Who is the newest Doctor? Does she fit into the status quo somehow or does she upset everything we think we know about the Doctor?
Trailers promise us we don’t know all that we think we do, but if one is conversant, there is a lot to know…
To keep the kvetching to a minimum, if you don’t like spoilers and are too lazy to reach for your remote to watch the latest episode of Doctor Who, you might want to avert your eyes.
Because there were a few revelations and refutations made today regarding the series most recent addition to the family.
Jo Martin, an English actress, has been ushered into the Doctor’s continuity as the first black, female Doctor. Beautiful, fierce and more than willing to do whatever it takes, Doctor [Jo] appears to be more than able to manage the task of being the errant and often troublesome Time Lord/Lady.
For the sake of argument, since Time Lords and Time Ladies were equals, we will go ahead and allow the term, Time Lady to stand in without further comment.
To make matters more interesting, Jo Martin is not the next Doctor, she is a past incarnation. One the current Doctor, #13, played by English actress Jodie Whittaker, the first woman to play the character in the series, does not remember or recognize.
Who is Doctor [Jo]? No one is revealing any secrets but the showrunner, Chris Chibnall, was on Twitter today and the jist of his comments said:
Doctor [Jo] is not from another timeline. (Though, I think there is some wiggle room here given the nature of the stories of the Doctor Who Universe. More on that in a moment)
She is not from another Universe. Remember, The Tenth Doctor played by David Tennant and Bad Wolf, Rose Tyler are living in a completely different Universe unable to be reached from our current story reality.
Oh, and Captain Jack Harkness won’t be back this season. Back to work.
If we are to accept she is a version of the Doctor from our timeline, the next question is: How would such a thing be possible?
Alternative timeline and parallel Universe do not have the same meaning. Worse, it is possible for a single timeline to have multiple instances.
An alternate timeline was a reality that diverged from the “true” timeline due to the actions of time travelers or other temporal phenomena. Thus it is possible for a single time traveler to appear in more than one of these timelines with limited damage to causality because the alternative timeline would eventually fold back into the original one, when the anomaly was resolved.
They were different from parallel universes in that they did not separate cleanly at the point of creation, resulting in the new timeline destroying the old one. The phenomenon may also have been described as an “interstitial spillage of time.”
The Gallifreyans, despite the fact we have very little information about them revealed to us in the show, they have a vast history unbeknownst to most viewers.
The Gallifreyans are often thought of as benevolent, but their history was filled with war and bloodshed against enemies whose capacities were the stuff of nightmares. Creatures which make the Cybermen and Daleks the equivalent of toy robots found under a Christmas tree.
Yes, I know they have seemed scary in the past, but that is only because the Doctor is facing them alone, often with nothing but his wits and a Sonic Screwdriver. And he has, for the most part manage to confound, confuse, distract, and sometimes even destroy them, by the millions if they catch the Doctor on a bad day.
Yet, the Gallifreyans faced creatures capable of eating time itself – seriously, beings so terrible that they considered anything capable of dying, including the Time Lords as “Ephemerals,” beings of limited lifespan and awareness. Eternals, Chronovores and other beings who live on the fringes or even outside of our Universe entirely, were a constant threat to the Gallifreyans.
In the prose novel, The Quantum Archangel, the Sixth Doctor describes such beings:
“Imagine the multiverse – the totality of all possible universes – as a garden. The multiverse has to be tended, nurtured … and pruned. Parallel universes are a fact of life – quantum uncertainties lead to Jonbar hinges and then the universe diverges, buds.
But the overwhelming majority of these buds rapidly rejoin their primary universe, nanoseconds later. However, there are occasions when buds diverge from that primary reality very quickly. They possess enough dimensional momentum to achieve escape velocity – they become important.
These parallel universes branching off from the primary are considered to be weeds in the garden, an infestation that must be cleared. […] but there appears to be a possibility that they will run out of reality. […] But these parallel realities are considered to be a threat, and, like weeds, they are pruned, weeded out. And the Chronovores are the gardeners.”
Given the scale the Gallifreyans played at using weapons capable of erasing and manipulating timelines, harnessing stars to power their TARDIS, devices they grow and empower with sentience (at least until we learn otherwise) their science is as far beyond ours, as ours is beyond a white blood cell. In the Great Time War, entire planets were erased and replaced with their populations intact as timelines were fought over, destroyed and rewritten as a consequence of the war.
