My Insane Doctor Who Theory

I didn’t particularly care for Season 7 of Doctor Who. I didn’t like that it only had done-in-one episodes and lacked the serial storyline aspects of previous seasons. I never really connected with Clara. And there just weren’t any really awesome scenes or moments. Everything seemed looser, lighter and less connected. It was entertaining, don’t get me wrong, but I felt Season 7 was subpar compared to earlier seasons.

But that’s OK, because now it’s over!

Though the adventure never ends!

The season finale aired Saturday night, and what a finale! Well, it wasn’t as amazing an episode as in seasons past, but it was still a lot of fun. And it ended with a huge, potentially show-shattering cliffhanger. Don’t you just love when season finales leave you with the sort of cliffhanger that leaves you chomping on the bit until the Fall? Yeah, me neither, but Doctor Who did it anyway.

And immediately after the episode, I had a crazy light bulb moment. I think I know what the cliffhanger implies. I have an Insane Doctor Who Theory, and I want to share it with you lot to see what you think.

Be warned, there are SPOILERS  for the season finale episode. If you haven’t seen the episode, go right ahead and watch it before reading. Otherwise, you just won’t understand what the heck I’m talking about! Anyway, when you’re ready, join me after the jump for my Insane Doctor Who Theory.

First of all, let’s get everybody caught up.

The final episode was called ‘The Name of the Doctor’. It was a big, climactic finale revealing all manner of secrets about the Doctor, his companion Clara and the season as a whole. In the episode’s climax, Clara went on a time travel adventure through all of the Doctor’s past lives, and they used archival footage from Doctor Who in the 60s, 70s, and 80s so that Clara could ‘interact’ with all of the old actors. It was a neat tribute to the extensive history of Doctor Who.

Then at the very end, the Doctor rescued Clara from her trip through time, but before they could get away, they encountered a dark, mysterious man standing in the shadows. Clara didn’t recognize him, and the Doctor said that man was a secret version of himself, one who is shunned for something he did.

The mysterious figure then turned to look at them, revealing him to be played by legendary actor John Hurt. He said, in John Hurt’s exquisitely gravely voice, “What I did, I did without choice, in the name of peace and sanity.”

To which the Doctor angrily replied, “But not in the name of the Doctor!”

The Doctor and Clara left, and Hurt turned to the camera to be introduced as the new Doctor.

But he’s so old!

This is meant as a shocking cliffhanger to take us into the upcoming 50th Anniversary Special airing in November. The producers of Doctor Who rightly expect the fans to spend all summer pondering this big mystery. Who is John Hurt? How is he a version of the Doctor? What did he do to be so shunned?

Well, I have a theory.

John Hurt is the real 9th Doctor.


But Sean, you’re no doubt pleading, Christopher Eccleston is the 9th Doctor! We all know that!

And I ask you: According to whom?

I think John Hurt is playing a secret Doctor whose time occurred prior to when the show restarted in 2005. I think he’s playing the Doctor who committed genocide during the Last Great Time War, which we’ve never actually seen on screen, and has only ever been referenced in passing. In seven seasons, they’ve never talked about the War in depth. Why not? Perhaps because they’re saving it for the big 50th Anniversary Special.

There is nothing the producers of Doctor Who love more than messing with our expectations. And I think they’re going to reveal that we’ve been wrong this entire time about the order of the Doctors. Christopher Eccleston is not the 9th Doctor, we’ve just assumed he was. I propose that Eccleston is really the 10th Doctor, and that John Hurt’s Doctor has been hidden right under our noses this entire time!

Allow me to explain.

Doctor Who started in the 1960s with actor William Hartnell playing the Doctor. It’s a show about a zany alien time traveler and his human friends going on adventures through time and space. The Doctor is an alien called a Time Lord. The Time Lords look human, but they’re far more advanced, have mastered time travel and have two hearts, like aliens sometimes do. They also have a very special ability called regeneration.

You see, when Hartnell decided to leave the show, the producers were stuck with how to explain why the Doctor was played by a new actor. They could have done like every other TV show and simply hoped nobody cared about the recasting, but the producers were too clever for that. They came up with this regeneration idea, explaining that Time Lords simply regenerate into a new body every time they’re killed. They’re the same person, with the same memories, but they have a new body, a new face and a new personality. And with that weird explanation, the producers were able to explain why the Doctor could be played by seven different actors between the 60s and 80s.

A pasty collection of British men

And so everyone started to identify the various Doctors based on their number in line. Hartnell is known as the 1st Doctor, and then there was the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th through the 1980s. And whenever the Doctor changed actors, the show used whatever special effects were available at the time to actually show his body morphing into that of the new actor. I’ve always thought it was really nice of the old actor to stick around long enough to do their regeneration episode and pass the torch to the new guy.

But there is one time when the regeneration has never been shown.

In the mid-90s, they decided to revive Doctor Who in a made-for-TV movie. And they cast Paul McGann to play the 8th Doctor.

Minus five points from Gryffindor

The TV movie was the only time anyone saw the 8th Doctor on screen. It was his only appearance, and Doctor Who was off the air for nearly 10 years.

