A sense of self in a world of change

The beginnings of a bonkerish theory…

… the Christmas Special is partly set up to explain why the Doctor, after a solid run of thirteen male bodies, regenerates into a female body. And it’s connected with the First Doctor.

Moffat likes his Who metaphors: I’ve argued before that the episodes immediately leading up to the 50th Anniversary could all have been read as metaphors: each representing the various ages of the Before Gap programme. During the Capaldi era, he’s played quite heavily on the metaphor of ‘Doctor Who as legend’, as ‘story’. The Capaldi incarnation of the Doctor is often struggling to retrieve the real person who lives behind the legend of ‘The Doctor’. Robin Hood thought it was better that the legend be remembered; the Capaldi Doctor is not so sure.

Moffat also likes explaining things. The ‘explanation’ is very often a ‘blink and you miss it’, ‘available if you think about it’ kind of explanation, but Steven Moffat is still, at heart, the completist fanboy. The Doctor Falls, for example, sneaked in an explanation for why the Master became Missy after staying resolutely (and misogynistically) male for body after body. Quite simply, having met himself as a woman, the Master now knows (at some level) that he will have to make a gender switch. Missy didn’t ‘just happen’; Missy is part of a Moffat loop.

So I’d suggest that, rather than leave the Doctor’s regeneration into a female body as an ‘Oh, look, I’m a woman now, funny it took so long’ there will be an explanation – just as Moffat didn’t ignore Peter Capaldi’s previous appearance as Caecilius, but briefly explained why the Doctor had unconsciously chosen that face.

Why might that explanation be connected with the First Doctor? Because in a way, William Hartnell’s regeneration into Patrick Troughton was the real beginning of the transformation from ‘programme’ to ‘legend’. Up to that point, Doctor Who was like Journey into Space or Space Patrol. Massively popular, but didn’t outlive its time. It was regeneration that gave Doctor Who the potential to become one of the immortal stories.

But if it was the regeneration of William Hartnell into Patrick Troughton that began ‘legendary Who’, then did the regeneration of the First Doctor into the Second Doctor begin the long process of becoming ‘legendary Doctor’? Might the Capaldi Doctor see it as the beginning of the process of losing his ‘real’ self behind a legend? Given that Steven Moffat does like connecting events in-story to the history of the programme, I’d suggest that such a connection will be made.

Are the First Doctor and the Capaldi Doctor still the same person? Is that original 1960’s Doctor Who still the same programme as the bigger budgeted, CGI’d juggernaut that is the 21st Century Who? Or is that moment of doubt in Deep Breath, where the Doctor clearly wonders if there’s anything of his original self left, prophetic on both levels? In all that change, is the core self (the ‘soul’) – of the Doctor, of the programme – still the same?

What do you hold on to, when you’re a shape-shifter? What do you hold on to, when your leading actor and your production team go through periodic, complete, changes? When you can be ‘whatever you feel like when you get up in the morning?’

And, in-story, Gallifreyans aren’t just shape-shifters – unlike Zygons, their periodic regenerations shift both body and persona. They must have cultural methods of coping with this – but the Doctor has fled from his own culture. The one and only constant in the Doctor’s life is that his TARDIS likes to appear as a police box. Oh, and that he always regenerates as a white male.

Hold on to that last thought. After Moffat’s finished with the Christmas Special, it’s possible that we’ll be able to see that in a different way.

The production team have one advantage that the Doctor doesn’t have; despite the ‘missing episodes’, there’s an awful lot of Doctor Who history available for instant reference. The production team know what they’re changing from. Even though the latest actor to play the Doctor wasn’t alive when William Hartnell was the one and only Doctor, she can haul the episodes out of the archives, put the DVDs on expenses and effectively ‘remember’ the previous characterisations. If she wants to.

The Doctor doesn’t have that luxury. He’s over two thousand years old; his childhood was so long ago that he tells Bill that he can barely remember whether he was a boy or a girl. He has a photo of Susan and River on his desk – as if he’s now frightened of forgetting his own family. If the Smith Doctor was ‘the Man Who Forgets’, the Capaldi Doctor has become ‘the Man frightened of forgetting too much’. In episode after episode the Capaldi Doctor struggles to remember stories that much of the audience know perfectly well. The Second Doctor told Victoria that his family slept in his memory – which implies that he didn’t need photos; he remembered them without any props. The Capaldi Doctor keeps their pictures on his desk.

What do you hold on to, when you’re a shape-shifter who’s over two thousand years old? What do you hold on to, when your memory of your childhood is slowly fading and you need a photo to remind you of the granddaughter who was once so precious?

What do you hold onto when you’ve always hated regenerating?

We first saw the Doctor as an old man with a granddaughter. At that point, regeneration wasn’t even a twinkle in Sidney Newman’s eye; he wanted some actor with a bit of gravitas, and in the 1960’s that meant age.

