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The Doctor: Half-Human on his Mother’s Side?

Guest contributor Stewart McDonald wonders if fans should so easily forget that infamous moment.

Doctor Who Revisited: Paul McGann

Ever since Paul McGann’s Doctor uttered that line back in 1996, we human beings have been in total denial about our favourite Time Lord’s heritage. We have put our foot down and refused to believe that the Doctor is actually half-human. And now the flames of fandom war have been stoked once again when Steven Moffat, show runner for Doctor Who, tested troubled waters by asking Whovians everywhere one question. A question that must never ever be answered…

No not that one, the other one:

“Keeping in mind that everything you know for sure is probably wrong, answer me this: in which story is it confirmed, definitively, that the Doctor is not human?”
- Steven Moffat.

And, of course, fans everywhere cried out in an uproar that shook all other fandoms out there: ‘How can he make the Doctor human?’ ‘This is stupid!’ ‘Get rid of him now!’ ‘Silence must fall!’ ‘Moffat hate! Moffat hate!’ Of course not all fans are like this. Most are sensible and will no doubt have searched all through the history of the show to not only find the definite episode to answer Moffat’s question, but to also show just why it can’t be.

But can it? Where exactly does it say that the Doctor is not half-human? Actually, don’t ask me. If you want the exact truth, go find it yourself. That’s not why I’m here. I’m here to ask a different question entirely.

Instead of asking how the Doctor can or cannot be half-human, we should ask why. Why can’t he be half-human? What’s wrong with him being half-human? What does this do to the show?

You know what, let’s find out. Allons-y!

(Yes I did just say that, don’t judge!)

Why Can’t He Be Half-Human?

matt-smith-heartsThat’s a good question, me. Why can’t the Doctor be half-human? Well the answer everyone seems to leap at is the fact that he is from another planet. Another planet which happens to be called Gallifrey located in the constellation of Kasterborous. A planet which also happens to be in another universe.

The Doctor is from an alien planet and apparently is a completely different species. As far as we know, Gallifrey is not a former human colony. It has existed for longer than Earth and is far more advanced than our puny planet. So it possibly couldn’t have any human influence, could it? But here’s the thing. As much as my memory allows, I can’t recall the Doctor, or anyone for that matter, saying that Gallifrey existed before Earth. It’s certainly older than Earth but that doesn’t mean it’s from a future point in human history. Does it?

A simple theory could be that at some point in humanity’s future, a group of colonists explore the Kasterborous constellation. They find a planet there with burnt orange skies and swaying mountains and the ability to support life. But what if they found something else there, too? What if they found a tear in the fabric of time and space? One that could let you see into the time vortex itself. What if they stabilised it and kept it from ever becoming unstable and destroying everything around them? And what if, over the course of considerably many years, exposure to the tear in the skin of reality caused the human colonists to change? To evolve faster than what should be possible. To develop a two hearted biology and an ability of cellular regeneration. What if the human colonists became Time Lords and gained the ability to see through time? What if they constructed a completely new society? A society almost totally free of war. They could build the domed citadels and the second city of Arcadia. They could eventually give a name to that hole in time and space.

Because of the varying effects it has on people who look directly into it, with the prime example being the Master, and that it seems to be uninfluenced by almost anything we know of, they could come to call it ‘The Untempered Schism’. And thus the Time Lords would be born.

It would make sense. The Time Lords have never really been able to interfere with the time vortex, merely travel through its infinite tunnel of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey… Stuff.

But we also have to account for the part of the Doctor’s mother being human. So this could come into play in two ways.

  1. The Doctor’s mother was a human visitor to Gallifrey where she met and fell in love with a Time Lord. She gives birth to the Doctor and any other siblings she may or may not have had.
  2. She was already on Gallifrey. As we all know, as a species evolves it tends to split. One side evolves into a more advanced being while the other remains unchanged. This could have happen to the Time Lords. The Doctor’s mother remained unchanged by the Untempered Schism’s influence and the Doctor’s father was a fully fledged Time Lord. The rest would follow like theory 1 with the exception of his mother not visiting the planet.

