Who Mysteries: Have We Seen the Corsair?

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Guest contributor Toby investigates the mysterious Corsair.


Despite recent Hurt-ful developments, there’s nothing new about speculations about pre-Hartnell incarnations of Doctor. One of the great mainstays of these debates are the so-called ‘Morbius Doctors’.

In the 1976 Tom Baker story ‘The Brain of Morbius’ the Doctor enters into a psychic duel with (bits of) the ancient Gallifreyian despot Morbius. And loses. Or so it seems. His mind is driven back through his lives – represented by images of the previous actors in the role on a screen – all the way back to William Hartnell…and beyond.

Nine previously unseen faces are shown, implied to be yet more former incarnations of the Doctor, and this has always been seen as problematic.

But Aristotle maintained that friends are other selves, and so enter the Corsair.

All that we know of the Time Lord titled the Corsair comes to us from on-screen dialogue in ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ and material presented in articles and interviews by that episode’s writer; a Mr Neil Gaiman of some renown.

He (and occasionally she) was a friend of Doctor, both ‘one of the good ones’ and ‘a very bad girl’ before he was killed in his ninth incarnation by an evil TARDIS-munching asteroid thingy called ‘House’ – but not before he’d dispatched a psychic container cube to the Doctor.

But why the Doctor specifically? We assume it’s because he’s the only Time Lord remaining, however House – residing as it does in another universe – can’t know this, and the Corsair certainly doesn’t.

So we can only assume that the psychic container singles the Doctor out on purpose; perhaps because there is some special link between the Doctor’s mind and that of the Corsair.

Neil Gaiman tells us that the two Time Lords shared several adventures together (and several drinking sessions for that matter). Is it too much to suppose that during that one of these escapades they formed some mental bridge, psychic link, mind meld or similar?

And that the Doctor, in the extremity of the cerebral regression inflicted on him by Morbius, reached out to the mind of the Corsair (already in what was to be his final body) via this special connection to present his friend’s lives (excepting the female ones for some reason) as his own and buy some time?


Ah, but there are eight faces shown, from an available total of nine, two of which were female! How can this work? Well, leaving aside for the moment the question as to why the Doctor omits the female versions, two of the eight faces shown (the bearded and blond ones) do look awfully similar indeed. Perhaps similar enough to be in fact the same incarnation changed only by natural aging, and being passed off as two separate lives.

If so, this doubling-up is a desperate ploy on the Doctor’s part, indicative of his diminished state, and one that would have certainly failed had not Morbius himself been but instants away from mental meltdown.

And so, once we have guessed that this joining was severed as a means of more-or-less direct communication before the Time War, it only remains to acknowledge that of course absolutely none of this was ever intended by the makers of the programme, before finally speculating as to how this bonding of brains was forged. Given that in the newer version of the show we’ve seen energies and memories swapped by the likes of kisses and head butts, we might reasonably wonder what might be created in the heat of still more vigorous and intimate physical interaction. And considering this, we might also wonder why the Doctor refused to call the lady Corsairs to mind!

You don’t think the Corsair and the Doctor ever… …do you?