But once regeneration becomes part of the lore of the programme, you start to wonder why the First Doctor would keep that first body so long that he was literally starting to wear out. Then you look at the Second Doctor (forcibly regenerated by the Time Lords) and all the following Doctors. None of them chose regeneration – except in the sense of ‘regenerate or die’.

Romana, on the other hand, seemingly regenerated because she fancied a new body. She also appeared to have considerably more control over the process than the Doctor does; the only time the Doctor managed to control the process was when the Tennant Doctor regenerated into the Tennant Doctor, by diverting some of his regeneration energy.

Let’s look at this again; it seems that the Doctor has never willingly regenerated – and in fact, once chose to keep the same body. The Tennant Doctor compared regeneration to dying – a ‘new bloke’ walks away. The Capaldi Doctor had to insist that he was still ‘me’, the same person as the Smith Doctor.

But then, unlike those Gallifreyans who regenerate among Gallifreyans, the Doctor generally regenerates surrounded by people who struggle to accept the new body, the new persona. Regeneration, for the Doctor, has become traumatic. Through the eyes of his companions, he sees just how much each regeneration changes him; no wonder that he has to insist that he is, indeed, still ‘me’. And unlike the Master, or Romana, he doesn’t generally start his regeneration process exclaiming ‘great, a new body to look forward to’.

Metaphors again: the Companion is the audience surrogate; their difficulty in accepting the ‘new Doctor’ represents the audience struggle to accept the ‘new bloke’. Until Smith, new Doctors generally had an old Companion or a continuing character (like the Brigadier) to make the cross-over with them and be the lightning rod for any audience confusion. But how far can the Doctor change until they stop being ‘The Doctor’? How far can the programme change the Doctor until the character stops being that Doctor created by William Hartnell, Verity Lambert and Sydney Newman?

Moffat likes paradoxes. At what point in the Doctor’s life will the paradox of Theseus’ Boat come into play? Can the Doctor replace everything about himself over a dozen times, and still be the original? Is he still that little boy who’s afraid of the monsters in the dark?

He tells Bill that he’s not sure whether he was a boy or a girl any more – yet Rule One is: the Doctor lies. Because when he returns to Gallifrey he (twice) goes straight back to the barn where that little boy hid.

He’s changed everything about himself a dozen times. Except for one thing. He’s still that little boy.

If gender selection at regeneration is a true 50/50 chance, then the probability of the Doctor managing all male regenerations this number of times is about 1 in 4000. Moffat’s been hinting that it isn’t truly random; the General loudly insists that she’s never trying that again, the Master has met Missy. The suggestion is that Gallifreyans can, at some level, select which gender they will become. The General prefers being female, the Master prefers being male; so that’s what they usually choose.

And the Doctor doesn’t like regenerating. He’s scared that he’s going to lose himself; that the ‘new bloke’ might be the one who finally makes the break from that original self, that the humans who generally surround him at regeneration might one day be right – regeneration makes him a different person, not just a different persona. So if there’s one thing he can control, one thing he can choose not to change – is he going to dare to change it? Or is he going to always keep that connection with the original self, the little boy in the barn, by always being the white male of his childhood? The little boy and the 2000+ year old man are still, literally, the same man.

If that’s the case, would the Doctor ever dare to regenerate as a woman? Or would that represent, to him, the last, final break with his childhood, his first body, his self?

And then we go back to meeting the First Doctor. Because it’s not just a question of whether the Capaldi Doctor remembers that long ago self. It’s a question of whether that long-ago self can recognise his incredibly older, much regenerated self – as still himself. The Doctor’s met himself before, of course. But those other meetings were much closer in time.

If the First Doctor recognises the Capaldi Doctor as himself, as ‘Doctor Who’, even after thousands of years and over a dozen regenerations, then those ever-changing personas were just … personas. The core self, the soul, has always remained. The Doctor has always been the Doctor. The Doctor Who of 1966 is still recognisably the Doctor Who of 2017.

But there’s more. Because the Doctor (and Doctor Who) has changed. You can see it in the role of the Companion, you can see it in the way the man who would kill a primitive human now counts humans as friends, you can see it in many, many ways. It is not just a matter of that original self being able to recognise his future self as himself. It’s a matter of the Capaldi Doctor being able to recognise that the changes that have happened weren’t all bad. He is, after all, still scarred from nearly committing genocide. He’s still haunted by the thought that he might not be a good man. He’s scared that his changes might have been for the worse.

So meeting his original self also becomes a matter of recognising that it might not necessarily have been a bad thing to change some aspects of that original self. Some childish things we keep. Others we put away. Sometimes, what we need is to look in the mirror of our old self – and realise that we like the way we’ve changed.

