In theory, I am not a fan of fan theories. Too self-indulgent, too anal-gazing, and they also take too long to explain… but then I was asked for to write something extra-lengthy to help DWC readers through the dregs of Boxing Day (they’re playing those Harry Potter films again), and I figured since I’m a fan-writer writing for a fan-website to a fan-audience maybe self-indulgent anal-gazing is our USP.
There were two other reasons for indulging my speculation. The first is that fan theories are now part-and-parcel of the show itself. With fans show-running, starring in, and writing Doctor Who, crazy pipedream hypotheses are now being adopted as canon.
The most prominent example is Steven Moffat’s musings on the origins of the Doctor’s name that he mooted in a Doctor Who chat room in 1995:
Here’s a particularly stupid theory. If we take “The Doctor” to be the Doctor’s name – even if it is in the form of a title no doubt meaning something deep and Gallifreyan – perhaps our earthly use of the word “doctor” meaning healer or wise man is direct result of the Doctor’s multiple interventions in our history as a healer and wise man. In other words, we got it from him. This is a very silly idea and I’m consequently rather proud of it.
Which in 2011 became this speech by River Song in A Good Man Goes To War:
Doctor. The word for healer and wise man throughout the universe. We get that word from you, you know. But if you carry on the way you are, what might that word come to mean? To the people of the Gamma Forests, the word Doctor means mighty warrior. How far you’ve come.
This tells us is two things: first that nutcase ideas in the hands of powerful people can suddenly become real (see that orange fellow with the little hands for more terrifying proof), and that Steven Moffat is one of those fussy old pedants who still puts a double space after a full stop even though we don’t use typewriters any more. Gah! And before you reply, ‘yes we do’ – not in online chat rooms we don’t, not even in 1995.
The second reason is the very poor quality of fan theories that are out there. Take a look (once you’ve finished reading this – there is no escape) at articles that list ‘insane’ and ‘crazy’ Doctor Who fan theories. I’ll give you an example: ‘Mary Poppins is a Time Lord.’ Stop the clocks, cut off the police telephone. Prevent the Dorf from barking with a juicy bone. It’s hardly mindwarping stuff, now is it?
What next, is young Paul from Bedknobs and Broomsticks – the one who asks ‘what’s that got to with my knob?’ – really a Vardan? Yeah? Because, like, his enchanted knob which can transport him and his gang on animated adventures is almost entirely unlike the Vardan’s ability to manifest without their humanoid forms in electronic ‘cloudforms’ that appeared as a shimmering, man-sized cloud of light with tendrils. Stick that on your man-sized knob and twist it, doubters.
In this vein, I present three theories that are not actually true, corroborated, or even particularly convincing. But, if they were any of those things they would actually change the way you watch Doctor Who. Forever. That’s the plan. Look, it’s in the title.
Now, I’ll set out a couple of criteria here. The first is that I’m only basing my theories on the broadcast BBC TV show Doctor Who and associated spin-off in-universe TV shows (apart from Class, obvs). So no Big Finish, comics, novels, Weetabix cards, or Slipback. OK, I’ll include Weetabix cards ‘cos they’re brilliant.
Also, I’m going to allow my theories to be inconsistent with some of the ‘evidence’ presented on the TV show. Why? Because canon in Doctor Who is totally inconsistent. Don’t believe me? The Daleks were originally called Dals not Kaleds (The Daleks), the Doctor has one heart not two (The Edge of Destruction), the Doctor’s name is actually ‘Doctor Who’ (The War Machines), the Daleks are just robots (Destiny of the Daleks), the Doctor is half human (Doctor Who TV movie), Clara was never the Doctor’s companion as no one who’s actually met her would chose to spend more than 7 minutes in the company of such a prickly, grating, fastidious know-it-all – let alone keep coming back to take her on trips across the universe when there are literally 7.6 billion less annoying people on planet earth alone (Doctor Who, 2012-2015). I’m joking, of course. Oh, you think that Danny Pink accidentally walked into the path of an oncoming vehicle while on that phone call to Clara? Really? My kind of audience…
To the theories:
Susan is the reason the Doctor fled Gallifrey
The Doctor has made various claims that he fled Gallifrey because he was ‘bored’ and didn’t like the dull non-interfering life of a Time Lord (rule one: the Doctor lies), but he is later forced to confess the real reason in Heaven Sent: ‘I didn’t leave Gallifrey because I was bored! That was a lie! It’s always been a lie! Not enough? You want more? I was scared! I ran because I was scared! Is that what you want me to say? Is that true enough for you?’
