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Could The Eleven Doctors Have Been Achieved Without Overcrowding?

Guest contributor Liam Sewell investigates.

eleven-doctors-2012

Before beginning, let’s look at what we’re out to achieve in this article. I shall investigate whether or not the production team could have included all the surviving previous Doctor actors for the fiftieth anniversary special without overcrowding the TARDIS. To do this fairly we shall limit the number of Doctors we have to three, to match the actual fiftieth. Unfortunately we must discount Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee from the list for obvious reasons, but we can come back to that later.

tom-baker-dimensions-in-timeFirst, let’s look at Tom Baker. Now obviously Tom did appear in the fiftieth and his portrayal of the mysterious ‘Curator’ was an intriguing highlight to many fans. However there are alternative ways we could have incorporated Tom Baker. The first was as Xerophyte Meglos, last survivor of the Zolfa-Thurans. Let’s say Meglos somehow survived the destruction of his planet and found a way to take the form of the Doctor once more… Stranger things have happened in space. Alternatively what if the crazed computer Xoanan made a return baring the face of the Doctor? The machine was left on, who’s to say there’s no chance of a return to the planet of invisible monsters?

How about Peter Davison? Some would argue the most eager to make a return, or at least the most eager to appear in the fiftieth. For Peter, the call could be to portray the main villain of the feature and mark the long awaited return of Omega. When we last saw Omega he wore the Doctor’s face, although unstable and deteriorating. If he could have some way survived then Omega could have rectified the flaws and controlled fully the Doctor’s body.

doctors-5-8For Colin Baker the answer is obvious, a return from Omega could always have been followed by a return from Gallifrey and who would be best suited as president during the war to end all wars? Rassilon apparently, but after his demise is it not possible that the post could be taken up by the mighty warrior and ruthless soldier Commander Maxil? When tweeted by a fan asking whether not he’d like to take up the role of Maxil once more, Colin responded with “try and stop me!” Proving he’s very eager to return, even if not as the Doctor.

Unfortunately when it comes to Sylvester, aside from inventing a new character or developing some complex plot revolving around his mysterious revelations that never came into fruition, there isn’t anything other than bringing him in as the Doctor that we can do. So there’s strike one on the list, our first actor actually playing the Doctor.

Next we have Paul McGann, and yet again we hit a brick wall. I’m sure there’s something amongst the audio adventures we could use to resurrect McGann, but for the meantime- and I think what we’d all prefer to see- McGann can be playing the Doctor for the duration of the special.

three-doctors-2005-smith-tennant-ecclestonWith Eccleston, there’s a requirement of imagination, as much as we’d like to have Eccleston play the Doctor after such a short time in the role, we don’t want to break our limit too soon. For now let’s say there is an Auton doppelgänger running around pretending to be the Doctor. We all know Eccleston would have likely turned down a return (well, he did) but we can still dream.

In a deleted scene from Journey’s End, the ‘Metacrisis’ Doctor was given a piece of the TARDIS which was to grow and become a fully functioning one. In a moment i’ll theorise a possible plot for this adventure and explain why he would get into this dimension. Some might say this is a cheat, as he is in essence the Doctor, but we shall not regard him as such on the basis he never served a term.

Finally we reach Matt Smith, and we have a single strike left. The logical thing to do would be to let the current Doctor at the time play the main Doctor, and so we shall. Unfortunately this means we wouldn’t get the fantastic John Hurt ‘War’ Doctor, which would be a shame as I felt that was a brilliant game changer from Moffat but in these circumstances the call for him just isn’t there.

the-three-doctors-hartnell-pertwee-troughtonBefore I theorise a synopsis for this special let’s take a look at what could have done with Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee. The obvious choices would be to cast David Bradley, David Troughon and Sean Pertwee, but who would they play? Further Auton duplicates perhaps? Especially in the case of Pertwee. For Troughton the obvious choice would be Salamander, we know very little about what happened to him after he flew out the bottom of the TARDIS. Hartnell supposedly had countless adventures we don’t know about so it’s difficult; all I seem to recall is his robot double in The Chase, but it’s really quite open ended with him.

planet-gallifreySo there we have it, all of the Doctors back in the show using only three actual Doctors. How would this work out? Let’s suppose Gallifrey, led by Commander Maxil, somehow breaks free of its bonds and starts to return. Omega, floating around the antimatter universe, rides off the back of it and makes it into our world teaming up with the Nestene’s and for some reason Meglos (and possibly Salamander) coming after the Doctor for good old fashioned revenge. With the boundaries between dimensions weakened, the ‘Metacrisis’ Doctor would be able to fly into our dimension to lend a hand. Why 3 Doctors? 3 villains to split up and chase them, inadvertently leading them to each other.

