Which Doctor is John Hurt?
The question everyone will ask until November 2013 is, of course: who is John Hurt’s ‘Doctor’?
We can only speculate, but it seems Mr. Moffat has left a wealth of clues (and possibly red herrings) for us to pore over in The Name of the Doctor.
Firstly, we have to investigate exactly what was said:
THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR: “The name I chose is the Doctor. The name you choose – it’s like a promise you make. He’s the one who broke the promise… He is my secret.”
HURT’S DOCTOR: “What I did, I did without choice – ”
THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR: “I know.”
HURT’S DOCTOR: “ – In the name of peace and sanity.”
THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR: “But not in the name of the Doctor.”
So it seems that, while this is a Doctor, it’s not the Doctor. It was him, but he did something so against the Doctor’s normal principles that he no longer could claim that title. Think back to 2010’s The Beast Below when the Doctor was convinced he had to kill a poor, innocent Star Whale: “And then I’ll have to change my name – because I won’t be the Doctor anymore!”
Hurt’s incarnation obviously did something terrible. Necessary, but terrible.
I think a clue as to who Hurt plays is provided by Richard E. Grant’s Dr. Simeon, better known as The Great Intelligence. He says that the Doctor, throughout time, has had many names: Storm, the Beast, the Valeyard…
The first name there could refer to the Daleks’ title for the Time Lord: The Oncoming Storm. There’s a big question mark over the Beast, but the one time we did meet a creature referred to as such was in 2006’s The Impossible Planet/ The Satan Pit, in which the Beast was seen as, essentially, the Devil. Doesn’t sound too promising for the Doctor, but then “the beast” could also refer to medieval Christian terms for “the devil” – a galactic colloquialism to describe beings of darkness and destruction.
And then we come to the Valeyard.
We’ve met the Valeyard in Trial of the Time Lord (1986) as he accused the Doctor of breaking the Laws of Time. The character is eventually revealed to be “an amalgamation of the darker side of the Doctor’s nature… Somewhere between [the Doctor’s] twelfth and thirteenth regeneration.”
We’ve also seen the Dream Lord in 2010’s Amy’s Choice, a manifestation of the Doctor’s darker side.
Is this what John Hurt’s ‘Doctor’ is…?
It’s likely that Hurt doesn’t play a future Doctor as the Eleventh clearly recognises him and is judgmental of his actions.
Presuming that this incarnation occurs somewhere between the on-screen regenerations, there aren’t many options as to when this actually occurred. We’ve seen most of the Doctor’s regenerations – though there’s some conjecture over the transition between the Second and Third Doctors. And that’s if he does occur during the Time Lord’s televised life.
Could his actions be the reason the Susan and her Grandfather left Gallifrey?
Meanwhile, we’ve always assumed that the Eighth Doctor fought in the Time War… But what if we’re wrong?
It’s been established that Matt Smith is, indeed, the Eleventh Doctor, notably in The Lodger (2010) and again in The Name of the Doctor. Thankfully, the inclusion of John Hurt seemingly need not interfere with our happy perceptions that Eccleston is the Ninth Doctor, Tennant is the Tenth and Smith is the Eleventh. Hopefully. (We’ll find out soon enough.)
He is not the Doctor. He’s just one of his bodies. And we’ve established that bodies are boring – the Doctor’s had loads of them!
So it’s likely that Hurt (who recently stated that he plays “part of the Doctor,” forming a “sort of trinity” with Smith and David Tennant in the 50th anniversary special) will be an incarnation between incarnations.
It also seems that this is the body that the Doctor had forgotten (maybe on purpose). It’s a long shot, but maybe this ties in with the Doctor deleting all trace of himself from the universe.
We should also remember that we’re simple humans. The events of the Time War supposedly go way over the heads of inferior beings (sorry, but that means us!), so maybe little of the above is true. Who knows what the Time Lords got up to in their battle with the Daleks? Who knows what atrocities and schemes they concocted? Their efforts were even too scary for the Master, remember…
I guess we’ll just have to wait until November to find out.