[By the way, if you are in the U.S., BBC America will air “Day of the Doctor” at 2:50pm ET, in conjunction with the global simulcast.]
So, after letting the mini-episode teaser for Doctor Who, “Night of the Doctor” (if you haven’t seen it, see it here) sink in, I have a variety of thoughts, both as to how it relates to the Doctor (and the upcoming 50th Anniversary episode, “The Day of the Doctor”) as well as a couple items in my essay I posted this week.
First off, it was really nice to see Paul McGann, not just in a cameo but the star, which was unexpected. This also places precisely where the “non-Doctor” fits in, and a more specific name – the War Doctor. Whereas the Doctor thinks of himself as a healer, he realizes the universe doesn’t need a healer now, it needed a warrior.
What led to this realization? First, Cass, the pilot of the ship that crashed, who refused the Doctor’s help and would rather die than receive help from a Time Lord, who she saw as just as bad as the Daleks as the Time War had laid waste to large portions of the universe. The Time Lords were no longer the “gentle custodians” of space and time and are now feared by everyone. These appear to be the Time Lords we saw in “The End of Time”, willing to destroy the universe while they “ascend”.
But I think it may have been more that led to it.
The Doctor mentions five companions in a sort of salute to them before drinking the elixir. You’ve probably never heard of them, considering the Eighth Doctor only ever appeared on TV in the BBC/Fox TV movie in 1996, and none of them were Grace. They are his companions from the Big Finish audio dramas. But the interesting thing is that three of the five did not survive their time with the Doctor. That isn’t a great track record, considering of the previous seven Doctors only a few died (I can think of two offhand). I wonder if that weighed heavily on him, believing he couldn’t help as much as he wanted any more.
About him being dead though…the Sister said they revived him for just a short time. I think there is some question if the Doctor might have been dead-dead, or would have regenerated otherwise without their influence. But at any rate they revived him long enough to at least convince him he needed to take part in the War before all was lost.
We’ve met the Sisterhood of Karn before – in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Brain of Morbius”. They are the “Keepers of the Flame”, and guard the Elixir of Life which the flame produces. The Elixir has been used by the Time Lords to help with “difficult” regenerations. Apparently the Sisters can also manipulate it to control regenerations, providing the traits the Time Lord wishes – even a change in sex (so yes, it is now canon that the Doctor could become female!)
So the Doctor, realizing he (as the Doctor) is no longer needed, decides to become what the universe needs then – a warrior (which in the credits is titled the War Doctor – I would have thought just “Warrior” would have been a fitting choice.) He drank from the chalice, and regenerates. But an interesting thing is that he does not regenerate into the aged man we saw at the end of “The Name of the Doctor” – he’s much younger. So it appears that whatever transpires in terms of the Time War takes place over quite a few years – or otherwise the War Doctor is aged somehow. But that was a younger War Doctor in the reflection.
But going back about the regeneration limit – the Elixir can also provide some form of immortality, as referenced in his initial pattering with the Sister. This could become the “way out” of the Time Lord 12 regeneration limit although I hear that we may find out the solution to this in the Christmas episode.
The Sister’s statement about a regeneration not needing to be random was interesting. When Romana changed appearance, it was said that she chose to regenerate and was able to choose her appearance – even being able to change multiple times before settling on the final version. She didn’t (to our knowledge) have any Elixir to control it (perhaps that’s a good retcon though?) Personally, I think the writers just had some fun dealing with the fact that Mary Tamm didn’t want to continue in the role, but this does really throw a wrench into canon.
Anyways, more fuel for the fire at least.