Did the Doctor ‘lose himself’ by becoming the legendary ‘Doctor Who’? Or was the ‘change’ he’s so worried about really ‘growth’? Did becoming the legend make him more truly ‘The Doctor’ – and is ‘The Doctor’ who he truly wants to be? Is the legend something to live up to, rather than to deny?

If his first self recognises his current last self, then the Theseus Boat Paradox has an answer. However many times the body changes, the person within the body is the same person. However many different personas there are, the self remains. His ‘self’ (or soul) is the constant thread that runs through the Doctor’s lives. Regenerations are not a way of losing oneself; they’re the Gallifreyan way of changing and growing. Humans struggle to understand that – but the Doctor isn’t human.

And with that understanding, he can not only choose to regenerate. He can choose to step outside the self imposed limits of the previous regenerations. He no longer has to cling to that little boy by always being a boy; he can recognise that, man or woman, he will always be the same person as that boy.

And recognising that, secure in that core self – he might choose to no longer be a good man – but try to be a good woman, instead. After all, he’s just seen how it appeared to change Missy for the better. Maybe it’s time to try a major change

But she might keep the hoodie. 😉


17 comments

  1. @BlueSqueakPip
    Strange to think that:
    The Doctor started off scared of monsters. Presumably emboldened by the toy soldier without a gun he sort of passed on to himself (In ‘Listen’), he survived a 4 day encounter with the Sliders/Cloister-Wraiths in ‘The Hell of the Time Lords’… (Although he went completely mad. Never right in the head again, so they say.)
    He was bezzies with The Master at the Academy, who was his ‘man-crush’.
    He was taught (Bascially) Bhuddism by a Monk on a mountain.
    As an older man during his 1st incarnation, he and a TARDIS stole each other. The President’s daughter (Susan? – Does that make him the President’s Dad?) was also stolen. The Gallifreyan moon was misplaced.
    Settling on Earth for a time, he was a grumpy bugger (Not as much as in the pilot!) with a secret (Or 2). When Ian & Barbara accidently became the 1st official Human companions, the Doctor was a bit mad – A bit rude…
    He wanted to finish off an injured enemy with a big rock. Ian & Babs taught him mercy. Then the Doctor stayed on Skaro because of noseyness. His victory probably began the ‘Legend’.
    In the groups’ 3rd adventure, the Doctor treats Ian & Babs appallingly. By the end of the paranoia induced by the TARDIS, the Doctor becomes a different man, a soft-centred hero.
    He is never too quick to judge the alien as bad from now on.

    He wore a bit thin (Or did he?) & changed into 2, who was more friendly with a dark side (Rather than vice-versa).
    He destroyed the Daleks forever (Committing genocide). It won’t be the last time.
    Returning to his home planet, he was turned into Jon Pertwee against his will.

    He knew that fear was normal and that war was unglamourous.
    This ‘Mother-hen’ persona was doomed by his curious obsession with Metebelis 3 (A great 2 season arc).

    Then No.4 came along and did a lot of punching, murder & attempted murder. He cheered as a banker was tossed off the top of a skyscraper. He punched the air as builing were blown to smithereens. He fell to his doom thanks to his man-crush.
    No.5 had a warm & open face. Green goo was a vital ingredient of his adventures, so a lot of killing still occurred. And guns. He was killed by inhaling bat shit. (Oh the irony of why he wore that celery)
    This seemed to send him bat-shit-crazy, even though he regenerated. He strangled Peri. He chloroformed Shockeye, whilst grinning madly. He shot the Cyberleader. He commited Vervoid genocide. He let Peri die (I don’t care what The Matrix says)… I’m not sure why he died, as I haven’t heard the audio.

    No. 7 hates the idea of killing but is quite content to set lethal tantalising traps everywhere.
    Or to talk Daleks into suicide. He died because Dr Grace thought he was human.

    No. 8 discovered friendly kissing. He died because the Universe needed a Warrior, not a Doctor…

    The War Dr does lots of unDoctory things apparently (Cruel & cowardly?). Nothing much worse than the previous Doctors as far as I can tell (Apart from trying to kill his own people). He wore a bit thin.

    No.9 didn’t like killing unless it was a Dalek (Or a Slitheen, or…). He died because he kissed a girl.

    No.10 kissed girls all the time. He couldn’t make up his mind whether he was a pacifist, or a vengeful God. By this time, the monsters are scared of him now. His half-human offshoot killed all the Daleks. He was not amused. He died because he realised he had formed a God-Complex.

    No. 11 was quite pragmatic. However, he got angry when his friends were mistreated. He brainwashed humans into killing the Silence (Hopefully only the rebel faction). He said it was bad to kill Gangers, then he killed the Amy Ganger(!) He got stuck on Trenzalore and wore a bit thin. He was granted a new regen’ cycle by ‘his people in the crack’…

    No.12 seemed to have had his hard drive wiped at the start, perhaps the result of a new regen’ cycle. He himself wondered if he was ‘Still the same broom’. He kills but he wants to be kind. He’s mellowed a lot since series 8. He’s not a good man, hero or legend. And he’s content with that. Presumably he’s going to die of blowing himself up to (temporarily) save some rural passengers. Why he will let himself change into a woman remains to be seen…….