And so you have heard me say how it could work, but I have not answered if it should work. To answer that we have to look at the bigger picture.

What Would This Do to the Show?

time-lords-war-gamesFor starters, it would account for why our favourite Time Lord and his entire species look suspiciously human. Other than ease of casting and costume design. This would explain why Time Lords appear to be human, why some of them sound like they’re from the North (Looking at you, Eccleston). The Time Lords, over the course of their evolution, would have kept the human form while their physiology changed underneath. This would make them the face changing, mostly objective and pompous race that we have seen on our screens since the end of the Troughton era.

This would also explain why the Time Lords look down on the Doctor’s interfering nature. They would be afraid that he would disrupt the timeline of not only Earth, but other planets he encounters on his travels. Thus their policy of never interfering in other people’s affairs. Unless there’s children crying, of course!

But what about the Doctor? Well it would account for his borderline passionate admiration and fondness for us humans. It would make sense, wouldn’t it? The reason why he defends our home world episode after episode is because he sees it as his true home. He feels like he belongs there. The half-human inside of him feels obligated to protect and watch over the planet his people originally came from. It would also account for why he sometimes chooses not to interfere. For why he sometimes has to sacrifice so much to make sure that history stays on track. He does it to ensure the Time Lords can exist.

He would be constantly battling both sides of his heritage. The Time Lord inside of him would constantly tell him not to get involved. The human inside of him would tell him to stick his sometimes large nose into things, to explore things from a much deeper and personal perspective. To me, that just seems fantastic.

Some people will no doubt disagree with me, saying that it would probably cheapen the show’s value by just making him human in some way. I stand firm and say it wouldn’t. I think it would increase the show’s value and potential and help us to get a glimpse into an otherwise unearthly character.

Okay, so we are down to one final question that I have to ask myself and all of you:

Should We Make the Doctor Half-Human?

For the most part, there is no reason why we shouldn’t. It is a plausible and executable idea. I personally have no objections to whether or not the Doctor should be half-human. The closest example I can find where that works in similar fashion is Spock from the original Star Trek series, or Torres, the half-human/half Klingon from Star Trek Voyager. Both examples are similar to the Doctor, even their personal struggles over which species they should side with.

In the end, it’s not up to me. The decision of the Doctor’s biology is not in my hands, but rather in the hands of Steven Moffat. Whether or not he makes him half-human is not my concern, but whatever he adds to the canon and history of Doctor Who, I will welcome it gladly.

I leave one last message to Whovian’s everywhere. Please do not be upset with Moffat for what he may or may not do to the Doctor. Just accept it and move on. If he tells us the truth of his parentage, so what?! He will still be the Doctor. And to take Clara Oswald’s speech she gave to the Time Lords through the crack slightly out of context, just remember one thing:

‘His name is the Doctor. All the name he needs. Everything you need to know about him.’

Step back in time...

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167 comments
AnthonyJFuchs
AnthonyJFuchs

I kind of love the idea that the Doctor's mother invented the Chameleon Arch, the device that enables Gallifreyans to genetically transform themselves into humans. It makes his statement metaphorically true without it needing to be geneologically accurate.

felixvitae3
felixvitae3

Who is to say that River Song isn't his mother or granny?

JamesBell2
JamesBell2

even if he was half human, after looking into the untempered schysm when he was younger he would have turned time lord. his heratage would have no affect on his biology.


ShadGray
ShadGray

Oh... and if you want a complex answer (that is still in it's heart simple) here you go:

1- His mother was born on Gallifrey as a Timelord. (Easy.)

2- His mother has been through regenerations, as Timelords do.

3- In one incarnation, she took the form of a "human" (Let's remember that Romana toyed with non-Timelord bodies when she regenerated).

4- The Doctor was conceived and birthed in this form.

Bam! Half-Human on his mothers side. Not "from Earth" but half human.
Everything fits without a lot of work. You are welcome.

