I’ve had a little time to process the revelations of The Timeless Child now. It’s a lot to unpack. If it’s real. The BBC has received so many complaints about the reveal that they’ve issued another apology. This being the second time this year — the first was regarding Can You Hear Me? Anyway…
Before I get into the fallout, consequences, ramifications, whatever you want to call it, I have to put forth a possibility. That the Master is wrong. In the episode…
We saw a child show up in our universe, and a scientist take her in. The child died, came back, and the scientist experimented on her, killing her repeatedly until she cracked the code for regeneration. That begat the Time Lords. The kid grew up and joined the Division (whatever that is). The Doctor also had a dream about the child. On that circumstantial evidence alone, the Master, who’s nuttier than a fruitcake in this incarnation, just outright names the Doctor as the Timeless Child, as if it’s incontrovertible FACT. Really? I don’t know. (If I’m missing some huge piece of the puzzle that directly connects the two, no question, please speak up.)
The Doctor’s been inside plenty of people’s heads this series, including the Master’s. For my money, she could have picked up images of the child and everything else from the Master’s noggin. The Master could just as easily be The Timeless Child. (Awkward.)
Doc Martin could still be pre-Hartnell, and have worked for the Division, yet even that doesn’t prove that she’s the Timeless Child – just that she’s another incarnation of the Doctor.
Then there’s the question of the buried police box in Fugitive of the Judoon. Maybe it made a psychic connection with the first Doctor it came in contact with for who knows how long (Whitaker) and shifted its form to a police box as a result. Martin’s incarnation didn’t even see the shell; she just beamed in. Actually, that’s pretty sophisticated and something the Doctor’s never been able to do. How is it that she can do that with the TARDIS yet all the “later” incarnations that came after can’t? Actually, we keep saying she’s pre-Hartnell, yet her TARDIS interior is based on the latest model from present day Gallifrey models? Is this significant, or was Chibnall just too lazy to create a different interior for present day Gallifrey?
Okay, now all these are possibilities as to what Chibs might have planned, and maybe he suckered us. But that grand planning all hinges on one thing: Chibs having the skill to be able to implement such a scheme. Granted, that’s not likely. Or at least, he’s never shown that level of complexity before. What we’ve seen so far is probably what we’ve got. Mistakes and stories with a ton of plot holes. I just had to throw that out there, remote as it might be. Cross those T’s and dot those I’s.
Alright, let’s accept Occam’s duller razor and say there’s no twist and that the Doctor is the Timeless Child. There are those that are enraged about these developments, some are concerned about them, others are rather apathetic. There’s a feeling from some that these developments are disrespectful to the legacy of William Hartnell. Some look at this as a whole new world of possibilities that have opened up. Many say that this is an arrogant, self-important Chibnall seeking so desperately to put his stamp on the show – that he irresponsibly just blew everything to hell and hasn’t thought things through. There may be varying degrees of truth to each one of those. Of the categories, I’m closer to the ‘concerned’ camp than anything else and yeah, Chibs definitely wanted to make his mark. I just wonder if he’s cognisant of exactly what it is he’s done?
Let’s look at where the Doctor stands if she is the Timeless Child.
- She’s not Gallifreyan at all. She was a mysterious, alien test subject that showed up out of nowhere, from which a race called the Time Lords were created. She’s not of that race, so if she’s a Time Lord at all, it’s an honorary or adopted title.
- She’s immortal. No matter what, she can not die. She’s billions of years old, has regenerated thousands, maybe tens of thousands of times, maybe a million times. We used to believe that under certain circumstances, if the regeneration process got halted, arrested, etc., that the Doctor could die. Obviously that’s never been true. Or has the Doctor just been incredibly lucky and/or careful since the beginning of time? Doubtful.
- She predates the oldest civilisation in the universe. Well, I guess now, second oldest. Some now refer to her as a super god. Considering who and what she is, you’re describing an elder of the universe, possibly the oldest living being in the universe. For all intents and purposes, a god. If Whitaker’s Doctor has time to think in her cell, absorb all the facets of this, what does that do to her head? She’s not only an immortal god, but she’s missing billions of years of memory. Where do you go from there?
- So if she can never die, where’s the threat, the next time a collection of Daleks surround him or her? There’s no real threat at all, which makes for less exciting stories. Hey, let’s regenerate every week!
- Her memory. I’d like to think that any tampering with the Doctor’s memory was done before the regeneration that brought Hartnell as a child into the picture. Make no mistake, any tampering with the Doctor’s memory on this scale paints him/her as a victim. Or a dupe. But at least if the worst of it happened pre-Hartnell, we can assume that whatever existed of the Doctor’s family was at least real. At least we hope that to be the case.
Chibnall has in fact taken the concept of Doctor Who and has fundamentally changed it. The show is no longer about a renegade Time Lord who left his world of non-interference to go experience the universe. No, now the show is about seeing a tiny tiny part, a fraction of a nano second in the life of an amnesiac, God-like elder of the universe.
And what’s the effect on the past 57 years (fraction of a nano second)? That’s somewhat debatable. All those stories aren’t changing one whit. Not one line. But thanks to Chibnall, we’ve changed. Can’t help it. We’re the ones that will be rewatching the stories. And when any reference is made about his past in any way, shape or form, you can hate the reveal, disagree with it, try to ignore it, but that little Chibnall ear-worm will be there whispering “Everything you know is a lie.” In that way, yes, it will affect old episodes and that’s really unfortunate.
There are two ways to end this. One gives Chibnall the benefit of the doubt.
Why did Chibnall choose this path?
Because he’s doing his level best to carve a whole new path for the show he’s watched all his life. Reinvent it, amidst failing ratings and against the advice of others and countless critics who’ve hounded him from the start. He’s doing the best he can to do something fresh.
Why did Chibnall choose this path?
Because he just wants to see it all burn. Because he can. And because he doesn’t have the skill or the talent to do something new and creative, he has to totally retcon the programme to show he’s in charge and manufacture his legacy.
Which camp you fall in will probably be decided once Series 13 finishes airing…