Doctor Who – What’s In A Name?
Guest contributor Rick Kelvington gives his own speculation on the question of “Doctor Who?”
As the 2011 series of “Doctor Who” ended, we were given a very interesting tease as to what it will take to finally stop “The Silence”. It will come in the form of a question, and the question is, “Doctor Who”? And from the moment Dorium spouted those words, which have been said dozens of times throughout the nearly fifty year history of the show, it would appear we might actually get an answer, an answer which will NOT be what you would expect, and here’s why.
Don’t kid yourself. Steven Moffat is a very clever man. Despite the occasional missteps, (i.e. Teletubby Daleks, every star will super nova at the same time, and having both of the series he’s overseen end with a wedding) Moffat knows how to handle “Doctor Who”. If anyone out there foresaw the old adage being brought to life of “something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue”, they failed to mention it in any of the forums online. So let’s accept the fact The Moffat is clever.
So clever in fact, that there is no way in hell he’s going to give us the Doctor’s actual name, which has been teased at in the updated series for some time. There’s even a mention of it in the Vashta Nerada two-parter. Since then, we have thought at some point we will learn his actual name. Then along came Dorium, who told us it’s all still waiting for you: The fields of Trenzalore, the fall of the Eleventh, and the question!
But don’t be fooled. The question is not the name of the Doctor or how he chose it. The question is WHO is the Doctor? As in, what is his linage? If history has taught us nothing, it has shown us where we come from is at least as important as who we are. In ages past, people of import would casually say their name, but then proudly and loudly give you a little bit of their personal history. Here’s sort of a modern day example: I am Worf, son of Mogh, of the Klingon House of Martok, of the Human family Rozhenko; mate to K’Ehleyr, father to Alexander Rozhenko, and husband to Jadzia Dax. Who a person was, has far more to do with where they came from than something as frivolous as their given name.
I believe that the Doctor’s actual name is just a fun game we play, sort of like the one that was played with Lieutenant Columbo’s first name. Several years ago when I was lucky enough to have lived in Los Angeles and spent a fair amount of time on the Universal Studios lot. I got to meet Peter Falk. Once I asked him about the whole name thing. Why was it important for people to know what Lieutenant Columbo’s first name was? He told me, it wasn’t. It was just a bit of mysticism the creators of the show had come up with, something to tantalize the audience and give them an extra reason to watch. Was ‘this’ going to be the episode where we learned his name? It was the exact same thing on “Cheers” with Norm’s wife. We’re never going to see Norm’s wife. It’s just a ‘thing’, a gimmick.
Mr. Falk was right. It’s not important, and Moffat knows that. We won’t find out the Doctor’s name. We’ll find out something far more important. We’ll find out whom his parents were, where he came from, and what his role is in the universe. Now it’s not going to be some kind of “LOST” super revelation, but I suspect is will be a doozy, and it will come as a shock in some fashion to all of us. Moffat knows his Doctor Who. He’s a fan of the series from Hartnell to Smith and back again. He won’t forget McCoy’s revelation that he’s more than just ‘another’ Time Lord. He will heed the words of The Master that the Doctor’s Mother was human, and the hundreds of other little hints over the years that the Doctor is in fact something special.
Now why will he do this? Dorium says, “At the fall of the Eleventh, when no living creature could speak falsely, or fail to answer”. So we are at some weird nexus where for some reason. People must not only speak the truth, but must also not keep silent. I suspect this will be a bit of a contrivance when it arrives. Probably a force-field of some kind, sort of like the ‘field of temporal grace’ that’s in the TARDIS, where no enemy can fire a weapon, where… oh wait that was just a clever lie. But it will be something equally as silly. We’ll meet a race of lie detecting aliens, they’ll be all blue or something, and they excrete something like sodium pentathol, or have a mind power that forces people to tell the truth [or else they'll die]. It’s not important. It’s just a macguffin -- a gimmick to get the Doctor to tell us where he came from. Don’t forget, Dorium KNOWS the answer. Dorium knows everything about the Doctor, which is why he’s willing to help him keep his secrets.
Who is the Doctor?
So who is the Doctor? Here is what I suspect. There’s a reason you keep things secret. If you don’t want anyone to know something, typically it’s a bad something. Occasionally you hide your royal lineage, but mostly people hide things that are bad. So let’s look at the history of the Time Lords. Do we have bad Time Lords? Oh yeah. We have the Master to start with, but it’s unlikely he has anything to do with the Doctor’s lineage as they seem to be contemporaries of each other. We have Omega, who is the father of time travel, the one that was left behind. We have Chancellor Goth and The Valeyard, minor players in the series, but important ones. particularly the Valeyard, who appears to either be a future Doctor or all the bad bits of the Doctor rolled up together, maybe even mixed with a bit of the “Dream Lord” as well, but hardly a big enough bad guy to be ashamed of. Then there is Morbius who tried to make the Time Lords evil and was eventually executed. Now that’s a bad guy. The War Chief who took humans out of various eras and made them fight in “The War Games”. He was sort like the “Rock Creature” from ‘Star Trek’ if he were a Time Lord.
