What's in a name? Christopher Morley examines the Doctor's frequently used alias, John Smith.
John Smith. A common name for an uncommon man- & the Twelfth Doctor's use of it to blend in as Coal Hill School's new caretaker is but its latest outing! He was first seen to use it after adopting it with a little push from Jamie during his Second incarnation ( The Wheel In Space), though a little delving reveals it actually dates back to his preceding self. Of course, we know it was on his library card thanks to the Eleventh Doctor in The Vampires Of Venice. But it might not surprise you to learn that the name had been on his radar long before. Remember who Susan is heard listening to in An Unearthly Child?
The twangy guitar instrumental she bops around to is credited to them- 'John Smith' in turn serving as the stage name of Aubrey Waites. By November 1963 they were number two in the charts, & were soon caught up in quite some intrigue! Fanfare For The Common Men reveals that the trio of Mark Carville, James O'Meara & Korky Goldsmith are not of this world, & have managed to take the place of the Beatles in pop music history. It's the Fifth Doctor who persuades them to become the Common Men & thus take a more rightful place in the ears of Sixties listeners.......
If you ever wondered how the TARDIS comes to be standing in the junkyard at Totters Lane, The Rag & Bone Man's Story should fill in a few gaps. The Doctor had rented the place from its owner using the ' John Smith' alias- as explained in a flashback passage of the story ( which actually takes place during the last episode of The War Machines). It's also used again during The Witch Hunters when he checks into a tavern in Salem in 1692 with Susan, Ian & Barbara during the infamous Witch Trials! Dusted off again for The Wheel In Space, it next provides a handy answer during questioning from a German soldier in The War Games.
Perhaps its most consistent period of use was during the Third Doctor's exile to Earth. He worked unpaid for UNIT as their scientific adviser, and 'Smith' was used once more in Spearhead From Space, Inferno & The Time Warrior among others while he was stuck on our lovely planet! Two selves later he'd find himself in the thick of the American Civil War in Blood & Hope, during which he would treat soldiers on both the Union & Confederate sides of the tussle. Jumping far further forward, the Sixth Doctor took 'JSMITH' as an online user-name in Blue Box, as the Eighth Doctor later would ( Jsmith8) in Lonely from Short Trips- Transmissions.
The Sixth, Seventh & Eighth Doctors would all take advantage of a German version of it, as well! 'Johann Schmidt' came in handy for Six in The Shadow In The Glass, Seven in Timewyrm-Exodus , Colditz & Klein's Story, & Eight in Storm Warning. An alternate Eight who found himself in an alternate time-line in which the Nazis won the Second World War ( also Colditz & Klein's Story) would also take advantage. Then there's the small matter of the Seventh Doctor's 'death'/regeneration...
Perhaps the next more regular user was the Tenth Doctor!
Whether it be to pass himself off as a Science teacher ( School Reunion), pretend to be a hospital patient ( Smith & Jones), attempting to impersonate a Health & Safety officer ( Partners In Crime), blending in among fellow passengers ( Midnight), meeting Jackson Lake ( The Next Doctor) & claiming to be from Scotland Yard ( The Unicorn & The Wasp). Heartbreakingly he also had to use it in Journey's End, and once more as a teacher at Farringham School for boys (Human Nature/Family of Blood).
Which brings us slowly up to date. The Eleventh Doctor adopts 'Smith' while swapping places with his Ganger clone, then again while looking into Sweetville with Clara ( The Crimson Horror).
Then there's The Caretaker! The Twelfth Doctor's 'deep cover' at the school inspires him to use the tried & tested alter ego once more.
So, what's in a name? Quite a bit as it happens....