ShadGray
ShadGray

The true problem with this debate is based in the fact that, at it's core, the Half-Human storyline creates a "real world paradox". To accept it as truth means that much of what was written before and after contradicts it. At the same time, it is equally difficult to dismiss the statement, as the 8th Doctor was canonized by the show the moment his face was shown as one of the Doctor's past lives in "The Next Doctor". From that moment, Paul McGann's portrayal was legitimized, and the TV movie was accepted. Now, fans are left to accept his heritage of being half human or just try to brush it over and forget it. Neither sits well. This is why the article's author (and others) are forced to come up with rather incredible leaps of imagination and creativity to justify it as truth. Too much contradicts it.
However, people find it difficult to dismiss because not only did the 8th Doctor make the claim, but the Master confirmed it (via a retinal scan) later in the film.
But this isn't the first time that contradictions have crept into the Whoniverse. Between the Comics, Books, and Audio (all of which is considered canon) we have countless conflicts of information. This has been explained away with the help of "Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey".
Another example being the conversation between Amy and the Doctor in "Good Night"

  • Amy: And I remember both lives in my head. Both of them, in my head, at the same time.
  • Doctor: And it's fine, isn't it?
  • Amy: Yeah, but it shouldn't be. Why is it fine?
  • Doctor: The thing is, Amy, everyone's memory is a mess. Life is a mess. Everyone's got memories of a holiday they couldn't have been on, or a party they never went to, or met someone for the first time and felt like they've known them all their lives. Time is being rewritten all around us, every day. People think their memories are bad, but their memories are fine. The past is really like that.
  • Amy: That's ridiculous.
  • Doctor: Yeah, now you're starting to get it. 

Why accept this. We know that that sometimes a book will give one account of events and another book another and the show will say something different after that. The general rule is to accept what is broadcast, then apply the rest as "wibbly wobbly", which tends to sort most things out quite nicely. But in the Half-Human debate, the show is what causes the issue.

It seems like a lot of work to justify the event (as the article's author has tried to do) just to make the story acceptable. Likewise, those who oppose it always try to explain away the statement throgh the same complicated methods of trying to accept it and deny it at the same time.
I think there is a much easier way. Chalk the TV movie up to wibbly wobbly and move on. Now... there are those that might argue that I can't do that... because the Paul McGann Doctor is canon ("The Next Doctor", "The Girl Who Waited", and of course "Night/Day of the Doctor"). The thing is, you do not need to throw out McGann. You only need to view the TV movie as alternate timeline and the rest works. Sylvester McCoy still became McGann. Just that the TV movie's McGann was a half human. The 8th Doctor doesn't change otherwise. His audio adventures stand (and we should point out that it was never talked about again in his audio adventures), his appearances in the Doctor's timeline stands... Thats him... That's the 8th Doctor. No change. You just move the one event to Wibbly Wobbley and the rest works. Let the few books and such that have tried to delve into the Half-Human story join the wibble wobble (where most already view them) and be be done.
Way easier than all the stuff the article's author suggested. Simple and effective. Works for me.


JHeim
JHeim

In season 4 "Journeys End" the Doctor tells Donna there can't be a human timelord.

One possibility is he used the Chameleons Arch to change the mother inherited genetics into human because he was envious of their traits. However after the end of the TV movie he changed back because the Master used the humanity against him.

JHeim
JHeim

The Doctor mentions several times that Time Lords came first. One instance is Season 5 Episode 2 "The Beast Below" when he tells Amy the computer doesn't recognise him as human.

djmyst
djmyst

What is "Human", is it not a description? So let's look at the suggested facts, Half Human, on mother's side. Based on what we know, human just means not an animal, looking like people of Earth. So, if the Doctor had a mother (traditionally speaking), she would be Humanoid. So his father (traditionally speaking) would not be humanoid. Nowhere in there does it suggest, anyone in his family was from Earth, or a distant relative of Earth.
 Also, if Time Lords can change gender, would they have traditional babies? So, if the Doctor did have a family in the past, was he a mother, a father, or both? Doctor Who is ill-fated if we continue to look for loopholes created by uneducated writers (mostly guest writers), who did not properly research the character. Moffat knows no one has the time or the resources to find every Doctor Who episode and go through line by line. And by the time you do all that, his episode will have aired, and it will be of no consequence.

