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Andrew Cartmel: The Timeless Child “Depletes Mystery” of Doctor Who

Former Doctor Who script editor Andrew Cartmel has voiced his opinion that revelations about the Doctor’s origins of the kind seen in the two-part Series 12 finale, Ascension of the Cybermen/ The Timeless Children, risk having “a detrimental effect”.

Speaking remotely with panellists for Legend of the Traveling TARDIS, Cartmel said:

“The whole deal with the Doctor is that the Doctor should remain a mystery, a complete enigma because that’s where the show’s title came from. That was the unique selling point of the show back in 1963. We don’t know who the Doctor is so you can’t develop or deepen the Doctor or give him more of a backstory, although some people have in the past, I’ve never really approved of that.”

Having not seen the relevant episodes, Cartmel was only responding to his fellow panellists’ comments. Some may argue there’s an irony in Cartmel, who oversaw what came to be known as the “Cartmel Master Plan” in the late 1980s, arguing for the need for the Doctor’s origins to remain enigmatic, but he goes on to say that his aim was to enhance the sense the mystery:

“… I realized that the thing I needed to do make the Doctor really powerful again and interesting was to give him back some mystery. And I always emphasized – people often ask – well you see I didn’t want to deny all the previous material that had come along, all that canonical material, I wanted to say ‘all that’s true but there’s something else that’s true.’ So the idea was that the Doctor was all those things but in fact he had a secret and that he was not just a Time Lord. He was some kind of potent pre-Time Lord figure who is passing as a Time Lord.”

As his comments demonstrate, Cartmel has always been someone with a clear view of what he sees as the right direction for Doctor Who (check out his 2019 two-part interview with Doctor Who Magazine, starting in issue 545, for more on this).

You can watch the full edition of Cartmel’s chat with Legend of the Traveling TARDIS here:

Jonathan Appleton

A regular Doctor Who viewer since Pertwee fought maggots and spiders, Jonathan isn't about to stop now. He considers himself lucky to have grown up in an era when Doctor Who, Star Trek and Blakes 7 could all be seen on primetime BBC1. As well as writing regularly for The Doctor Who Companion he's had chapters included in a couple of Blakes 7 books.

Andrew Cartmel: The Timeless Child “Depletes Mystery” of Doctor Who

by Jonathan Appleton time to read: 1 min
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