  2. @wolfweed

    So what’s the ‘core self’ of the Doctor?

    I’m picking ‘regeneration’ as the start of the legend because, even though you can argue for ‘defeating the Daleks’, if the Doctor had died in his first regeneration he would never have been a legend.

    In the real world, the Daleks were the start, but without the producers coming up with the idea of regeneration, Doctor Who would be another successful 1960’s TV programme – now of interest to film students and TV historians. Only. The Daleks were a massive instant hit; regeneration gave the show its longevity/legend status.

    What makes the Doctor immortal? Regeneration. (And so on…)

    I agree that neither the Capaldi or Smith Doctors liked being a legend; a lot of both their runs had them fighting back against The Legend of The Doctor (TM). But their most basic problem was that, however many times they pressed the reset button on the ‘legend’, they’d just restart the bloody thing all over next time they landed on, say, a Mondas Colony Ship, and fought to the ‘death’ to save a bunch of kids. It’s really difficult to not be a legendary hero when your instinctive reaction to landing on a world in trouble is ‘save the world’. And, even worse for your ‘John Smith’ status, you’re actually capable of saving the world. 🙂

    Again, the thing that makes them ‘legend’ rather than ‘hero’ is regeneration. If the Doctor was less fragile he’d have died heroically long since. Why does the Capaldi Doctor not want to regenerate? Because he wanted to die heroically (by his definition of good/heroic).

    He’s not a good man, hero or legend. And he’s content with that.

    I’d suggest that he’s very far from ‘content’. He is utterly and deeply pissed off that he’s not allowed any more to be ‘John Smith from Gallifrey’. He can’t even frickin’ die. He’s been landed with an immortality he doesn’t want, a hero status he doesn’t think he deserves (because he’s not a good man, just someone who tries to be) and a legend that follows him round like the Ancient Mariner’s albatross.

    And the only way to stop all this is to die. The Doctor Falls – not just in the sense that he falls in battle, but also in the sense that he’s reached the point where he doesn’t want to do this sh*t any more. He’s had enough, reached the end of his cycle.

    Why he will let himself change into a woman remains to be seen…….

    Yes, but we have a strapline to live up to. 😀

    Besides, I think we were indeed going round in circles on the casting of the first woman to play the Doctor – because we were obsessing over real-world what (OMG! They cast Jodie Whittaker!), and not thinking about in-story why.

    I think we ought to come up with some bonkers ideas about that why. Why, after a solid run of white males (with a British accent) is the Doctor now going to be a white female (with a British accent)?

    I’m sure we can come up with a theory more insane than anything in the Christmas Special. 😈

  3. @BlueSqueakPip

    Apologies for my reply. Far from being a well thought out response, I waffled it as I went along. I think I was trying to discover what the regeneration reset does to the Doctor’s attitudes & behaviour. Instead I realised that the Dr is contradictory throughout his lives. The ‘cruel or cowardly’ oath which originates from ‘The Making of Doctor Who’ book is often belied by some of the Doctor’s actions. Trying to form a cohesive continuity without a series bible is very difficult. Moffat loves all that anomalous stuff – it’s very human – we contradict ourselves all the time. Discontinuity reigns.

    Perhaps the core self of the Doctor is this ‘contradiction’.

    The soul (If it exists) is supposed to transcend gender & death (And I suppose therefore regeneration).

    Perhaps becoming a woman will help to tone down the Doctor’s ego a bit. See Hell Bent:

    GENERAL: Oh, back to normal, am I? The only time I’ve been a man, that last body. Dear Lord, how do you cope with all that ego?

    So, (Not exactly bonkers but) maybe it’s to quell a surfeit of macho testosterone (If Time Lords work that way)…

    The Doctor may shun all that admiration stuff but he is pretty big-headed. See Robot of Sherwood:

    DOCTOR: I’ve had some experience. Richard the Lionheart. Cyrano de Bergerac. Errol Flynn. He had the most enormous
    CLARA: Ahem.
    DOCTOR: Ego.
    CLARA: Takes one to know one.

    The Doctor seemed genuinely pleased to realise that he’s not ‘a good man’ in ‘Dark Water’. He refuted the legendary aspect of the Doctor ‘Title’ in ‘The Witch’s Familiar’ (Apart from sometimes, on a good day… when it might just about be true.)