But what was he scared of? We know from his character that he’s not easily spooked, and is more likely to run into danger than away from it (even the First Doctor – remember the fluid link on Skaro). We also know he is prepared to make any sacrifice for the people he loves. And the centre of the Doctor’s affection, at that time, was his granddaughter, Susan. So maybe his escape wasn’t for his own sake, but for hers.
According to the Master, there’s no such thing as a happy childhood on Gallifrey, not for future Time Lords anyway: ‘Not that you’d call it childhood. More a life of duty,’ he says in The End of Time. ‘8 years old. I was taken for initiation, to stare into the Untempered Schism.’
The Doctor describes the schism as ‘…a gap in the fabric of reality. You can see into the Time Vortex itself. And it hurts.’ (The End of Time) Clearly, it’s a terrifying experience for any young Gallifreyan. ‘You stand there, 8 years old, staring at the raw power of time and space, just a child. Some would be inspired, some would run away, and some would go mad’ (The Sound of Drums).
That alone might be reason for the Doctor to take Susan (aged 8 or younger) as far away from Gallifrey as possible. To spare her the schism.
It may also explain why she seems less ‘Time Lord’ than others we meet – she’s not fully formed. Her abilities (such as the telepathy she demonstrates in The Sensorites) are untrained, yet to be completely released. It could also be why the Doctor dumps her in 22nd Century London (The Dalek Invasion of Earth).
The Daleks defeated, maybe the Doctor knows fear of the former invaders will keep other species away from the planet, leaving Earth safe for a while so Susan can lead a normal life. If the Untempered Schism changes Gallifreyans into Time Lords, it could be a human-length life ahead of her too (maybe she doesn’t know that…). Which will also save the Doctor from watching Susan age and die while he stays the same – something the Doctor clearly fears happening with all his companions.
The Doctor gives Susan the opportunity to ‘belong somewhere’ and ‘have roots’ of her own. We see in Human Nature the pain the Doctor feels because he can never have that kind of life. But is that enough to deny Susan the choice of life as a Time Lord? Which is surely the most incredible existence you could ever dream of…
So, back to the Master. We know that his untempered experience is what drove him mad, formed him into one of the most destructive and heartless beings in existence. Surely, nothing like that would happen to sweet little Susan? Unless they are in some way related. We know nothing about the Doctor’s children. We know he must have at least one or there would be no Susan, nor would the Doctor be able to claim to have been a father.
Let’s go one step further and propose the frankly barmy idea that the Master is Susan’s dad. (I know, I’ve been watching too much TV.) Assuming the Master was at that point male, and the Doctor had a daughter, I’ll go into further speculative fairyland and propose that Susan’s mother died in childbirth. Perhaps (in a Star Wars-esque way) the Master was unaware of the pregnancy and birth (which is why he never asks after her).
The Doctor takes Susan away as a newborn baby (that’s why she’s a bit shaky on details such as believing she made up the name TARDIS, as she relies on the unreliable Doctor’s accounts*) to keep her not only from the Master but also because she may have the same experience as her father when she looks into the Untempered Schism…
* How come Susan recognises the Death Zone on Gallifrey I hear you ask? Same as the Doctor, she’s seen it in a book or something – no Time Lords have been to the Death Zone for centuries.
Theory two? Why not?
The Doctor has never actually met himself
Three Doctors, Five Doctors, Two Doctors… hang on, did I miscount? Actually the real titles should be One Doctor, One Doctor, and – you guessed it – One Doctor. Because isn’t he the same Doctor despite his appearance? Well conversely, I’m going to argue that every time he meets an ‘incarnation’ that looks different from him, he is actually meeting one from a parallel universe.
