Tony speculates wildly.
Yes, yes, I know – the blogosphere is rife with furious theorizing about Series 9, just as it always is before each series. The Rani always comes up. Susan, the Doctor’s granddaughter, always comes up. And people just can’t seem to leave the damned Valeyard alone.
The Valeyard, for newbies who don’t know him, was the main villain of the Trial of a Time Lord season, the one which ultimately led to BBC bosses killing off Colin Baker’s Doctor. The Valeyard began life as the prosecutor in the enquiry into the Doctor’s affairs, and was ultimately revealed as – sorry, huge spoiler alert if you haven’t seen it, but we’ll get nowhere with the rest of this if you don’t know – an evil incarnation of the Doctor himself, from somewhere between his Twelfth and final incarnations.
Catch that, did you?
Now, Steven Moffat may forever have blown up the idea of numbers when it comes to Doctors, regenerations and incarnations, but whichever way you slice it, pretty much the whole point of The Time of the Doctor was that our Eleventh Doctor was the Eleventh Doctor, but actually the thirteenth incarnation. 8+War, 9, counting both Tenth Doctors as an incarnation each gets you incarnations 11 and 12, making the Eleventh Doctor incarnation 13, and prompting the whole ‘I’m going to die for real soon’ angst and the delivery, we’re told, of a whole new regeneration cycle, making Capaldi, as far as we know, Doctor 12, incarnation 14, or incarnation 1 of a whole new cycle.
We know that from just two lines, spoken by the ‘dying’ Matt Smith Doctor.
But assuming a slight license for language, if we assume that the Master was talking about Doctors, rather than bodies, then all’s well in the world – Capaldi’s the Twelfth Doctor as far as he and the universe is pretty much concerned. And with the rumour-mill in full flight about whether or not Capaldi will do Series 10, and the potential for multiple Doctors in the finale of Series 9, thoughts inevitably turn to that idea of the Dark Doctor – the Valeyard – rising between his Twelfth and final incarnations.
What’s more, the Valeyard is increasingly on the mind of content-makers, as well as fans. Having not appeared between the ‘second’ Tenth Doctor (incarnation 12) and the Eleventh Doctor (incarnation 13), he got a name-check in The Name of the Doctor as being still in that Eleventh Doctor’s future, sending a shiver of delight down the spines of old fans, because, facing facts, there was no reason he had to be included. There’s no reason the 21st century show needs to include anything from the Classic era. They could easily have said ‘Oh, the Valeyard’s from a collapsed timeline that never happened because of the Time War, or the Big Bang II incident’ – but no, there he is, large as life and twice as thrilling, post-Time War, post Big Bang II, a reality that apparently is still to come. That’s the production team making a conscious decision that he’s still part of the Doctor’s timeline. Now granted, you could make an argument that Clara jumping into that timeline is another potential get-out clause if they want to get out of ever using the Valeyard.
But he does keep popping up. While I’m the polar opposite of a conspiracy theorist (a freaking-coincidence theorist, since you ask), there’s clearly an understanding that the Valeyard is still a post-Time War factor because there’s a mention of him in Paul Cornell’s Four Doctors comic-book. ‘We’ve got the Valeyard coming up some time soon,’ says the Tenth Doctor to his Eleventh and Twelfth incarnations (oh shurrup, you know what I mean) – and neither of them declares the idea moot, meaning, probably, that the Valeyard still hasn’t been dealt with at that point in the Twelfth Doctor’s timeline – which is before Dark Water and Death In Heaven. Again, I’m not into conspiracy theories, but Titan Comics regularly thanks the production team in its Who Comics, so I’m randomly speculating that the team has seen the line, and that big red flashing lights and cloister bells have conspicuously failed to go off in their heads.
And then of course there’s Big Finish. Big Finish has been a friend to the Valeyard for years – it created an Unbound chronicle for him, a ‘What If?’ universe in which the Valeyard won at the end of the Trial (if you haven’t checked out He Jests At Scars yet, do it now – it’s one of Mel’s best performances to date, and it’s Michael Jayston growling and purring in your ear. Enough said?). More recently, before the sad passing of Inquisitor actress Linda Bellingham, the company delivered a twist in The Trial of the Valeyard, bringing Bellingham, Jayston and Baker together again to explore some of Gallifrey’s darkest secrets.
And now he’s been immortalized once more as being responsible for driving the Sixth Doctor to his death in The Last Adventure. And again, as far as we know, there’s been no murmur from the production team. You can read that two ways of course. Maybe they’re happy to have the Valeyard appear in all these other ways because they have no interest in using him themselves. Or maybe, just maybe, they’re happy to let him appear in all these ways because his appearances do part of their job for them. Steven Moffat has often said about the Rani that there’d be too much baggage in bringing her back, that you’d have to explain her for half an episode. Perhaps – just perhaps – all these references are useful in getting a New Who audience up to speed with who the Valeyard is, allowing him to be woven in with less effort than would otherwise be necessary.
Besides, there are nagging lines – and there’s a time constraint to be taken into account.
If they ever do intend to use the Valeyard on-screen again, the time of the Capaldi Doctor is about their last opportunity without re-inventing numbers altogether. He’s their last chance to legitimize the Valeyard’s supposed timeline of creation – and if they weren’t going to do that, you have to wonder about that line in The Name of the Doctor.
Also, the Valeyard is no ordinary Time Lord. The Master, the Rani, Susan, the Meddling Monk, you can bring back in a different body claiming they’ve regenerated. Not the Valeyard. The Valeyard is one regeneration, one incarnation of the Doctor. You regenerate him, and for all we know, he stops existing. And he has a voice. He has the voice of Michael Jayston. If you think that’s a frivolous point, imagine hearing the voice of Tom Baker in The Day of the Doctor, and then when the camera panned to the speaker, it was someone doing a Tom Baker impression.
Michael Jayston still has that voice. But facing facts, Michael Jayston turns 80 in October this year. If he’s ever going to play the Valeyard on-screen again, the time of Capaldi’s Doctor would have to be the Moment of the Valeyard.
The Series 8 emotional arc had the Twelfth Doctor consumed with the question of whether he was a good man. Death In Heaven seemed to bring him some resolution to that question – no, he’s not a good man, or a bad man, but an idiot with a box and a screwdriver. In Series 9, Capaldi has said his Doctor is having the time of his life, but that he’s running away from something, even if he’s not quite sure what it is yet.
Running away from numbers and destiny maybe?
Also, the Valeyard does give you scope for a multi-Doctor story. Doctors returning to fight their own darkest impulses maybe? Combining to win the ‘soul’ of the Doctor, or his future? The Moment of the Valeyard is certainly viable as a way of bringing Doctors together to fight their ultimate foe.
Pure speculation of course, but here’s where we need a lovely picture of Captain Jack on a spoiler-bomb. Stop reading now if you don’t want to leap from the ‘wild speculation zone’ into the ‘probably nonsense but possibly a spoiler zone.’
The internet is basically a bar. You can’t, under any circumstances, trust what strangers tell you when they sidle up to you and tell you things. Which means this should be filed under the ‘deeply dubious’ category, rather, really, than the ‘spoiler’ category. But someone recently sidled up to me in a quiet corner of the net, and said that a friend of theirs, who’s an actor, had seen Michael Jayston on set of the Series 9 finale. The friend wasn’t a fan of the programme, so had no idea of Jayston’s historical connection with the show, they added.
Yes, it’s massively dubious. It’s Total Stranger 1 saying that Unnamed Total Stranger 2 saw someone on set. So it’s probably nothing.
But maybe - just maybe – the Moment of the Valeyard is at hand.
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk