[A revised and improved version of this essay appears in my book The Eleventh Doctor: a critical ramble through Matt Smith’s tenure in Doctor Who.]
I’ve fallen well behind in reviewing this series of Doctor Who. My plan now is that, rather than rush to catch up on Cold War, Hide, Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, The Crimson Horror, Nightmare in Silver and The Name of the Doctor, I’ll let them digest for a month or two, then watch them all again and write my reviews then.
But I did just want to get my thoughts down on the climactic moment of The Name of the Doctor before I read anyone else’s. So read on if you’ve seen the episode; and if not, then be aware that SPOILERS FOLLOW!
“Introducing John Hurt as The Doctor”, says the caption.
But our Doctor (Matt Smith) says that what that Doctor (John Hurt) did was in the name of peace, yes, and in the name of sanity, yes, but not in the name of the Doctor.
So what did he do, and when?
First of all, I think it has to be something that he has done, rather than something that he will do. The grammar alone invites that conclusion — the past-tense references to what the Doctor did.
So the obvious guess is that this refers to the Doctor’s bringing the Time War to an end by destroying Gallifrey. It’s something that we already know he did, and it seems a bit much to multiply entities by assuming he has two atrocities in his past.
We’ve always assumed that this was the work of the eighth Doctor, and that the ninth was his post-Time War incarnation — hence some of the more erratic aspects of his behaviour, especially in S01E06, Dalek. My take is that there was another regeneration in between — that Paul McGann regenerated into John Hurt, and it was this Doctor (the eight-and-a-halfth, if you like) that destroyed Gallifrey. When he regenerated in Christopher Eccleston, the new Doctor disowned the previous one, did not allow him the title “Doctor”, and took the number nine for himself. So Matt Smith is really the twelfth body that the character has had, but only the 11th the bear the name Doctor.
Is all this terribly obvious? (I don’t know because I’ve not yet read what anyone else has said about it.)