    He’s content to know he doesn’t have to be a great champion & a role model. He’s not chuffed that everyone else thinks that he is. As you say, it’s an inevitable consequence of saving the day all the time. Perhaps he should get a ‘Men in Black’ style retcon device & use it with his shades to avoid this effect (A bit like No.11 did at the Inforarium)…

    I’m sure that better minds than mine will be able to reason these themes more effectively than me and come up with suitably bonkers theories for the ‘sex-change thang’…

    [I did wonder if it had anything to do with the idea that his Mum saved him in ‘The End of Time’ but I’m not sure how that squares with the way the Dr seems to have been rebooted as an orphan in ‘Listen’…]

    (Apologies, this reply is just as waffly & improvised as my last – Thinking out loud)

    Anyway, I really like your idea about how the Doctor seeing Missy’s capacity for goodness (As a female) may have seeded the idea that womanhood for him could be an upgrade…….

     

  4. @bluesqueakpip – lovely, just lovely.

    More than happy if this was how things happened.
    (As a massive aside to the below I love how 12+1=13).

    ;¬)

    I’ve not much to add to what you said except to wonder whether we’re moving on in another way as well.
    Up until now when we see intro titles and references to Time we see gears, an old clock face, a clock tower, a pocket timepiece, a Grandfather(!) Clock, pendulums etc.

    Maybe we’re going digital.
    Maybe after 12 we simply go to 13.

    Maybe rather than ‘starting again’ or ‘resetting’ we’re simply entering into the ‘afternoon’ of the Doctor’s life.

    Rather than being tired, worn thin and close to death, we’re actually just half way through the Doctor’s life…

     

     

    Anyway – now I’ll try and think of something bonkers.

  5. @bluesqueakpip  . . . the Doctor doesn’t like regenerating. He’s scared that he’s going to lose himself; that the ‘new bloke’ might be the one who finally makes the break from that original self, that the humans who generally surround him at regeneration might one day be right – regeneration makes him a different person, not just a different persona. 

    Oh, that fits fine with “I can’t go on being different people” or however that line in Falls goes.  He’s just exhausted by it — his human friends aren’t the only ones who have to deal with his changed nature after a regen, certainly not now that he’s into unknown territory with this grant of “new” regenerations via Clara’s plea to the TLs.  Exhausted by the tension, the uncertainty, the pressure to make decisions that must turn out to be the *right* decisions for the  “good man” that he hopes he still wants to be and is, he might well just want to *stop* the process, maybe forever.

    Regenerations are not a way of losing oneself; they’re the Gallifreyan way of changing and growing. Humans struggle to understand that – but the Doctor isn’t human.  And with that understanding, he can not only choose to regenerate. He can choose to step outside the self imposed limits of the previous regenerations. He no longer has to cling to that little boy by always being a boy; he can recognise that, man or woman, he will always be the same person as that boy.

    So — you propose that Xmas will let him see that process not as the truncation and loss of his current self but as the Gallifreyan form of growth?  That would be neat; but it’s subtle, and I think it would have to be made explicit.  It’s certainly a rich enough idea to warrant a bit of exploration.

    @wolfweed  Why he will let himself change into a woman remains to be seen…….

    Or, perhaps, why he’ll *choose* to regenerate as a woman.  Which will it be?  Maybe he wants to — but maybe not.  Maybe he just needed to be surprised, kicked out of the slough of despond and self-sacrificing martyrdom — by a whole, fresh new physicality with its own puzzles to solve.  Although who, exactly, would make such a judgment, let alone enforce it, I’m couldn’t say.

    @bluesqueakpip  again — he wanted to die heroically (by his definition of good/heroic).  . . . He is utterly and deeply pissed off that he’s not allowed any more to be ‘John Smith from Gallifrey’. He can’t even frickin’ die. He’s been landed with an immortality he doesn’t want, a hero status he doesn’t think he deserves (because he’s not a good man, just someone who tries to be) and a legend that follows him round like the Ancient Mariner’s albatross.

    Mmm, nicely put.  “Where I stand . . . is where I fall” certainly implied a fall that would wind up his life in a final, satisfyingly heroic stand against the Cybermen.  But, damn, Bill’s water-of-life tear . . . human affection will not let him go.  Not his longest, strongest relationship (MissMaster) holds him (he doesn’t know Missy’s dead, does he?) but Bill’s grief and her hopes to see him alive again.

    @wisht  Maybe rather than ‘starting again’ or ‘resetting’ we’re simply entering into the ‘afternoon’ of the Doctor’s life.

    The end, then, of the “childhood” that began with the Master and Clara’s advice about fear?  “I’m afraid to lsoe myself again to regeneration; then seize the feared thing as boldly as possible, and see what’s gained by losing”?  That would take a brave person.  The Doctor *is* a brave person, or aspires to be one: “Never cruel or cowardly”.

    Who’s the theatrical director, an American I think, who said to his actors, “Does Stella actually love Stanley Kowalski?  ‘No’ closes doors; ‘Yes’ opens them.  ‘Yes’ is better (for drama) than ‘No’.”

