“Doctor Who?” Smoke and Mirrors
Guest contributor Mark M examines the greatest question.
The Doctor, the man we know so much about. We are familiar with both his good side and his bad, but we still don’t have enough understanding to answer the question; Doctor Who? However, what intrigues me even more is how the Doctor would answer the question? What does he think about himself? We know he is the man who never looks back, and within that resides the difficulty.
Many people will tell you that you are defined by what you have done and how you reflect upon that. We all know the old cliché of the man in the mirror looking back at you, being a true insight into your soul. Back to the Doctor, he never stops long enough for reflection, so we would’ve lost this opportunity if it wasn’t for intelligent writing. The Doctor’s enemies are reflected in his mirrors and sometimes his friends’ as well. Each series allows us a couple of standout moments. In this article; I’ll be highlighting some, just to help you form an answer to the question: Doctor Who?
“You would make a good Dalek!” – Series 1
As this was the first series of the revival, you wouldn’t have expected a stand out character to give an insight into the Doctor. The reason being the character is in the process of being established to a new audience. However, what we receive instead is a charted progression in his characterization.
In the episode Dalek, we see the Doctor as his worst – and it takes his greatest enemy to show us. The man, who is the protector of worlds, tells something to just go and die: a true separation between the Classic and New Who. We know that this is the Doctor who has just recently survived the Time War and it shows in his interactions. You can also detect an added hatred and bitterness as the Doctor continues to wallow in self-pity over the war. Over the course of the series this appears to lessen, a testament to the impact of Rose Tyler on the Doctor.
The Daleks are used in his final story as well: a tale of redemption, facing and conquering one’s inner demons and when he finds himself in a situation reminiscent of the Time War, the Doctor reaches a different decision, not to kill what is essentially his new species, humanity!
“He was a very uncommon man” – Series 2
Series 2 is slightly lacking in characters to draw really strong comparisons with, but then again, you shouldn’t expect it to. Just as the Ninth Doctor was established, he regenerated. That said, there are still a few characters that share some attributes with our favourite Time Lord.
The first is Harriet Jones; someone who I believe foreshadowed the Other Doctor in the Series 4 finale. Harriet stands up for what she believes in, she priorities the safety of her subjects and she doesn’t take no for an answer. It makes sense that this is why the Doctor deposed her; he knows the dangers of someone like him being in power.
Secondly there is Sarah Jane Smith. She gives us an idea of what life after the Doctor is like. I will leave it up to you to determine what this says about him because there are numerous pros and cons. I tend to lean towards a more negative viewpoint, but that’s just me.
Finally, there are a few in The Impossible Planet/ The Satan Pit. I’ve heard comparisons with the Beast, however, I don’t see much there, apart from a common god-like status. Another is Mr. Jefferson, who shared nobility for putting others first.
“Would you like a Jelly Baby” – Series 3
In this series no effort is made to conceal the fact that the Master is the foil of the Doctor. This is one the most fascinating comparisons of the Doctor yet and the fact that the two Time Lords were childhood friends is put in plain sight. What is a friend other than someone you have the most in common with? The Master even uses the famous Fourth Doctor quote.
We learn a lot from studying the Master; we see more good in the Doctor, his willingness to reconcile and to put the past behind them. But alas…where there is good, there is evil and in this department we re-enforce some ideas about the Doctor: First is he didn’t make the finest decision as a child. What this actually tells us is that he’s scared, both of the power of the time vortex and of his own people, because of this we see one of the least-in-character suggestions to date, keeping the Master against his will as a pet.
Secondly we note a moral flaw in the Doctor: the events of this episode are all on him, as the Master’s plan was to rebuild a new Gallifrey. As such, I find it bizarre that the Doctor would forgive the Master; it did appear deep down that the Doctor was actually seeking forgiveness for his actions in the Time War. The obvious conclusion to draw is that both the Time Lords are two sides of the same coin.
“She was blonde” – Series 4
The character that reveals the most about the Doctor in this series is Rose. General consensus on this site is that any good left of her character after the later part of Series Two was ruined by her later appearances. Why did we suddenly turn against her? What changed?
Allow me to take you back to the Davros speech. Since it was just words, its impact was lessened. However this is where RTD proves he’s a clever man: By using Rose to emphasize Davros’ point.
In contrast to her character from the early parts of Series One to her most recent appearance, Rose is an innocent caring woman, while the latter a selfish git who would’ve moved heaven and earth to get what she wanted. To complete her downfall, she applauds the threat of violence against the Daleks by the Doctor’s companions.
What does this tell us about the Doctor? This is what he does to people.
“I’d be honoured…. If you were my dad” – The ’09 Specials
The 2009 specials showcased a darker Doctor and saw the birth of the Time Lord Victorious. For this reason, my selection is Wilfred Mott. The characterization technique shows an alternate view on the Doctor, so it makes sense when the show projects him as bad, to look for the good in him.
Wilfred and the Doctor are the perfect foils, the war veterans, who share common responsibility for Donna. Wilf’s spirit and strength is parallel to what the Doctor would do; we see this best when he releases the worker from the radiation chamber.
Throughout the episode, Wilf suggests things which both men are obviously thinking, but which neither is willing to do. However, suggestions are still made.