the-valeyard-doctor-whoTo end the special, what could make things worse for the Eleventh Doctor than being struck down and regenerating into Michael Jayston (or John Hurt if we really wanted to include him) at the climax of the piece fulfilling the Master’s prophecy of the Valeyard being ‘Somewhere between your twelfth and final incarnation.’ Maybe there was a mystical Time Lord thing and the Doctor would split into two, the Valeyard and Capaldi. Perhaps the Valeyard could have arisen from the fallen eleventh and Matt Smith could have still waited until the 50th to regenerate? Who knows, perhaps the Valeyard can wait as between twelfth and the final doesn’t necessarily mean the thirteenth.

All that remains now is to discuss whether or not this would have worked? For classic fans, so many throwbacks would have been a dream come true, but to the contemporary target market all these references could be nothing more than an inside joke that they simply don’t get. Aside from that, there’s still a lot going on, far too much for an hour and a half and it would either have come out rushed or just plain poor. I personally feel the fiftieth celebration we received was perfect. However I do feel the lack of appearance from the past Doctors let it down, especially considering most were on set at one point leading up to the special. Would it have been too hard to film a few seconds of switch flicking for the saving of Gallifrey scene?

In conclusion, what we’ve discovered here is not what could have been done with the fiftieth, but what they could do in future with the Doctor actors of old. The doors are still open, all we need now is the right writer to let them step through…

Step back in time...

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87 comments
ProfWimsey
ProfWimsey

The huge problem with this is that it is putting details before story. Day was a story about self-forgiveness, self-redemption and self-reinvention. How does Omega fit into that? (remember,only hardcore fans remember Omega at this point.). How does Meglos fit into this?

Really, the one way to do this would have been to have Davison, C. baker, McCoy and McGann play different curators. Each could represent a different version of the Doctor that survived the different causes of regeneration and made it to the Time War: where each failed to use the Moment and thus each did not set up futures in which future incarnations could set up yet a 3rd reality (where Gallifreyan is neither time locked nor destroyed, but instead put in a bubble universe or whatever it is.) The crux would have been that it took the willingness to make the big sacrifice that set up possible time lines in which Gallifreyan might survive: I.e., a re-emphasis of the main theme of the story in the first place.

Gallifreygreg
Gallifreygreg

Perhaps the surviving classic Doctors could have featured if part of the story had been set in the matrix? Tom, Peter and Colin all went into the matrix during their tenures and who's to say McCoy and McGann never at some point either. They could feature as 'echoes' or 'memories' of the time they spent there - they might even have aged so the actors could feature properly.

I don't see that the introduction of the matrix to a new audience would be too problematic, I don't recall reading about the 1976 audience having trouble with it when first introduced. In a story which features the time lords quite prominently, the matrix wouldn't be inappropriate.

G_Unitt
G_Unitt

The Day of the Doctor was perfect. But I think the Classic doctors should have, and could have been included in the 50th Anniversary celebrations.

I think when Matt regenerated, he should have done it on his own in the TARDIS. In 'Let's Kill Hitler', the Doctor relied on the Voice Interface in order to not have to deal with the situation alone, and ended up with Amelia, who was just an avatar.

However, the TARDIS knows the Doctor and has done for hundreds of years, so if the voice interface took the form of the Doctor, then it could recreate him reasonably well. I think it would have been pretty beautiful for all 11 Doctors to be in a circle around the console, helping Matt through the process. Stand-ins could be used for those who weren't able to star in the episode.

After the regeneration, we could have got a nice bit with Capaldi, where he looks around all the Doctors (now including Matt), and they all accept him.

I might write an article about my idea actually... Any thoughts?

TheOncomingStorm
TheOncomingStorm

Still sounds a bit crowded to be honest, but interesting article all the same. I was pretty happy with the 50th we ended up with, and jf the classic Doctor's had been in it, we wouldn't have had The Five-ish Doctors reboot, which was awesome!

gunslinger19
gunslinger19

i think it would be quite a coincidence for all of the doctor's dopplegangers to actually team up. but they could have included past doctors in other ways. for example, new footage of the doctors saving Gallifrey would have been good and the moment could have been used to show past bincarnations/ companions instead of Rose

TheOncomingSnow
TheOncomingSnow

No offence, but this sounds like a horrendous idea for a plot. There's being self-referential and there's, well...being incomprehensible to the casual viewer without about a half an hour recap. And overcrowded, to boot.

