After all, they can be “the personification of alternative versions of a Time Lord”. In Chibnall’s interview for the Mirror, he made it clear that Jo’s Doctor wasn’t from an alternative universe, but what if she was “generated” from a being that is the personification of alternative versions of the Doctor, but still within the regular universe of the show?
The amalgamation of all the evil of the Doctor that came about between his 12th and last incarnations, and by far one of my favorites (if not “my favorite”) character in Doctor Who, the Valeyard is one of those names that always pop up in the theories when we see the Doctor go dark.
For instance, when we saw John Hurt being introduced, many people asked if he wasn’t the Valeyard, myself included. The same thing happened when Capaldi was introduced as the Doctor. He was being sold as a darker Doctor in the beginning, and he was coming up exactly in the danger period that the Valeyard would appear, and he was the first of a new regeneration cycle that, back then, we didn’t really know where it came from.
It was easy, and particularly fun, to pull the Valeyard card in every possible occasion. Trust me, even the 10th Doctor has had nightmares that Handy could become the Valeyard, in the comic The Forgotten. Today, we already have more information that debunk this possibility for Jo Martin.
Before we go any further, let’s make an important correction. Differently from the Watcher, that is “a” and not “THE”, the Valeyard is “THE” and not “a”. There isn’t “a valeyard”. He is the definite article. There is only one Valeyard, as much as, even though they have multiple faces, there is only one Rassilon, one Borusa, one Master, and well… one Doctor, because they are the same person.
Even though he first appeared in the classic series, the concept wasn’t much explored beyond The Trial of a Time Lord, so the expanded universe had the job to work with the character every now and then. It’s where we had an important confirmation: The Valeyard can’t regenerate!
In the story Every Dark Thought, a Bernice Summerfield audio drama, we see her as the companion of Valeyard himself, and to fulfill his plan, he introduces himself as the Doctor. At a certain point in the story, the mask falls down and Benny finds out he isn’t precisely the Doctor. Let’s see this dialogue.
– (Benny) What happens to him to turn into you?
– (Valeyard) The weight of everything the Doctor has done will break him eventually. And I will be the result. (…) We cannot deny what we are. I am just as much the Doctor as any of them!
– (Benny) I should have seen it. Letting us go first on that tunnels. Abandoning us to the mercy of a Caragot!
– (Valeyard) Mere prudence! The Doctor has more than one life. He can afford to waste them on grand stand gestures.
– (Benny) Oh! You can’t regenerate, can you?
– (Valeyard) I… I splinted for the Doctor before his final incarnation. I have only this life.
– (Benny) Splinted? You are not a regeneration, you just fell off the back of a lorry!
Therefore, in order to be the Valeyard, the only possibility is Michael Jayston in the role!
Of course you can argue that the Valeyard might have stolen a “pack” of regenerations somewhere, or might be using a disguise. But strictly speaking, he can only be himself. Besides that, if we take away his eager for survival, he loses a great part of his motivation. The fact that he only has one lifetime is what makes him him, you see?
Add that to the fact that Chris Chibnall has openly stated that he doesn’t like (and doesn’t get) The Trial of a Time Lord, so the chances of him inserting anything that originated in this story are nearly null. Me, as a huge fan of the story and the character, say this without fear: Chibnall, as much as he is doing some great stories this Series, does not deserve to work with this character. Leave the Valeyard to a showrunner who’s a fan of it. There will always be time for that! But the thing is, Jo Martin is definitely not that Valeyard.
An Alternative Universe?
In a franchise whose main motto is time travel, the most common thing would be the notion of multiple futures, potential realities, parallel universes, etc.
In Doctor Who, even though the subject was always a taboo, it is more explored than the trained eye can see. In the modern series, this is easy: we’ve got Pete’s World, an alternate universe that, besides being more technologically advanced, doesn’t seem to have a Doctor of its own (or at least not one that’s gone to Earth).
We also have the alternative reality of Turn Left, where we see Donna living a reality where the Doctor died in the confrontation with the Empress of the Racnoss, precisely because he never had met Donna in such reality.
So far so good, we have two parallel universes where we don’t see the Doctor, or a Doctor just like the one we know… pretty cool, but not thaaat interesting.
In the classic series, things take a better course. In Inferno, the final story of Season 7, we see the 3rd Doctor ending up in an Alternative Universe known as… “Inferno Earth”. The society has evolved much faster technologically speaking, and UNIT (known as RSF – Republican Security Forces) is a fascist organization that controls the planet with iron fist.
