Doctor Who Season 7 Finale Theories
Original Post Date: 5/18/13 (well, technically the 19th since it was after midnight)
Attention, Whovians! It’s time to discuss the cliffhanger we were all left with a couple of months ago. I originally posted a rambly word vomit about my ideas immediately following the finale itself, but now that some time has passed, I decided to spruce it up a bit and post it here on my pretty blog.
And for those of you that haven’t completely caught up on Doctor Who yet, consider this your formal warning:
Let’s cut to the chase: I think the man seen at the end of the season 7 finale is the Valeyard.
A few months ago I decided to familiarize myself, at least briefly, on the other Doctors prior to 9. While I found them all interesting in their own ways, I was especially intrigued by what I read about 6. He was put on trial by the High Council of the Time Lords, but not for any real crime he’d committed; the trial was a cover-up.
For those of us that aren’t that familiar with the classic Doctor Who series, the Time Lords as a whole weren’t always the most noble people in the world. In fact, they were often doing some rather unsavory things, which the Doctor continually balked against. It was this sort of shady behavior that ultimately resulted in the Doctor destroying everyone during the Time War; according to The End of Time, Part 2, the Time Lords had planned to allow all of existence to be destroyed so that they could ascend to what would basically amount to gods.
With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that they’d also try to have the Doctor killed to keep him from uncovering their less than admirable behavior. According to Wikipedia, the Time Lords kept a computer system known as the Matrix. This system housed all of their collective information, and interfaced via simulated reality
just like another computer system that we’d see decades later. At some point (around 2,000,000 A.D. in our time), information was stolen from the Matrix by an alien race, and the thieves hid themselves on Earth to escape. The Time Lords retaliated by scorching Earth with a massive fireball to silence the information from spreading, then moved the planet through space and renamed it Ravalox to cover up their deed.
Unfortunately for them, the Doctor is a very curious and nosy sight-seer, and his 6th incarnation eventually happened upon ‘Ravalox’ with one of his companions. To prevent him from discovering what they had done, the Time Lords put the Doctor on trial in an effort to have him executed; the Valeyard was the prosecutor of the trial.
To those of you that have seen the season 7 finale, that name should sound familiar. The Great Intelligence mentions it in passing when talking about other names the Doctor earns throughout his lifetime. The Valeyard is said to be a physical concentration of all of the darkness and evil of the Doctor, supposedly appearing somewhere between his 12th and 13th forms. The immediate question one would ask upon hearing this is, of course, why would the Doctor act as his own prosecutor? If the Doctor were to be found guilty and executed, wouldn’t that destroy the Valeyard as well, since he’s a later version of the same man? Apparently not, because the Valeyard’s reward for victory was going to be all of the Doctor’s remaining regenerations. Somehow.
In any case, the Valeyard and the Doctor went at it repeatedly over the course of the trial. The Valeyard struck out with tampered evidence to make the Doctor look his absolute worst, and the Doctor fought back by, er, calling him names. The Valeyard’s identity as a late incarnation of the Doctor himself was eventually revealed in court, and in the end the two partake in an epic cyber-battle within the Matrix. The Valeyard was presumed to be destroyed, but he was also seen as the Keeper of the Matrix near the end, so his ultimate whereabouts are currently unknown.
However, this isn’t the end of the story. It’s clear that the Valeyard made a gigantic impact on the Doctor’s psyche. He sent himself into exile in an effort to prevent himself from becoming him, and there’s even an unconfirmed rumor that 7 is the one that kills 6, for the same reason. Just because the Valeyard is allegedly gone doesn’t mean he’s been forgotten.
In the finale of season 6, Dorium Maldovar gives the Doctor a warning that is now clearly a description of the end of season 7:
“On the fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the 11th, silence will fall when the question is asked.”
While this was rather cryptic at the time, there’s a lot that can be connected with what we’ve now seen. Trenzalore is where the season 7 finale takes place, and the Doctor’s grave can be described as, “the fall of the 11th,” as in the place where the 11th Doctor died (or would have if not for Clara) when his timeline was corrupted. … Or where he simply fell over, I suppose, which he does in fact do. There’s also a third way to see it, which I’ll get to a bit later, but it’s not based on any solid evidence at this time.
We also now know that the Question is what the Great Intelligence badgers the Doctor with to open the doors.
The mention of silence falling is the part that I find the most interesting, because I can see two clear ways in which it can be taken, and one doesn’t necessarily negate the other. On the surface, there’s the literal meaning of silence in response to the Question. The Doctor does, in fact, refuse to answer when the Great Intelligence demands his name, and the only person willing to say it (River Song) is a mental projection, which results in no one hearing her but the TARDIS.
However, there’s another, much more enigmatic way in which this sentence can be examined. In season 6, the religious order known as the Silence repeatedly clashes with the protagonists. It is stated that the purpose of the Silence is to prevent the Doctor from answering the Question; that is, their goal is the literal translation above. They want to ensure that nothing but silence can or will be the response to the Question. But suppose that their efforts failed, and the Question really did receive its answer? In that case, the Silence will have failed — or fallen, as it were. Silence will fall when the Question is asked, because the order of the Silence will have been defeated due to missing their deadline.
But why is it so important that the Question not be answered?
Madame Kovarian, the human representative of the Silence, told the Doctor at Demon’s Run that they were programming the infant Melody Pond to kill him because it would bring “hope in an endless war.” When asked who they were fighting, Kovarian replied that the Doctor himself was their aggressor; however, she never got more specific than that. Obviously, the Doctor wasn’t their enemy in that moment, and it was clear that he hadn’t been fighting them in the past since he was at least as confused as everyone else. This suggests that there’s something in his future that they’re trying to avoid, and apparently it hinges on the moment when the Question is asked.
