With Series 8 on its way in a month and a half (August 23 is the debut date), the BBC has been releasing teasers and such to get the fanbase into a frenzy about finally meeting Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. Yes, it’s very exciting, but you know what’s even more interesting to me? Doctor Who: Engines of War, set to release in the UK on July 31, and in the US in September. It’s a novel starring the War Doctor and set during the Last Great Time War.
Why is this novel so interesting to me? Because we’ll finally get to see what the War Doctor was really like. Yes, we saw him in “The Day of the Doctor,” but frankly, his characterization was rather disappointing. Now, don’t get me wrong: I love “The Day of the Doctor” (I’ve seen it over 20 times, and will watch it any time anyone wants to pop it in the blu-ray player), I loved the War Doctor, and John Hurt gave a fantastic performance. However, there are a lot of things wrong with the episode; it just so happens that they still all come together to make a fun ride. In my opinion, one of the things that’s wrong is the characterization of the War Doctor.
Remember that the Doctor was given the ability to select who he would regenerate into, and he said, “I don’t suppose there’s a need for a doctor any more,” selecting a warrior instead. He then spent hundreds of years fighting the Time War (as evidenced by his aging from the face we see at the end of “The Night of the Doctor” until what we see in “The Day of the Doctor”), during which he led the Time Lord forces. Where was all that in his personality? He was very polite, not something I imagined he would be, but on the other hand, the Doctor is rarely what you’d expect, so I can excuse that a bit. He didn’t carry a weapon (he had to ask a soldier to lend him a gun so he could write his message on the wall), and his TARDIS wasn’t fitted with weaponry, so it’s hard to imagine how exactly he fought in the war. (I’m not even sure how the TARDIS survived at all. Millions of Battle TARDISes were created and destroyed during the war; you’d think a thousand-years-out-of-date Type 40 wouldn’t stand a chance.) It just seemed to me that his characterization was a poor fit for what he was created to do and what he had done.
Thus, I’m very interested in seeing the War Doctor in the environment that he lived in for hundreds of years, in a brutal war that devastated thousands of planets and massacred trillions of people. This novel is supposed to be a war story, and I hope it lives up to that genre. One thing I’m also interested in seeing is what the novel calls him. Despite what name the Moment said was in his head, the Doctor rejected his name during that incarnation. Near the end of the war, the Time Lords referred to him as “the Renegade,” but I can’t find any reference to what he called himself (or how people referred to him) before that. It’ll be disappointing if they call him the Doctor throughout.