Since the Doctor first tottered onto television screens in 1963, the biggest question fans had about him is in the title. “Doctor who, exactly?” Keeping the Doctor’s origins shrouded in mystery was a big part of what made the character so intriguing. Who is this person? Why does he (and, now, she) gallivant around the universe helping people out of trouble? What is the Doctor running from? Well, the series 12 finale of Doctor Who finally gave us (part of) an answer to that question. It’s already been a big season for the millennia-old Time Lord. First, we met Ruth, who is the first black Doctor and a part of the character’s past even she doesn’t understand. Second, we see that Gallifrey is (again) destroyed and all of the Doctor’s people are dead. Finally, how and why is the Master still around?
When showrunner Chris Chibnall took over after Stephen Moffat stepped down, the series rebooted in a way. The entire run of series 11 featured new monsters and almost no references to the past history of Doctor Who. This, it seems, was by design. Chibnall and company wanted to make the show accessible to new viewers who aren’t aware of the 50-plus year history of the show. (And it worked, even my own mother became a fan!) In series 12, from the season premiere to the finale, we dove deep into the Doctor Who mythology again. We saw the Judoon, Captain Jack, and were teased about the origin of the Time Lords themselves.
There is no way to discuss the series 12 finale of Doctor Who without spoilers. So, if you’ve not seen the episode, bookmark this page and return when you have.
Image via Reddit
The Timeless Child Is the Most Obvious Person It Could Be
The key mystery of this season was the identity of the Timeless Child. Like the Silence, Bad Wolf, and the Confession Dial before it, it was the season-long question. Well, from the onset of the Doctor Who series 12 finale, we got answers. We are told a story about an explorer from Gallifrey who found a door to “another dimension.” There she found an abandoned child. Later, the child fell to her death in an accident…and then, she regenerated. Eventually the power of regeneration was artificially added to the DNA of the Gallifreyans who lived in the Citadel. (The big globed city we always seen in past Doctor Who episodes.) They became the Time Lords.
Things get a little muddy from here. Apparently, after growing up, the Doctor and the Master both were part of something called Division. Think of it as a Time Lord spy agency that interferes in the affairs of other planets. They would, routinely, erase the memories of their operatives. While this reveal alone shatters our conception of the Doctor Who mythos, the Master wasn’t done. Apparently, the Timeless Child has been the Doctor all along.
Image by Ben Blackall via the BBC
The memory manipulation angle is Chibnall’s way of trying to square the circle about what we already knew of the Doctor’s origins. It also explains a bit about why William Hartnell’s First Doctor stole that TARDIS in the first place. Big additions to the mythology like this are always controversial, but this one is perfect. It expands the story possibilities for the various Doctors (both known and unknown), while still leaving the Doctor’s true origin a mystery.
What the Big Reveal in the Series 12 Finale Means for the Future of Doctor Who
Image by Ben Blackall via the BBC
First, the revelation that the Doctor is the Timeless Child is great for the franchise. This means that she has both countless future regenerations and a whole epoch of stories from before the “First” Doctor. There is still plenty of mystery for fans to chew over and analyze. Where did the Doctor come from originally? Why was all this hidden from her? Like all good story reveals, it begs more questions than it answers. However, it does allow storytellers to delve into Doctor Who history much in the way that Star Wars introduced the High Republic era. Think of a Torchwood-like spin-off but about Division, the spy agency of the Time Lords. The possibilities are, literally, endless.
Second, what will this do the Doctor’s character? The speech Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor gives to Sacha Dhawan’s Master is probably the best writing Chibnall’s done yet for the series. Instead of breaking her, this revelation gave her back something she didn’t even know she’d lost. This gives the Doctor something else to brood about (and atone for?) since the 50th anniversary special retconned the idea that the Doctor committed double-genocide to end the Time War. Again, like all good story reveals, this creates a whole new series of problems for the character to overcome.
Yet, that’s not all that happened in the episode that has far-reaching consequences for Doctor Who and its mythology.
What’s Next for Gallifrey, the Master, and the Cyber-Time-Lords?
Image by Ben Blackall via the BBC
There are a lot of threads left hanging after the Doctor Who series 12 finale, so it’s good that Whittaker and Chibnall are staying on for another year. The conflict on Gallifrey ended with Ian McElhinney’s General detonating a bomb that contained the “Death particle.” This sci-fi magic can kill all organic life for good. This means that the Master, his Cyber-Time-Lords, and all of Gallifrey are permanently dead, right? Probably not. Whether it happens next season or via a future iteration of the Doctor, Gallifrey must again be saved. Both the Master and Cyber-Time-Lords are too good of villains to stay dead for long. (My money is on Gallifrey being set right on or around the 60th anniversary special just three short years away.)
Of course, before the Doctor can fix those problems, she has to escape from a Judoon prison. At the end of the series 12 finale, the Judoon broke all the rules of Doctor Who and somehow materialized inside the TARDIS. They captured the Doctor and sentenced her to life in their prison. We won’t know how she gets out until the holiday special (it’s still uncertain if it will be Christmas or New Year’s) airs. In fact, since the title is “Revolution of the Daleks,” she’ll probably not escape but be released to fight the classic monsters. We’ve not seen a multi-Dalek episode since series 10’s premiere “The Pilot.”
What did you think of the series 12 finale of Doctor Who? Are you pleased with the Timeless Child revelation? Share your own theories, thoughts, and reviews in the comments below.
Featured image via BBC
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.