...a blog by Richard Flowers

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Day 2771: Mysteries of Doctor Who #16: Is he MORE than just a Time Lord?


"In the end, Doctor, you are JUST another Time Lord," says Mr Davros.

"Oh Davros… I am far more than JUST another Time Lord," replies Mr Dr Sylv.

Or rather he doesn't because that exchange was cut from their confrontation over the Hand of Omega, and yet somehow EVERYONE manages to know about it anyway.

Nowadays, Mr Dr David will tell you that he is "…not just a Time Lord. I'm the LAST of the Time Lords." But does that make him "more" or is there something more to it?

What exactly was that mythical exchange supposed to mean?

Followers of the Cartmel Master Plan would tell you that this is one of a series of hints – along with what mad Lady Peinforte didn't say in "Silly Nemesis", and what evil Mr Fenric alludes to in "The Curse of Fenric" – that Dr Who has a mysterious SECRET in his past, possibly related to when Mr Rassilon and Mr Omega first invented Time Travel.

Later, Mr Russell Gary would use the novel of the sensational TV movie staring Mr Dr Paul (aka "Time Waits for No Man") to suggest that by "more than a Time Lord" Dr Who had meant "half human".

Later still, Mr Russell Davies apparently nixed THAT idea with "Journey's End" saying there's NEVER been a half-human half-Time Lord before.

But just looking at the series, there is SOME evidence that he really is MORE than the other ordinary Time Lords.

It's worth pointing out that Dr Who does have some "Time Lord super-powers" anyway, even if you don't count the amazing bigger-on-the-inside space-time machine: speed-reading (as seen in "City of Death" and "Rose", and implied by Susan in "An Unearthly Child"); the ability to mimic other's voices ("The Celestial Toymaker", "Masque of Mandragora", probably "The Invasion of Time" and the Master does it all the time too, notably imitating the Brigadier in "The Time Monster"); hooting really loud to shatter glass ("The Power of Kroll"); and (more plausibly for a TIME Lord) immunity to certain out-of-whack-ness in the time-fields (as in "The Time Monster" and "Invasion of the Dinosaurs").

The Doctor and the Master both demonstrate hypnotism to varying degrees and proficiencies, so that MIGHT be a Time Lord power or it MIGHT be a learned skill. Both of them can hypnotise other Time Lords, too.

But there IS one distinct occasion when Dr Who gets a definite "power up", plus another that is a bit of a maybe. Added to which there is the all-important question whether there is more to him than perhaps even HE knows.

The indisputable one is that in "The Invasion of Time". Dr Who is joined to the Matrix, the Time Lord's collection of all knowledge and Keanu-movie archive.

There's no question about it, Mr Gold Usher makes it explicit that you can't be UNCONNECTED from the Matrix afterwards, so we have to assume that even when he seems to lose his memory at the end of the story, Dr Who remains wired in to near omniscient knowledge. And this would rather make sense of a lot of the times when he's a total know-it-all from now on, most particularly the "narrows it down" scene with Mr Dr Christopher in "World War III" – because he is accessing the second-hand knowledge of the Matrix rather than stuff he knows himself.

If you want to take this a step further, Mr Lance Parkin's range-finishing Eighth Doctor novel "The Gallifrey Chronicles" says that when his home planet got the FOOM treatment, all the contents of the Matrix were bundled up and safely stored between the Doctor's EARS. It's semi-implicit that he downloaded it all again later, but you don't have to read it that way; it could all still be there.

The next occasion to consider is the conclusion of "Enlightenment".

Ahh, you may say, but Dr Who turns it down (just like he turned down the power of Mr Azal in "The Dæmons" and will turn down immortality when Mr Rassilon offers it to him in "The Five Doctors" though Mr Rassilon may be taking the michael by that point). Well it is TRUE that he turns down a lump of glowey stuff that Mr White and Mr Black Hat are offering him.

