TV As you can see, the cover of this month’s Doctor Who Magazine features a shot of David Tennant being shoved aside by David Morrissey, all Edwardian frock coat and enigmatic smile as a caption explains that he ‘is The Next Doctor!’. Inside, as you’d expect, there’s little in the way of an explanation as to how he can be the next Doctor and for once, the plot of the episode hasn’t been spoiled by a tabloid (yet). In other words, we don’t know exactly who this next/new Doctor is or how. Nevertheless, it's an amazing idea and I thought it was worth exploring in more detail than is probably necessary and with the impression that I can't tell what's real and what's fiction. Here then, are some fan rumours and a couple of my own ideas.
[I should say there might be some spoilers ahead for anyone who hasn’t read anything about the new special anywhere. So if you want to stay completely in the dark, look away now].
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps …
He’s a conman
Precedent: The One Doctor, a Big Finish audio in which a flimflam man played by Christopher Biggins was flying around the universe grabbing some of Colin Baker’s Doctor’s thunder.
Background: My first hunch, and something I saw immediately being talked about online when the opening of the episode was revealed in these excepts from Russell T Davies’s book The Writer’s Tale in The Times. It didn’t seem that unlikely given that the series isn’t averse to remaking/reimagining old spin-off stories (Dalek, Human Nature) and the habit it has of suggesting one thing in the title (The Doctor’s Daughter) and revealing that it’s something else entirely (cloned from biodata, not Susan’s mother).
Potential: None at all. Page five of DWM, Russell T Davies says: “The new Doctor is absolutely not a conman.” So that’s that.
Precedent: Minuet in Hell, another Big Finish audio starring Paul McGann.
Background: The premise of the Doctor’s story in the above is that his mental energy has been passed to a random human (played by voice of the Daleks Nick Briggs) who is then convinced that he’s human. Some of the regeneration energy at the close of The Stolen Earth (where you remember Tennant cheated the process by throwing the energy into his severed hand in a jar creating a human clone and spreading some of his essence into Donna as a result) could have seeped into someone in the population. Nothing to do with a fob watch, then.
Potential: Not bad. It’s not unknown for one character or story to be sparked by something which happened earlier. The only problem is that during these two minutes which appeared in Children in Need …
… a Tardis is mentioned so you’d have to wonder where that came from. That said, Morrissey also uses the word ‘alonse-y’ which is a very Tenth Doctor affectation and precisely the kind of thing which could be passed on through the above process and there’s a lot of story potential in seeing a man dealing with the responsibility of being the Doctor and is understanding of the universe.
He is the next Doctor or one after that
Precedent: Time Crash, The Two Doctors, The Three Doctors, The Five Doctors, The Eight Doctors (a novel) and range of audio adventures.
Background: It’s not unknown for different incarnations of the Doctor to bump into one another at a time of greatest need, so it’s conceivable that this is a future incarnation and quite like the idea of him actually being the Eleventh Doctor and we’re going to spend the next twelve months waiting for Tenth to regenerate into him – in other words – for once – the announcement as to who will be the next Doctor actually happens within the show. But that doesn’t explain this slip of the tongue …
I’ve a feeling, assuming this is a future version, that his exact number will be kept deliberately vague and I’ve always like the idea of there being a range of potential future incarnations that we can only imagine what they’re like (see also Merlin).
Potential: Pretty high. Though in the above clip, Morrissey doesn’t recognise him but the actor has said in an interview that he’s suffering from memory loss. In Radio Times last week, RTD hinted that “regeneration is a complicated process” which could be a reference to the post regenerative amnesia – could this Doctor have only just turned into David Morrissey?
He’s a past Doctor.
Precedent: In The Brain of Morbius, when the Doctor is battling the titular timelord using the power of his mind, he's apparently using the combined strength of his earlier incarnations and we see a bunch of faces that the production team inserted of themselves to suggest that the character has lived far longer than the four versions we’d seen on screen by that point. But I’m not talking about that.
Background: We didn’t ever see Paul McGann regenerate into Chris Eccleston and nothing on screen has confirmed that they were concurrent. What if somewhere in between, the Morrissey Doctor exists, the real ninth Doctor? If he has amnesia, this could be as a result because of the time war – in the novels, when the Eighth Doctor destroyed Gallifrey, he spent a century wondering around Earth not having a clue who he is.
Potential: Medium. It would be a fantastic twist, though judging by how the Ninth Doctor appears in the first season of nu-Who he’s still getting over the tragedy which destroyed his home world, it’s difficult to rationalise. Plus Tenth doesn’t recognise him, unless he too is afflicted by amnesia at some point.
He’s a version from an alternative reality.
Precedents: Unbound, a series of ‘What-If” style audio adventures from Big Finish
Background: The discussion of a multiverse in the franchise is vague at best. There have been stories featuring other realities – that’s where Rose and the human Doctor were left at the close of the last series and there have been others in the likes of Inferno and Turn Left (though the latter was a rewriting of new series history due to outside interference or more specifically someone interfering with Donna). But we’ve never met an alternative version of the Doctor, though some authors, notably current series script editor Gary Russell rationalised that the different versions which have appeared in various spin-offs all occur in different realities and so are different (Spiral Scratch). I think it’s all still one long story and unseen adventures fill in the gaps but I’m rambling. Anyway, either there’s one Gallifrey watching over the whole multiverse favouring the main Whoniverse like the Doctor favours Earth or each universe has its own Gallifrey and a potential Doctor and Morrissey is one of those – not necessarily evil, just one of those.
Potential: Good, especially since the Cybermen who appear on the episode are the ones from the alternative reality not ‘our’ Whoniverse.
He’s the real Doctor
Precedents: None that I can remember.
Background: Wild speculation here. What if, due to the time war, there have been two Doctor’s buzzing around the universe and the Morrissey edition is the real one and our Doctor, unknowingly, is the impostor? Of course it could be the other way around but it would certainly put a new spin on the Face of Boe’s suggestion that ‘You are not alone’.
Potential: Slim. After all, Ninth in Dalek says that he can sense that there aren’t any others, but if they’re the same man, perhaps their brainwave patterns are the same and he can’t tell that Morrissey is buzzing around for the same reason that he can’t feel the other versions of himself in time.
I think that’s about the right time to stop, don't you?