The big questions from Doctor Who: The Name Of The Doctor

Spoilers: we pick up the threads left behind by the bombshell ending to Doctor Who series 7, The Name Of The Doctor...

Big, massive, episode-ruining spoilers in this article!

Do not read until you’ve seen Doctor Who series 7: The Name Of The Doctor

We should reiterate from the start – you do not want to read this unless you have seen The Name Of The Doctor, the Doctor Who series 7 finale. Really. Because what we’re going to do here is – with the help of some of the fine commenters on this site (we’ve credited people at the bottom, do shout if we’ve left you off by accident) – uncover some of the remaining questions, and, where possible, speculate about some answers.

This is your last spoiler warning.

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Without further ado…

Who is John Hurt?

Or should that be Who is John Hurt, without the question mark. There’s no getting around it: this is the big one. At the end of The Name Of the Doctor, the exact card that appears on the screen reads ‘Introducing John Hurt as The Doctor’. So let’s start there.

So, the obvious first. John Hurt is The Doctor. But which one? Is he The Valeyard?

This seems a logical place to start. At the end of Trial Of A Time Lord, the sixth Doctor story, the Valeyard – who has been prosecuting the Doctor – is hinted to be a future regeneration of him. There’s consistently been a degree of doubt about this, but if, for the sake of argument, we take it as straight, then it could explain why John Hurt is The Doctor. It’s just where in the Doctor’s line he’d actually fit in. The Valeyard, according to The Master, “is an amalgamation of the darker side of the Doctor’s nature”. Given that John Hurt’s Doctor tells us that “what I did, I did without choice”, it certainly hints that might fit. The Valeyard is, furthermore, said to be the penultimate Doctor. Again, lots of this is up for debate.

In the episode, do note that The Great Intelligence uttered the line “The Doctor lives his life in darker hues day upon day and he will have other names before the end. Storm, The Beast, The Valeyard” (and, as the excellent SFX reminds us, in The Parting Of The Ways he’s known as ‘The Oncoming Storm’). If Hurt’s Doctor doesn’t take the name of the Doctor, then he may well be one of those. Even if two of them are X-Men…

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Which brings us to the other major theory…

Is he a Doctor we didn’t know about?

Almost every Doctor was seen or heard in The Name Of The Doctor (even Christoper Eccleston’s jacket walked by at one point). There may have been a fleeting glance of Paul McGann’s eighth, but it was blink and you’ll miss it if it was there (we couldn’t see it after three attempts. But producer Marcus Wilson confirmed on Twitter that they’re all in there). Crucially, he’s also the only Doctor we’ve not seen regenerate on screen (well, there may be an exception, which we’ll come to in a minute). And we wonder if Steven Moffat is tapping into that.

Is, then, John Hurt the missing regeneration? Does he fall between the eighth and ninth Doctor as we know them now? And would that make Matt Smith the twelfth, rather than the eleventh, Doctor?

Well, it may not be that straightforward. Go back to the end of The Name Of The Doctor, and Matt Smith says that the actual name ‘The Doctor’ is one that he chose. It’s also “a promise you make”, one that John Hurt’s Doctor did not live up to.

Thus – still following this? – is John Hurt the same person, but not one who took the title of The Doctor, or who lost the right to call himself that, given the actions he took? If so, that means that while Matt Smith is the eleventh Doctor, there’s the potential for others who aren’t counting towards the total as we know it (although presumably they count towards the regenerations).

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We can reasonably safely assume that the actions Hurt’s Doctor is haunted by tie into the Time War, and from what we know of that, the Doctor had to take drastic, un-Doctor like genocidal action that all but wiped out the Time Lords. At that stage, did John Hurt’s version lose the right to the Doctor title, and thus we came to know Christopher Eccleston’s take as the ninth Doctor, rather than John Hurt’s?

Or could it be…?

That Paul McGann’s Doctor ‘died’ in the Time War, regenerated into John Hurt’s, who, as a consequence of his actions, relinquished the name before handing over to Christopher Eccleston?

Or is he Paul McGann’s Doctor, just aged?

