Monday, 25 November 2013

The Day of The Valeyard

On the 23rd of November 2013, The Day of the Doctor, the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who, was simulcast around the world. I'm not going to offer a critique, suffice to say I REALLY BLOODY LOVED IT!!!! What I am going to bang on about is what implications the events of Day of the Doctor have for the much maligned 14 part Doctor Who adventure from 1986, The Trial of a Time Lord. Yeah! Bet you weren't expecting that! If you're like me and you love The Trial of a Time Lord and find the character of The Valeyard fascinating then this blog post may very well blow your mind. If however, you're like most Doctor Who fans and think Trial is a muddled, overlong load of old wank then you might want to skip this.


Let's take a look at the basic plot of The Trial of a Time Lord & The Day of The Doctor.

  • The Trial of a Time Lord features The Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) being put on trial by his fellow Time Lords for his interference in the affairs of other worlds. He is being prosecuted by a mysterious man in black known only as The Valeyard. At one point during the trial The Valeyard also charges The Doctor with genocide, based on The Doctor's actions while battling the Vervoids. Eventually The Master reveals that The Valeyard is a future incarnation of The Doctor, who is attempting to steal his past self's remaining regenerations.

"There is some evil in all of us, Doctor – even you. The Valeyard is an amalgamation of the darker sides of your nature, somewhere between your twelfth and final incarnation, and I may say you do not improve with age." - The Master 

  • The Day of The Doctor reveals that The Doctor had a hitherto unrevealed incarnation, played by John Hurt, who fought in the Time War between the Daleks & the Time Lords. This incarnation of The Doctor ended the Time War by destroying Gallifrey and wiping out the Time Lords. This Doctor then went on to regenerate into Christopher Eccleston's Doctor, who eventually became David Tennant's Doctor and then Matt Smith's Doctor. Day of The Doctor ends with every single incarnation of The Doctor freezing Gallifrey in a pocket dimension, thus saving John Hurt's Doctor from having to destroy it. Unfortunately The Hurt Doctor cannot retain his memory of this and so he regenerates into Eccleston believing that he had wiped out the Time Lords. Since Matt Smith's Doctor is the most recent Doctor he retains his memory of the episode's events and sets off on a quest to find the lost Time Lords.

Still with me? Well then, you may well be asking what connects these two adventures? Nothing. Until you consider what current showrunner Steven Moffat has recently said about The Doctor's remaining regenerations! In the 1976 adventure, The Deadly Assassin it's established that Time Lords can only regenerate 12 times, giving them a total of 13 lives. Hurt is considered an official incarnation of The Doctor, and in Series 4 David Tennant's Doctor used up a regeneration to heal himself and create a duplicate of himself from his severed hand. Moffat has confirmed that this makes Matt Smith the final, 13th Doctor!

Which puts The Valeyard in a totally different light!

If Matt Smith is actually the 13th & final Doctor then that means that The Valeyard is "an amalgamation of the darker sides of (The Doctor's) nature" from somewhere between David Tennant and Matt Smith! This means The Valeyard remembers the Time War but still thinks he's wiped out the Time Lords! And what charge is he trying to pin on The Sixth Doctor? Genocide! Condemning his past self for the destruction of the Vervoids is in fact a way for The Valeyard to condemn himself for the destruction of Gallifrey! The Valeyard is putting himself on trial for what he perceives to be his own crimes during the Time War! The Trial of the Time Lord is the story of The Doctor trying to punish himself!

He's also trying to claim The Sixth Doctor's remaining regenerations! Why? Maybe so he can fight the Time War again, except this time he can correct his mistake and avoid wiping out the Time Lords! The Valeyard is undoubtedly made from The Doctor's darker nature. He does after all, attempt to destroy the members of the court with a particle disseminator. But could his motives actually be fairly noble? Could The Valeyard be driven by the desire to prevent the destruction of his people and assuage his guilt by punishing his past self?

Is The Valeyard a hero?

