Working the numbers

With “The Day of the Doctor” come and gone, the next argument that has come up is, how are the Doctors supposed to be numbered. Of course, in the show, the Doctors don’t call themselves “the Tenth Doctor” or “the Eleventh Doctor.” They just say, “I’m the Doctor.” But for us fans, we have given them numbered names so that we can tell them apart. It’s a lot easier to say “the Ninth Doctor” or “Nine” than to say “Eccleston’s Doctor.” Typing, too – for some reason, I mess up typing “Eccleston” all the time. We’ve been calling the Doctors by their numbers for years, and we’ve always meant the incarnation number, but the War Doctor has thrown a screwdriver into the system.

Thus the argument: Do the numbers by which we refer to the Doctors need to be changed to reflect the War Doctor being the ninth incarnation, making Mr. Eccleston the Tenth Doctor, Mr. Tennant the Eleventh Doctor, and Mr. Smith the Twelfth Doctor?

We’ve worked this all out, with help from series producer and writer Steven Moffat, and this is how it works. While discussing this, we came upon an interesting revelation, which I’ll reveal below. Remember, you heard it hear first! (Not really. I’m sure this has already been suggested elsewhere on the internet. Nothing on the web is truly original.)

The information I’m basing the numbering on comes from the following two articles, quoting Steven Moffat.

You can read the articles, so I won’t quote them here, but I will summarize them.

  • The numbers we use to refer to the Doctor’s incarnations refer to the different bodies of the man called the Doctor. The War Doctor did not consider himself the Doctor and thus does not count in the numbering system. Mr. Eccleston, Mr. Tennant, and Mr. Smith remain the Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Doctors, respectively.
  • John Hurt’s Doctor is called the War Doctor.
  • The Doctor has used up all twelve of his regenerations, because in “The Stolen Earth,” a Dalek shot the Tenth Doctor, causing a regeneration that was diverted into his severed hand and later created the Meta-Crisis Tenth Doctor. The MCTD is the same body as the Tenth Doctor, so Mr. Smith’s number is still Eleven, but the regeneration that created Eleven was the twelfth and final one.
  • How the Doctor is going to regenerate a thirteenth time into Mr. Capaldi is yet to be seen.

Honestly, it’s a good thing the numbering system didn’t change. Can you imagine the amount of work it would take to retroactively change all of the references on the web to the right ones? And just in conversation between people who want to change and people wanting to keep to the old system, it would be a mess. Personally, I prefer the old system, if only because I think ten, being a happy number, suits Mr. Tennant, while Mr. Smith’s Doctor gets a nice, odd, prime number. Ah, recreational mathematics!

The interesting thing we found, though, is the actual numbering of the regenerations. Here they all are, listed by actor.

  1. William Hartnell
  2. Patrick Troughton
  3. Jon Pertwee
  4. Tom Baker
  5. Peter Davison
  6. Colin Baker
  7. Sylvester McCoy
  8. Paul McGann
  9. John Hurt (the War Doctor)
  10. Christopher Eccleston
  11. David Tennant
  12. David Tennant (the Meta-Crisis Tenth Doctor)
  13. Matt Smith

Now, we visit a bit of history, specifically, from The Trial of a Time Lord, the season 23 story of the Sixth Doctor on trial. In it, the prosecutor is the Valeyard, and near the end of the story, the Master reveals to the Doctor who the Valeyard is.

“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.”

This would mean the Valeyard is either the Meta-Crisis Tenth Doctor or something born out of him. This could make sense. As the Tenth Doctor said to him, “You were born in battle, full of blood and anger and revenge,” which could be the darker sides of his nature that the Master mentioned. The Tenth Doctor sent the MCTD with Rose because he hoped that she could heal him, but if she couldn’t, he could easily become worse and try to get revenge on the Doctor and steal his regenerations so that he could live. It’s also known that there was a scene that was filmed but not used in which the Tenth Doctor gave the MCTD a piece of TARDIS coral so he could create his own TARDIS, and Donna told him how to speed up the process so that he’d have one within his lifetime. (Russell T. Davies has said that it should be assumed that this scene happened, even though it didn’t make it into the show.) Couple that with the Time Lords eventually coming back (if the Twelfth Doctor can find and release Gallifrey), which will allow travel between universes again, and the MCTD could travel across and head back to the Sixth Doctor for the trial.

There are two problems with this theory. First, why does the Valeyard not look like the MCTD? I’m sure there’s some Time Lord thing that can explain this, but barring that, there’s plastic surgery. Not too big a problem. The second problem is, if the trial has already happened, the MCTD already knows that he failed, so why would he go back? The only possible answer is that he’s trying to change his own timeline, which I suppose was the whole point of the Valeyard all along; after all, if he succeeded in taking the Sixth Doctor’s remaining regenerations, the Doctor would have never made it to the twelfth incarnation to create the Valeyard. Which means the Valeyard never existed and the Sixth Doctor still has his regenerations. But then the Valeyard appears after the twelfth incarnation and… Ow, my head! Must… continue… trying… to think… non-linearly… and… non-subjectively!

I’m not really sure how seriously I’m taking this theory (it probably is incorrect, because Mr. Moffat has said that he doesn’t want to mess with the ending of Rose’s story, which is why Billie Piper played the Moment and not Rose in “The Day of the Doctor”), but it’s fun to think about. I especially like the idea of Mr. Tennant returning to Doctor Who in a few years to play the Valeyard. But mostly, I love learning about the vast history of this show and thinking about how it all interconnects.