BUT, Turlough also turns down a bit of Enlightenment, a big diamond, when it gets offered to him. Turning it down gets Mr Black Hat off his case (and indeed melts all the buttons on his flame-proof nightie). And then Dr Who says that enlightenment WASN'T the diamond; it was the CHOICE.

So, at least implicitly, Dr Who did get Enlightenment at the end of that story when HE got the choice over the glowey stuff.

You can add this to other occasions when he has "grown" in a Buddhist way: quite recently in "Snakedance" he gained the insight to defeat the mental Mara; and of course his entire third regeneration is a great big Buddhist parable, with all the bells and whistles and spiders.

As well as the Guardians, Dr Who has encountered a LOT of other god-like beings on his travels, from the Toymaker and the Animus via Sutekh the Destroyer (these days, bringer of milk to all humans), through to the Beast. With the exception of Mr Azal (turned down) though, he rarely risks benefiting from the encounter, unless he picked up tips on dusting from Sutekh while held in a brain lock. (Mind you, his hypnotism DOES improve after this: witness Best Friend Sarah, Mr Henry Gordon Jago and Ms Rodan all put under the 'fluence with barely more than a hard stare!) By the time he gets to the Gods of Ragnarok and Mr Fenric, though, he's knocking them back with aplomb, so either he's getting used to it or he HAS got more powerful since the early days.

One possible piece of evidence to point to is "The Deadly Assassin".

Plugged into the Matrix, playing a life-or-death computer game against traitorous Time Lord Chancellor Goth, Dr Who gets "killed" when hanging off a cliff by only his scarf and a Samurai-disguised Goth chops his scarf in two. It is all over for Dr Who! And then he manages to come back again. Coordinator Engin, monitoring from the APC control room, remarks that Dr Who must have "extraordinary reserves of Artron energy."

"Four to Doomsday" reveals that the TARDIS is powered by Artron energy, and it's long been assumed that it is therefore a kind of Time Lord brain juice.

Dr Who therefore has more of this than other Time Lords.

It's possible that this is natural to him – we see his mental force drained in "The Savages" (or we would if the BBC hadn't "savaged" the recordings) and it's a lot more than a grunt-level human. Which doesn't tell us a lot. But then when he's Mr Dr Pat he turns the tables on the Great Intelligence and in "The Web of Fear" has a go at draining THAT. We know that Jamie pulls the plug too soon, but we don't know how much (if any) Great Intelligence Dr Who gains in the meantime.

Having said that, the newer episodes, "Dalek" and "Army of Ghosts" talk of time travellers soaking up Arton energy as a "background radiation", harmless but one that the Daleks can use to feed off.

This is quite clever as it suggests that Dr Who's "extraordinary reserves" have been built up because of his many, many years of travelling; most ordinary Time Lords rarely leave the safety of Gallifrey and so do not have the same amount stored up.

A case of travel literally broadening the mind.

This is similar to the way that in "City of Death" he is able to detect the "crack in time" caused by Scarlioni, the Count, and his half-working time machine when his time-slip is showing. There, Dr Who says that it's because he's crossed the time lines so often, again implying it's a sense or sensitivity – like the time-sensitivity that becomes important in "Warrior's Gate" – that no ordinary Time Lord would have. Ms Romana, who is with him at the time, does appear to confirm that she senses much less than he does.

And on a similar track, "The Invasion of Time" sees him better able to thwart the mind-reading powers of the invading Vardans than senior Time Lords like Chancellor Borusa because he's had lots of EXPERIENCE in the big bad world and can confuse them with his muddled and eclectic thoughts. What's for tea?

In extremis, Mr Mad Larry Miles's "Alien Bodies" suggests taking this to the ludicrous limit with the implication that by the time he finally snuffs it, Dr Who will be so chock full of magic powers from building up experience points that even his BODY is going to be a SUPER-WEAPON in the Time Lords' future War.