Finally, we are left with Rassilon, a character with contradictions. Was he the first Lord President, a kind ruler of his people? Or was he an evil dictator, with ambitions to seize as much power as he could? He has a deep and rich history in the series, and he is by far the most obvious choice to be someone in your families past not to mention in mixed company.
For my money, Rassilon is the odds on favorite to be the big revelation here. He’s appeared in both the new series and the original and he has been shown, like the Doctor, to be filled with contradictions. Is he a good guy or a bad one? He’s not unlike what the Doctor has become. Don’t forget that mere mention of the Doctor’s name can turn armies around, according to River Song.
As for the Doctor’s mother (ignoring “the Woman” in The End of Time)? Well, I’m on the fence here. I really don’t WANT his mother to be human. I really would prefer his mother be a Time Lord of some note. But there aren’t too many female Time Lords that appear to be bad. The most obvious is “The Rani”, but she too appears to be a contemporary of the Doctor, so it’s very unlikely she’s is his mom.
So I’m going to take a swing here, a huge swing, and create a super crazy theory. If the Doctor’s mom has to be human, or at least start off as human, then let’s make her Sarah Jane. Now, before you spit your tea out at the screen, hear me out. Sarah Jane is easily the most beloved companion on the series. She is also apparently the most dear to the Doctor. He’s given her not one but two dogs. Well, at least two different version of the same dog. He’s gone back and checked up on her, and he’s even offered to take her along after leaving her behind all those years ago. She is his favorite.
Maybe for a reason that is far too obvious, perhaps Sarah Jane is actually his mother. Somehow she is taken to Gallifrey of the past. Rassilon meets and falls in love with her (or something), and since humans can’t give birth to Time Lords as she lay dying during labor, Rassilon comforts her by saying, “Don’t worry, your human body is going to give way, but did you think for the nine months you carried our child he wasn’t in turn giving something to you?” Then as she starts to give birth, her hands start to glow gold, and she begins to regenerate, when it’s over she becomes The Lady Sara, and the child Doctor is born. Or nonsense to that effect. Yes, I know this is a huge fanw***, but they are going to do something this crazy, rest assured.
Silence will fall
Now we have the Doctor’s linage fairly well sorted out. So why does this assure that the Silence “will fall”? Why would telling anyone whom your parents were cause a race of beings to die? Again, I’m going to speculate wildly, and try and think like Moffat. Personally, I don’t think just saying who his parents are is going to kill the Silence. It make no sense. It’s like saying every star in the universe will super nova at once and then ‘crash cut’, into outer space and seeing a bunch of stars exploding. It’s almost as if you don’t understand how vision works. In order for it to appear like every star in the universe is exploding at once, from say, Earth, then stars twenty light years away would have exploded twenty years ago, and stars a thousand light years from Earth would have exploded a thousand years ago, etc. So it would appear to those of us on earth that all the stars are exploding at the same time. Of course, you would think someone would notice that a thousand years ago, about two hundred stars went nova for no apparent reason, but who am I to judge? So Moffat plays free and loose with the rules of reality here. And if he can do it once, he can do it again. And, well, frankly so can I.
So here goes: the Doctor, while at the fields of Trenzalore, gets into a life and death struggle. A struggle so bad, it will cause him to regenerate. But like Luke Skywalker, as he’s getting the beating of his life from The Silence, he calls out to his father, Rassilon. He answers the question of “Doctor Who” with a curse, an incantation if you will, that not only tells them who he is, but brings forth the spirit of Rassilon. And seeing his boy nearly beaten to death doesn’t sit so well with the former leader of Gallifrey, and with a single word, he turns the army of the Silence around and ends them, sending them into the void, never to be seen again. Until we run out of bad guys and bring them back.
In the end, on the fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the Eleventh, when no living creature could speak falsely, or fail to answer, a question will be asked. A question that must never, ever be answered. Doctor Who? And it will be answered thusly: I am the Doctor, Son of Rassilon, of the Gallifreyian, house of The Lady Sara, and I call upon the spirit of my father, on this day, at this time. Father help me. And in that moment, as the Eleventh falls and at that time a huge spirit presented itself, huge beyond words, a shadow across the planet itself, with its mighty arm stretched out, pointing at his dying son, and these words laid waste to all the Silence, everywhere, on every planet, known and unknown, as the words swept forth, the pain in them alone brought silence to the universe. The accusatory hand and the words of fury, the words of a father showing concern to his dying son, asking how this occurred, what beings were responsible, the words were shouted, screamed, and terrible… the words were “Doctor Who”?