It’s also worth mentioning that in the episode The God Complex, in which a hotel’s rooms each hold the deepest and darkest fears of a particular person, the Doctor did in fact find his room (which was marked “11,” no less), but we’re never shown what he sees. All we know is that there’s a noise that sounds very much like the TARDIS, and the Doctor smiles sadly and says, “Of course… Who else?” and then shuts the door.
As noted earlier, the Great Intelligence specifically points out that the Doctor will eventually be known as the Valeyard one day while listing some of his darker qualities. Steven Moffat, the main writer of the series, is known for dropping gigantic yet easily missable hints for future seasons well in advance, so the fact that the Valeyard gets mentioned is probably a huge red flag. Most fans of the current Doctor Who series aren’t thoroughly familiar with the classic series, so it’d be easy for most of the audience to overlook, and yet there it is in broad daylight.
Then, toward the end of the episode, Clara becomes trapped in the Doctor’s timeline. Just as he goes in to get her, they notice a figure standing nearby. The Doctor is visibly alarmed by the sight of this man, but Clara is confused. She says that she doesn’t recognize him despite the Doctor verifying point blank that this man is, in fact, another version of himself. Clara specifically notes that she’s seen all of the doctor’s past incarnations, but makes no mention of future ones; presumably, she’s only seen as much of the Doctor’s life as he has, and the Valeyard isn’t said to appear until sometime between 12 and 13.
This is when the Doctor reveals the crux of this whole situation, and tells us why it’s so important that his name remain a secret.
“I said he was me; I never said he was the Doctor. … My name, my real name… That’s not the point. The name I chose is the Doctor. The name you choose, it’s like… it’s like a promise you make. He’s the one that broke the promise. He is my secret.”
The man rasps that he did what he did “without choice” and “in the name of peace and sanity,” to which the Doctor hisses, “But not in the name of the Doctor.” Many say that this suggests this incarnation has something to do with the Time War, when the Doctor wiped out the Daleks and Time Lords in one fell swoop; after all, Clara discovered the Doctor’s real name in a book marked “History of the Time War” while lost in the TARDIS. Personally, I’m not convinced. The Doctor doesn’t really shy away from telling people that he destroyed them all, and the man is supposed to be the Doctor’s secret. If he’s the Valeyard, it can be argued that he acted at the behest of the Time Lord Council (“without choice”) to save their asses (“in the name of peace and sanity,” for the Time Lords at least).
What I think is important to note in the exchange is the Doctor’s reaction, both verbally and physically. He displays a mixture of anger and caution, and seems eager to get away from him. It begs the question of what this man must have done to evoke this sort of behavior. I don’t believe that the Doctor would’ve acted that way when facing the version of himself that ended the Time War, because 10 demonstrates in The End of Time, Part 2 that he still feels it was the right decision to this day. He feels it’s unfortunate that it came to that, but he doesn’t think it was wrong, as evidenced by the fact that he stopped the Time Lord Council from escaping the time lock. Oppositely, the Doctor has a long list of reasons to be hostile toward the Valeyard. Not only did that man lie and cheat in an effort to get him killed and cover up a massive injustice, but the Valeyard further hoped to steal 6’s remaining regenerations, kill the Time Lord Council, and then do who knows what once he was left to his own devices. That sounds much more worthy of a negative reaction.
Now, both theories as to this man’s identity present the same problem: They both appear in the Doctor’s past. If either one is true, why didn’t Clara recognize him? I don’t believe it’s implied that she saw every single moment of his past; rather, what we see is Clara having been sprinkled throughout the Doctor’s timeline like chocolate chips on a cookie. It’s not completely unreasonable to think that she simply may not have been around during 6’s trial or 8’s ending of the Time War, but it’s also not a completely satisfying answer, either.
Let’s say for the sake of argument that Clara had been around for these events. Clara reiterates for us that her purpose as the Impossible Girl is to save the Doctor, and we’re shown several clips of her following him and trying to get his attention. Her focus is pointed directly at the Doctor each time she’s reincarnated in his timeline. In my opinion, this negates the suggestion that the man we see at the end of the episode is a version of 8, because if she had been present for the events that ended the Time War, she would have been so focused on him that she likely would have remembered what he looked like. However, had she been present for 6’s trial, her focus would have been on 6 much more than it would’ve been on the Valeyard. Just because she could have seen him doesn’t mean she would’ve remembered him, as he wasn’t her priority.
Ultimately, we’re not going to know for sure who this man is until November 23rd, but the odds appear to favor the Valeyard in my opinion. This idea was only strengthened for me when BBC announced that Matt Smith is leaving the show, and the Doctor will regenerate into his 12th form at the end of this year. This is what I was referring to earlier when I said there was a third way to interpret, “the fall of the 11th.” We don’t yet know exactly when 11 will regenerate into 12; if that episode/special picks up immediately where the season 7 finale leaves off, then that would literally be 11’s fall.
Considering that the Valeyard appears somewhere between 12 and 13, and we know that 12 is right around the corner, it seems like the perfect storm is brewing for him to make his return to this series. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to be wearing a raincoat and galoshes at the end of November.
Doctor Who and all related wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff is © BBC. The theories presented here are my own, originally posted right after the season 7 finale and later moved here after giving it some polish.