If you follow my Twitter feed or have ever discussed Doctor Who with me, you’ll know that I’m not a fan of the Matt Smith era of Doctor Who, or more to the point, not a fan of the Moffat era of Doctor Who.
While all of the story ideas are excellent and in some cases far better than what Russell T. Davies gave us, the concepts are underdeveloped and as a consequence, lack the emotional punch they should deliver.
I think that if Moffat could figure out how to weave together a solid story and tie together these concepts, we could be watching one of the greatest stories ever told. But as I said, something just isn’t meshing. But instead of belaboring what I don’t like about these past few seasons, I thought I’d write about what is working for me, the overarching theme – The question hidden in plain sight. The question that must never be answered.
“Who is the Doctor?”
The answer isn’t “A bloke from Gallifrey,” the answer is much deeper than that.
And although the question is asked by nearly everyone on the show, the most important person to ask this question is the Doctor himself. I think he’s been asking this question since Journey’s End.
We already know the Doctor does not believe himself to be a good man. This was spelled out for us in A Good Man Goes to War but I think it’s also been woven into the mythology of the series as a whole. I think that when the Doctor talks about being alone, he’s not referring to being the only Time Lord, he’s referring to all of the terrible things he has seen and all of the terrible things he has done.
Steven Moffat is trying to show us, though not particularly well, the internal struggle of someone who wants to be good but has done some very bad things.
The question that was asked last night in A Town Called Mercy, is whether or not those things were bad or if those things were the tragic consequences of doing the right thing. I think at one point, the Doctor believed the positive consequences of his actions would outweigh the negative. But throughout this series we have seen that belief wane. The Doctor’s world has become less insular. He has been introduced to more people who have been severely damaged by his actions and now fear him. The Doctor is often called ‘the Destroyer of Worlds’ or ‘the Bringer of Darkness’ and I believe he takes these things to heart. This is who he now believes he is.
In last night’s episode, the Doctor said he was 1200 years old. When you’ve lived that long and you’ve seen that much, you’re not going to always be nice and you’re not going to always have faith in yourself or in other people.
This is where the Doctor is now, jaded and without faith, asking the question we all ask ourselves, “Who the fuck am I?”
I don’t think it’s a question that can ever be answered because the Doctor, like all of us, is always evolving. He is different when he is around his friends, as are we all. His friends keep him from wallowing in his despair. Like all of us, he carries his own scars that only he can understand but the love of true friends keep him from collapsing inward. Like all of us, he believes he must constantly atone for his misdeeds – regardless of how necessary those ‘sins’ may have seemed at the time.
Granted, the Doctor has a heavier weight on his shoulders than most of us – unless you’ve been blowing up planets and slaughtering aliens. (Is anyone else dying to read some Doctor Who/Darth Vader fanfic right about now?)
The Doctor, like all of us, is full and complex. He is good and bad, dark and light.
I love this question and I love stories that explore who we are and how we deal with our darkness. It’s universal and timeless. I’m excited to see it explored in this way – with a timeless and universal creature who’s committed an infinite amount of sins but also done an infinite amount of good. I just hope that Moffat delivers a satisfying and layered resolution to this story arc.