  6. @Ichabod, @wolfweed

    It’s “I can’t keep on being somebody else”. Which fits with your comment, Wolfweed – the Doctor’s various lives can appear very contradictory.

    Now, on Gallifrey, the default assumption is that people carry on as if the new body and new persona is exactly the same person as the old. Which, of course, it is. We see that ‘default Gallifreyan reaction’ with the Doctor’s reaction to Romana II and the soldiers reaction to the General. But as is often said in the theatre, if you’ve got two choices, take the interesting one. The interesting choice is if the Doctor does feel as if he’s continually turning into someone else. And he’s had enough. But maybe she hasn’t. 🙂

    So — you propose that Xmas will let him see that process not as the truncation and loss of his current self but as the Gallifreyan form of growth? That would be neat; but it’s subtle, and I think it would have to be made explicit.

    Yes, it probably would need at least a line. 😉 But Moffat’s always been one to open paths for future producers – and treating regeneration as a growth process allows both producer and actor to build on what’s gone before, rather than being shackled by it.

    . . . human affection will not let him go.

    One of my personal ‘what-ifs’ is ‘what if Susan deliberately led Ian and Barbara to the TARDIS? Because Ian and Barbara changed that mysterious, mischievous, grumpy anti-hero into someone whose default assumption was to try and help.

    Yes, it’s always love. And somehow, from the beginning, the love of Gallifreyans like himself has never been enough. He needs people who insist that he (and his planet) need to be part of the universe, not detached psychopaths. Which would also explain why he left Susan to live with David – so she could learn to be part of a world, not a detached wanderer.

    the Dr seems to have been rebooted as an orphan in ‘Listen’…

    Well, I suppose it’s a possible explanation, but I always took it as the acting out of the Tennant Doctor’s explanation in Sound of Drums (or maybe Last of the Time Lords) that young Time Lords were taken away from their parents when they were small children. (I can’t remember the age, but I think it was about 7 or 8). I took the barn to be the safe hidey hole for a Gallifreyan boarding prep school; the future Doctor is sobbing his little heart out because he’s been taken away from his parents. Furthermore, he’s been taken away from his parents to learn to be a Time Lord – but his teachers insist that he’s not intelligent enough to be a Time Lord.

    @Whisht
    Thing about clocks is that they’re circular. 🙂 It could be that we’re going digital. Or it could be that Jodie Whittaker is starting the journey all over again.

  7. @bluesqueakpip  Thanks for the correct quote; and he always is, isn’t s/he?  Not the person he was before, not the person he’ll be after, but Somebody Else.  Like the rest of us, only a lot move obviously!

    the love of Gallifreyans like himself has never been enough.

    Hmm.  I get the impression that Gallifrey isn’t a planet awash in love even for its own, which might help to explain the long lasting bond between the Doctor and the Master — they love(hate) each other, always have.  Can’t be too easy, finding — or giving — affection among TLs on their own home ground.  The Doctor is a *rebel* TL — maybe in part because he’s skipped out on that lack of affection and learned that his own volatile emotional nature isn’t unnatural or bad or immature and not Time-Lordy, but is just what the universe demands of him (and us, so we’ve been his teachers/companions.

    the future Doctor is sobbing his little heart out because he’s been taken away from his parents. Furthermore, he’s been taken away from his parents to learn to be a Time Lord – but his teachers insist that he’s not intelligent enough to be a Time Lord.

    (In Listen) the future Doctor is sobbing his little heart out because he’s been taken away from his parents. Furthermore, he’s been taken away from his parents to learn to be a Time Lord – but his teachers insist that he’s not intelligent enough to be a Time Lord.

    I took it that the young Doctor took refuge in the barn because he was being picked on and mocked by other TLs-in-training, more than that adults didn’t think much of him.  But it could be both, of course (as it often is in reality, from what I’ve seen).  I do wonder, though, what TLs think “intelligence” is.  Looks as if emotional health and social connection aren’t part of it.  Time has no detectible emotions or ethical preferences, so far as we can tell; so, among people dedicated to policing obedience to Time, maybe emotions and ethics would be seen as drawbacks to proper TL function?

    Though, come to think of it, what the heck do TLs do — with the their time, as it were?  If they’re pledged to non-interference with the natural flow of the stuff, but don’t even seem to check around with remote info-gathering tech to see whether stuff is going the way it’s supposed to go (and what could *that* even mean?), so they can intervene if, say, two oddly altered Earth women have run off in a Tardis/diner?   How do they see themselves as non-rebels?  Custodians of a self-powered system of processes that are unstoppable and that doesn’t need maintenance or direction?

    Rambled myself into a corner.  Must be lunch time.

  8. @ichabod

    I get the impression that Gallifrey isn’t a planet awash in love even for its own,

    To put it mildly. Clara calls them out as ‘monsters’ – correctly, I think. One of the costumiers also put some rather subtle Nazi imagery on the costumes of the Gallifreyan kids; the hint is definitely that the children are innocent, but the way they’re brought up is not.

    maybe emotions and ethics would be seen as drawbacks to proper TL function?