‘Every single decision we make creates a parallel existence,’ the Doctor tells Jackie in Doomsday. That’s a lot of existences. Or, to put it another way, lost of universes. Or another way, lots of different times. There’s even one where Fear Her is remotely watchable. Fear her. Fear the Fear Her universe.
Let’s start with The Three Doctors… Doctor Two aside, why does the First Doctor look and act so much older than the Doctor we knew? Then The Five Doctors, why do Doctors Two and Three look and act so much older than the Doctors we knew, and the First Doctor nothing like the Doctor we knew? Come The Two Doctors and they are not even hiding it: Doctor Two has a mop of grey hair, is travelling with a much older Jamie, and even his backstory has changed.
At last, Time Crash gives us an explanation for the Fifth Doctor’s ‘saggier’, ‘greyer’ appearance, ‘The two of us together has shorted out the time differential.’ But it doesn’t explain why Doctor Five acts nothing like the dashing, earnest hero of old. ‘Two minutes to Belgium,’ he declares in the face of imminent death in exactly the way our Fifth Doctor wouldn’t. And the ‘time differential’ aging theory does not cover Doctor Two and the Time Lord mission, or the completely different appearance of Doctor One in The Five Doctors.
Also, don’t the two of them need ‘to be together’ for the time differential to be in place? So why are Doctors Two and Three so much older before they meet other Doctors in The Five Doctors (again with Doctor Two in The Two Doctors)? And why, if we ignore the fact he looks and acts nothing much like the First Doctor, why isn’t the earliest incarnation a walking cadaver when he meets the Fifth Doctor (or, indeed, a pile of dust when he encountered the Twelfth in Twice Upon A Time)?
Could it be that this ‘time differential’ claim is just a flawed theory? After all, we know that it is such a presumably dangerous occurrence that the First Law of Time forbids it. You only have laws to stop actions that are either criminal or dangerous and this is the First Law of Time. You’d think they would make the initial law a bit of a biggie. ‘The first rule of Fight Club is: please hand in any towels you have borrowed at the end and you will get your $2 deposit back. The second rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. The third rule – towels back, people!’ And, presumably, as there’s a solid rule forbidding Time Lords meeting themselves, there’s not a lot of precedents to test out any theories upon.
And what about the Blinovitch Limitation Effect, which basically means that time travellers cannot meet themselves or, if they do, the result is a huge energy discharge? The accepted theory (not stated on TV) is that it doesn’t apply to Time Lords. But I have an alternative theory: every time a Time Lord meets themselves, they merge into a parallel universe; they are not meeting themselves so no energy discharge. The incarnation they meet has led a different existence to themselves. The danger is that two universes merge which should be kept separate, thus endangering all of creation, a house of cards with a piece pulled out…
In The Three Doctors, it’s called ‘cross[ing] his own time stream’. You could take that to mean a stream crossing over itself, looping around and meeting at an earlier point. But that’s not what crossing a stream means: crossing is going from one bank to another – so maybe it means from one reality to another?
And surely the clearest indicator that this is the case is the Curator in The Day of the Daleks. He’s obviously the Fourth Doctor (it’s implied he is, anyway), but he’s led a longer, much different life to the Doctor we know, who eventually became the Eleventh Doctor. A parallel life, where he didn’t die atop the Pharos Project, then fought many battles before choosing retirement as a custodian of a museum.
I think that makes much more sense than a ‘time differential’- unless of course the meaning is more literal: the Doctor who meets a Doctor is from a different time…
The Daleks are Time Lords
Feared as one of the most powerful beings in the creation, they have bigger-on-the-inside time capsules, originally humanoid, they have found a method to extend the life of their bodies indefinitely, their home planet (which seems to appear and disappear in and out of time) has been feared destroyed, but when they lived there it was inside a might domed citadel with a wasteland outside, a key figure in their history is an engineer, a scientist who sacrificed his body to give his race ultimate power…
Time Lords, Daleks? What is it with those two? Isn’t the universe big enough for both of them? Why are the Daleks the biggest threat to the Time Lords and visa versa?