Even though we don’t see the native Doctor in person, in every corner there are posters with an authority figure and the phrase “Unity is Strength”. This person is The Leaser, that we find out in the book Timewyrn: Revelation, is the 3rd Doctor of such reality. When the 2nd Doctor was exiled on Earth, he took a different path, gone rogue, and declared himself as the leader of Earth.
The Unbound Worlds
In 2003, Big Finish decided to venture in a series of anthology audios, where each showed a Doctor from an alternate reality.
- A 1st Doctor that chose a career as an author back in Gallifrey (Auld Mortality)
- A 3rd Doctor who, after the trial of the 2nd Doctor by the Time Lords in The War Games, was sentenced to exile on 1990s Earth, and not in the 1970s like the regular universe (Sympathy for the Devil)
- A cold Doctor without appreciation for the human life to get where he wanted (Full Fathom Five)
- A scenario where the Valeyard wins the The Trial of a Time Lord (He Jests at Scars…)
- A Doctor who was just a delusion of a TV show writer (Deadline)
- A female 3rd Doctor who, while still being the 2nd Doctor, decided to kill himself to regenerate and escape the trial of the Time Lords (Exile)
The stories were successful enough to earn two more adventures in 2008, bringing back two of the Doctors presented in the previous years. The 1st of Auld Mortality and the 3rd from Sympathy for the Devil, in the stories A Storm of Angels and Masters of War respectively. This was per se interesting. To give more adventures to the alternative Doctors… But the best was yet to come in 2016, when this 3rd Doctor, performed by David Warner, would come back in The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield. Bernice Summerfield, as we know, is a companion from the regular Doctor Who universe, who traveled mainly with the 7th Doctor. The whole motto of these adventures was Bernice being taken to the David Warner universe to help him save it!
From then on, this Doctor has become a regular in the Bernice Summerfield audios, and sometimes Benny even introduces him as her companion.
The entire story of this Doctor is amazing, specially because he is the regenerated proof that a Doctor from a parallel universe is allowed to travel between other universes, including ours. And even though Chibnall strongly denied that Jo Martin is not from an alternate universe, I still have my doubts. Chibs was always known for not revealing his secrets, to a nearly sick degree. Why would he release such important information in an interview? You may say I’m in a state of denial, but it’s all still very suspicious.
The Tomorrow Windows and conclusion of this topic
Besides everything we saw in the previous paragraphs, Doctor Who has a whole range of parallel realities. Such is the case of The Curse of Fatal Death, where we have alternate versions of the 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th e 13th Doctors.
We also have the 9th Doctor from The Scream of the Shalka (Richard E. Grant), who was practically considered official until the announcement of Christopher Eccleston in the role… He also had another adventure in the short story The Feast of the Stone.
The fact is, if it wasn’t already clear, the very mechanic of Doctor Who makes us play with multiple possible futures for the Doctor. In The Tomorrow Windows, a book from 2004, we see the 8th Doctor literally looking into his future and seeing multiple possibilities of what they may be. Now I ask you, why a concept that has so many possible outcomes for so many years in the franchise would be taken out of the list of possibilities about who Jo Martin’s Doctor really is?
Ok, this got longer than I expected. And of course I probably left some possibilities out, or didn’t mention a theory you guys might have. But the fact is that the introduction of Jo Martin’s Doctor opened a wide range of possibilities that go from something amazing to something that, if not done right, could compromise facts well established in the franchise.
For instance, she can’t simply be a Doctor before Hartnell and have a TARDIS shaped like a Police Box and the explanation is “It’s just what it is”. It is crystal clear that there’s a link between her and the Timeless Child, given they are ethnically alike, and the two plots were introduced by the same showrunner. But it should be done with care.
We’re no longer in 1976, when a writer could simply throw a bunch of unknown faces of the Doctor and expect the audience to just accept it, or that the next writer will have to find a way to clear up the mess.
We live in a world of fast information, where everything is announced quickly, and unfortunately people can’t hold themselves before saying “my series is dead” or “this Doctor is garbage”. Again, everything should be done with care.
I particularly loved Jo Martin’s Doctor. She has the Doctor’s presence, a beautiful TARDIS, cool looks and the potential to make the series’ continuity even richer. But I don’t want to see all this potential go to waste with something poorly done. I want to keep defending Jo Martin as the Doctor she already is!
Finally, let’s keep our hearts opened, stay calm and hope for the best. After all, Doctor Who is about change.