Three weeks, three theories

The 50th anniversary of Doctor Who is fast approaching, the question is, where does John Hurt fit into all this?

Hell if I know, but I have a couple guesses.

The first thing that came to my mind was that he’s the Valeyard, the ‘dark essence’ of the Doctor from between his 12th and 13th regenerations, but the more I thought about it, the less I liked that idea. While a ‘Dark Doctor’ is clearly the man you need if saving the universe requires certain unsavory acts, it still doesn’t mesh with the Valeyard’s behavior, and more importantly, with the fact that the Eleventh Doctor recognized the Hurt Doctor while the Sixth Doctor did not recognize the Valeyard.

Another one I’ve seen is that Hurt is an elderly Eighth Doctor, or some midway point between the Eighth and Ninth Doctors (I’ve seen him called ‘Doctor 8.5’ even). Besides the fact that that’s just slopping around to avoid a renumbering (to say nothing of avoiding Capaldi being the last regeneration), it simply doesn’t make any sense. While my opinion of Moff’s storycrafting ability has slipped considerably, I don’t think he’s so far gone as to do something that just plain lame. In any case, Paul McGann is still quite alive and quite capable of being the Eighth Doctor again (and I think he deserves the chance to get more screen time anyway), so there’s no reason to replace him with John Hurt anyway. It’s possible that Hurt represents the Ninth Doctor, that Eccleston was the tenth, Tennant the eleventh and Smith the twelfth, but that also suggests that Moff is up to ending the series once and for all (unless he’s up to something even weirder). Moff has confirmed that as far as he’s concerned, it’s twelve regenerations, thirteen Doctors, that’s it (although in the above link he suggests the count we use is off). So if Hurt is the Ninth Doctor, that makes Capaldi the Thirteenth Doctor and if Moff says there’s no more than thirteen, what does that suggest other than that he expects the whole thing to shut down at the end of the Capaldi era?

However, what is Moff suggesting in the link above, that some of the regenerations weren’t regenerations? That’s a bit much, to rewrite the entire classic era like that (especially when as far as we know, they haven’t been invited to the party this month). Now, the Doctor himself referred to the changeover from Hartnell to Troughton as a ‘rejuvenation’, but that’s mincing words and in any case happened while the whole backstory was still being developed. There’s another theory that the Troughton to Pertwee regeneration doesn’t count because it was forced by the Time Lords and didn’t occur naturally — effectively meaning that Pertwee was still the Second Doctor, but with a different face. Cue similar logic-chopping with the changeover from Baker to Davison via the Watcher, that somehow being prepared for it means it doesn’t count. Or maybe he means something really extreme, like any regeneration that wasn’t one of the three flashy plasma blasts we’ve had since 2005 weren’t real regenerations. Or that the Time War somehow reset everything.

I don’t know what he’s got in mind, and I’m going to be damned annoyed with him if he’s playing games with canon. Didn’t he used to be a classic Who fan himself?

Anyway, the one I’m going with is that John Hurt’s Doctor is the Doctor before he started calling himself The Doctor. The one that according to some old fan theories (that well pre-date your modern flashy effects Doctor, thank you very much) palled around on Gallifrey with The Master during and after their Academy days, back when they were friends and before they were enemies. The one that might well have even been a co-conspirator with The Master, and might even have been a ‘bad guy’ himself — later turned to the side of good maybe because he was horrified by what the Master was becoming… or by noticing for the first time what he himself had become.

Hurt is therefore the Time Lord that grew up to be the Doctor. If you will, The Zeroth “Doctor”… or just plain Thete. ;)

I mean, the Eleventh Doctor clearly remembered being him, so that (largely) rules out a future incarnation.

Personally, I’m inclined to think there were miscellaneous not-legal activities that led to a long period of incarceration, during which he aged into the apparently-elderly William Hartnell appearance (no regeneration, think of Hurt as a young Hartnell Doctor), and stole a TARDIS shortly after being released or paroled. I doubt an escape because that would require too much retcon to explain why in the Doctors’ later dealings with Gallifrey, no mention of any unfinished jail time is ever mentioned — if he served time, he clearly served all of it, or at least as much as his society demanded. Maybe he was released in a general amnesty of political prisoners during an unusually enlightened period in Gallifreyan history — and I would not at all be surprised to find the Doctor being a political prisoner.

On the other hand, and to quote Mystery Science Theatre 3000, “…repeat to yourself it’s just a show, I should really just relax” :)

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1 comment so far

  1. […] My theories about John Hurt as The Doctor? […]


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