Looking forward like mad to tomorrow’s (nearly today’s) 50th anniversary special of Doctor Who – surely one of the greatest TV programmes ever created!
It has, though, thrown up a bit of a conundrum to us Who fans. Or rather, the very brief mini-episode that’s currently airing on a time-loop on the BBC Red Button has.
In this episode, Paul McGann (the 8th incarnation of The Doctor) tries to help a young woman fighting to control a space craft. She refuses to let him help, as the Time Lords are in the middle of the Time War with the Daleks, and they end up crashing into a planet – on which, although they’re both dead, The Doctor is temporarily resurrected by a group of women who want him to fight in the war. The Doctor, being a pacifist, refuses. Eventually they persuade him, and he drinks a potion that will regenerate him into a warrior.
Now here’s the point. We see, as the potion takes its effect, that Paul McGann’s Doctor has now regenerated into John Hurt’s – the Doctor who appeared at the end of the last programme in the last series and also shows up (as we see in the trailers) in the 50th anniversary special. So if we’re counting, which we Whovians do most conscientiously, then that makes John Hurt the 9th Doctor – and makes Christopher Eccleston, who presumably regenerated from him, the 10th, David Tennant the 11th, Matt Smith the 12th, and Peter Capaldi, the incoming incumbent, the 13th. So basically, the numbering’s gone all to pot!
What do we do? All our certainties about The Doctor’s long, long life are now shattered. DT is no longer the 10th! Matt Smith’s no longer the 11th! Given that the Time Lords are only supposed to have 13 lives, that makes Peter Capaldi the last! (Though we think that somewhere along the line that’s been neatly sidestepped by River Song giving Matt Smith’s incarnation all her remaining ones after she poisoned him in the library with the candlestick, or whatever that episode was – I forget the details.)
We fans are really in a jam. After all – we really don’t know now Who exactly is Who. Or is that When?