FlikCBigg
FlikCBigg

Anyone mentioned Vastras line from AGMGTW?


"You've told me about your people. They became what they did through prolonged exposure to the Time Vortex."

Elionu
Elionu

I like the theory I've seen somewhere that because Gallifreyans are completely genetically engineered (looms are an amazing idea), the Doctor could be half-human on his mothers side, but engineered to be almost entirely Gallifreyan (lizard-mammal hybrids don't work too well in theory).

ROTCOD
ROTCOD

What was the line Paul mcganns doctor said in 1996

AlinaNaomi
AlinaNaomi

Remember 'The End of Time'. The Timelords would've erased themselves by destroying the earth in order to come back. Seems like a huge paradox to me..

Whovian_Brownoat
Whovian_Brownoat

"You know what, let’s find out. Allons-y!


(Yes I did just say that, don’t judge!)" Why would I judge? DT for the win!

I'd Like a Jelly Baby
I'd Like a Jelly Baby

Everyone seems to be thinking inside the box. Moffat asked that question about the Doctor being human and now everyone believes he will write a storyline about the Time Lords evolving from humans. However, what if he didn't mean that at all? What if a group of weak Time Lords crash landed on Earth and changed into humans? I know this is unlikely, but I think that would be a terrific cliffhanger and not as risky for Mr Moffat

ShameOnSM
ShameOnSM

Actually I think it is confirmed he is NOT human if you have seen last of the time lords the master aged the Doctor past his regeneration, he looked alien and small thats maybe what a true Galifreyian looks like.

LeeBeing
LeeBeing

Sure. He could THINK he's half human on his mother's side.... What if SHE had a certain pocket watch she needed at some point to turn human to avoid detection in some previous time war... Hmmmm?

DylanKeithBrown
DylanKeithBrown

Ok this might be a stretch but first off spoilerfoibs do not read.  In the book Lunburrow (which i believe should be made cannon because it answers a lot of questions). The Doctor is a child of the loom but in the end we find out that the Other threw himself into the Loom to be reborn. No Lungburrow is suppose to be the events that take place right before the TV movie. So the Other was a born Galifreyan, the memories that are being awakened in the movie could also be the Others memories. Its a bit confusing and the book is hard to get a hold of. But if want it is a good read I know a place where you can a pdf version. I would be glad to share it with all my Whovian friends!!!


ClaireAbraham
ClaireAbraham

I don't really want the Doctor to be half-human. Part of the point and allure of the show is that he's not human, he doesn't really act human sometimes, and he's got a perspective on the universe which is different from that enjoyed by humans. I like the idea that the Doctor is different from us and yet has thrown his lot in with us - rather like Jane Goodall and her beloved chimpanzees.

SLZK
SLZK

I love this idea - to tap into that storyline a little more.  And I love the scientific nature of his alien race all dying whilst he moves in and among the human race to learn and engage all he can of it.  I even love the idea of his having a human soul mate in the universe, which conflicts with his cosmic gigolo status and draws him back into his primitive earthly self.  As such, of all of his companions, Rose (although Sarah was a likely choice, too) was the only one of his companions who actually absorbed and fused with the Tardis itself - in a similar way to how the Doctor is intimately connected to and part of it and is even changed by it.  I wouldn't mind if a residual amount of the Tardis remained in her from the earlier episodes in the first few seasons and developed within Rose over time, preserving her and all she is/represented of humanity for him, in her parallel universe.  Perhaps she could occasionally be able to connect with him at weak points in time throughout eternity, drawn together cosmically, but without the ability for them to travel together.  It would be the ultimate inner struggle of love added to his many other struggles of human-alien and the like.  I'm sure other fans would disagree.  But in this human context, it appeals to me.  In essence a Time Lord who is half human and a human who is partly essence of the Time Lords.