If John Hurt doesn’t slip in between McGann and Eccleston, then could he actually be the eighth Doctor? Could it be that the actions the eighth Doctor had to take were so severe that they aged and broke that generation of him? Hence, Hurt is playing an aged version of Paul McGann? Most theories do seem to centre on McGann’s Doctor at the moment one way or another, and this is surely a feasible one.

Is he the very first Doctor?

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If you think about it, McGann’s isn’t actually the only regeneration we never saw on screen. We never saw anyone regenerate into William Hartnell’s Doctor. Was Hartnell’s Doctor the first, or the first regeneration? Because if it’s the latter, that suggests that there’s an origin Doctor we’ve not met yet.

So, just putting it out there, could John Hurt’s Doctor precede the first as we currently know it? That would certainly explain something that Dorium once said, about a secret that the Doctor has spent all his life running from. Mind you, that might then rule out the Time War, given that it was introduced into Doctor Who when the show was revived, so there may be continuity issues there. But it’s possible. And it is a time travel show…

Is he a future Doctor?

If he is, would Matt Smith’s Doctor know what he looked like? At least he’s met a version of the Valeyard before (although he didn’t look like John Hurt!). That said, could John Hurt’s Doctor nonetheless be a future regeneration, who is coming back to stop his earlier version doing something awful? It’d be like The Two/Three/Five Doctors, only with a Doctor we don’t know about yet…

Is he The Master?

It’s a long shot, but was The Doctor once The Master, who changed his name? After all, “the name I chose is The Doctor”. Why couldn’t it once have been The Master?

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Is he not the Doctor?

It seems pretty certain that he is. Firstly, the big caption on the screen at the end of the episode. Secondly, he couldn’t even be there – and the rules were established – at the end if he wasn’t.

Was Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor an imposter?

We’ve got James Moran to thank for this one. His argument is that “when watching the ninth Doctor for the first time, after all the Bad Wolf stuff started cropping up everywhere, I somehow became convinced that at some point, the real ninth Doctor would turn up, battle-scarred, and say “give me back my TARDIS”. The Eccleston-ninth would either be an impostor, or the actual ninth who had managed to jump his timeline and steal the tenth’s (battle-scarred bloke) TARDIS to stop him(self) doing something terrible. Or vice versa (battle-scarred tenth had come back to stop Eccleston doing the terrible thing that had led to whatever tragic events caused the battle-scarring, etc)”.

Does the casting of the 50th anniversary special offer a clue?

Well, yes and no. We know that David Tennant’s tenth (we think) Doctor is back, but also Rose Tyler too. That suggests that Matt Smith’s eleventh (we think) Doctor will catch up with him at a certain point in his timeline (there’s a reason, presumably, why it’s Rose and not Donna or Martha who are back). Which version of Tennant’s Doctor we’re going to get is presumably up for debate too, but we’d wage it’s the non-human one.

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So: we have Doctor 10 and Doctor 11 that we know of, along with John Hurt’s Doctor too, and UNIT. Other casting news is being kept under wraps (don’t forget that most of the episode is being shot on closed sets in Cardiff). There are some spoiler-y rumours, which it doesn’t seem fair to go into in detail here (this is about the episodes we’ve seen, rather than the ones we haven’t), that may too suggest things are being shaken to the core somewhat.

Thus, predictably, we know the ingredients of the 50th anniversary special are substantive, but we’ve no idea – nor should we – on how they blend together.

It’s not just Doctor theories that were left over by The Name Of The Doctor either…

Is The River Song story over?

Just before the Doctor went through the tear/scar/special effect, River Song disappeared, seemingly forever. However: a question. She said that there’s still a link between her and Clara. But why is that? It was that link that was keeping River alive. Are they related in some way? When the Doctor asked River about it, she gave her answer of choice: “spoilers”. There’s still something there yet to be uncovered, clearly. Given the warped family tree of River Song, don’t be surprised if one turns out to be the other’s brother or something…

Is there an unsolved TARDIS mystery?

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From commenter Sean The Sheep, something we’d not considered: “Remember that the TARDIS claims the Doctor did not steal it; it says it stole the Doctor. Therefore, Clara was acting as an agent of the Tardis when she directed Dr Hartnell away from a perfect TARDIS towards a defective one. That makes the TARDIS The Great Intelligence. Not immediately, of course, but we now know the Tardis will go bad sometime in the future: the past depends on it”.