The Time Lords were able to play with their own flesh and its temporal footprints, allowing themselves to die and be reborn any number of times. Memories could be crafted from whole cloth, added and subtracted with but the application of the right technology.
Regenerations were passed out as rewards for service and though we have been told a Gallifreyan who has passed through the time vortex has but thirteen lives, we have seen such limitations be over-ridden if the masters of Gallifrey are feeling generous.
The Twelfth Doctor was the first incarnation of the Doctor’s second regeneration cycle, bestowed upon him by the Time Lords at Clara Oswald’s urging.
We know there have been eleven Doctors, plus the War Doctor, meaning Matt Smith was supposed to be the last regeneration as far as Gallifreyan canon is concerned.
Lets count them:
- William Hartnell (First Doctor)
- Patrick Troughton (Second Doctor)
- Jon Pertwee (Third Doctor)
- Tom Baker (Fourth Doctor)
- Peter Davison (Fifth Doctor)
- Colin Baker (Sixth Doctor)
- Sylvester McCoy (Seventh Doctor)
- Paul McGann (Eighth Doctor)
- John Hurt (The War Doctor)
- Christopher Eccleston (Ninth Doctor)
- David Tennant (Tenth Doctor)
- Matt Smith (Eleventh Doctor)
And the new set of regenerations beyond the usual twelve Time Lords are given:
- Peter Capaldi (Twelfth Doctor)
- Jodie Whittaker (Thirteenth Doctor)
If my ability to count is still viable, the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith was said to be on his last regeneration. Hmm. If we count all of the Doctors, include John Hurt’s War Doctor, we only have 12.
Could Doctor [Jo] have been wedged in somewhere between Doctors One and Three?
She had no idea of what a Sonic Screwdriver was. The device didn’t appear canonically on television until Fury from the Deep (1968) in the hands of the Second Doctor.
She seemed quite comfortable with her oversized rifle in Fugitive of the Judoon, and was able to jury-rig it’s capacity effortlessly, demonstrating the Doctor’s devious intelligence, but without the previously recognized restraint.
There is also the question of having a job, working with the mysterious Gallifreyan named Gat. Work, when you are a member of the most powerful species in the Universe is going to be very specialized. Since hiring Judoon and hunting fugitives seemed to come quite easily to Gat, she may have been part of an elite Gallifreyean cabal known as the Celestial Intervention Agency.
Another note: Gat did not seem to be aware of the Fall of Gallifrey. Does this mean she is from a time before the War in Heaven when the CIA operated without official sanction (offering plausible deniability to the Time Lord Council)?
Or was her operating theater after the Time Lords were rescued and subsequently destroyed by the Master? Given that Doctor [Jo] appears to date somewhere between Doctors One and Three, it would be safe to assume she does as well.
So, what have we surmised?
Doctor [Jo], is a version/incarnation of the Doctor previously unknown or forgotten by the current incarnation, Thirteen.
From Doctor [Jo’s] perspective, her TARDIS is displaying characteristics from what we know to be earlier Doctors, her memories show her having no memories of the sonic probe, though they are supposed to be a common technology of the Gallifreyans.
Is she from before the War in Heaven?
Or a period before the Great Time War?
Is she even from Gallifrey?
And if so, which one? Is it one of the Nine Gallifreys created to hide from their many enemies?
Many of those were destroyed but it is always possible one of these survived, an interstitial fragment off the main Universal timeline.
More research is required. Into the Time Vortex I go!
KR Fan and one of the Two Gay Geeks Ben Ragunton writes: “Nice try, but incorrect. Matt Smith even points it out in his farewell episode. David Tennant actually exhausted one regeneration lifecycle but kept the same face, so Tennant’s Doctor actually takes up two of the Timelord lifecycle, basically making him Doctor 11 AND 12, with Matt Smith being 13.”
That’s true – it’s the 13th regeneration, but Matt Smith is still the 12th Doctor. The author points out that Doctor Who has contradicted itself before, and suspects that there is some sort of Time Lord chicanery going on. – ed.
Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning writer, editor, podcaster and activist creating speculative fiction, scientific, political and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, California.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has published two books, ‘Hayward’s Reach’ (2011), a collection of short stories and ‘Broken Glass’ (2013) an urban fantasy novella starring his favorite paranormal investigator, Clifford Engram.