Ten’s tragic end showcases the strength of his bond with Wilf. He sees himself in the old man and therefore is forced to be angry at him, but it’s not a rage-filled anger, it’s a hurt anger. Wilf acted like the Doctor. The consequences of which meant an end to their relationship, one man had to die. This interaction says more about Ten than any story beforehand and I’m rather surprised at the negative perception directed towards these scenes.
“I’ll have to find a new name, cause I won’t be ‘the Doctor’ anymore” – Series 5
Moffat, in his first series went a little over the top. He gave us at least two characters solely to serve as a strong insight into the Doctor. It’s impossible to choose one over the other, especially as they show opposite sides of the Doctor.
First was the Star Whale. It was the last of its kind and it gave an insight into what motivates the Doctor; he can’t stand to see children cry. It sounds a bit daft as you’d have to be extremely evil to take pleasure in watching children cry, but when you think about it, we are all children to the Doctor. Compared to Time Lords, we are all toddlers and that is why he helps us: paternal instincts.
The second character gives us an insight into the dark side of the Doctor, the Dream Lord. Well, he is a manifestation of his dark side caused by a flake of physic pollen in the TARDIS rotors. What he tells us, which, if it wasn’t already crystal clear, is that the Doctor hates himself. The reason why is unclear, but I suspect it is shame from his actions in the Time War.
“Halfway out of the dark”- Series 6 Part 1
I’m cheating a little by going with A Christmas Carol, because I’m unsure what series it falls under. The character I have chosen that best represents the Doctor is Kazran Sardick.
There is a clever piece of foreshadowing here by Moffat, in Kazran’s reactions to the loss of his friend. If it wasn’t for the Clara mystery, you could easily see the Doctor ending up like Kazran. The two have a lot in common actually, even before their respective losses: They both express an interest in how the world works, they’re both useless with women and they both have an elevated sense of self importance. It’s not these oblivious comparisons which are successful, it is the deeper foreshadowing. Another observation would be that both men are living in the shadows of their pasts, Kazran with his father, and the Doctor with the Time War.
“Such a creature, death would be a gift” – Series 6 Part 2.
At first I was shocked to hear, “I wasn’t talking about myself”, but it really makes sense. Furthermore, the Minotaur has a lot more in common with the Doctor than being an ancient blood soaked creature, drifting in space.
The purpose of The God Complex is a character study on the Doctor. Two things we learn about him is that he actually has a “greatest fear” and that he is ashamed of it to the extent where he will not admit what it is or what he puts his faith in.
Others put their faith in him and he thrives on it. He is at his worst when he is alone and appears stronger when he has people around. However, when he is finished with someone, he discards them. Sound familiar?
“I’m the Doctor” – Series 7 Part 1
Two alien doctors in one episode; it must be another suggestion to compare characters!
So what do these men have in common? Both are sort of fathers, both are guilty of atrocities against their own people, and both are actively seeking redemption.
Furthermore, both men are haunted by the deaths they have caused. We see the Doctor’s side in his speech about honouring the victims first, the victims of his mercy. As for Kahler-Jex, we see it in his speech about death and his punishment in the afterlife. It is worth noting that given the similarities between the two men, the Doctor’s actions towards Kahler-Jex are very hypocritical.
“You think you’re a god, but you’re not a god, you’re just a parasite” – Series 7 Part 2
The above quote screams Doctor! We’ve seen his god-like side in the Time Lord Victorious and his parasitic nature in Rose’s character change.
The Doctor shares the universal gravitas of the Old God. They both have religions and traditions based on them and people living in fear of them daily. Both are inherently evil, but the good they do means that if it were removed, the effects could be catastrophic. The Doctor’s death would have a more profound effect, crippling the entire universe.
“Great Men are Forged in Fire” – The 50th Anniversary Special.
The crescendo of all of this has to be the 50th Anniversary special; we now have a physical manifestation of all the Doctor doesn’t want known about himself. Will we get answers? I hope so! From what we know of The Day of the Doctor so far, it is probably that the standout character for comparison with the Doctor. Keep that in mind as you read the next three paragraphs
Allow me share a thought with you, my take on the Moffat mystery. We have this quote; “Silence will fall when the question is asked”. I’m sure we’ve all be trying to figure it out. We know the question is “Doctor Who?”, but what if it’s not to do with his name, rather about who he is and what he’s done?
A dictionary can tell you that “Silence will fall” can mean a lot of things; I believe that the most appropriate translation is, for the apparent situation is “spiritual calmness will decrease”.
The Doctor has been putting on a show, he appears calm on the surface, but underneath, an emotional war is raging. Here’s what I think it means. “The Doctor will suffer, when he faces himself”.
This article could say a whole lot more. I have just pointed out several of the comparisons, along with their similarities. If I were to point out everything, it would be too long to read and you wouldn’t really want to. So I think it’s best if you form your own ideas by comparing the Doctor to those around him. Hopefully you can share some of your own ideas in the comments section; I look forward to reading some.
As we prepare ourselves for the end of Matt’s tenure, we must prepare ourselves for the answer to The Question: “Doctor Who?” The answer is fast approaching, but don’t be surprised if it has been there all along, hidden in the mirror.