The Doctor – The Reluctant Doomsday Device
Guest contributor Paul Brown theorises that the Doctor has been manipulated into a weapon for a long time.
Doctor Who TV contributor Greyson Harness recently posed the question: ‘Why does the 11th Doctor hate himself?’ As more and more people discussed the article, it became clear that this self-loathing goes back a lot further – possibly to the very beginning of the Doctor’s adventures.
He runs. He hides. He abhors death and violence, yet can’t seem to stop finding himself at the heart of both. How can it be that an avowed pacifist who has saved so many lives has also been responsible – directly or indirectly – for destruction on an almost unimaginable scale?
To me, the answer has been hinted at throughout the series, most strongly – but not only – during Moffat’s tenure as both writer and showrunner.
The Doctor, the man who ‘never would’, who hesitates even to pick up a gun, who weeps over fallen foes, is himself a weapon. And no matter how far or fast he runs, he can never escape that fact.
His first incarnation had a ruthless streak, and in his first televised adventure is willing to kidnap Barbara and Ian just to protect his anonymity. Later in the same story, he seems to consider killing a wounded caveman to stop him slowing his party’s escape – arguably the actions of someone from a ‘win at all costs’-type military background.
And even in his self-imposed exile, there are signs that he is being manipulated. He can’t guide his own TARDIS at first – so who *is* guiding it? The TARDIS herself later says ‘I took you where you needed to go’ – but what need does she serve? Why continually put him in harm’s way, if not to give him the training and experience he will one day need to survive a far greater threat?
His first two incarnations continually come up against savage cultures and situations, from the Daleks, Ice Warriors and Cybermen to the Aztecs and the French Revolution. Tellingly, the final adventure of the Second Doctor is The War Games – about an alien culture testing troops to destruction in order to find the ultimate soldiers. And of course a Time Lord, the War Chief, is helping them…
The theory of Season 6B suggests that before changing his appearance and sending him to Earth, the Time Lords used the Second Doctor as a ‘secret agent’, sending him through time and space on covert missions. More training? And when they do finally exile him, they arrange matters so that he spends time with UNIT – a military organisation. He is also pitted, possibly deliberately, against a fellow renegade Time Lord, the Master – who, with his natural ruthlessness and drive to win at all costs, may in fact be another product of the same secret programme.
But it is the Fourth Doctor who faces the first big test – whether or not he is ready and willing to commit genocide on the orders of Gallifrey, in Genesis of the Daleks. It has been called the ‘first strike’ of the Time War, which could also suggest that the High Council already knew it was coming – and that the Doctor and possibly others were already being prepared for combat. Did the Master not tell the Tenth Doctor he had been resurrected precisely because he was the ‘perfect warrior’?
In Remembrance of the Daleks, the Seventh Doctor warned Davros that he was ‘far more than just another Time Lord’. And when Davros later names Ten ‘Destroyer of Worlds’, his reaction is far stronger than you would expect from a simple name-calling. Ten is shocked to his very core, because to become the Destroyer of Worlds is exactly the destiny he spent most of his lives fleeing.
(Interestingly, the phrase – which comes from Hindu epic the Bhagavad Gita – does *not*, as is often misquoted, refer to death. The actual translation says the Destroyer is Time.)
And later still, I believe he becomes so strongly drawn to River Song because her story is a mirror of his own – taken from his family and forged into an unstoppable engine of destruction. Think of how often he’s laid waste to the universe’s mightiest armies, almost without trying. Think of the anger and the ruthlessness he can unleash when someone pushes him to the point where the gloves come off. River herself makes the similarities between them clear when she tells him (The Angels Take Manhattan): ‘Only one psychopath per TARDIS.’
So the Doctor is a weapon, no matter how much he wishes otherwise. Gallifrey’s own Jason Bourne. John Hurt’s War Doctor is the one who was finally outrun by his destiny – who failed in his bid to escape his fate. This explains why Nine, Ten and Eleven hate themselves so much, and why Eleven hates that particular part of himself more than any other.