Bring Back The Time Lords
Guest contributor Mike Falino on why the Doctor’s race should return.
One of the Doctor’s defining characteristics in NuWho is that he is the last of his kind. Sometime between his 8th and 9th incarnations (possible bringing about the latter) the Doctor brought the Time War to an end, and as a result his entire species was altogether removed from time and space, leaving only him. Sure the Master showed up for a bit, albeit brilliantly, but his existence was really just an extenuating circumstance that wasn’t to last. The End of Time treated us to the one and only appearance of the Time Lords in the show’s modern era, and since their abrupt re-departure I feel as though a major piece of Doctor Who has been missing. I think it is about time for the Time Lords to return!
His People, Our Pleasure
House: “Fear me. I’ve killed hundreds of Time Lord’s”
The Doctor: “Fear me. I’ve killed all of them!”
Some of my favorite Classic Who stories involved the Time Lords. Having first appeared in the Second Doctor’s last story, they were a more consistent presence there onward, and whenever they showed up it always turned out to be some of the most compelling stories. Their presence brings about one of the rare instances where you can’t suspend your knowledge that the Doctor is an alien. When the Time Lord’s are around they make you view the Doctor from a different perspective. You see that he is an alien but somehow fits far better into other cultures than his own. His alien-ness is defined by his association with his own kind. In fact, this contrast between himself and his people is one of his defining characteristics.
The Doctor’s interaction with the Time Lords provided a wealth of opportunities for storytelling. Watching his companions see what it is like on such a technologically advanced world was always interesting to watch. The interplay between the order and structure of Time Lord society versus the wanderlust-driven eccentricity of the Doctor was a constant point of contention. And the way the Time Lords always seemed somehow less morally superior than they proclaimed themselves to be was a clever way to portray the dichotomy of the Doctor’s own ethics.
When NuWho arrived and we learned of the events of the Time War, I thought it was brilliant that so much of the Doctor’s character was defined by his decisions and actions during the war. It created a depth to his character that wasn’t present before the show’s revival. Sure we saw darker aspects of his personality before then, but this made him a much more tragic figure. Suddenly he was sympathetic, not simply admirable, or even enviable. But now we’ve seen the whole “I am the last of my kind” shtick too many times to keep track of, and while it still remains a critical component of the Doctor and his history, the repetitive reiteration is starting to feel a bit over played. It has lost its impact and it is time for a change.
The return of the Time Lords would change the landscape of the show dramatically, providing a near infinite canvas to work with. Just imagine what going to Gallifrey could look like with modern CGI effects! I would love to see stories set on Gallifrey involving political intrigue, dangerous science, ancient mythologies, even a civil war scenario. Not only would stories set on Gallifrey be visually stunning, but it would give us a glimpse of the last aspect of Classic Who not to have been updated. Really, the fans deserve a trip to Gallifrey.
The Daleks made their return, as if there was even a choice not to have them show up. It simply wouldn’t have been Doctor Who without them. The Cybermen came back, as did the Sontarans, and so has an increasing number of other classic villains in recent episodes. And this is why I think the Time Lords are ripe for revival. They’re not really a purely good species. They may be older and wiser but their morality is rarely congruent with that of other species, especially ours. Don’t forget that the Time Lords were brought back in The End of Time not as returning heroes, but as desperate villains. I think having them come back as a major enemy of the Doctor would be a great twist, and a perfect way to bring them back for an interesting reason and not “just because”. Bringing the Time Lord’s back as villains would allow the tragedy of the Time War to continue to influence the Doctor’s character while bringing back a crucial element of the show that could provide endless opportunities for exceptional storytelling.
The Master & the Rani: The Doctor’s Intellectual Equals
The Master: “I have so few worthy opponents. When they’re gone I always miss them.”
The Doctor is an interesting heroic figure in that he doesn’t have a nemesis… anymore. Throughout most of Classic Who the Master was lurking in the shadows, even directly causing the Doctor to regenerate on occasion. But since the Master’s departure into the sealed Time War, along with the rest of the Time Lords, the Doctor is without a counterpoint. While Doctor Who isn’t a show that necessarily relies on the hero-villain dynamic, it certainly adds to the overall potential for storytelling to have an arch enemy come into play from time to time. This is why I always loved when the Master showed up in Classic Who, and why I loved the Rani so much when she was introduced. She was another Time Lord that seemed to be the antithesis of the Doctor. She wasn’t as maniacally evil as the Master, however. She was a pure scientist devoid of empathy who pursued her work to the very limits of indifferent morality, but she still posed a very real threat to the Doctor.
Both the Master and the Rani were the Doctor’s intellectual equals, and really, very probably his superior. At least so far as the Master is concerned, he is one of the very few things that actually ever got to the Doctor on a deeply visceral level. I think there is something lost in not having these two figures around anymore because it puts the Doctor at the pinnacle of intellectual superiority, and with that comes a leveling off of the threats posed to him. If there’s nobody to outsmart him then you are left with every threat being overly dramatized and the solution being simplistic or ridiculous, such as with the overuse of the sonic screwdriver, or the oft-used “love defeats all” scenario. In short, the Doctor needs a true threat, someone that legitimately has a chance to win, causing him to actually outsmart someone not so easy to outsmart.
I would even be open to the idea of not bringing back all the Time Lords, just a few. I could even see the Master staying gone. I think it is time for the Rani to reign as the Doctor’s major nemesis if only to bring a fresh face, character-wise, into the mix. Imagine an ongoing storyline where the Doctor picks up a male companion who gets lured away by a hyper-seductive Rani. Just think of the potential. Imagine if the Rani had showed up during the Pond era and somehow enchanted Rory…
I think perhaps bringing back a small number of Time Lords would allow for the ramifications of the Doctor’s actions during the Time War to remain intact while still bringing back something that is missing from the show. If only a few are brought back, and even fewer still are “good”, it would make for a very interesting dynamic between them all. What if a group of Time Lords, seeing the end of the Time War approaching, somehow hid, and now with the threat gone they return but go their separate ways. This is exactly something the Rani could have masterminded. The Time Lords offer so much opportunity for amazing storytelling that not tapping into their potential is doing the show, and the fans, a grave injustice.
But do you think the Time Lords should return? Sound off in the comments.