All this is pure fan-wank on my part of course. I'm quite sure that tying into Trial was the last thing on Moffat's mind when he wrote The Day of The Doctor. But if this blog post has persuaded you to look at The Trial of a Time Lord a little more favourably, and to revisit those superb verbal sparring matches between Colin Baker and Michael Jayston, then my fan-wankerry will have have achieved something great!

Is Doctor Who Sexist?

A guest post from my good pal Emma

Doctor Who has been all over the place lately and I couldn't be happier. Like most people, I'm able to dismiss the negative (usually ill-informed) nay sayers and without it tarnishing my enjoyment of the programme. What has made me irate is that people are STILL trying to throw the old 'Doctor Who is sexist' argument around and complaining that the Doctor isn't female. I am a feminist and a Doctor Who fan and, if you'll indulge me a little longer, I'll explain why that isn't a contradiction.

Firstly, Verity Lambert. There, that was easy. If you don't know who she is then you have no business calling the show sexist.

Secondly, the companions. The biggest gripe people seem to have with them is that the female role has been demoted to that of an 'assistant.' That viewpoint not only conveniently ignores the fact that there have been many male companions but also immediately assumes that the Doctor is the only character having any impact, when the companions have a lasting influence on him. Without Ian and Barbara's friendship we wouldn't have the Doctor that we see today.

Okay, so Leela didn't wear many clothes but she was brave, loyal, independent and determined. Are people shouting 'sexist!' happy to dismiss those qualities because of the way she looks? Is it just me that finds that view a little narrow? Personally, it does make me a little uncomfortable when a female character is wearing fewer clothes than the male one, but that does not diminish the importance of the female role.

A similar criticism is also leveled at Jo Grant. This is the woman who outwits both the second and third Doctor in The Three Doctors. Sarah Jane Smith is beautifully disparaging towards the Fourth Doctor in this clip from  Pyramids of Mars:

Martha Jones saved the world from the Master whilst the Doctor was stuck in a cage, Rose Tyler destroyed the Daleks after the Doctor had resigned himself to becoming one of their 'angels', Zoe Heriot is a genius, Donna Noble stops Davros , Nyssa leaves the Doctor to help save another race, Clara Oswald saved Gallifrey. The Doctor values all of his companions, even bloody Adric.  So why can't we?

Then there's the Doctor himself.  

A man who believes that everyone is important, a man who doesn't use violence but intellect to fight. A man who made a promise to never be cruel or cowardly and to never give up and never give in. He's clever, kind and funny and a brilliant role model for everyone everywhere. I could lament over the lack of similar female role models, but that's not what this blog post is about. My point is, what's wrong with having a brilliant role model of any gender watched by millions every week? Doctor Who certainly isn't a 'boys' programme; my niece loves it as does my son. Everybody needs a role model and gender shouldn't play a part in that, even though, sadly it does.

Watching my three year old son watch Doctor Who is as fantastic as watching Doctor Who. I would not let my child near anything that portrayed women as inferior to men. What I very much hope for is that he will watch and learn from Doctor Who for many, many years. That he will play imaginative games at school based on that week's episode, that we will spend many a Saturday afternoon making Daleks. That, as a teenager, he will reject superficial entertainment and be compassionate and intelligent enough to recognise appalling treatment of women (or anybody else for that matter) and abhor it. And that Doctor Who will have played a small part in making him that way.

This is perhaps deviating from the point a little, but, to paraphrase some northern guy, if children see brilliant television when they are young they will demand it as they get older. Doctor Who sets the tone.

I'm a Doctor Who fan and a feminist. It's no contradiction. 

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Doctor Who: An Adventure in Space and Time

David Bradley as William Hartnell

Tonight Mark Gatiss' drama about the early years of Doctor Who, An Adventure in Space and Time will air on BBC2. I was leafing through some old issues of Doctor Who Magazine recently when I came across a fascinating interview with Gatiss from 2003, in which he discusses how he pitched the idea of a dramatisation of William Hartnell's time on the show for the 40th Anniversary of Doctor Who. He also expresses his disappointment that it wasn't picked up. It really is wonderful that it finally got made and is being broadcast as part of the 50th Anniversary celebrations. I can't wait to see it.

From Doctor Who Magazine #335 (2003)