Dannie Madsen
Dannie Madsen

I don't really know what's wrong with people saying the opposite. He is half-human and people need to get over it and just accept it.

mkrumstets
mkrumstets

Maybe his mother was exiled from Gallifrey and deliberately changed her DNA  ....which means it is reversible.....Anything is possible...That's a whole new area of Doctor Who to explore - his family , his life pre and Unearthly Child. That could be a possible spin off - Who The Early Years....







LoquaciousDandy
LoquaciousDandy

I don't know whether this counts as "definitive", but in the finale episode of season 4 of the new series, "Journey's End", a Half-Human version of the Doctor is created, and his reaction is one of disgust: 

"NEW DOCTOR ...One heart. (shocked, feeling his chest) I've got one heart! This body has got only one heart!

DONNA What? (touching his chest) What, like you're human?

NEW DOCTOR Oh, that's disgusting!" ... "No, wait, I'm... part Time Lord, part human. [sarcastic] Well, isn't that wizard?" 

Disgust hardly seems like the appropriate reaction from someone who's already half-human. And later, Donna, who now apparently has all the Doctor's knowledge, says: "Because you two, you were just Time Lords, you dumbos! Lacking that little bit of human, that gut instinct that comes hand in hand with Planet Earth. I can think of ideas you two wouldn't dream of in a million years! Ah, the universe has been waiting for me!"

Thetimewarrior101
Thetimewarrior101

It's actually a really interesting theory that could be possible. Just because the time lords evolved from humans doesnt make them human. We evolved from apes but that doesnt make us apes. The time lords may have come from a small group of humanoid colonists (who in doctor who mythology, 'New Earth' showed the human race evolving into billions of species) who found the planet, they may have been flung back through the effects of the untempered schism and built their own society before earth was born. By that time, billions of years had passed and a time lord society was established so there was little connection between gallifrey and earth. And while the time lords in their mighty and pompous manner, disregard the earth as an insignificant speck, the doctor appreciates his ancestry. 

Deus_Ex_Machina
Deus_Ex_Machina

I really have no issue with this. What I do have an issue with is when writers like to say "he's definetly not half human" or "he definetly is half human". I like the ambiguousity of it all. Is he half-human? Was he just lying to trick the Master? Who knows.

I know the BBC Eighth Doctor Adventure novels seem to say his mother is the human woman Penelope, so it seems like there's more evidence to say he is, but with the extended fiction, who knows?

G_Unitt
G_Unitt

I always quote that line. It's funnier when you're human! I don't think he should be half-human, just because it isn't necessary. It's a nice theory, but it doesn't really add a whole lot to the show. I prefer to think that the Doctor's just some dude from some place who does some stuff and who has a bit of a thing for this one planet called Earth.


Noybusiness
Noybusiness

"For starters, it would account for why our favourite Time Lord and his entire species look suspiciously human."

So do tons of other extraterrestrials in Doctor Who. The Thals, the Kaleds, the Classabindi, people from Sto, Solomon, the Drahvins, the Trakenites, the Terradonians, the Trions, people from Marinus, Erasmus Darkening, the War Lords, etc., etc.

Ponn
Ponn

Nope, nope, NOPE. It would be awful if they made him half human...

Temporal Tomato
Temporal Tomato

In the New Series itself, Gallifrey was around when the Universe was young, fighting the Great Vampires and the Racnoss during the Dark Times. They also see the Earth as a tiny, insignificant speck.

carefulsir
carefulsir

http:// tardis.wikia.com/wiki/Gallifreyan_history


MJJ
MJJ

River Song: "The Doctor lies." So his heritage can be anything...or not.

Liana21
Liana21

I've always thought that it was a weird thing the writer invented and that just grew up because the complicated of the canon

Silurian53
Silurian53

Amy: You look human?

The Doctor: no, you look Timelord. We came first.

Pretty sure that's saying Gallifrey and Timelords came before Earth and Humans ^

Canis_L_Sapien
Canis_L_Sapien

"As much as my memory allows, I can’t recall the Doctor, or anyone for that matter, saying that Gallifrey existed before Earth." Sorry but although it isn't explicitly said it is shown that the Gallifreyans, and presumably Gallifrey, are older than Earth. As shown in 'The Runaway Bride', the Gallifreyans were at war with the Racnoss before the creation of the Earth as Racnoss survivors became the core of the planet to escape.