    Timelord ethics seems to be heavy on a version of utilitarianism – the greatest good of the greatest number of the most important – and ‘detachment’. Emotions like compassion just interfere with detachment. You can’t help wondering whether the Doctor’s got the Time Lord equivalent of a bit too much neuro-diversity; the tendency to think differently combined with the history of academic problems would hint at that.

    Of course, Moffat never did definitively rule out the idea that the Doctor’s a literal hybrid; that he does have some homo sapiens in his genome.

    what the heck do TLs do

    I think that they’ve had a fairly busy schedule since the Time War. Finding their way out of their alternate dimension, finding somewhere else to hide, rebuilding the planet…

    … but before that, I always saw their role as preventing everyone else interfering with the natural flow of time. Time travel is, to some extent, a side effect of faster than light travel – so a very large number of races in the Whoniverse must be capable of time travel – if the Time Lords allow it.

    Especially since the ‘detachment’ would be a way of excusing their prevention of interference for very good reasons. And excusing their own interference for very bad reasons. 😈

  9. @BlueSqueakPip  @Ichabod

    Going off piste again but it’s very interesting to hear different interpretations of Listen.

    The bit that convinced me that the Doctor was an orphan was this:

    MAN: Why does he have to sleep out here?
    WOMAN: He doesn’t want the others to hear him crying.
    MAN: Why does he have to cry all the time?
    (Clara hides under the bed.)
    WOMAN: You know why. 
    MAN: There’ll be no crying in the army.
    WOMAN: Hush.

    Within the same story though, it transpires that the young Doctor cries because he is afraid. But why is he afraid? We don’t know (It’s called ‘Doctor Who’)…

    Even if the Doctor is not an actual orphan, his removal from his family gives him that same sense (And echoes young Rupert Pink).

    Interesting that the Time Lords are defined by detachment, because (Of course) the Doctor differs by embracing his emotions (Bestowing him with the superpower of Fear)…….

    The Doctor’s (Potential) Half-Humanity would certainly explain his anomalous attitude.

  10. @Wolfweed

    Well, it’s not actually as off-piste as you think. Going by the idea that the Doctor might decide that being a woman is an ‘upgrade’ …

    … who is the detached adult character and who is the sympathetic, empathetic adult character? And is this Time Lord detachment a good thing? Especially given that the Capaldi Doctor seemed to spend a lot of his regeneration reverting to Time Lord type, or maybe to Time Lord type. 🙂

    I agree that the scene is deliberately written to create multiple possible readings. The Doctor may be an orphan, or may have been taken away from his family to begin his training. Or he may simply have been a homesick child at a boarding school. Moffat gave us a scene from the Doctor’s childhood that actually doesn’t tell us much – except that the barn remains emotionally important to him.

    And that some Gallifreyans aren’t lost in their detachment; however many thousand years later, the woman teacher is still making sure the boys in her care have a ‘safe place’ to go to.

    Which, again, might hint at why the Doctor might choose to regenerate as a woman; if Clara was right when she called the Time Lords ‘monsters’, maybe the road back from monsterhood is to ‘get in touch with their feminine side’. 😀 Maybe they’ve emphasised some kind of ‘masculine’ detachment to the extent that it’s become toxic. Especially toxic because they don’t have to have a 50/50 gender split.

    And there are hints that this might be the case from the rather discontinuous continuity. There’s a huge preponderance of Time Lords, hinting that Time Ladies may find it easier to be Time Lords. The Sisterhood of Karn is ‘not welcome.’ The whole set up makes it look like the Doctor’s assertion that his people are beyond all that gender stuff is one of those ‘fish aren’t aware of water’ comments. If any individual can deal with sexism by changing sex, will a society even be aware how sexist its set-up is?

    Which goes back to another idea I floated back on the Whittaker thread; perhaps choosing to change gender to a woman is seen as something faintly subversive, possibly hinting at Sisterhood sympathies. Which might be something an old rebel like the Doctor might like. 🙂

  11. So, I was wondering….
    if [the show] Doctor Who deals in fairy tales, does that make the Doctor the ‘wizard’ of such fairy tales?
    And if it does, then what does a female Doctor suggest…?

    Probably not the ‘Wise Woman’ whose secret knowledge [male] society no longer has, as that slot’s been taken by the Sisterhood of Karn.
    Witch? Well, that was Missy (as well as [evil] Stepmother).

    Princess? Girl-in-the-woods?? Unlikely.

    Mother/ Queen??? nah.

    But maybe Fairy Godmother, secretly overseeing her charges and dispensing [magical] gifts..
    hmm…

    {still not sure but over to the people that know more about this if they’re interested!}

    :¬)

  12. @whisht  “Damsel”, per THoRS?  Constantly falling into trouble, and getting herself and her friends out of it again.