Sir James Bond
Sir James Bond

'I agree with Moffat when he said that however great the diehard fans are, they are the last person in the line of people you should have in mind while making an episode. The person watching for the first time in his/her life - that's main audience member for a Doctor Who story who you want to impress. Everything else is second to that'

.....as dear Mr Jek rather eloquently put it below.....and many of you seem to agree, and fair enough - 'opinions is opinions' and all that. And while I wholeheartedly share the gist of Mr Moffat's (and Mr Jek's) general approach to the show, it is, however, a creative viewpoint that isn't wholly enforced with, or entirely applicable to, 'The Day Of The Doctor'. You see, the 50th anniversary shin dig hasn't been designed exclusively for the 'main audience member' who's 'watching for the first time in his/her life', because it so heavily revolves around continuity and events that have already been established over the past eight years. So if you're coming in cold you surely won't be au fait with the notion of Time Wars, The Moment, the destruction of Gallifrey, secret incarnations, nookie with Queen Liz, and - to a lesser extent - UN.IT, Kate Stewart, Zygons, Jack's vortex manipulator.....etc. If you're new to the show.....you're new to the show, so events and references from 7 years ago are as mysterious as events and references from 50 years ago,....which makes the whole 'design and write it for a newbie' argument rather redundant.

Besides if ever a 'Doctor Who' story were permitted to be a little self referential its surely a half century anniversary. Fans, even fairweather and occasional ones - would probably expect a few knowing nods and winks to the show's past. And for my money, inserting more than one well known ex Doctor into the mix would probably have been the least esoteric, and most easily digestible, means of acknowledging the show's entire 50 year legacy (and not just its recent eight year renaissance). Now I'm not saying that I didn't enjoy 'Day Of The Doctor', because I did, tremendously.....it was clever and witty and enjoyable and all the things you come to expect from a moffat script. But where I tend to veer from the unquestioning obsequiousness that seems to emanate from the comments section regarding the 50th, is my acceptance that alternative scenarios for a multi Doctor get together were at least possible.....and viable.







Doctor What and Where
Doctor What and Where

An interesting idea for a special might've been the "birth" of the Valeyard. Just saying.


As for an alternative special: Bring in Doctors 8-11, with voice cameos by 4-7. An hour and a half special. Simple.

Mercy Reborn2
Mercy Reborn2

sometimes you have to accept what your given

Gallifreygreg
Gallifreygreg

While I'm not sure this scenario would have worked it doesn't mean to say there isn't a way the snubbed classic Doctors could have returned in the 50th. Audio content, alternate curator scenes for the DVD or minisodes (which only fans will bother to watch, so the age thing can be explained away easy enough eg Time Crash without being too much for the casual viewer to handle).

doctorblue
doctorblue

I think the 50th got it right when all the tardis arrived at gallifrey it allowed our imaginations to fill in far better   as we visualised all the drs inside their own control rooms looking exactly as they did when we last saw them something that couldn't be done any other way . if the actors had done it I think 1 it would have looked out of place  due to their age and 2 that would have made me sad . Also the bit when matt smith stood with all the drs was perfect for all the same reasons. I was satisfied with the previous doctors in  two ways 1 the fiveish doctors. ( brilliant ) and also big finish light at the end which has drs 1 to 8 and I'd recommend everyone to listen to it 



WhoLock
WhoLock

We saw all 13 doctors in 'day' that was definitely enough for me and being able yo add hurt to the line Up was "fantastic" I think this idea, while fun to imagine would just be too messy. I think the only doctor who should have returned is Davidson because he still looks like the doctor!

AnthonyMercer
AnthonyMercer

Salamander was a continuation of what they did with William Hartnell when he played both the Doctor and the Abbot of Amboise in Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve. He died, but that hasn't stopped Doctor Who before!











JakobBoyd
JakobBoyd

Yeah, pointless throwbacks to decades old television that barely anyone would understand. Great idea, that's not what killed the Classic Series in the first place or anything.

 

Anything in this spirit would leave most casual audiences confused, bewildered and would completely discourage them from watching Doctor Who for decades to come.

And besides, what about all the excellent monsters, companions, writers, directors, set designers, producers and countless other collaborators who have made Doctor Who what it is? Why not cram cheap representations of them in there as well?


