It’s very late, I can’t sleep, so I started thinking about Doctor Who.
Because what else do you do at 3 in the morning?
I’ve been rewatching the Amy/Rory/11 seasons lately and I have a theory I’m working on, a theory about the last three doctors (9, 10, 11).
Wanna hear? Of course you do.
Nine smashes into Earth like a great big comet. He is fire and rage and it’s mostly directed at himself. Rose is the first face that face saw. She believed in him; she believed that he was a hero. And with her help, he was. Though at the beginning you could have designated him as the Angry Doctor, I think that he became the Redeemed Doctor. Rose’s faith was not misplaced. He began to see that he could be redeemed from the destruction of Gallifrey. But, more importantly, he began to believe it. When he regenerated, he did so with confidence and strength. He was the Doctor. He just saved the world from the worst threat of the universe, the Daleks, again. He even kissed Miss Rose.
He was, in a word, fantastic!
This was the attitude that 10 rode into the world with. He is the Doctor Knight. That he is the grand Knight in Shining Armor is only reinforced by his first outing: in a sword-fight over London for the fate of the Earth and, frankly, kicking butt. He began his adventure believing he was the hero. Now, he just had to woo the girl who believed. And it worked! The Doctor and the companion were in love and 10 had achieved all that a knight could ever want.
Then he lost Rose.
He. Lost. Rose.
The cracks in the Doctor reopened, perhaps even more than before. However, Martha and her hero-adoration allowed him to put those cracks in a tidy box in his subconscious, never to be dealt with again. He continued to save the day rather heroically and with really great hair. After Martha, Donna was the perfect sidekick. They wisecracked through time and space. They were Hope and Crosby in the Tardis (doesn’t that sound scary?). And he even got Rose back!!! Those cracks could most definitely be ignored because he defeated the Daleks again and even saved all those other missing planets.
But he lost Rose, again.
No, there is no consolation in watching your love walk away with your poor copy. And on top of that, it got worse.
He lost Donna.
Yes, he saved her. But it wasn’t really her. Not anymore.
But he was still the hero! He couldn’t believe otherwise because he would literally crack apart. And he almost convinced himself. He began to believe that he could ride in on his Tardis, waving his sonic screwdriver, and save the day.
The death of one single astronaut broke the image he had created since 9. He was not a hero. He was a murderer from Gallifrey. Honestly, he barely held it together long enough to defeat the Master a second time. And saving Wilf was not a victory. Not really. It only sealed his complete failure to redeem himself. He had failed all of 9’s expectations. He had failed his own.
For me, this explains 11. He is the Broken Doctor. Like many, I didn’t really enjoy 11 at first. This new regeneration bumbled and flopped back onto Earth. The Knight was gone. He almost has more in common with 9 at this point. Only 9 progressed upward while 11 seemed to fall down more and more as time moved on. He is so broken after he meets Amy that he almost kills a Star Whale. Not even for a planet’s sake. Just for one lone nation in space.
But Amy does believe. At first.
Like Rose, she sees the hero. The problem is, the Doctor she believes in isn’t real. The Doctor didn’t do a thing when they first met. He ate fish custard and examined a crack in her wall. Then hopped back into his Tardis and flew away. Amy created the Doctor that stayed. In her mind, he stayed and slew all her demons. As she grew up a Scottish girl in an English town, with a very scary crack in her wall, her imaginary friend saved her. But that wasn’t 11. When he showed up, she had begun to outgrow him. When he returned he was still the bumbling fool she met as a girl. But this time she could see that. That’s why she locked him to a car door by his necktie. She couldn’t understand the difference between this Doctor and her hero. The defeat of Prisoner Zero allowed her to see her Doctor again. But it was only an overlay. Now and then she could see the Broken Doctor through it, and it strained her faith. And it showed, repeatedly. Once Amy even asked him “What good are you?!?” when he couldn’t save Rory in a dream-state. And then he lost Rory for good. He is constantly losing Amy or Rory during his time with them. It’s a theme that creates a certain distrust at a subconscious level. He tried to redeem himself in part when the Pandorica opened. He figured it was okay if he ended. He would go and Amy and Rory would live and though that could not fix him, at least he would finally be Amy’s hero.
But his plan to die heroically didn’t work. Amy was Amy. She wouldn’t let her hero go once he had lived up that name. And I think the Doctor began to believe the hero narrative as well. Though greatly distracted by news of his death, he marshals every force at his command to save Amy and her baby. But, as River predicted, the Doctor came as close as he could to being 10, only to fall even further than before. After this, events spiral quickly towards his official death.
An event necessary to this is Amy’s disillusionment. Through it all, she wanted so desperately to believe in the Hero Doctor. Perhaps seeing him die made her more charitable. Finally, he was forced to make her see. In the hotel, he made her see that he was really just a madman in a box. A broken madman.
As hard as this is for 11, he again consoles himself. After all, he’s going to die for the whole universe. Again. Another chance for grand heroics and that long-sought redemption.
Of course, River ruined that. She’s a great one for spoiling his tragic death scenes. He even had to marry her this time. Poor Doctor. To his great surprise, after that whole Dalek asylum thing, Amy and Rory stay. He didn’t realize he was longing for something he hadn’t had since Donna: friends. Even though Amy and Rory are outgrowing him, he has friends. And he is clinging fiercely to that. Maybe, just maybe, if someone like him could have friends perhaps he was some good after all.
If all had gone as he hoped, perhaps the Doctor would have begun to pick himself up. Perhaps the cracks he was riddled with would begin to close.
But he lost Amy and Rory. For good.
With one moment of inattention, his best friends were stolen from him. One by an angel and the other by a love that was so much more than he could ever have. That’s why the Doctor ended up on that cloud over London, bitter and alone. He was punishing himself. He didn’t deserve to have friends. And he certainly wasn’t good enough to save anybody.
Even the (re)introduction of Clara was an exercise in self-flagellation. His actions killed her over and over and over. And in the end, he is tired. All this time he just wanted to be 10, to live up to the title of Knight Doctor. He wanted to be a Hero. He was almost one, fighting alongside 10 and the War Doctor. But without Gallifrey intact, it was an empty victory. The town of Christmas wasn’t just another fight. It was his last fight. He knew that going in. This was his very last chance to redeem himself and die very heroically in the process.
Clara got in the way of that one. But this time he was given a gift: he had the chance to regenerate once more. Perhaps this regeneration could be a hero. Perhaps he could find Gallifrey. But it seems he is haunted by his failures. “Tell me, Clara: am I a good man?” We’ll have to see what kind of doctor 12 is. It will certainly be interesting to see where we go from the Broken Doctor.
I am aware that I am completely ignoring any arcs weaving through and carrying over from Doctors 1-8. I’m much less familiar with them, so I’m okay with that
N.B. I’ve mostly glossed over Rory because, frankly, he never really believed in the Doctor. He always saw him exactly as he was. But that’s the best thing about Rory. He loves despite that. He sees every quirk, every flaw and he is lovingly, unflaggingly loyal. Honestly, I think Rory might be my favorite companion (close tie with Donna). Everyone was supposed to think he was a Mickey, a dispensable plot device at best. But Rory was one of few companions who stood up to the Doctor. Furthermore, he was always there for Amy. He was there when the imaginary friend wasn’t. Once he was sure of Amy’s love, he could do anything.
In fact, he did.
And he was very awesome. Who needs a Doctor when you can have a nurse?