Posted by Benjamin Webb on May 22, 2013

Doctor Who – An Analysis of John Hurt’s Doctor

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I think that the content within this analysis should come with a warning, so in the words of the great River Song, this article contains “Spoilers, Sweetie”. This is because we will be focusing heavily on the events that occur within the final episode of the latest run of Doctor Who. This is an episode that has left us on a cliffhanger of epic proportions, and that has also left a lot of us with many questions. However, for this analysis, we will be focusing on the biggest question of all: just where does John Hurt’s The Doctor fit into the Doctor Who continuity?

As we previously reported, the final episode of the series was leaked early to pre-order customers over in the US, so some viewers have had an opportunity to analyse this final scene for a bit longer than most of us. However, the rest of the world has only had roughly a night or so to postulate on the identity of this latest incarnation of The Doctor.

At the moment, the consensus within the Doctor Who community is that he is the regeneration between the Eight and the Ninth Doctor based around a few facts:

  1. The Doctor references that he does some terrible things.
  2. He forgoes the name of The Doctor.
  3. He is dressed in a way that resembles both the 8th and 9th Doctors clothing.
  4. The 11th Doctor consoles him in a way that makes it seem like he is familiar with the things that this Doctor has done.

Now, if we were to take these as they appear, it would mean that we will be getting either a new season of the series set within the Time War, or we would be getting a spin-off series happening concurrently to the current run of Doctor Who. As it stands, either of these happening would be pretty awesome as I’m sure a lot of fans (myself included) are curious as all heck to find out what happened during the Time War. That period has the potential to be one of the greatest Sci-Fi action series of all time.

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However, I believe that the fandom has missed out on a lot of the subtle hints strewn throughout the episode that reveals that this is actually the next incarnation of The Doctor, and quite possibly even be his final incarnation. Now, initially when I went online after the episode had aired, I kind of expected a lot of viewers within the fandom to have a similar view to myself based on what was shown within the episode. However, this was not the case. As I stated above, I am perfectly open to the reveal as being a previous Doctor, but the way a lot of things clicked together in the episode led me down an entirely different path.

Whilst re-watching the episode on the ABC iView to verify my theory, I noticed a line that the Great Intelligence spews out when he brings the 19th century Britain crew to the entrance of The Doctor’s tomb. He talks about all of the names that The Doctor has gone by and what we have to remember is that, contextually speaking, this tomb is of The Doctors future, not past. The names that the Great Intelligence is actually referencing are the ones that The Doctor has yet to be known as. If you listen to the line carefully, you’ll notice that none of the names listed are anything that The Doctor has previously stated he was known as. The Final Darkness, Slaughterer of 10Billion and The Cruel Tyrant; none of these are anything that The Doctor has yet to be known as.

Let’s look at those titles a little more closely. While it’s possible that as the incarnation between the 8th and 9th Doctor he did actually rule over something as a cruel tyrant during the Time War, this kind of goes against established canon. The canon states that during the Time War, he committed an atrocity and then Time Locked the event. While being a tyrant is atrocious, it assumes that he still led some kind of overwhelming force. It has always been assumed that The Doctor ended the Time War solo.

Now, let’s add the Slaughterer of 10 Billion to that. It’s starting to make a bit more sense, maybe he actually did lead 10 billion inhabitants to war as a cruel tyrant. However, the Time War was a war between Time Lords and Daleks, with a few minor time-traveling forces thrown into the mix. 10 billion is not a minor force. There aren’t even that many Time Lords and Daleks. Do you know what has close to 10 billion people though? The Earth. While it’s doubtful that a current version of The Doctor would rule over them, a future incarnation might see it as a good idea given a certain set of circumstances.

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And finally, let’s look at The Final Darkness. This assumes that he is an end-point. A final boss. The bad guy. The villain of villains. This is a point that you don’t come back from. You can’t just regenerate away that kind of evil. This is why it has to be the final incarnation of The Doctor that does these things. Not only that, but the canon specifically states that at The Doctors final regeneration he becomes The Valeyard. And while a storyline about a dark Doctor would be good, a more dramatic story would be the one about how he goes from a cheerful happy-go-lucky Doctor into the dark and twisted Valeyard.

