The Revelations of Gallifrey
Guest contributor Zachary Bernstein on what the return of the Doctor’s home might bring.
Before Hell gets Bent this weekend, I would like to share some of the ideas of inspiration I’ve felt after last weekend’s tremendous episode with you. Keep in mind, I wouldn’t consider any of the following to be spoilers, considering the fact that I stay clear from all of that chatter. Here I would like to bring to light certain clues in the show’s history that might explain where this has all been heading. Please note that if what I’m guessing is true, it would be of paramount importance not just to the show but to all of us. Maybe the truth of Gallifrey will change our perception of the world around us. In any case, I believe the implications to be tremendous for us all.
While we’re stuck remembering the past, let’s stay there for a little while longer. We all remember the Doctor Who movie of 1996, the Americanized television movie, right? Well for those who aren’t familiar, this was when the show attempted revitalization by regenerating the Seventh Doctor into the Eighth. Although it didn’t bring back the show, it succeeded in keeping the story alive for another decade, and alongside Big Finish, the Doctor endured. The movie also presented us with crucial information about the Doctor, by claiming that he was half-human on his Mother’s side…. Trying to pull a Spock on us, eh? Well, it was controversially received, and Steven Moffat has recently alluded that it was still in canon and can’t just be ignored.
The Day of the Doctor changed everything. Since the Doctor knows he tried to save Gallifrey, the Doctor can now let go of his survivor’s guilt. His character has progressed tremendously since Moffat took over in 2010. It seems like he’s out of the frying pan and into the fire, because while he was just absolved of his crimes during the 50th Anniversary special, he went and made another mistake. Now, the Doctor’s responsible for a different kind of pain: the creation of a very interesting character who is definitely not Jack Harkness: Me! Well, not I, the author, but the woman formerly known as Ashildr. I believe that Ashildr may be so much more than just another immortal human.
Heaven Sent was a game changer, indeed. It seems that the countless billions and billions of years that have passed have resulted with our beloved hero standing on the slopes of the Continent of Wild Endeavor. The important point to note that with his stay in the Confession Dial that the Doctor said the stars had not changed, ergo he was still on Earth. Yet, without changing his location he is suddenly on Gallifrey; this is to say that a huge revelation has just occurred. Has Gallifrey been a future Earth all along? Are the Time Lords one of the species formed from our divergent evolution and exposure to the Time Vortex? It’s quite a lot to swallow, but it would explain why the Doctor loves Earth so much.
Imagine a child, scared of who he is, and what he will become. It’s like he’s living in an escapist fantasy and thinks back to Gallifrey’s ancestry, when it was Earth. Hence, he’s a time traveler, because he wanted to run away from it all. It’s understandable that a scared and traumatized child would seek to pretend to live in another time and escape his current problems. Unfortunately, we have seen over the past few years that one cannot run away from who they are meant to be.
If Gallifrey is our future home, the ramifications pile up. This clarification of when Gallifrey existed also explains the Time Lock; that the Time War literally occurred billions of years in the future, and was zoned off from time travel again. The theory also complies with there being other humans like Cass in Night of the Doctor and the planet of New Earth from Series 1 & 2, because humans spread out amongst the stars, evolving where they needed to. The humans that chose time travel became the Time Lords and established Gallifrey. The title is pompous and self-rewarding enough to be definitively human. Just as we no longer consider ourselves to be associated with Chimpanzees and Whales, the Gallifreyans have become a new species all together. Furthermore, this ties into the Boeshane Peninsula and the Time Agency where Captain Jack Harkness grew up. Why were the Time Lords one of the only species to get time travel? What about humans who experimented with it? Dread not, because the Time Agency seems to be the prototype of our exposure to the grandeur of eternity!
The whole show starts to make sense, and all of the disjointed continuities seem to align like the stars above the world created by the Doctor’s Confession Dial. It’s as if all of the aliens and remarkable futures that the Doctor travelled to are the complex histories of the human race. This singular vision suddenly brings it all together, that this show was a story about our species the whole time, and the glorious things we can achieve. I have to wonder now though, are the Kaleds one of our descendent species too? That would certainly have tremendous implications. I would be happy with the idea that the Time Lords and the Daleks were cousin species.
Since everything could be connected in a very real way, I finally ponder the possibility that Ashildr is the Doctor’s mother [see another great article on this idea here]. She lived on Earth all that time, aging, and even hating the Doctor. She forgets every life-time that she knew him, as her human mind can’t retain an immortal body’s experience. But she has her books. This could be the kind of hate that turns into love; that rejection of self that is projected onto another. In time, like the Doctor has lived through his confession in Heaven Sent, Ashildr can too move on from her past, albeit over a tremendously long period of time. Maybe she becomes older over the years like Jack did, and becomes a matured woman, capable of having a child elevated by Time Lord science. A child that is born of an immortal human and a Time Lord, although the two might be more similar than not.
The show has a precedent for a human becoming a Time Lord, explaining that they were created by exposure to the Time Vortex after eons. In River’s case, it was rushed by the Kovarian Chapter of the Silence during Series 6. However, I think Moffat implanted the idea that it was the human race that evolved into the Time Lords early on in his showrunner era.
Moffat must have really been scared as a child, but as an intellectual and writer he concocted brilliant tales of monsters and the not-so-heroic man who stops them. The show is still so true to the horror motif established with William Hartnell, the First Doctor, and it’s so much more elaborated upon now that the show really has reached a Golden Age. Not only is Doctor Who about the monsters we fight without, but it has just become the crux of identifying and reconciling the monsters within ourselves. Nothing could be more heroic. Color me impressed.
Yet, this revelation has so much more impact than on continuity. Aliens in fiction have always been a metaphor for the “other.” The outsider, the one to be feared, the invader; aliens have always been a metaphor for those who do not fit in with a group of people, much as how zombies are popular metaphors for slaves of commercialization. This notion that Gallifrey is our destiny could not have come at a more appropriate time. Across the seas, to the readers in Europe, this is a time of change and upheaval. There are those “aliens” fleeing for their lives and looking for sanctuary. Viewers of this program have always been numbered amongst the warmest and compassionate people I have had the privilege of knowing.
Part of the success of The Zygon Inversion was its totally relevant political themes, such as knowing what creates anger in a group of people, and to realize that not everyone in an identity is responsible for the crimes of the few. Let us not forget who we are, much as the Twelfth Doctor was reminded about why he unconsciously chose his face: because good man or no, he is the man who helps people.
Gallifrey’s return and importance to our own species should remind each and every one of us that we live in a world divided by illusion. Instead, we are one people: humanity. The glory of science fiction is to observe the grand scheme of our paths into the future. Now, thanks to Heaven Sent, that future could look a whole lot brighter. I hope you feel the same way.