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The Wibbly Wobbly Ageing of the Doctor

Guest contributor Dom Townsend examines the changing ageing of the Doctor.

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The 11th Doctor’s time has come and gone, and while I enjoyed the Christmas special that served as Matt Smith’s swansong, I couldn’t help but find myself niggled by several aspects of the episode that sparked several confounding questions. One of the main questions that forced itself rather easily and oh-so annoyingly into my mind was: can the Doctor age?

Well clearly the first answer one thinks of is: yes. Absolutely, unequivocally and very obviously yes. Just look at him: by the end of The Time of the Doctor, he’s a frail Einstein-alike, brandishing a cane and a very forgetful brain. But what bugged me most about the whole ageing thing was that he’d visibly aged after remaining on Trenzalore for 300 years. But, as we know from previous episodes, most notably The Day of the Doctor, the Eleventh Doctor has been in his current body for over 300 years already. So…what’s that all about? I suppose the question I’m really asking is: WHY does the Doctor age?

Let’s look at the facts: the Doctor is constantly traveling around, saving planets, meeting friends and defeating foes, and then all of a sudden is placed on a planet where he remains for 300 years. In this time it is stated in the episode that he almost came to forget his previous life, perhaps suggesting that being in that place for that time, he simply became comfortable and slowly let himself go. (Think The Chronicles of Narnia when the Doctor is the children and Trenzalore is Narnia… if you like.) Another explanation could be simply the effects and the strain of the ‘endless, bitter war'; John Hurt’s War Doctor aged considerably (no offence John) from his brief cameo at the end of The Night of the Doctor and that could be attributed to the strain of the Time War.

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Of course Matt isn’t the first Doctor we’ve seen in prosthetics (though his were considerably better in my opinion). Tennant donned the famous rubber face when the Master used his Laser Screwdriver on him to ‘show all his years’, eventually reducing him to a badly CGI-d bobble-head Gollum. Could this be what happened to Eleven at Christmas: perhaps staying in the same place and forgetting everything else caused his body to start showing his age?

As honourable mentions, I am going talk about River Song here (half the Whoniverse groans, the other half cheers – I quite like her!), a half-human, half-Time Lord (Lady?) who clearly ages, most notably from baby to child and then as Mels through Amelia and Rory’s childhood. However, until The Time of the Doctor I always put this down as her being half-human that caused the ageing process in each incarnation. Also worth mentioning is Paul McGann’s (only slight) signs of ageing between the movie and NOTD, which, bear in mind, have a gap of 17 years between each other! I suppose when watching the special minisode I didn’t actually care about the ageing thing, and to be honest, still don’t. I just wanted to talk about him because I think number 8 is awesome. McGann spin off FTW.

And so, to conclude, I’ve clearly answered my original question with the somewhat confused answer of: yes. My second question – why – is still up in the air, but I hope these hypothetical brain farts of mine have given you something to think about. In the mean time, I suppose I’ll think about other questions Doctor Who has posed recently. Like, if the Doctor was on his last incarnation, where did he get the regeneration energy to fix River’s wrist in TATM? Was Tasha Lem supposed to be River or was Moffat just playing with our brains – again? And just how old IS the Doctor now?

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