The Twin Dilemma: ‘A Mad Man in a Box’ or ‘The Oncoming Storm’?

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Which reflects the Doctor better? Thomas and Mark debate.


Who is the Doctor? This question has a range of meanings and few answers. We don’t know a lot about him. His background, his family and, most importantly, his name are all hidden from us. Sometimes we get small nods to them, but nothing more. But surely we can agree that the Doctor is a hero? No, we can’t even come to the same conclusion on this question. In this article, I (Thomas) will be arguing that the Doctor is no more than a lonely traveller while Mark will be presenting the idea that the Doctor truly is ‘the Oncoming Storm’.

A Wanderer in Time and Space

11 Doctor Fez

By Thomas Capon

‘I’m not a hero. I really am just a madman in a box. And it’s time we saw each other as we really are.’

One of the best scenes ever in Doctor Who. Why you might be asking? Because it is one of the most touching scenes where the Doctor admits a truth about himself. Another such scene that springs to mind is the ‘I lied to you’ scene in Gridlock. In both scenes the Doctor isn’t just telling the truth rather he is admitting that he has been trying to run from it. How does this fit in with my argument that the Doctor isn’t the ‘Oncoming Storm’?

My answer to this question is to point out what he is saying. We, as viewers, always see the Doctor as a hero, a ‘champion of justice’. But he is so far from that. He admits here that he isn’t the person you should rely on to save you. Amy had began to see the Doctor as ‘God’, as one who is flawless. Often we join her in thinking like this, but we need to be reminded that the Doctor, like us, falls wretched short of perfection.

Still, you might argue that the Doctor while flawed is still the champion of justice. He searches for evil and fights it, does he not? Well, not really is my answer to you. Rather than searching for trouble, trouble seems to find him. How many times does the Doctor deliberately travel somewhere to combat evil? Not often.

But even more scary are the times when he goes looking for wickedness. What happens when he starts playing the hero? To answer this, I can point you to the Time War and its consequences. As the Dalek from the episode of the same name said: ‘you would make a good Dalek’.

The Doctor gets carried away playing the hero. If it wasn’t for his companions what would happen to him? We know that without Donna, his hero­-playing would have got him killed (Turn Left). His warrior side is so far from commendable. It corrupts him. Episodes like ‘Waters of Mars’ and ‘A Town Called Mercy’ are prime examples of the Doctor’s ‘Oncoming Storm’ getting out of control.

One more piece of evidence for you. The Sixth Doctor in his trial declared:

‘In all my travelling throughout the universe, I have battled against evil, against power­-mad conspirators. I should have stayed here. The oldest civilisation: decadent, degenerate, and rotten to the core.’

It was in his ‘travelling’, that his fight against evil occured. But notice how he changes by the end of the speech. His ‘I should have stayed here’ implies that he was now the bringer of justice. Yet opposite him sits the outcome of his ‘warrior’ side: the Valeyard. As River Song said: ‘When you began, all those years ago, sailing off to see the universe, did you ever think you’d become this?’ The Doctor trying to be the hero sadly has lead to more injustice, more evil. The Daleks have grown ‘stronger in fear of’ him. He needs to return to the shadows, return to being the traveller, who fights evil not as a hero but as someone who wants to help. Then a true hero will be born, a hero who can control his own flaws.

So as you can see, we enjoy watching episodes like ‘The Waters of Mars’ and ‘A Town Called Mercy’ because they show us the Doctor struggling with his evil side. However the reason why we love those episodes is because we want to see him restored to normal again. And what is this normal? It’s the traveller who doesn’t go looking for trouble. The man who isn’t a hero but instead: the mad man in a box.

‘Then prove yourself, Doctor! What are you? Coward, or killer?’
‘Coward. Any day.’

The Dark Knight


by Mark Spurdle

Lorna: But I heard her talking. This is a trap. Why would I lie to you?
Rory: Well you might want to take a look at your uniform.
Lorna: The only reason I joined the Clerics was so I could meet the Doctor again.
Jenny: You wanted to meet him, so you joined an army to fight him?
Lorna: Well, how else do you meet a great warrior?
Amy: He’s not a warrior.
Lorna: Then why’s he called the Doctor?

This passage sums up the Doctor for what he really is, the Oncoming Storm, a legend and a warrior woven throughout the universe. He is far from a man that stumbles into someone else’s conflict trying to make peace. He is, in fact, a man that will go to any lengths to win in a war. His mind is filled with battle tactics and strategies, fresh from the Time War. He is a man that will go to any depths to bring justice and protect those he loves.

Throughout Doctor Who, the Doctor is portrayed not only as an unstoppable force, but one that believes it is his right to make the decisions, it is his right to declare war and it is his right to do whatever he wishes to do. A great moment that shows the Doctor’s arrogance and belief that he is above overs is of course in the brilliantly acclaimed “The Waters of Mars”.

The Time Lord Victorious shows his true colours and that he isn’t the happy bumbling Doctor, instead he is a man incredibly old, incredibly experienced and believes that he can bend the laws of time to suit his will. Even though this may have been a low point for him, it still shows how powerful and strong the Doctor is mentally and how arrogant he is. Furthermore it shows how dark the Doctor is.

However his heroic traits are shown as he is desperate to save the crew members even though he knows they should die, this proves that the Doctor will go to lengths to help anyone in need, no matter what the consequences are.

Dalek: The Dalek stratagem nears completion. The fleet is almost ready. You will not intervene.
The Doctor: Oh really? Why’s that, then?
Dalek: We have your associate. You will obey or she will be exterminated.
The Doctor: No.
Dalek: Explain yourself.
The Doctor: I said “no.”
Dalek: What is the meaning of this negative?
The Doctor: It means “no.”
Dalek: But she will be destroyed!
The Doctor: No! ‘Cause this is what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna rescue her. I’m gonna save Rose Tyler from the middle of the Dalek fleet, and then I’m gonna save the Earth. And then—just to finish off—I’m gonna wipe every last stinking Dalek out of the sky!
Dalek: But you have no weapons, no defences, no plan.
The Doctor: Yeah! And doesn’t that scare you to death. Rose?
Rose: Yes, Doctor?
The Doctor: I’m coming to get you.

This quote showcases the Doctor as the hero we know him as even more. The Doctor is fresh from the Time War, losing everyone he loved and to top it all off his greatest enemy has taken the woman he loved hostage. Surely the Doctor is a hero for saving her? He will tear down anything that threatens those he loves, he will go to any means to save Rose, and surely this makes him a hero!

Is he? Yes! Of course he is! He has saved worlds, those he loves, civilizations and those who are threatened. You can argue that whenever the Doctor tries to be hero and goes into war people die, but that is the same in any war! There are always those who die due to combat, however it’s the Hero’s job to stop this increasing, which the Doctor does.

The Doctor really is the hero; he has saved millions and will always try to save more. He is the Oncoming Storm, he is an unstoppable force, his is simply, The Doctor.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it. Both sides of the picture. It might be that you see the Doctor as somewhere in between the two sides, we’ve considered. So go and post away in the comments. Argue about which of us in your opinions gave the best or most convincing argument. Challenge us on our line of reasoning.

As Pat said last time: ‘We hope that you enjoyed this article and that the opinions on either section are just about divided equally.’