Is this to do with the Time War somehow?

It surely has to be. Clara, after all, read The History Of The Time War in Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS, and what event do we know to be significant in the Doctor’s history, that conversely we know little about? Going back to John Hurt, they’ve not cast a young actor for his Doctor deliberately. This is an older, battle-scarred, haunted one. The actions of the Time War, from what we know of them, would certainly have had that level of impact.

Is our head hurting still?

Yes it is.

Doctor who?

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Even though the actual name of the Doctor per se has rarely been something of interest, it took on a different complexion as a result of the series seven finale. Because now, we know that The Doctor is a name that he chose. So what was it before, and is it a name we know? We’ve already touched on the likes of the Valeyard above, but the Doctor at some stage has picked a new identity to presumably cover up what happened with the old one. So what is the older identity?

Clara who?

If you’re looking for the huge question that’s not being talked about much, might we point you in the direction of this one.

We’re told that Clara was born to save the Doctor. Presumably somebody was behind that though. Who would that be? The possible answer, and probably the most Doctor Who-style approach, would be another version of the Doctor himself. Given that Jenna-Louise Coleman is returning next series, that’s one mystery that might just be being saved for the future. But even though lots of questions have been answered about Clara, there’s still a sizeable mystery hidden in plain sight there.

Did the Doctor save Clara?

The Doctor went through the time scar whatsit to save Clara. Clara was still alive due to her link, in theory, with River (although the fact that River turned out to be an echo may alter that). The Doctor thus found Clara, reached out his hand, and then John Hurt happened. Clara fainted (we assume it was fainting), and the last we saw, Matt Smith was carrying her. So she’s presumably okay.

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We would imagine it’s safe to assume that the original Clara, rather than the many other versions of her, was saved by the Doctor. But if not, then there’s no central version of her left, as she sacrificed herself, leaving lots of different Claras throughout time.

But one thought: if she did that, do we assume that all of these versions talk to each other? If not, how would she have rewritten history in Asylum Of The Daleks, without there being some kind of Clara Prime to coordinate the effort? Because she must have already done the sacrifice at that point – well, unless we’re going to press the “timey-wimey” button – to be able to do so?

Who was the woman in the shop who gave Clara the number to the TARDIS?

From JackJGreen on Twitter, this one. Remember that in The Bells Of Saint John Clara was given the phone number to the TARDIS by a strange woman? It was, we were told, “the best helpline in the universe”. But who was that woman? Our best guess at the moment: it was another Clara. But is there something more sinister or deep at work there? Or could it have been Rose Tyler? Perhaps it’s something to do with the River Song link? Maybe we should distract you from the fact that we don’t know with another picture of John Hurt?

Where does The Great Intelligence fit in?

Good question. Either The Great Intelligence was never going to be quite the presence we originally thought, or there’s more to come (see the TARDIS theory above). He’s fractured himself by going back through the history of the Doctor, but by Clara following him through, we’re led to believe that his work has been undone.

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But has he been destroyed? Or is it just Dr Simeon who had to pay (again) the ultimate price? Given that The Great Intelligence isn’t tied to a particular body, and that it’s a foe who goes back decades in Doctor Who lore, we can’t imagine that it’s gone for good.

Why did the TARDIS explode in series 5?

Still no clearer on that. We’ve done a fuller piece on that here.

Remember Clarence?

Cast your mind right back to the start of The Name Of The Doctor: who was Clarence? He was the prisoner in 1893 – the year of The Crimson Horror – who knew the exact coordinates of the Doctor’s tomb on Trenzalore. Time continuity suggests he wasn’t The Great Intelligence – so who was he, and how did he know where to find the Doctor’s final resting place? He’s listed in the credits as played by Michael Jenn, and it’s his sole Doctor Who credit to date. So no clues there. But somebody on the Doctor’s travels this series knew what was coming. That was either Clarence, or the person who told him. Either way, that’s still an unresolved mystery.

How long is it until November?

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Too bloody long.

Would you like a strong coffee now?

Yes please.

Credits: Simon Brew, Andrew Johns, James Moran, WhoIsTheDoctor, paleion

Add your own theories in the comments. We’ll try and keep this post updated with them…

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