Why does the 11th Doctor hate himself?
Guest contributor Greyson Harness explores why the 11th Doctor is so full of self-loathing.
Doctor: “I know who you are.”
Dream Lord: “Course you don’t.”
Doctor: “Course I do. No idea how you can be here, but there’s only one person in the universe who hates me as much as you do.”
The above quote is from the 2010 episode Amy’s Choice. In the end of said episode, we learn that the Doctor and the Dream Lord are in fact one and the same. Yet, the Doctor said earlier that the Dream Lord hates him; the Doctor hates himself. Why is this? When we look back at the last three incarnations of the Doctor, I believe the answer lies right in front of us.
Let’s look first at the Christopher Eccleston’s portrayal of the Doctor in his ninth incarnation. It is from Eccleston that we first learn of the Time War, a devastating, universe changing war between the Daleks and the Time Lords, resulting in their mutual annihilation at the hands of the Doctor. I believe this is where the Doctor’s self-loathing begins. Ignoring how traumatic the war must have been for the Doctor, with the Horde of Travesties and the Nightmare Child, I want to focus on the double genocide the Doctor committed. I confess, I’ve only seen a handful of classic episodes, but the Doctor always pursued a pacifist resolution, always tried to negotiate before he resorted to force, and even then, he rarely, if ever, killed anyone. In Genesis of the Daleks, he even refused to commit genocide at the cost of millions of lives and countless species because he could not stand the thought of being responsible for the destruction of an entire species. Several centuries later, the Doctor finds himself responsible for not one, but two genocides, the blood of two entire species on his hands. Imagine how such an act would affect the universe’s biggest advocate of pacifism. He would be devastated.
Eccleston’s Doctor is characterized as a veteran of the Last Great Time War. He is a quick-to-anger, self-righteous soldier. He doesn’t ask his companions to do things, he commands it, most notably in the episode Dalek, where he orders Rose to get out of the way as he points a gun at the Kaled mutant. Yet, Rose convinces the Doctor to stand down, shows him the pacifist he once was. As the Doctor would later say, Rose made him a better man; a pacifist instead of a soldier. In the twilight of his ninth incarnation, the Doctor refuses to destroy the Daleks once and for all, showing tremendous growth and acceptance of the war and his actions in it.
The Ninth Doctor regenerates, and in comes David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor. It’s in the Doctor’s tenth incarnation that we see him truly try to return to his pacifistic roots. He’s a man that must give people a choice, as shown in The Poison Sky when he tells Donna he has to give the Sontarans a choice to leave Earth peacefully, even though offering such a choice puts him a position to be killed by the Sontarans. He is the ‘man who never would’. He is the defender of Earth and humanity, engaging in a sword fight with the Sycorax to save the planet and its people. I could not help but notice, though, there is one characteristic that differs the pacifism of the Tenth Doctor from that of all previous Doctors: no second chances.
The Doctor is still the judge of the universe. If he doesn’t like what you’re doing, it’s his duty to put an end to it, as he sees it. He decides what is right and wrong, and he gives you one chance and one chance only to do what is ‘right’. In The Christmas Invasion, Harriet Jones decides to obliterate the Sycorax invaders as a sign to all alien life that Earth is not to be trifled with. While perhaps her warning was a bit strong, the Doctor decides she is in the wrong and deposes her with only four words. In The Age of Steel, the Doctor tells John Lumic he is wrong for trying to improve the human race. In Army of Ghosts, the Doctor criticizes Yvonne Hartman, then administrator of Torchwood, for investigating a way of making Britain energy-independent. In The Doctor’s Daughter, the Doctor goes so far as to judge soldiers prematurely based on the mere fact that they are soldiers. On and on the list goes, the Doctor punishing those who don’t do as he defines is right, assuming alien authority over the rights of man. Tennant’s portrayal of the Doctor is best described as having a do-as-I-say-or-face-the-consequences attitude, which sets the stage for the Tenth Doctor’s swansong.
The end of Tennant’s term as the Doctor begins with the 2009 special The Waters of Mars. At this point in the Doctor’s life, he’s been traveling alone for a while now, having vowed not to take another companion after losing Donna. He becomes a traveler, flying across the universe for fun until finally, he lands on Mars, on the very day that the first Martian colony is set to implode. The Doctor witnesses the crew frantically trying to avoid catastrophe, knowing all the while that it was pointless. History would run its course and they would all die, and there was nothing he could do about it because it was a fixed point in time. Despite being a Time Lord, the last of them no less, the Doctor was unable to do what he wanted to most: save people. Then the rocket exploded behind him and the crew’s last hope of escaping Mars. The Doctor decided enough; he was the last of the Time Lords, and the laws of time were his. They would obey him. The Doctor managed to save the three remaining members of the crew that day, and declared himself the ‘Time Lord victorious’ Once again, he chose what was right, and in the end, he hurt the legacy of the woman he admired so much, Captain Adelaide Brooke.
In the following episode, The End of Time, the Doctor faces the Time Lords and his impending death. As the Doctor faces Rassilon, he explains to the Master what the Final Sanctum was: to save themselves, the Time Lords would collapse the Time Vortex, causing the entirety of reality to cease to exist, and allow the Time Lords to ascend to become beings of pure consciousness. Needless to say, the Final Sanctum does not happen, but the events of The End of Time make the Doctor realize how wrong the Time Lord victorious is, how wrong he has been all along, how right Davros was about him. He wasn’t a hero; he was a monster. The Time Lord victorious was a monster that thrust his own ideas on others. He was a tyrant who punished any and all who dared to defy him. He wasn’t the Doctor anymore; he wasn’t the pacifist who set out in a stolen TARDIS so long ago to see this universe. He’d lost himself along the way, becoming absorbed in his god like powers. He has allowed himself to become the very thing he sought to destroy in the Time Lords, and allows himself to die and allows a hopefully better man to take his place.
This, I believe, is why the 11th Doctor is so full of self-loathing. He regrets his actions and the Time Lord victorious, and he hates himself for losing himself so completely. Yet, I think he hates himself even more because he still hasn’t changed; deep down, the Time Lord victorious still lives, still waiting to spring forth, and this scares the Doctor. Throughout Matt Smith’s tenure as the Doctor, we’ve seen bits and pieces of the Time Lord victorious leaking out. Criticizing Amy in The Beast Below for example, when she only had the best of intentions. Going to war with the Church and Madame Kovarian in A Good Man Goes to War. Almost killing Kahler-Jex in A Town Called Mercy. Not only that, characters have openly discussed the Doctor’s dark side, from Madame Kovarian’s war on the Doctor, to River Song’s speech about his becoming too big, to most recently the Great Intelligence, who calls the Doctor ‘blood-soaked’. When you look back, is the Great Intelligence actually wrong?
To conclude, I think the 11th Doctor loathes himself because he is no longer the pacifist who refused to commit genocide against the Daleks; he is the Time Lord victorious, the Destroyer of Worlds, the Oncoming Storm, the Predator; he has become everything he once was so against.