Doctor Who: An Infinite Number of Doctors - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

Doctor Who: An Infinite Number of Doctors

Moo is unlimited.

Just how many Doctor Whos are there? It’s a deceptively complicated question, even before Chris Chibnall happened. We know that Jodie Whittaker is the Thirteenth Doctor but even that comes with an asterisk, considering that we must count David Tennant twice and that although John Hurt has no number he’s part of the cycle.

What do we do with the Dream Lord and Valeyard and recastings? What about the pastiches and parodies that we might consider “worthy” of attention? How do we handle Peter Cushing? And should we give fan-made productions any credit here?

The answer to how many Doctors there are has been a complicated question since 1976, forty-four years ago, when an infamous scene aired during The Brain of Morbius showing eight Doctors from before William Hartnell. How do we handle these so-called “Morbius Doctors”? One explanation from the 1990s tie-in expanded media would be in The Other, an ancient of Gallifrey who is apparently reincarnated as the Doctor. But again we must ask how that works with all the revelations we’ve had since. (I wrote a piece on this back in 2016 exploring precisely this topic.)

Who knows whether Chris Chibnall had any of this in mind when he wrote The Timeless Children. In what is to date the most recent Doctor Who episode to air, we’re told about the Timeless Child, some entity with the ability to regenerate their body seemingly infinite times. At some point, one of these incarnations took on the name “Doctor” and apparently later than that they reverted to a child and began the life we know as the First Doctor. We see this child Doctor in 2014 episode Listen, played by an uncredited Michael Jones, and we see him as an adult back in the 1960s, when he was played by William Hartnell.

So now we’ve got an unknown number of lives before some kind of reset button was pressed and the “First” Doctor, which we’ll keep referring to the Hartnell incarnation, was made subject to the twelve regeneration limit somehow. It’s not clear on the exact details, the Master stated that they are “redacted” somehow, but the bottom line is clear: Suddenly there’s no clear limit on how many Doctors there have been. And that’s exciting.

Some have stepped up to accuse Chibnall of being “disrespectful to William Hartnell” and of “overwriting 57 years of canon” but… neither of these accusations are true? Not just because of Morbius and Lungbarrow both setting precedent (and they’re not alone – see also The Infinity Doctors and Cold Fusion), but because none of this undermines the Doctor’s character. All these years we’ve been asking the question “Doctor Who?” and now she’s asking it with us. Never before has that question been more appropriate.

But never mind that. What else is going on here? One thing that stands out is the Timeless Child in all their incarnations we see. Only a handful of incarnations are actually shown on screen, all of them played by uncredited actors, but something that stands out is the diversity. Male and female are represented and several different ethnicities are on display. The original – as far as we get to see at least – is a black girl. We also get an Asian girl, a white boy, an African teenager, and each one of them seems to have had a whole life to live. The Time Lords’ entire civilisation being built on the exploitation of a victimised POC girl has very powerful imagery to it, and it’s an interesting take on them that probably warrants its own separate article to truly explore.

At one point they regenerated into the incarnation played by Jo Martin, who Jodie Whittaker’s “Thirteenth” Doctor met back in Fugitive of the Judoon. That episode reveals these timeless incarnations get to have all kinds of adventures that we’ve never got to see. This one even became human to escape the Time Lords, who knows what other adventures all these other Doctors have had!

And there lies the genius of it. Steven Moffat made a major point during his tenure that “The Doctor” is an ideal, a goal to strive for that anyone can theoretically get to. Chris Chibnall has taken this literally and ran with it to the logical extreme. There’s now an infinite number of Doctors knocking about the universe.

In one fell swoop, Chibnall has rewritten the rules. Everything is canon now. All of it. Every parody, every fan-fic, every possible story with any possible Doctor, it’s all entirely possible to exist within the realms of that infinite sandbox we call Doctor Who’s canon. One hopes we’ll start seeing some super-creative experimental new stories start appearing now. Paging Big Finish productions…

The Curse of Fatal Death is probably canon now too.

Fan-favourite stories like Caves of Androzani or Heaven Sent are just as valid Doctor Who stories as ones made up by a six year old pretending to be the Doctor in the school playground. And isn’t that wonderful?

When we probe into the implications of what the Master revealed to us at the weekend, suddenly there’s no limits anymore. What a gift this is! Any story with any original Doctor from outside the usual lineup is now officially permitted to be canon. Anything goes. Nothing is off the table. I really hope that both the official expanded universe writers and any creative fans with stories to tell can realise the potential this new avenue for storytelling offers them.

This is canon now too.

We’ve always said that Doctor Who canon both contains everything and nothing. And now Chibnall has made that official! “Have you ever been limited by who you were before?” asks Martin’s Fugitive Doctor. That’s the real thing to consider. How many Doctors are there? I haven’t a clue anymore. But who cares? The number is genuinely infinite now. And isn’t that exciting?

“Moo” is the pseudonym used by this Doctor Who fan. He can usually be found procrastinating by thinking about Doctor Who. Follow him on Twitter @z_p_moo for more of his unusual takes, but do so at your own risk.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad