DOCTOR WHO - A look at the WAR DOCTOR's past - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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DOCTOR WHO - A look at the WAR DOCTOR's past

Christopher Morley ponders what the War Doctor might have been doing between 'Night' and 'Day Of The Doctor'.

While there may currently be an air of mystery regarding the Twelfth Doctor's familiar appearance, an arguably bigger puzzle could be about to be solved. Remember Night & Day Of The Doctor? So far we've seen only the regeneration from Eighth into the War Doctor, & the redemption & subsequent rebirth of Gallifrey's greatest Time War soldier into his Ninth body. Leaving another question hanging in the air...

Namely, what was he doing before/between the two most defining days of his career as a warrior? The forthcoming novel Engines Of War,by George Mann (out July 31) promises to answer at least part of that, filling in some of the quite considerable gaps in his personal timeline. Of course we all know how he came to be - the Eighth Doctor, having tried to avoid the War if at all possible, crash-lands on Karn (remember The Brain Of Morbius?) & eventually gives in to the persuasion of the Sisterhood to try one of their newest home brews. It'll let him choose the exact nature of his next incarnation.....

Mindful of the fact that what the universe needs now is a fighter, he becomes one - going so far as to reject the title of 'Doctor' before going from 'no more' to 'once more' with the help of his future selves. But before he even thought about sending both his own people & the Daleks to Kingdom Come with the Moment, where could he have been or gone & what could he be doing? There are several possible eventualities for perhaps the most conflicted & indeed conflict-scarred of the Time Lord race.

Let's start with the idea that after strapping on Cass's bandolier, he fires up the TARDIS, has a fiddle with the desktop theme (you might notice his own Type 40's interior is radically different from any seen before) & heads back home. Volunteering as a commander as part of a recruitment drive by the Lord President, he leads his people into battle against the Daleks & is rightly celebrated as possibly the greatest military leader his planet's ever seen.

But add in another possibility. He does indeed sign up to join the army, but soon grows tired of the internal politics & goes rogue to try to get the job done on his own terms as a saboteur of sorts. We're off to Skaro - you might want to find something to hang on to!

In Genesis Of The Daleks, you might recall the Fourth Doctor being given an important mission- the aversion of the creation of the titular robotic Nazi analogies. The be-scarfed one manages to do so, but only for a short while in Time Lord terms.

You might see where this going now..what if the War Doctor were able to travel back to that point & actually succeed in their complete destruction? After all, no Daleks should by extension mean 'no war' & quite possibly 'no more'. But what then?

Of course he could have gone completely the other way before seeing the light in his later years. His younger self could have had quite a young, headstrong thirst for throwing himself into battle & gone off as a sort of 'hired gun', willing to fight alongside either those whose cause he believed in most or the highest bidder, depending on the extent of his mercenary nature - creating a universe in which the sound of the TARDIS materialising could mean death for all who stand in his path (his use of his trusty time/space steed as a battering ram in Day perhaps the earliest seen example of such) with the Doctor feared as an instrument of chaos rather than implicitly trusted as bringer of peace.

Such a shift away from the ideals of his previous selves could be radical but taking the risk could be rewarding, as well as a challenge for any writer willing to attempt it. In the ultimate paradox it could well be that in his attempts to intervene in smaller-scale skirmishes across the galaxy he inadvertently helps to bring about the larger-scale Time War he was 'created' to end - after all not a lot of the wider history of the battle itself has yet been shown, though certain 'classic' era stories could retroactively be said to be among the birth pangs of it (Genesis most likely to be prominent in this line of thinking, as, chronologically speaking, it functions as the first strike against the Daleks by the Time Lords). So there could be scope for further delves into Gallifrey's apparent pre-Day demise.

Which leads nicely into yet another alternative. What if it was the War Doctor who formed the founding triumvirate of Time Lord society as we know it alongside Rassilon & Omega? After all 'The Other', as the mysterious third man has come to be known, could have simply been an alias used by the Doctor to preserve his own mystique as he sought to have a say in the rebuilding of his/their corner of the constellation of Kasterborous.

He might even have served on the front-lines of their fight against the Cult of Pythia, during which magic & superstition were overthrown by cold, hard science in what came to be recorded as the Dark Times in later histories of Gallifrey - and his warrior nature might have helped ensure a fruitful bond with the Hand of Omega, the 'stellar manipulator' so expertly used by his Seventh incarnation in Remembrance Of The Daleks (which might also be said to be yet another tactical manoeuvre in the wider Time War, with Skaro seemingly destroyed & Davros left for dead until The Stolen Earth proves he's very much living & still dangerously insane).

Perhaps its the memory of a confrontation with the former Kaled chief scientist/aspiring Dalek Emperor in his War-era which drives him to be so merciless in Dalek - the assumed (false) memory that they drove him quite literally to the edge of destruction with no choice but to push that big red button was most likely foremost in his thinking down in Henry Van Statten's vaults, & might also explain Ten's disbelief when confronted with the face that mutated the Kaleds during one of the final acts of Journey's End, having assumed he was dead & indeed seen his ship seemingly obliterated.

Does he also somehow remember Caan, the mad prophet who foresees the doom of his own race? It's entirely possible that the War Doctor could have run into him at some point during the universe-wide battle, & undoubtedly it could have made for a fascinating encounter. How much of it the giggly partially-exposed Dalek remembers is also as yet a moot point. But there's yet another plausible layer to explore, also.

By now the Doctor is settling into his Eleventh incarnation (the one who alongside Ten remembers the most of his war-stained past) & discovers his oldest nemesis posing as a man-made invention helping Winston Churchill see off the threat of Nazism (Victory Of The Daleks). He's understandably horrified, as he thought they'd all been wiped out.

But it would appear that at least one ship escaped what could have been an attempt at sabotage by the War Doctor - the possible after-effects of his tactical strikes impacting his future self not something Eleven's keen to contemplate before going full circle & accepting his War service as a necessary part of his life, & indeed one of the best going by the reconciliation afforded by the saving of Gallifrey in Day. But wherever he chose or was forced to take his TARDIS, we can only hope Engines Of War delivers on what it has to be said is abundant promise.

Will the veil of mystery be entirely lifted? Doubtful. But surely even the tiniest glimpse of the War Doctor's past will make us appreciate what drove him to do as he did 'without choice, in the name of peace & sanity' just that little bit more, as he deserves given his standing in the pantheon.

Engines Of War is released in hardback on July 31st, pre-order here.

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