“It was a minor skirmish by The Doctors blood-soaked standards, not as great as the Time War, but enough to finish him. In the end, it was too much for the old man. [...] And he will have other names before the end – - Storm, the Beast, The Valeyard-”. This was stated by the Great Intelligence towards the middle of the episode, a version of the Great Intelligence that I believe is a future version of himself. It’s almost as if The Doctor hasn’t yet hit his lowest point. This seems to be a build up to something that will probably be revealed later in the episode. Quite possibly even the point in where The Doctor is consoling himself about the bad things he’s done while he’s rescuing Clara.

The first hint that I picked up on was actually a little later in the episode when Clara and The Doctor are traversing through the catacombs below the TARDIS. As the scene goes, they’re traveling through and suddenly Clara is taken aback and realises that she has a lot of memories from her previous self before The Doctor reset the universe in a previous episode. Now, a lot of fans would have just dismissed this as tying up a loose end from earlier in the series. I know I sure did. At the time, anyway.

The reason I picked this scene out is that later on The Doctor, The Great Intelligence and Team Britain have made their way into The Doctors tomb and The Doctor is explaining all about how time creates scars and how journeying through time is serious business when he suddenly collapses. Now, this isn’t a normal kind of collapse, if you watch the scene with Clara’s scene from earlier in mind, you’ll notice that the same effect is played as The Doctor falls over, indicating that he is receiving the memories from Doctors past and possibly even future. Now, it is my interpretation that The Doctor now knows what it is that he will be doing in the future and as such, this scene ties in directly with the final scene later on in the episode.

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Okay this next hint isn’t exactly big, but it is noteworthy if you look at it hard enough. In the scene where The Doctor makes out with the incredibly beautiful River Song, she makes a reference about Clara still being alive because she is still mentally linked with her and that is how she is still around to make out with The Doctor. A scene later, we find out that Clara is alive and standing in an area that is rather barren and possibly an area where The Doctor has been exiled, or has exiled himself to. Those of us paying extra attention, will have noticed that it is actually Trenzalore. As far as continuity goes, this episode is the first time that he has been to the planet. If not, then the TARDIS might have been okay with landing there right near the beginning of the story, heck, even The Doctor would have been a little more okay with heading there. He’d definitely know the secret entrances to his own tomb.

Lastly, I have to admit that the conversation at the end with The Doctor and The Doctor does really push the point that what he did has already happened. However, due to the effects of wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey and the possibility that The Doctor had retrieved his memories from a future time stream, as shown earlier in the episode, it is entirely possible that he simply talking to himself in a manner that he himself would accept. Alternatively, it seems like he already did it because he has the memories of doing it because of the convergence. I will concede that this portion of the episode does contain some Evangelion level of meta-physics to it and it’s entirely possible that all of this particular scene existed solely within the realms inhabiting The Doctors mind, even if this was supposed to be all of The Doctors own time stream.

The last piece of evidence I would like to present is the way in which the final scene was presented. There was no resolution sequence; instead we received a cut stating that it’d be resolved in November. Add to that that The Doctor was introduced with a flashy on-screen display, instead of just being treated as a past self. We can tell from this that it’s possible that we will be getting an off screen regeneration with the 11th Doctor very soon. Maybe not in November, but definitely before the end of the next season. Either that, or we’re getting a spin-off series/movie. There is no other reason to add captions to that scene other than to introduce a new Doctor because the older one was not available to shoot a regeneration sequence (here’s a picture of Matt Smith with a shaved head for a movie role, here’s another story with casting confirmations), or that it is impossible for storyline reasons. Moreso, on the production side, they could have really cast anyone as that version of The Doctor, but we have to think about why it was that the scene was portrayed in that way on screen.

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There is actually a hint here that Moffat has been alluding to since the beginning of the sixth season, or the second of the eleventh Doctors series, where The Silence states that The Doctor will fall at Trenzalore. We didn’t see this happen on-screen (unless you count the fact the he fell over), which leads us to believe that this Doctor will be dying very soon. Quite possibly even in November where the next episode is stated to air.

While it is possible that John Hurt’s portrayal as The Doctor is the incarnation featured within the Time War, and I still think it’d be incredibly cool if he was, it appears that a lot of subtle hints have been strewn out and about within this latest episode. These hints can be interpreted in such a way that will lead the viewer to see that he is actually going to be the next Doctor. It is clearly evident that the Doctor Who team is doing something with this new character, but if I was to put anything down on it, it’d be on the side that he is a future Doctor and not a past one. Also, BBC, Doctor Who Time War movie when?

