Hurt’s Who: Eight, Nine or Something In-Between?
Guest contributor Gustaff speculates on the recent John Hurt spoiler.
First things first: Spoilers will follow. Read at your own risk.
Now that that is out of the way, John Hurt is playing the 8.5th Doctor. Eight and a half? Is it possible to be half a person? Recently, Howard Burden revealed some details on this 8.5th Doctor to the Telegraph. John Hurt is playing a Doctor who is a ‘gap’ between Paul McGann and Christopher Eccelston. This explains the freaky amalgamated costume he has been seen sporting on set, but can it really be that simple? Plus, why is Steven Moffat being so lazy then?
The difficulties with believing that John Hurt is playing the version of the Doctor that put an end to the Time War starts with the fact that it isn’t even Moffat’s storyline. The Time War was created by Russell T Davies to ease fans into the series by not showing the Eighth Doctor regenerate. Doctor Who isn’t divided into categories which are owned by different showrunners during their respective eras. Every showrunner has access to any idea previously used in Doctor Who so there is nothing stopping Steven from using RTD’s Time War concept, but we’ve been following Moffat for years. He likes to do his own thing. He has his own timey-wimey storylines and they usually link up somewhere in the future. I find it out of character that he’d use something so massive as the Time War instead of doing his own thing.
The Time War
If these details are to be believed, then Moffat would have to explain how this Other Doctor (yes, I’m calling him that now. I refuse to call him Doctor 8.5 or the 8.5th Doctor) came into existence. That would mean we’d have to have a scene depicting the change from McGann into Hurt, which means Paul would have to be present, which he isn’t as Jenna Coleman has stated that only three Doctors would be in the TARDIS during the special. This also defeats the purpose because we never saw Eight turn into Nine, but now we won’t see Eight turn into Hurt either so what’s the point? Why not just use Paul McGann from the start? The idea that Hurt turns into Nine is somewhat flawed as well as Eccelston isn’t appearing so there can’t be a scene depicting the ‘second’ change either. But it could also be possible that Jenna meant that only three Doctors would be in the scene that takes place inside the TARDIS and that one of the Doctors stays outside for some other reason. That is also possible.
Depicting the Time War also seems unlikely as the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors star in this special. Putting aside the somewhat useless concept that is the Time Lock, because let’s be honest, it’s the most cardboard prison lock on the show. It’s been breached how many times now? Also, never before has any mention been made that the Doctor ended the Time War with the help of his future selves. Although the Doctors normally have their multi-Doctor encounters wiped from their memory, this event would’ve taken place during the McGann/Hurt Doctor era, which means he would be the ‘current’ Doctor and everyone else would have had their memories wiped. They have to otherwise the Doctor wouldn’t know how he ended the war. All this seems to point to a non-Time War storyline.
Furthermore, fans have speculated that the so-called promise the Other Doctor broke was the destruction of the Time Lords, Gallifrey and the Daleks – plus whoever else was involved. In the Who Universe, this information isn’t a secret, more like common knowledge and the genocide of two races doesn’t really condone Eleventh’s treatment of Hurt’s Doctor. Eleven personally guaranteed the destruction of the Silence and Seven was responsible for more than one genocide all on his own and that’s only counting onscreen adventures. Who knows how much damage he does off-screen so the destruction of two races seems a little severe don’t you think? You might argue that it was his own people, his home planet. Doesn’t that make it worse? Yes. It does, but newsflash: The Doctor doesn’t like the Time Lords. That’s why he left. He only returns to Gallifrey when he’s forced to. Think about it: How many times has he gone back purely because he wanted to?
The idea that Hurt is playing the real Ninth Doctor is also quite ludicrous as we saw the regeneration from Nine into Ten. No fan wants Moffat to retcon Chris’ incarnation as not only would that create so much discontinuity, but it would also be extremely disrespectful to the man who brought life back to Doctor Who.
Now we arrive at the costume situation, which, if you haven’t been paying attention, looks an awful lot like Eight’s first waistcoat and Nine’s leather jacket. Where he got the boots from I don’t know as that isn’t part of either Doctor’s costume. You can explain away any errors by saying that Eight changed from his blue leather coat back into his original frock coat just before he turned into Hurt or Eccelston (pick one), but that doesn’t explain the reveal.
It’s strange that a secret as big as Hurt’s Doctor would be allowed to reveal himself, in his costume, outside for all the public to see when Moffat has been fighting tooth and claw keeping him hidden. You could argue that there was no choice and that the outdoor shooting was part of the script, so it was inevitable that he’d be seen, but did you forget you wrote the script? Surely a change wouldn’t be that hard to make. Moffat even confirmed that whatever fans ‘uncover’, he lets happen.
A more plausible explanation
There is also the possibility that Eight did in fact end the war, but this Other Doctor came about as some sort of mistake during the proceedings, resulting in two Doctors existing simultaneously and Hurt being the Eighth/Ninth version that did something awful (still wondering what it is though) while Eight sorted out the Time War and then regenerated into Nine. This theory seems the most plausible as Eight isn’t present, but Other, Ten and Eleven is. The special may very well deal with what evil this Doctor committed when he was separated from Eight and his reasons. I’m not sure how this will be depicted as Eleven is already aware of what the Other Doctor did, but the more this author thinks about it, the more sense it makes for this to be the real Doctor Who storyline. This route allows for a new, darker story to be told without it causing any continuity errors such as the incarnation numbering or contradicting past events. It also continues the mystery Moffat set up during Series 7, including Clara’s unfamiliarity with Hurt’s Doctor instead of just showing us a story we already know about.
In this sense, Hurt is playing a manifestation of the Doctor during the late stages of his Eighth life. He is the Doctor, but he does not have a number as he is playing something like the Watcher or the Valeyard who are both considered Doctors, but not the Doctor. Plus, Clara helped the Doctors, but didn’t encounter this person, so Hurt is only an in-between Doctor in the sense of the creation, not the incarnation. He is an anomaly.
This is Steven Moffat we are discussing here. He is the king of twists and tricks. He is the ruler governing the land of misdirection who likes to throw us crusts before delivering the pizza. If there is one thing we can be sure of, it’s that whatever Moffat makes it look or sound like, it’s not.