Hurt’s Doctor: 8.5 or Nothing?

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Guest contributor Richard Bilyeu speculates on John Hurt’s mysterious Doctor.


While we all wait with anticipation for the 50th anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor, there has been much speculation regarding the nature of John Hurt’s mysterious Doctor. What is his place in the Doctor’s regeneration cycle? Is he the Doctor who fought in the Time War? If so, was he forced to commit an act, or acts, of genocide, “in the name of peace and sanity”?

For years, we, the fans, have been unaware of the his existence. We have always assumed that Paul McGann’s 8th Doctor was forced to regenerate into Eccleston’s 9th incarnation. Myself, I always thought that the 8th might have been critically injured during the Time War and that the 9th rose up in his place and finished the fight, with haunting consequences. Eccleston’s Doctor seemed deeply affected, as well he might be, having destroyed the Daleks, as well as his own race, the Time Lords.

john-hurt-50th-doctor-whoBut now everything seems to point that this belief was wrong. There is now ample evidence that there was yet another incarnation who had caused the end of both races and perhaps others as well. Many Doctor Who fans have now taken to calling Hurt’s incarnation ‘8.5’.

Well, this is a bit silly, I think. Keep in mind that to the best of my knowledge, no incarnation has ever referred to himself as the 4th, 9th, 11th or any other numerical incarnation. We have done this as a shorthand method of referring to which actor played which Doctor. Therefore, would Hurt’s Doctor not be the 9th? Of course he would. So our math has been off by one digit since Eccleston. Or has it?

All official sources at the BBC refer to Peter Capaldi, the next Doctor, as the 12th. And all indications are that the 2013 Christmas Special will see “the fall of the 11th.” So what gives?

At this point, I will tell you my theory. You see, in my opinion, Steven Moffat is the finest writer and showrunner working on either side of the pond, and I delight in trying to keep up with him. I frequently fail. Again, much to my delight. So what follows is pure guess work on my part.

We know from the 11th Doctor’s reaction to Hurt’s presence at the end of “The Name Of The Doctor” that he finds Hurt’s actions to be abhorrent and that he is riddled with guilt over what he had done in this incarnation. So what if whatever triggers the the uniting of Smith’s, Tennant’s and Hurt’s Doctors creates an opportunity to change history? What if the Time War is not a fixed event in time? What if, between the three of them, they conceive of another solution – a solution that can only be achieved by a sacrifice: the total eradication of the existence of John Hurt’s Doctor.

As you can see, that would restore the balance of what we have always believed to be true. I will again remind you that this is pure speculation on my part. We will all know the answers come November 23rd…

In the meantime, feel free to air your own theories in the comments.