Is Jo Martin Actually the 14th Doctor? The Truth of the Fugitive Doctor
Feature article by Zachary Schulman.
I have a feeling that Jo Martin is the Fourteenth Doctor.
With Doctor Who, there is a loose metaphysics that defines what can and cannot happen in this fictional world. If the Doctor meets herself, the younger incarnations cannot remember meeting their future self. With countless crossover stories featuring multiple Doctors, this metaphysical rule plays out all the time. The War Doctor forgets trying to save Gallifrey; the Tenth Doctor forgets his Trenzalore destination perhaps right until the moment when he regenerates in the TARDIS for “The End of Time: Part Two.” The First Doctor forgot whom he met during “The Three Doctors,” “The Five Doctors,” and “The Day of the Doctor” when he meets the Twelfth Doctor in “Twice Upon a Time;” not recognizing the potential to encounter a future regeneration. Predominately, the audience has always been in sync with the ‘current’ Doctor, so we have no problem seeing younger incarnations sliding back into place with their respective timelines, forgetting what they’ve seen of their future with only us to remember it all.
Maybe this time, the Doctor and her audience are more as Troughton was to Pertwee in “The Three Doctors,” Troughton being the younger incarnation at the time. If Chibnall continues to remember some decades-old plotlines, as he’s reinforced Hinchcliffe and Holmes’ canon from “The Brain of Morbius” and “The Deadly Assassin” for the recent series finale, “The Timeless Children,” the current showrunner may also recall Steven Moffat’s maxim: “Rule One of the Doctor: the Doctor lies.” Since the beginning, the Doctor has lied to protect people from the truth: recall how the First Doctor lies to Susan and Barbara in “The Edge of Destruction” for starters. You would need pages to count all the examples since then of the Doctor lying. I think that it is possible for the Fugitive Doctor to have lied to the Thirteenth Doctor about never having been her, as lying in this show is a relatively simple thing to do.
If the Fugitive Doctor is at least the Fourteenth Doctor, she may have learned something from the Curator when she was (hypothetically) the Eleventh Doctor. When it comes to communicating with one’s past-self, the show’s own metaphysics dismisses most exchanges of future insight as being lost to ‘timeline retention’ and ‘Post-Regenerative Trauma.’ The reason that the Eleventh Doctor is written by Moffat to remember the Curator’s message is because Eleven was given a choice of what to believe. Using a face that the Eleventh Doctor would be able to retain in memory as the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker’s face accompanies a message that offers his younger self the idea that Gallifrey may ultimately survive as an open-ended concept, rather than as a prophecy. “Trenzalore is where you’re going” is a prophecy that gets forgotten by the Tenth Doctor, while the message “Gallifrey Falls No More. Now, what would you think that means, eh?…I’m only a humble curator. I’m sure I wouldn’t know” breaks the rules of timeline-retention to give the Eleventh Doctor hope from a potential future self. The Eleventh Doctor ends the 50th Anniversary Special set with the notion to find Gallifrey as the Curator advises, a message from the future that turns out to be true when the Twelfth Doctor does return there in “Heaven Sent.”
It is convenient for the Fugitive Doctor to lie to the Thirteenth Doctor, considering that this theory would give Jo Martin’s Doctor hindsight of “The Timeless Children” revelation as well. Choosing to imagine whether Ruth Clayton’s Chameleon Arch plot takes place before or after Hartnell’s incarnation (for the audience and the Thirteenth Doctor) is arguably a vague choice as open as the Curator’s message to the Eleventh Doctor. Indeed, the Thirteenth Doctor’s confusion within the Matrix may function as a conduit for Jo Martin’s Doctor to communicate support to her younger self: “Get out of here. I know this place has blown your mind. Maybe you should return the compliment.” The idea that the Doctor’s story doesn’t end here, as bad as the Trenzalore fate or the Master says it is, becomes a vital message from the future incarnations to keep moving forward when times are profoundly troubling. Offering solutions is what a Doctor does, and both the Curator and the Fugitive Doctor offer forward-thinking feedback to a confounded, ‘younger’ incarnation.
Reviewing what we know, we know that the Matrix of Gallifrey that features the Fugitive Doctor has shown the audience the future before: the precedent being the Valeyard appearing to the Sixth Doctor, repeatedly referred to as an incarnation emerging either during or after the Doctor’s twelfth body. In a previous article, “The Valeyard and the Stolen Earth” I draw upon the possibility that the Metacrisis Doctor may fulfill this prophecy as the twelfth body (Tenth Doctor) soon becomes the villainous Time Lord Victorious. The Matrix has knowledge of the Time Lords past and future. Maybe the events of “Fugitive of the Judoon” concerning the Time Lady Gat and the Fugitive Doctor are from a future that the Doctor saves by rewriting Gallifrey’s timeline (inevitably) in some way for a 60th Anniversary Special in 2023? The precedent of Matt Smith regenerating on an anniversary year may cue Jodie Whittaker’s chosen departure as well. Imagining that the Fugitive Doctor is the Fourteenth Doctor, she would be timely cast for Series 14 of the revival.
Given the reality that “Fugitive of the Judoon” is the Chibnall era’s highest rated episode on Doctor Who TV, fans have responded favorably to Jo Martin’s casting as our eponymous time-traveler. A future where the Fugitive Doctor is the Fourteenth Doctor is one where Jo Martin becomes the figurehead for the entire programme: attending conventions and continually occupying our news feeds as the star of the show millions will pour out to see. If the figures of our feedback for this episode do reach the producers, then the success of “Fugitive” could have been the result of an unprecedented tactic at introducing a future Doctor. Potentially the most in-depth look we’ve yet gotten as an audience to the Doctor’s future, even Capaldi’s attack eyebrows from “The Day of the Doctor” are but a cameo to the potential revelation that we’ve actually met a future Doctor during Series 11.
The phrase that Thirteen relays to the Fugitive when confronting the Judoon’s contractors, “the Doctor doesn’t use weapons,” is a relatively new mindset adopted after being changed by Rose Tyler. A Dalek getting rusty in the sprinkler-rain once told the Ninth Doctor, “You would make a good Dalek.” Additionally, the Sixth Doctor has taken arms for far less than the War Doctor or the Tenth Doctor when they each had reason to brand a weapon. The Third Doctor gets to be a Bond inspired martial artist in “The Green Death” with his Venusian Aikido, so a future version that is not as overtly ‘nice’ as Chibnall’s Thirteenth Doctor may remind viewers of Classic Who bravado.
If the Fugitive Doctor is Post-Hartnell, then perhaps Hartnell is the canonical First Doctor after all, as we have no way of knowing what the Foundling’s Other names are just yet. The story of “The Timeless Children” may rest easier upon the minds of fans if it is revealed that this regenerating immortal first took up the name of the Doctor when the Master was born, and not a time before that of the First Doctor. The merits of this theory may ultimately fall into fan-fiction, but that does not stop us from dreaming.