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  • Ryan Bridgewood

    A good article. And you cleverly explain a great theory on who John Hurt’s Doctor really is. Many assume the Time War and that seems to be the case. However back in ‘The Wedding of River Song,’ There is something that can back up your theory even more.

    Dorium mentions: “You’re a man with a long and dangerous past, but your future is infinitely more terrifying. The Silence believe it must be averted.” The Doctor replies: “What’s so dangerous about my future?” In which Dorium replies: “On the fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the Eleventh, when no living creature can speak falsely or fail to answer, a question will be asked. A question that must never, ever be answered.” “Silence will fall when the question is asked.” “Silence must fall would be a better translation. The silence are determined that the question will never be answered, that the Doctor will never reach Trenzalore.”

    But with what the Doctor says it can also knock your theory off balance. Why would the Doctor ask: “What’s so dangerous about my future?” If he knows what John Hurt’s Doctor has done in The Name of The Doctor?

    Does Doriums point of: “But your future is infinitely more terrifying.” Does this mean that his future is the G.I. wrecking his time stream and that Silence will fall as a result because they’d be killed?

    • http://twitter.com/LinkageAX Ben ~LinkageAX~ Webb

      I was trying to remember where I had heard The Silence talking about The Doctor and Trenzalore but couldn’t quite recall the episode. Thanks for posting that :)

      To answer your question about The Doctor’s knowledge of the future, as I mentioned in the article, it is my speculation that when he mentions the paradoxes combining (or something to that effect) he is referring to him getting the memories of his future selves, much like how Clara got the memories of her past self. The scene of The Doctor falling plays the same effect as when Clara did earlier in the episode, just as she got her missing memories.

      I’m not too sure about the future of The Silence. I’d be interested to know if they’re still being referenced in the series at all, really.

      • Ryan Bridgewood

        So many theories surround Doctor Who at the moment. My core belief is that John Hurt’s Doctor is actually Omega and he’s finally found a way to utilise and form the bio-data of ones form, much like he did in Arc of Infinity, but has actually made it work without it weakening him.

        • http://twitter.com/LinkageAX Ben ~LinkageAX~ Webb

          That would be interesting. There are a lot of theories that state that The Doctor is Omega, it’d be pretty cool if they were right.

    • http://www.sougent.com Sougent

      Reading the quotes from Dorium made me immediately think that he’s not talking about the episode we just saw, but of the events that occur in the future that bring that Doctor to Trenzalore to die and be buried there.

      • http://www.sougent.com Sougent

        Just watched the latest “Strax Report” and it seems to support the theory that Hurt is a face of the Doctor that the Doctor has been hiding and that Hurt’s Doctor is battle hardened. As these are from the BBC, I’d take it as a hint.

  • Andrea Laford

    I think you’re on to something when you write about the blood-soaked battle meaning the slaughter of 10 billion people on Earth. I f you look at the scene where The Doctor and Clara are looking out of the TARDIS door upon Trenzalore, you can clearly see what’s left of the Pacific Ocean and the west coast of North America, including the Rocky Mountains Baja California, Central America, the Gulf of Mexico and other familiar geographic features.

    Isn’t the Valeyard supposed to be between The Doctor’s 12th and 13th regenerations? That wouldn’t make him the last Doctor. I don’t think that there will be a spin-off series at all and that John Hurt’s character, whatever he is, will fade into history by the end of the 50th anniversary special. Matt smith let it slip to The Sun’s TV Magazine that he will be involved with series eight filming.

    • http://twitter.com/LinkageAX Ben ~LinkageAX~ Webb

      Nice catches :) I’m really bad with geography so I hadn’t even noticed those.

      I assumed that this line was in reference to The Doctor’s regenerations as a person, not as a title. For instance, The Doctor could stop being The Doctor, but his body would still be his, even after becoming The Valeyard. I guess it’s an interpretational thing.

      Does the article specify how involved he would be? I’m curious to read it. I don’t want to see Matt Smith go, he’s an awesome Doctor, but it kind of feels like Moffat is trying to off him. Or that Smith is trying to find an out.