On the other fluffy foot, there IS an occasion when Dr Who's mind-power is shown to be LESS than another Time Lord's. It is in "The Brain of Morbius", when Mr Morbius totally wins the mind-bending contest. In fact Dr Who is only still breathing at the end because Mr Morbius's head-case goes bang-pop!

Mind you, any ordinary Time Lord would just DIE after the brain-wrangling that Morbius gives him. But Dr Who is given a dose of the Elixir of Life and recovers. You COULD argue that that is another definite upgrade, though the rest of the story implies that the effects of the Elixir are temporary… or at least the immortality upgrade is. It's not IMPOSSIBLE that Dr Who does gain other benefits from having had a swig of the good stuff.

Of course "…Morbius" is the story that also presents us with the "eight earlier Doctors". "Lungbarrow" – as I have previously explained – chooses to explain these faces by suggesting that they belong to the mysterious figure called "The Other" who helped Mr Rassilon back in the beginning. This implies that Dr Who is special because he is the reincarnation of this strange person who isn't even from Gallifrey at all!

Some commentators have pointed out that after these faces are revealed, Dr Who begins his change to something "more than just a Time Lord", quickly rising to President of Gallifrey and discovering previously hidden knowledge of the Guardians, the Fendahl, the Great Vampires and other ancient powers and evils.

A simpler explanation though – and one of my favourite fan retcons – might be that Dr Who's past has been CONCEALED for some reason not yet known. After all it is hardly uncommon for Time Lord history to be, shall we say, edited for the greater good. The Time Lord's have no knowledge of The Master, for example, because he has simply removed his Biog Data Extract from the records.

This of course would mean that in reality, unknown to himself or the Time Lords, Mr Dr Tom is the TWELFTH Doctor, not the FOURTH and Mr Dr Peter the THIRTEEN and LAST.

As further evidence, the dying Mr Dr Peter seems uncertain that he CAN regenerate – "feels different this time" he says. And poor Mr Dr Colin is VERY confused at still being ALIVE when he becomes Doctor.

Then, remembering that Mr the Valeyard is said to come from "between your twelfth and final incarnations", this might tie him in to the mysterious Watcher – who in this counting scheme is also an intermediary figure between these two personas. Perhaps Dr Who is split, like a nasty Star Trek transporter accident, into white and black versions of himself during that particular regeneration crisis. (An effect which might tie in PSYCHOLOGICALLY with one interpretation of The Key to Time stories.)

That would then make rather more sense of Mr the Valeyard's desire to posses the Doctor's remaining regenerations. If Mr Dr Colin, rather than being sixth is in fact at the start of an UNEXPECTED new regenerative cycle, then taking his regenerations represents an entire lifetime to Mr the Valeyard rather than a paradoxical possession of the lives he's had once already.

To sum it up, then: Dr Who IS more than just another Time Lord: he's got all the knowledge of the Matrix; he's probably gained Enlightenment (several times over); his travels have boosted his Artron energy and made him sensitive to the timelines; he may actually be immortal and even if he isn't he seems to have had more lives than he's allowed.

But the MOST important thing is that Dr Who has been hanging around for ages with HUMANS, and good ones at that. They've clearly been a GOOD INFLUENCE on him too. Nowadays he is much less likely to drop a big rock on a wounded caveman's head and much more likely to use his faith in them to hold off Haemovore attack. Or to snog their brains out at any opportunity.


Jennie said...

Just because you just won an award is no reason to post huge long Doctor Who posts in celebration, you know. You're interrupting my viewing of Pyramids of Mars!

Pink Dog said...

Being on Earth doesn't just mean spending lots of time with humans. Elephants and dogs are here too...

Brandon said...

I can think of another power-up, even though it looked like a power-down at the time: when Mr Dr Jon returned from watching the Queen Spider of Metebelis III destroy herself with a surfeit of crystal energy, and himself about to regenerate from it. How much of it stayed with him?

(The same question can be asked with respect to Mr Dr Christopher's regeneration due to vortex energy.)