Doctor Who Week: A Brief History of The Doctor
BBC’s Doctor Who is a show that makes up its own rules when it comes to storytelling. With the jumping and crossing of timelines, regeneration, and now even a mysterious unknown Doctor, never has a story been so complex, dynamic, and intriguing as that of the favored Time Lord.
There’s no denying that the Doctor is a man of mystery. Hailing from the race of the Time Lords from the planet Gallifrey, he’s been noted as a doctor of everything. Believing himself to be the last surviving Time Lord, the Doctor has revealed before that he had been a father in the past, and that memories of his family can be summoned when wanted. The biggest mystery is the Doctor’s name, a secret that, to prevent the destruction of the universe, must never be revealed.
Most fascinating about the series and the Doctor himself is the principle of regeneration. When the Doctor is near death, he has the ability, as a Time Lord, to regenerate. While his appearance changes, he retains all memory and personality. This ability has allowed for Doctor Who to continue on for 50 years and beyond, swapping actors when necessary. As for how long it will continue, it was stated in the serials Mawdryn Undead and The Deadly Assassin that a Time Lord can only regenerate 12 times, for a total of 13 incarnations. That’s not to say that the rules won’t change! So far there have been 11 incarnations of the Doctor (William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, and Matt Smith), with the next series to feature the Twelfth Doctor portrayed by Peter Capaldi, and not to mention the mysterious “War Doctor” portrayed by John Hurt, the unknown regeneration of the Eighth Doctor at the end of Series 7. Several incarnations have even crossed paths, most recently in “Father’s Day,” “The Big Bang,” and “The Name of the Doctor.”
In the upcoming 50th Anniversary special, “The Day of the Doctor,” Doctor Who is certain to add to the mystery of the Doctor with the confirmed-by-Moffatt revelation of the moment that he’s been running from for 900 years. The episode is one of few that are focused most on the Doctor and his story, rather than his saving the day from an alien race. In an interview with Fox News, Moffatt teases, “…this is the Day of the Doctor. This one will stick with him and change certain ways he thinks.” The Doctor may have 50 years under his belt, but fans, rejoice! It doesn’t appear that he’s slowing down just yet.