Canis_L_Sapien
Canis_L_Sapien

@AlinaNaomi They were about to destroy time itself. I don't think a paradox was going to be an issue there for long. We've also seen The Master hold back a paradox before in The Last of the Time Lords.

Amy says Peter Davison is the Thirteenth Doctor!
Amy says Peter Davison is the Thirteenth Doctor!

I really like the Cartmel Masterplan and I regard it as being true. However, I have had to make two big alterations to it; primarily, I have to assume that looms do not, in fact, weave fully-grown Time Lords, and instead, they weave them as children. If I were to stick on a sciencey-wiencey explanation as to why, then I guess their bodies would need time to develop in order to reach a point at which they could physically handle the stress of becoming Time Lords. Anyhow, this accounts for the young Master that we saw in Series 3, as well as the Doctor's cot (unless god forbid his cot is actually bigger on the inside and a fully-grown William Hartnell slept in there... :P). I mean, a formal, standardized system like the looms makes perfect sense for a dusty, old, bureaucratic race like the Time Lords. However, I also believe that Pythia's curse wore off sometime before Susan's parents were born, as I prefer for the relationship between Susan and the Doctor to be biological. Also, and this isn't a change, but rather, an addition - the faces that were shown in "The Brain of Morbius" were the Other's, in my mind.


ilyootha is back in home Universe
ilyootha is back in home Universe

@DylanKeithBrownYou can simply google "Lungbarrow pdf", the first result links directly to the file - it won't be stealing because the BBC made it public online back in 2003 anyway. However I'm actually considering getting a physical copy. It would be expensive as hell but I believe it might actually be worth it...



Zagreus Bread
Zagreus Bread

@Thetimewarrior101 I still don't like the idea of Time Lords evolving from humans. Gives humans too much of an "original species" feel I don't like, makes the Universe too "Earth-centric", like a galactic Garden of Eden. I want life to -originate- elsewhere in its own right without us being there! Not an impossible plot twist, just one I do not desire. And I'm sure that still doesn't count as "coming first"  no matter ow I bend my mind to fit that plot twist. That's still coming after. Like time travelling to your family's past and telling your grandma you came first: it still won't be true even if you lived to see her birth. (Said plot twist might happen because show runners have no fear to disregard what was said before or bend it to their own will, but again, not my cup of tea). 


Greenbed4059
Greenbed4059

At the risk of being labelled pedantic, can I just point out that Humans didn't evolve from apes! Humans and apes both evolved from a common ancestor - a small yet important distinction.

Amy says Peter Davison is the Thirteenth Doctor!
Amy says Peter Davison is the Thirteenth Doctor!

And technically, we already have an explanation for that from the audios. Although it could still be worked into a stable time loop wherein humanity's evolution leads to the birth of Rassilon who then goes back and seeds the other worlds with biogenic molecules.


CharlieHiggins
CharlieHiggins

@Canis_L_Sapien And also the Doctor saying in The Ultimate Foe "Ten million years of absolute power", which is just Time Lord society, let alone Gallifreyan before that. So yeah, it is said in the show

Zagreus Bread
Zagreus Bread

@Amy is Hannibal I think Davies said in an interview that the Master as a child wasn't a memory, but simply Jack imagining the Master as a child. Nevertheless, since it was never clarified in the show, it's safe to still assume they can be children. There's a theory I've read that looms can and have been used to loom children sometimes. And I've also read that the faces in Brain of Morbius were indeed intended to be of the Doctor's before his "first" regeneration... which makes him the Other for me too :D

Canis_L_Sapien
Canis_L_Sapien

@CharlieHiggins The issue with statements like that for this argument is that we would need to know when the Doctor's personal time of origin is in regards to earth. The Time Lords could have "Ten million years of absolute power" but be placed 50 million years into the human races future from our perspective.