From Day to Time: The Evolution of the Doctor
Guest contributor Greyson Harness explores the 11th Doctor in his last two stories and what it may mean for Twelve.
With The Day of the Doctor and The Time of the Doctor fading away in our rear view mirrors, many of us are eagerly awaiting the new series, with Peter Capaldi’s first full-length appearance. While a new Doctor is exciting, I think now is the perfect time to do a reflection on the 11th Doctor.
A few months ago, I wrote an article for this site called “Why does the 11th Doctor hate himself?” The article focused on the Doctor’s self-loathing and his character development over the last eight years. In the aftermath of The Day of the Doctor and The Time of the Doctor, I think that the Doctor has undergone such a significant development in character that it’s necessary to reevaluate where he stands.
The Day of the Doctor
The fiftieth anniversary special did as Moffat said it would and changed Doctor Who, set up the future of the show while also fondly looking back. With three Doctors, the Time War, and the saving of Gallifrey and the Time Lords, there was a lot going on in The Day of the Doctor.
I’d like to start by analyzing the War Doctor, the protagonist of the special. We know that it is the last day of the war, the day the War Doctor kills them all. After years, possibly decades or even centuries of fighting, the War Doctor is simply done. He’s had enough, and wants it all to end, even if it means the death of all Time Lords and Daleks alike. It’s easy to see what brought him to this point; he was shunned even in his 8th incarnation in The Night of the Doctor, simply because he was a Time Lord. The Time Lords and Daleks had caused so much devastation across time and space in their war that it was time to be done with it all, restore balance to the universe by killing them all. It would be the Doctor’s final kindness. The Moment, however, had other plans.
Enter the 10th and 11th Doctors. Both have tried very hard to get over the Time War and killing all the Time Lords, with little success. For them to meet their predecessor, the War Doctor, the incarnation of themselves they most hate, it brings all the memories of the Time War to the forefront. The 10th and 11th Doctors are forced to remember that sad day on Gallifrey, to reflect on it as they try to figure out why the War Doctor is there with them. These memories serve to make the Doctors’ decision about Kate Stewart blowing up London: she can’t. She’ll regret it all the rest of her life, even if she is saving millions. There is another way, the Doctors decided.
It should be no surprise then that, when faced with the same decision on the last day of the war, that the Doctors opt for the same verdict: they can’t kill all the Time Lords. There is another way. As the 11th Doctor said, he’s had four hundred years to think about what he did; and he changed his mind. I’ve heard much criticism over the return of the Time Lords, how it wiped away eight years of the Doctor’s character development. I’m inclined to disagree. I actually believe that it adds to the Doctor’s character. He made a mistake, and now he is given the opportunity to fix it. Those four hundred years of fear, loneliness, and depression still existed, and still formed him into the man he is now. He’ll be less likely to do harm in the future because he felt so much pain and regret over his perceived actions in the Time War. I have also heard it said that the Doctor suffered needlessly, for he never killed the Time Lords in the first place; he saved them. I don’t think the Doctor suffered needlessly. I think the Moment was punishing him for even considering mass genocide, allowing him to believe he killed everyone so he could be the very man he needed to be to convince the War Doctor not to kill everyone. A destiny paradox, if you will. The Doctor suffers to make himself the man he needs to be to remove the deed that caused the suffering.
This leaves us with the question how does the return of the Time Lords affect the Doctor? How will he be different now that he knows his people are still out there, waiting to be rescued and returned to the universe? I believe this is something that fills the Doctor with hope, as shown by his reaction when he realizes the Curator is telling him Gallifrey was saved. The Doctor has changed the one thing about his past he wanted to more than anything else, and he is a new man because of it. It’s only fitting that with his new outlook should come a new regeneration.
The Time of the Doctor
It was quickly established in The Time of the Doctor that the mysterious signal emanating across the universe was the Time Lords trying to verify this was the universe they had left in the first place. This was the ultimate destiny of the 11th Doctor, the place he’d been running to all his life. It is in this episode that we see definite signs of how much the Doctor has grown as a result of the events in The Day of the Doctor.
Perhaps the change that is the most obvious to see is the Doctor has become patient. He waits over three hundred years on Trenzalore because he refuses to let the people of Christmas and Gallifrey burn, a far cry from The Power of Three. Rather than doing various chores to ease his impatience, he accepts his new life on Trenzalore, taking the slow path. Never is the Doctor’s newfound patience more obvious than when Tasha Lem takes Clara back to Trenzalore for the Daleks’ final assault on Christmas. As Clara walks into the tower, she sees the Doctor sitting by the crack, whittling a toy. Hours of work must have gone into the one toy, and who knows how many other toys the Doctor fashioned in his centuries on Trenzalore?
The Doctor has always been running. Again, I look to The Power of Three, where the Doctor talks about how he is not running from things; he’s running to them. Now, for once, in a little town called Christmas on a planet called Trenzalore, the Doctor has stopped running. He sat down to protect the planet and his people, because he has found what he’s running to: home.
Looking beyond – The 12th Doctor
We may have only gotten a brief glimpse of Peter Capaldi as the Doctor at the end of The Time of the Doctor, but the question now on everyone’s mind is what is his Doctor going to be like? I believe that we can define a few characteristics of Capaldi’s Doctor with the knowledge of the character development of the last few Doctors.
Each Doctor in the revival of show has had a key characteristic that has ultimately defined his Doctor, something inherited from his predecessor. For the 9th Doctor, he was born of war and blood in the aftermath of the War Doctor committing double genocide (as he thought he had). This warlike quality defined the 9th Doctor, who was perhaps the most militant of all the Doctors, resorting to violence as a solution against the Daleks both times he encountered them. In the end, Rose Tyler made the Doctor into a softer man through her love for him, and thus the 10th Doctor was born from love. Love was a key characteristic of the 10th Doctor, displayed through his flirtatious manner, multiple love interests, and the most onscreen kisses of any Doctor. In time, however, Rose Tyler left his company, and he became a very lonely man, regenerating by himself in the privacy of his TARDIS. The 11th Doctor was born from loneliness, and this shows throughout his tenure in his unwillingness to let go of the people and things he loves. The 11th Doctor became very attached to things, and was heartbroken when they were lost.
In the end of his life, however, the 11th Doctor came to grips with losing things, saying that everything must change in his final moments before regeneration. The 11th Doctor changed from a lonely man afraid of losing things into one hopeful for the future. He was hopeful for his future, his new cycle of regenerations, and the future of the Time Lords. With this in mind, I think the defining characteristic of the 12th Doctor will be hope. The Doctor will hope that he can succeed, and that hope will drive him. I expect to see a very mission-oriented Doctor in Capaldi, one who focuses on a goal and gets it done, no matter who stands in his way. This will all lead to his ultimate goal: the return of the Time Lords.