Perhaps they fear and seek to destroy each other because they know they are the same flesh. Over to that clever chap, Friedrich Nietzsche:
‘But the worst enemy you can meet will always be yourself; you lie in wait for yourself in caverns and forests. Lonely one, you are going the way to yourself! And your way goes past yourself, and past your seven devils! You will be a heretic to yourself and witch and soothsayer and fool and doubter and unholy one and villain. You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame: how could you become new, if you had not first become ashes?’
So Freddy was talking about the Time War! Who knew?
In Army of Ghosts, the Tenth Doctor says there are ‘billions of parallel universes all stacked up against each other. The Void is the space in between, containing absolutely nothing.’ Except it didn’t contain nothing – it contained the Daleks. Why did the Daleks hide from every parallel universe and enter the Void? Surely, it’s because the Time Lords were anxious to destroy the Daleks from every alternate reality, so they had to escape from them all. Why did the Time Lords fear the Daleks? Because that’s what Gallifreyans had become in a parallel universe on a planet renamed Skaro after the long war, and feared they would seek out and destroy their doppelgangers in order to be masters in all realities.
Take a look at the Ninth Doctor’s face when he’s told, ‘You would make a good Dalek!’ (Dalek.) It hits home, it’s too close to the truth – even for the Doctor. Why did the Doctor fight in the Time War after first refusing to participate?
It’s not as if he has a high opinion of the Time Lords; as the Sixth Doctor says, ‘In all my travelling throughout the universe, I have battled against evil, against power-mad conspirators. I should have stayed here. The oldest civilisation: decadent, degenerate, and rotten to the core. Power-mad conspirators, Daleks, Sontarans, Cybermen – they’re still in the nursery compared to us. Ten million years of absolute power. That’s what it takes to be really corrupt.’
Indeed, the Doctor has a rather rosy view of what a Dalek-ruled universe would be like. According to the Fourth Doctor, ‘Some things could be better with the Daleks. Many future worlds will become allies just because of their fear of the Daleks…’
But what if it was more personal? What if he finally realised it wasn’t a fight between his corrupt people and an evil destructive race – both no better than the other. But rather it’s a civil war across realities that will spread to the whole universe, to every reality. He had to make a choice. Maybe, secretly, subconsciously, the Doctor knew the universe was better off without the both of them… because they are essentially the same. Also he knew that the biggest threat to reality isn’t the two time-conquering races fighting each other, it’s what would happen if they came together.
Let’s examine Davros’s plan in Journey’s End. Back then, he believed the only way for the Daleks to be supreme is for all realities to be destroyed by the Reality Bomb, because no other universes can be allowed to survive where Time Lords – not Daleks – rule. But by The Witch’s Familiar, the plan had changed, it wasn’t one destroying the other that will bring victory but the two alternate realities coming together. Davros has had a revelation:
DAVROS: There was a prophecy, Doctor, on your own world.
DOCTOR: Please you must – you must stop this. You must stop this!
DAVROS: It spoke of a hybrid creature. Two great warrior races forced together to create a warrior greater than either. Is that what you ran from, Doctor? Your part in the coming of the hybrid? Half Dalek, half Time Lord?
Two halves make one thing: the ultimate Time Lords. I know the theory has flaws: Didn’t the Daleks emerge in the same universe as the Time Lords?
But consider the strange business of the first Dalek story. The Doctor (it certainly seems) has never heard of the Daleks. Later, we find out there is an ancient legend of the Time Lords that speaks of them. The Doctor had also left Gallifrey with his granddaughter, a natty victorian-edwardian cosplay outfit — oh, and a massively powerful remote stella manipulator, The Hand of Omega. Which he later uses to apparently destroy the Daleks and their home world (Remembrance of the Daleks) – lucky he thought to pack it.
Could it be that this strange paradoxical history of Skaro indicates a more complex relationship with time and our universe? Did it appear out of nowhere? Did the neutron bomb do more than destroy human tissue on Skaro; did it destabilise time and blast the Daleks into another reality? And so ignite the Time War…
Probably not. Sounds crazy. In fact, all of these theories sound like the ravings of a loony man. Dismiss them. They matter not. Have a Merry Christmas and forget everything you’ve just read. I dare you…