      • Andrea Laford

        Matt Smith: “I’m on a break for a couple of months while I’m in Detroit making How To Catch A Monster. We come back and shoot the Christmas special over the summer, then we go on to the next series, which will either start filming at the end of this year or at the start of 2014.”

        • http://twitter.com/LinkageAX Ben ~LinkageAX~ Webb

          Sweet :D

  • madihwa

    Whatever they’re doing, I just don’t want John Hurt as the next doctor. He’s too old. I like a young, fun doctor. After the 4th doctor (Tom Baker) and before the 10th they picked a lot of boring, nondescript doctors. It was as though they thought ANYONE could be the doctor. I don’t want to go back to those days.

    • http://twitter.com/LinkageAX Ben ~LinkageAX~ Webb

      Who’s to say an older Doctor couldn’t be interesting?

      • madihwa

        I suppose one could be interesting although I’ve only found one other old doctor to be so–and he was also fun and good looking, John Pertwee, the third doctor, right before Tom Baker. All the other old guys were BORING! John Hurt is no longer good looking and does not look as if he will be fun. To the contrary, his doctor looks as if he is carrying a heavy burden. I do not watch this show to agonize. I watch it to fantasize and enjoy myself. There is enough agony in the regular world without being forced to watch it in ones favorite fantasy escape TV series.

        • http://twitter.com/LinkageAX Ben ~LinkageAX~ Webb

          But why does The Doctor have to be attractive? What does being attractive have to do with being a time traveler? The reason they even chose Matt was because he looks a bit eccentric.
          Not only that, all of The Doctor’s have been carrying a heavy burden, at least since the revival. Although one could postulate that the first Doctor was running from something when he kidnapped the TARDIS.
          Doctor Who has never been about fun, it’s been about stories. Yes, the last three Doctors have had a fun side to them, but ultimately each Doctor is his own character.
          We can’t be sure if John Hurt’s Doctor will take over the series, and I don’t think the writers are going to suddenly make this a show about making people cry all of the time.

          • madihwa

            It is simply more fun to watch a young attractive man than it is an old, unattractive one. I can go to the grocery store and see all the old unattractive guys I want to. Why do I have to watch them on TV too. And, no, I’m not young–I’m 69! If he were old and nice looking and eccentric, like John Pertwee–all right! But he’s not! I just hope he’s not on by himself and not for long!

          • http://twitter.com/LinkageAX Ben ~LinkageAX~ Webb

            I think that maybe you’d just like for Jon Pertwee to come back ;) :P
            Tell me, what is Doctor Who to you?

          • madihwa

            What all sci-fi is–imagination come to life!
            Something that gives me hope that there might actually be more in store for the human race than is presently evident!

          • http://twitter.com/LinkageAX Ben ~LinkageAX~ Webb

            Fair enough :)

          • madihwa

            Thanks! I am 69 and have been reading sci-fi/fantasy since the age of 9 (wasn’t a lot of it around at that time but my father found as much of it as he could since he loved it so much). My soul feels bereft if a single day goes by that I don’t read. Once in awhile I’ll read something other than sci-fi/fantasy but with the wide range available nowadays I rarely need to.

          • http://twitter.com/LinkageAX Ben ~LinkageAX~ Webb

            Any books that you’d recommend? With so many out there, it’s hard to discern which are quality and which aren’t.

          • madihwa

            Catherine Asaro’s Ruby Dynasty series (not the last book-Carnelians which I didn’t like that well)/ Katherine Kerr’s series starts I think with Daggerspell/ Marian Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series/ Anne McCaffreys’s Pern series/ Elizabeth Moon’s series with Once A Hero/ Mercedes Lackey’s Arrows of the Queen series/ David and Leigh Eddings Pawn of Prophecy series/ Raymond Feist Rift War series/ Orson Scott Card the Ender series/ Sharon Shinn the angel series/ Sinclair-accidental goddess/ Alex Archer-rogue angel series/ Christopher Stasheff–wizard series (more than one)/ Stirling-against the tide of years series/

            There are many other wonderful authors; this is but a small sampling from my own personal library. These cover many different genres of sci-fi and fantasy. A few you might not be able to find at a bookstore now but the library will probably have them or they can be ordered online.

          • http://twitter.com/LinkageAX Ben ~LinkageAX~ Webb

            Thanks for that, I have added these to my buy list.

          • madihwa

            You’re welcome. Enjoy.