All you need is a good writer...


EricPavlat
EricPavlat

Dump Hurt.  Replace with McGann.  It's that simple.

Unibot
Unibot

I had an idea for an opening sequence where the episode began in the junkyard - Tom Baker's silhouette appears and we see Baker from behind (floppy hat and all). A voice over tells a spooked Hartnell, "don't blink - don't even blink". There was, after all, a baby Weeping Angel in the junkyard in the original broadcast of "An Unearthly Child". Flash forward to the funeral session for The Doctor - the Eleventh and the Tenth would be the funeral's organizers ("Where is the egg salad?" "Egg salad - no, Fishfingers and custard - much better"). All of the people that had made The Doctor's life that much better would attend his funeral, including most of his past incarnations (Hartnell and Baker ran into some "trouble with a weeping angel" apparently). McCoy would arrive with Davidson and Colin with bags over their head (disguising their age), when Ten questioned the bags, McCoy would just laugh and smile, "it's much better this way...", while Colin griped about the bag, not knowing for what he had been kidnapped for. The funeral would be in Trenzalore, I had imagined; they would have listened to The Doctor's will (a voice over from a Hartnell impersonator) and the end of the story would have established how The Doctor had escaped death ... sort of, no not really, just putting it off for Smith's final episode. It is television, after all! Oh and Troughton - I imagined he would be played by Frazer Hines, as the late Jamie, being possessed by the Second Doctor who otherwise couldn't attend his own funeral for some bizarre reason...

sontaran17
sontaran17

Hmmmm, while it could work something doesn't click, it sounds a tad too messy and crowded. At the end of the day, I couldn't be more pleased with how they handled it - Perhaps it would of been better to have the actual actors as their doctors in the finishing scene with them all on the cloud looking out to Gallifrey, I just don't know

Seaborn W Deadman
Seaborn W Deadman

I don't understand...but we did see all the Doctors... All thirteen XD every Doctor made a cameo and I think it was enough.

cyberbrayde
cyberbrayde

If in that Parallel world and everything is opposite to the original world, doesn't that mean Gallifrey is back. And if the Timelords are back in that universe, doesn't that mean crossing over to Parallel worlds are possible. And having the TARDIS with the Meta-10th, he'll be able to do just that. Travel back.

Hibernus
Hibernus

I'm not sure that most people are complaining that all eleven Doctors should have rightfully appeared as lead characters - five alone was already pushing it in the past. I believe the frustration out there is simply tied to the point that none of the lead Doctors represented the classic series.

TARDISGuy
TARDISGuy

An very interesting article. While I'm happy with what we got from the 50th and I'm more in favour of story quality over Doctor quantity, I think attempting a story of this nature would be an interesting experiment

Polyphase
Polyphase

I think some extra specials involving other Doctors would have been good but the 50th would have been too crowded :)

Huknar
Huknar

If the Day of the Doctor was four or three, hour long specials (wouldn't that be a throwback!) there would have been ample time. Despite this, there was still room, for a bit of extra cameoing. Heck, the moment could have used all the Doctor's forms throughout the story (though personally, Susan would have been the best choice here.) The First Doctor (David Bradley) could have had a scene at the beginning of the special, retrieving a note left by eleven informing him of the calculations to start making (A plot development revealed at the end). 

The whole stupid zygon plot could have been removed for cameos of three other doctors, Seven, Six and Five. As a group. Hurt could have been replaced with eight, because, as much as I enjoyed him, he did take up a space more deserving of an actor who had been the Doctor prior. David Troughton and Sean Pertwee could have put on wigs and injected somewhere in the story. (Or just recorded longer Saving Gallifrey footage.) and Eleven could have regenerated into Capaldi at the end. There, all twelve Doctors without overcrowding the episode. Omitting nine of course who is too stubborn to even consider returning. It's not about having all eleven Doctors in the same room at all times, it just about recognizing them throughout the episode, and just in a two minute scene at the end.


SirTrey
SirTrey

@G_Unitt That's...brilliant actually.  It was still the 50th anniversary year and since Capaldi represents a new cycle for the Doctor it would've been perfect for the old ones to send him off.  Of course, there's still the issues of the three deceased Doctors (Bradley, David and Sean would be a nice touch in a pinch), that 4-7 don't particularly look like their older counterparts and there wouldn't really be a story-reason I can think of for the TARDIS to simulate them as aged, and that Eccleston still might not have appeared.  But the idea at its core is a beautiful one.

tealeaves
tealeaves

@Sir James Bond Lets be honest though there were 3 options for the inclusion of classic Doctors and the Day of the Doctor and Name of the Doctor explored all of them.

1. Using remastered archive footage - Check. It worked reasonably effectively. It gave an opportunity for sadly deceased Doctors to appear and for classic Doctors to appear as they had done in the show. BUT lets be honest the footage was a little dodgy in places.

2. Doubles with facial digital facial reconstruction. Worked ok at the end of the Day of the Doctor but the technology would have been too expensive for moving people really.

3. Bringing back old Doctors as they are now - Cue Tom Baker in a wonderful little cameo. Could other Doctors have been included at this juncture as other curators? Yes perhaps but there wouldn't be time to give each of them the kind of appearance Baker got.

I think the honest truth was that the episode was quite referential and there were lots of winks (many of which I'm sure I missed). The credits, totters lane, unit, neutron flow, the many pictures of the secret unit base, the scarf, the zygons, the changing console room, you've redecorated - I don't like it, etc etc. But ultimately it was referential because it was asking the same question the series has always been asking. Doctor Who? What kind of man is the Doctor? What does he stand for?  

VERITASERUMUK
VERITASERUMUK

@Sir James Bond  Completely agree. Series 1 Episode 1 "Rose" is the best episode for new fans to start with because it reintroduces the audience to the Doctor, the TARDIS etc... without focusing heavily on the past. As much as I love 'The Day of the Doctor', it is not the best story to have new fans start with. As for having more Doctor's - we had them, all of them. Yes it was archive footage but they still appeared. Having Tom Baker appear was a nice moment but if every previous Doctor still alive appeared for real (not archived) it may have been overkill.



Gallifreygreg
Gallifreygreg

Absolutely spot on. Day of the Doctor required a great deal of knowledge of post 2005 Doctor Who but was very scarce in classic series inclusion.

Day of the Doctor would have made a very fine one off or Xmas special, but it was lacking for a 50th. I don't know about anyone else, but anybody's 50th birthday or anniversary party I've gone to doesn't just include people they've known for the last 8 years, it includes people who have been there throughout the whole journey.

ChristopherRoberts
ChristopherRoberts

@EricPavlat - THIS. Given Eccleston was originally in the role that got rewritten to be Hurt. From the start, I would've given preference to McGann for the Time War role. Had my Doctor be the one who thought he destroyed Gallifrey. Pretty much spent 2005-2013 thinking that, until Day of the Doctor came along and ruined it for me!

Me and Stuff
Me and Stuff

How much have you seen/heard of the eighth Doctor? It wouldn't have worked nearly as well as it did. He's too much like Ten and Eleven, young, charming and lively. Had you put him before the big red button, he would've straight-up refused.

The way it turned out was perfect, McGann was given his own little episode without having to share the spotlight and the whole warrior story is really well thought out and made for great entertainment and surprises. It wouldn't have been as exciting had it been Eight, as much as I love him.

Doctor What and Where
Doctor What and Where

@EricPavlat This. If you're not gonna get Eccleston, replace him the most obvious of choices: The Eighth Doctor.


Think about it: Started life in a TV Movie, and would finish with a special that'd be shown in cinemas - a movie-like experience. With a contrasting characterization that would emphasize his difference with himself AND his future selves.


If thats not great, I don't know what would be.

TheBiPunishment
TheBiPunishment

That parallel world isn't totally opposite to this world, it's just one of many millions of billions of trillions etc. parallel worlds which deviate in some ways from our own. Who knows if Gallifrey ever existed in Pete's World?

Romanadvoratrelundar
Romanadvoratrelundar

@Hibernus Agreed, even The Five Doctors didn't really have five Doctors, and that was pushing it. I think three seems to be the comfortable number, big enough to make it a huge event but small enough so it's not too crowded.

VictorWong1
VictorWong1

Actually I look on the War Doctor as the amalgamation of the classic Doctors.

Romanadvoratrelundar
Romanadvoratrelundar

@Polyphase Agreed, I would have liked to have seen some sort of other episode with the classic Doctors, maybe some web stories like Night of the Doctor?

giddir
giddir

@Huknar  Just by doing that you've overcrowded the episode. This is why fans should never ever be let near storytelling. Less is more. 

JakobBoyd
JakobBoyd

@Huknar Doctor Who is about telling stories, not ticking nostalgic boxes.

Rani Nose
Rani Nose

@Huknar  This is what happens when how many returning characters can be stuffed into a screenplay becomes more important than telling a good story.  Moffat wove a complex and intricate story in which the Zygon plot is essential for understanding how the Doctor(s) ended the Time War.  Take out the subplot and TDotD becomes simpler and more linear, and the climax of the story loses the legs that hold it up.

Huknar
Huknar

@VERITASERUMUK @Sir James Bond  Uh, I'm not sure that's what he is saying. What I think he is, is that the anniversary is a special case in that it is an event for the fans, celebrating the history of the show, and therefore the inclusion of older Doctors was possible and viable.

Doctor What and Where
Doctor What and Where

@Me and Stuff I HAVE heard of his audio stories. Namely, the Lucie Miller/Till Death two-part story, which shows a vengeful, hate-filled Doctor at the end of it, ready to face all the Daleks in all of universe. Yeah, he would've worked.

And he would've worked, because he would have been like Ten and Eleven once. The contrast of the pre-Time War and post-Time War Doctor would be juxtaposed unto him, and Ten and Eleven would be weary of that transformation.

So no, it wasn't perfect. Hurt was brought in at the last minute for a story that required the Ninth, and Moffat created the Forgotten Doctor "twist" that at the end of the day, is so obvious a stunt that I can't believe so many fans don't fall for it.

And I say all this as a big fan of the Day of the Doctor. But lets face - it could've been better with either the Ninth or the Eighth in War's place.

Huknar
Huknar

@Me and Stuff  I'm not so sure. I am half with you, but I do wonder, perhaps McGann, over-time became ever more battle-worn. Ignoring the Time War until it becomes too much for him, and then he takes up arms. A whole period of his life explorable by future episodes or spin-offs or even the audios.

JakobBoyd
JakobBoyd

@VictorWong1 Totally, his performance wonderfully echoes the first 8, you can easily imagine any of them standing there, saying the same things.

Huknar
Huknar

@Rani Nose @Huknar  I don't agree. The zygon subplot is mostly irrelevant with a very thin reflection of the War Doctor's "actions". Still, replace Elizabeth the First with Doctors 5-7 and everyone would be happy!

Sir James Bond
Sir James Bond

@supermoff @Huknar @VERITASERUMUK @Sir James Bond Er.....not quite. By saying that alternative scenarios were possible and viable clearly implies they'd possess an inherent coherency and structural integrity, otherwise.....er, they wouldn't be viable. 



Still, the overriding view of many seems to one of.....'No, that's it. There's no other way this could have been done. Move along.'.....without anyone even attempting to acknowledge the fact that a different kind of multi Doctor get together might have been achievable. I guess I find that dismissive attitude a little dispiriting.....and a tad uninspiring. Ways and means.....ways and means.

Huknar
Huknar

@Rani Nose  Nope. I don't like it and I think it's unnecessary and takes up too much time. That's my opinion.

Rani Nose
Rani Nose

Saying the Zygon subplot is a very thin reflection does not make it so. You just can't wave it away like that. The resolution of the subplot was an exact parallel to the Doctor's actions in ending the Time War. In addition, the Zygons breaking out of the painting is what caused Eleven to meet his former selves. The three jailed Doctors resolves what the Doctor has been running away from in his last three incarnations and sets in motion the notion that the Doctor can team up with his former selves to solve a problem. The subplot is also what draws UNIT into the story.

Remove the Zygon subplot and the whole structure of The DotD story collapses. It can't be magically replaced with a subplot involving several earlier incarnations of the Doctor.

Introducing three former Doctors brings its own problems. That story needs to tell us how each of them are at the same place and time. The Doctors need to be introduced to each other. The Doctors need something meaningful to do because the producers don't want to insult their former lead actors, who provide so much goodwill for the show by going to Cons, doing interviews and recording the audio dramas, by giving them trivial comic relief bit parts. The former Doctors also need to be introduced to the current Doctor. Finally, unlike the Zygons and UNIT, who can be ignored once their subplot has served its purpose, a story with former Doctors has to properly say good-bye to those Doctors. Three extra farewells is a lot of time to spend on sentimentalities that have little to with plot.

Malohkeh
Malohkeh

@Huknar @Rani Nose  Honestly, the Zygon plot was remendously important. Think of it like A Christmas Carol (but timey-wimey). The moment plays the ghost of christmas future, and the war doctor plays Scrooge. That's essentially what the Zygon subplot was: the grumpy old man shown his future and inspired to take action.