The BBC brought the show back for its current revival in 2005, and we were immediately introduced to Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor. And everyone just assumed that made him the 9th Doctor. He stuck around for only one season, and actor David Tennant took over and became the 10th Doctor. He did three seasons, and then Matt Smith took over as the 11th and current Doctor.

And here is where my theory comes into play: the producers never bothered to show us how McGann transformed into Eccleston. We never saw the regeneration between the 8th and the 9th Doctors. It’s the only one we’ve never seen.

On the one hand, you could consider this just a matter of ease cooked up by the producers. The new Doctor Who was designed to get new fans interested in the series, and while it would have been nice to show the regeneration for the old fans, it would have probably been pretty confusing to any new fans. So the producers just skipped it and went right ahead with Eccleston in the role. That’s fine, and that’s pretty much what we all assumed happened.

But something else supposedly happened between the 8th and the 9th Doctors: the Last Great Time War. Back in the original series, the Time Lords were still around, and the Doctor often interacted with them and his home planet of Galifrey. But at the start of the new series in 2005, we learn that the Doctor is now the last of the Time Lords. So what happened to this entire race of time travelers? They were all killed off in the Last Great Time War, along with their mortal enemies, the Daleks. And not only did the Doctor fight in the Last Great Time War, but he’s responsible for their deaths. He killed all of the Time Lords and all of the Daleks.

The Doctor never really talks about the Last Great Time War, and in seven seasons of the new show, it’s only been mentioned a handful of times, usually when the Doctor is very emotional or angry.

Eccleston brought it up and explained what happened when he discovered the last living Dalek.

And then Matt Smith talked about it in another episode.

Sometime between the TV movie and the first episode of the new series, the Doctor fought in the Last Great Time War, and he was responsible for the genocide of both his own species and that of the Daleks. That doesn’t sound very Doctor-like, does it? In fact, this sounds like something so heinous that the Doctor would shun the version of himself who committed these atrocities. That’s why he never really talks about the Last Great Time War. It’s something from his past that he’s deeply ashamed of, and he only mentions it in moments of great anger and emotion.

The Last Great Time War is, theoretically, one of the biggest moments of the Doctor’s entire life, but we’ve never seen it on screen. It’s the basis for the new status quo of the relaunched series. So what better way is there to celebrate the big, 50th Anniversary Special then by finally, at long last, showing us what happened in the Last Great Time War. And revealing, in full mind-blowing proportion, that we’ve been wrong about the order of the Doctors all this time. It’s not like Eccleston ever introduced himself as “the 9th Doctor”. The Doctors never refer to themselves by their numbers. That’s a fan thing. And isn’t it keeping with Doctor Who to blow our minds with this kind of revelation?

You’re damn right it is!

And that’s my big insane Doctor Who theory.

I propose to you that at some unknown point in time, Paul McGann regenerated into John Hurt, who committed genocide during the Last Great Time War. I think Hurt was killed in that same War, but somehow escaped and regenerated into Christopher Eccleston. Deciding that what he did was too horrible to contemplate, Eccleston buried the memories of John Hurt deep in his psyche, never to be acknowledged or talked about ever again. His great guilt has caused him to mention the Last Great Time War a few times, but that’s it. He’s kept it all bottled up…until now…until Clara uncovered the dark memories of John Hurt. And now the Doctor must face his darkest secret!

Though I guess we’ll find out the truth in November. Hell of a theory, at least.

About Sean Ian Mills

Hello, this is Sean, the Henchman-4-Hire! By day I am a mild-mannered newspaper reporter in Central New York, and by the rest of the day I'm a pretty big geek when it comes to video games, comic books, movies, cartoons and more.

Posted on May 21, 2013, in Doctor Who, Television. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Sigh, I can’t keep hunting down posts from io9, so just start reading it. This theory is already pretty well-believed by most. There were leaks or soemthing or someone mentioned a quote like who said matt smith is the eleventh doctor? etc. Point is: you’re absolutely right and no one is surprised but you.

    The only real proof you need is that Christopher Eccleston turned down the opportunity to appear in the 50th. John Hurt’s casting wasn’t announced until after it was revealed that Eccleston wouldn’t come back. Making John Hurt the secret 9th doctor was Moffatt’s secret back-door way of telling the Time War story without Eccleston. Which is sad because I would have loved to see Eccleston back in Who and doing the whole Time War bit.

    So yeah…we (the internet) knew all this before the finale even aired.

    • Oh, damn. So much for me. Though at least it’s good to hear that one of my theories might actually be correct for once. Also, why don’t you marry io9 if you love it so much?

  2. Personally, I’m going with the other theory that John Hurt is an older version of the 8th Doctor and not the 9th Doctor.

  3. It’s okay. But still a cool theory nonetheless. Anyways, nothing’s confirmed and you can bet that I’m excited for the 50th and whatever Moffat has in store for us.

  1. Pingback: Matt Smith Is Leaving Doctor Who! | Henchman-4-Hire

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