  • Danté Watson

    If the earth can have 10 billion people why can’t Gallifrey their species was a billion years old. and even if there weren’t 10 billion on Gallifrey combining their number with that of the Daleks during the Time War, I would assume, gets you to that number. Also the GI was speaking from the viewpoint that the Doctor is a Bad thing in the universe, the way the Daleks saw him. So when he says the Final Darkness he is more then likely referring to a name one of his evil enemies gave him. And as a side note, there is no way that we have heard every name that the Doctor has been called. On another point, the Doctor might get memories of things that haven’t happened yet but he knew of this secret before he entered the tomb…which is not possible if it hasn’t happened yet.

  • Tom Murray

    Just finished watching the episode again and something clicked for me, it would be entirely possible that while the Doctor entered his own timestream he either temporarily gained his future memories or had to witness every moment of his life until his death. I thought this when I considered that it wasn’t his life (as number 11) at that point he went backwards in, he entered his time stream from the point of his death and went backwards. It could also explain why Clara had never seen him, as the best person to explore The Doctor’s life would be himself.

    So overall, I’d say John Hurt could be either a past or future incarnation of the Doctor but I don’t think in the 50th special he will recognised this incarnation of himself, and based on that neither will David’s Doctor.

    Not sure if this helps in anyway, just a thought I had :)

    • http://twitter.com/LinkageAX Ben ~LinkageAX~ Webb

      I like this comment.

  • Wes Marden

    I think it is 10 billion over many worlds. Watch “Rose” again. “I couldn’t save your world! I couldn’t save any of them!” And in Nightmare in Silver Porridge points to an empty spot in the sky and makes a comment about those responsible for destroying so many worlds. 10 billion could be an understatement.

    Also related to this, how exactly did he kill all the timelords? Well excepting himself, btw how did he not end up dead? The master survived by going to the end of the universe and not exactly being a timelord.

    • http://twitter.com/LinkageAX Ben ~LinkageAX~ Webb

      Wasn’t it mentioned in The End of Time that they would use The Moment or something?
      That’s one of those area’s that’d be interesting to learn about. I’m also curious as to how this happened.

    • masterjace

      You missed a very big clue in “The Rings” Clare tells the Queen of day’s that when she was a little girl she got lost Bank holiday can’t remember the exact day used but 10 billion people died, her mom came looking for her. Found her would alway come looking until she found her. Same thing is repeated by the Great Intelligence or GIT as I call it in “Name” the story that Clara and the Dr. feed to Grandfather is what GIT said at the end of Name. Clara is not what she seems to be, she did not have to go over to the Dr. in the ring, and the story in the “Ring” is very similar to the “Crimson” lots of similarity marks around the eyes, color red, blood, vampire-regeneration, Pilgrims-offerings-sacrifices. End of times, new start.

      The Dr. or 3 Dr’s may be needed to seal the time war one working in the Past, Present, Future, to stop anyone getting out of it. Explains the need for all 3 Dr’s. Why the one might be more extreme or crazy then the other 2. I suspect that the lets call him real Dr, could be trapped in one of the “Tricksters” Illusions or the TARDIS could be. Everything we have seen from Rose on has been an illusion to keep his mind going. Thinking he is fighting the good fight, all the while trapped in some prison. Could even be a insane asylum for Timelords we don’t know that he is the last Time Lord all we have is his word on that. They could be going to spin the story that he is really a nutter living in a assylum. And everything has all been inside his mind. No time war, nothing is real, too. But I don’t think they will risk losing all the fans to pull that one off.

      I have considered that he is locked in the Pandorica, something like that that its keeping his mind going fighting that good fight. So he does not know he is still locked in the box. Things are still not what they appear to be with Clara and the others. Everything was given away in the Ring and the again in The Name. I am sure I have it all worked out and it bores me too. Clara is going to get her Parents back that is a given, River gets out of the Computer, they all break free of the box, asylum, Pandorica, the 3 Dr’s merge repairing the damage that was done to seal the time war so he can love, feel again, marry have kids, shag, date Captain Jack. The usual cheap reused sets, costumes, special effects since now they are paying Hurt to play the Dr. it’s going to be extra cheap on everything else.

      There is so much more but not going to give it all away today, let some of you think about what I said. I pointed you in the correct direction go look see for yourselves. Its all there just have to watch for it.