The Name of The Doctor [Spoilers!]

Posted by Kromey at 8:10pm May 19 '13
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First, let me just say this:

Called it!!!

When the interwebz were asploding with fans furiously protesting that they didn't want to know the Doctor's oldest secret, I said that they wouldn't actually tell us. After all, the title only means that his name would be important in the episode, not that we would be told it. And few things are as intrinsic to the very fabric of Doctor Who as the intense secrecy around the Doctor's name.

I'll admit, though, I did get slightly worried when Moffat announced that the episode would "change the course of Who forever". I still held though that we wouldn't learn the Doctor's name.

And we didn't!

Anyway, enough gloating. (Ha ha! I called it!! Okay, now it's enough.)

Absolutely fantastic episode! Easily up there with Blink for "best Who episode since the reboot". I don't think we've ever seen our favorite weary old man really look so weary and so old as we did in this episode. And I have to say, the revelation of why we've met Clara before -- the answer to the Impossible Girl -- was something I didn't expect, not in the slightest. And I loved how they wove her right into the entire Doctor Who mythos, all the way back to the day he stole the TARDIS all those many, many, many years ago on Gallifrey. "Steal this one. Navigation circuit's busted, you'll have more fun."

Of course, Clara Oswin Oswald is hands down my all-time favorite companion, so turning her into arguably the single most influential person in the Doctor's life was just awesome!

I must admit, though, I have my doubts about what's to come. The foreshadowing at the end of the episode -- John Hurt as the Doctor who forsakes his chosen title -- portends a much darker future for the show. And I'm not sure I like that. I mean, Torchwood did damn well for itself taking on a darker, more serious tone, despite the almost-whimsical Captain Jack at the helm of that one; Doctor Who, though, while occasionally venturing near serious, is loved because it isn't serious -- it's fun, and the Doctor himself is beloved because despite everything he's still the same madman in a box who gets a giant goofy grin when danger lurks ahead.

I really can't see John Hurt keeping up the same tone. I really can't see Doctor Who starring John Hurt being anything like what we've loved over the last many years. Especially given how he was introduced. "I did what I did for the name of peace and sanity." "Yes, but not for the name of the Doctor."

There's lots of speculation on who John Hurt's character will end up being. The "pre-Doctor" (prior to the Doctor choosing his name and stealing the TARDIS), the true Ninth Doctor (before Eccleston and the one who actually fought in the Time War -- which would make sense with the "broken promise" accusation from Eleven (who, under this theory, would actually be Twelve)), or even be the Valeyard.

Now, I think there's quite a lot of credibility to the Valeyard theory, given that he was a very important character during Six's run and that we've seen connections to Six already in recent seasons -- most notably when we see the "family album": "That's me during my rebellious period," referring to what's in fact a rather iconic photo of Six. Also the recurring character of the Master was prominent during the Doctor's sixth incarnation, including featuring in the same store as the Valeyard, although in fairness the Master had already crossed multiple incarnations before being re-introduced in the new series.

However, if Hurt is the Valeyard, then he's from the Doctor's future -- so how does the Doctor know who he is, let alone that he broke his promise?

I like the idea of Hurt playing the Doctor before he takes the name and steals the TARDIS. It re-casts all of Doctor Who -- all the good he's been running around doing since that day Clara pointed him toward his TARDIS -- as a story of a man seeking redemption for past deeds. On the other hand, though, it seems that the name "Doctor" is itself the promise, so how could Hurt break that, as Eleven says, before he'd made it?

I think he's either the real Nine, or else an older version of Eight. That is, whichever incarnation he is, he's the one who fought in the Time War. He committed double-genocide, exterminating the entirety of both the Dalek and Time Lord races (or so he thought, anyway). We already know he carries an unknowable amount of grief and regret over what he did to end the Time War. And while I don't recall him ever actually saying how many regenerations he's had, it would make sense for the Doctor to claim Eccleston's tenure as his Ninth even if Hurt were the real Nine -- Hurt "broke the promise" of the name "the Doctor", and therefore Eccleston, reclaiming the name and the promise, was the Ninth Doctor, even if he was in reality the tenth incarnation of the Time Lord we call the Doctor. In other words, refer to Rule Number One: "The Doctor lies."

Either that, or Hurt is in fact Twelve, and the show's heading in a much darker direction. But then Eleven would have to know his future to know anything about Hurt -- although it wouldn't be the first time Moffat wrote in some twisted, wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey mechanism for the Doctor to in fact know things we otherwise thought he shouldn't. (I mean, the Doctor who talked about Hurt was also the one who entered his own time stream and therefore had access to the entirety of his life -- including his future!)

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