    @wolfweed  The Doctor’s (Potential) Half-Humanity would certainly explain his anomalous attitude.

    But — would he have even been a candidate for the Academy if he were half human and this was known on Gallifrey by anybody “important” at all?  Maybe I’m just resistant to the half-human thing because it minimizes the significance of his rejection of Gallifreyan values, in fact his “rebel” nature itself.  I’d have expected Missy to snipe at him for his comments on kindness and rightness by mocking him for the weakness of his “human” half; she says she doesn’t get his weird fixation on his human “pets”, but if the TLs knew he was half human she, as one of them, would surely see that as the source of this strange sentimentality of his and call him out for it.  If he is half human and the TLs *don’t* know it (any more than he does, himself?), how could that be?  Why wouldn’t they know, these Masters of Time, who presumably select the next Academy class in TL-ness on the basis of some knowledge of the background of the prospective cadets?

    . . .  the young Doctor cries because he is afraid. But why is he afraid? We don’t know (It’s called ‘Doctor Who’)…

    In “Heaven Sent”, he tells us, although just how it ties in with his original flight from Gallifrey I can’t see: the Veil in that story is the most fearsome figment from his own nightmares, right?  And then he tells the story of the old woman dead in her shroud with flies buzzing . . .  sounds as if he is, and was, afraid of — Death?  He certainly says so in HS, as I recall, right up front and with the surprise of someone startled to find out something that he’s been suppressing or denying for a long time.

    @bluesqueakpip   . . . maybe the road back from monsterhood is to ‘get in touch with their feminine side’. 😀 Maybe they’ve emphasised some kind of ‘masculine’ detachment to the extent that it’s become toxic. Especially toxic because they don’t have to have a 50/50 gender split.

    SimmMaster:  “Is the future going to be all girls now?”

    Doctor:  “We can hope.”  That could certainly be read to back up your theory.

    Technical detachment, maybe, needed to back the rigid integrity of a mechanical system (Time) over the emotional needs of sapient, emotional beings?  But I think it was Missy, wasn’t it, who scoffed at human attachment on the grounds of being a TL, which means far beyond human gender considerations, in TWF; or did the Doctor say that too at some point?

    perhaps choosing to change gender to a woman is seen as something faintly subversive, possibly hinting at Sisterhood sympathies. Which might be something an old rebel like the Doctor might like. 🙂

    I like the sound of that — he told Ohila that he didn’t *like* her and she did treat him like someone who didn’t like him either, in Hell Bent; but that doesn’t mean he’s as dismissive of the whole idea of the Sisterhood (whatever that may be?).   It certainly looks as if there’s some gender-tension on Gallifrey, whatever Missy and the Doctor may say about it.

  13. @Whisht

    Hmmm…I think ‘Doctor’. 🙂 It is, after all, not a gender specific name.

    River Song: I hate good wizards in fairy tales. They always turn out to be him.

    You can easily replace ‘good wizard’ with ‘good witch’. Which would make Missy even more of the mirror image – good witch versus evil witch. Though now I have a picture of Granny Weatherwax angrily telling her evil witch sister that she’d forced Granny into being the good one…

    @Ichabod and @wolfweed

    would he have even been a candidate for the Academy if he were half human and this was known on Gallifrey by anybody “important” at all?

    No. Absolutely not. The Time Lords are a bunch of racist gits, by and large. He wouldn’t have even been on Gallifrey – being part-human would be the Doctor’s deepest, darkest, most closely held secret. Blurting it out to some stray human would have to have been ‘post regeneration mania’.

    However, much as we’d like to ignore The Movie We Do Not Mention, he did say it. And he did immediately think that the ‘hybrid’ prophecy applied to him. Moffat’s clearly left it open for future producers – we’re able to regard Doctor/Clara as the hybrid, but Me (who knows Clara extremely well, by the end of the universe), does make a point of asking why he’s so fascinated with Earth.

    I’d wonder, myself, whether it’s a family skeleton. Not half-human, but a knowledge that there is human in their ancestry. Or whether, in fact, the Time Lords didn’t evolve on Gallifrey at all. They do, with their two hearts, regeneration abilities, oxygen reserve etc, etc, have the feel of a genetic experiment, some kind of super-soldiers. And they are the masters of time travel. And they do look human. 🙂

  14. oooh @ichabod , maybe its me but I always think “damsel in distress” which is not what I think of the Doctor (and thankfully we’ve kinda moved on from culturally).

    @bluesqueakpip – oh, isn’t a female doctor a nurse?

    {thwack}

    OW!
    Hey – that hurt!

  15. @whisht

    I wouldn’t have hit you. 😀

    However, I do happen to own an interesting selection of pointy metal objects. It’s amazing what you can get away with when you pop a ball of yarn in the bag…

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