Doctor Who: What Is the Power of the Doctor?


Moffat builds on this further in his novelization of ‘The Day of the Doctor’, the narration switches between the third and first person. The third person is used to describe the Doctor, hero of time and space, friend to children everywhere and clownish idiot. But when the Doctor does something un-Doctorish, or doubts themselves, or makes a big mistake, that is when the narrator switches to the first person, the unnamed “I” who is the ancient, immortal alien who has known incalculable sorrow and rage, who pretends to be the fictional character “the Doctor” to scare monsters and comfort children. The unnamed “I” might be cruel or cowardly, might do it all the time, really, but the Doctor never would.

A Madman With a Box

Whatever you think of the Doctor today, there is no denying that the character’s status has become, let’s say ‘elevated’ over the last six decades. The first three Doctors were, in turn, a weird old man, a weird hobo, and a dandy-ish science hero not unprone to teenage sulks with his employer.

It is hard to imagine any of these Doctors saving the world by using the power of human belief to turn them into a glowy space Jesus, or scaring the monsters away only by telling them to look them up, twice. Armies don’t turn and run at the mention of the Second Doctor’s name. The First Doctor is, perhaps rightly, embarrassed to see that twelve or thirteen (hard to keep count) regenerations along, he’s going to try and scare evil plans away with speeches.

It’s a change that has happened in parallel between the fiction and the metafiction. Doctor Who, the franchise, has existed for nearly 60 years. Millennials’ parents and grandparents watched it, and now they too must suffer the agonies of meeting actual legal adults who grew up on David Tennant’s Doctor. As the show and the fandom have continued and grown, so has the legend of the character.

Meanwhile, within the confines of the show’s fiction, the Doctor has spent far longer than 60 years since leaving Foreman’s Scrapyard, bouncing backwards and forwards through time and across space, meeting every single historically significant figure, being present at every single notable historical event (some of which have occurred since the show began airing), as well as stopping alien invasions of a global or even galactic scale. Word is going to get about. The word “Doctor” is going to be inspired by the Doctor (creating a bit of a bootstrap paradox), which is also going to mean warrior. Six different secret organisations are going to be founded with the sole purpose of tracking them down. Every fairytale, myth and legend will retroactively turn out to be about a weirdo with a blue box and a glowing screwdriver.

It’s an understandable evolution of the character, metafictionally and fictionally. It’s one that the New Series (if we can still call it that) has flirted with and pushed against. Barely halfway into Christopher Eccleston’s turn as the Doctor, he hands Mickey a CD with a virus that will wipe every mention of him from the internet (it doesn’t work). The Eleventh Doctor fakes his death and goes on an epic mission through time, space, and DVD extras to delete every reference of himself in history, going to the point of making the Daleks themselves forget about him (it doesn’t stick).



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