Friday, 31 January 2014

Doctor Who: What's in a name?

This week, I finally got the chance to catch up with everyone's favourite time traveling problem solver. No, I'm not talking about Inspector Spacetime. I'm talking about The Doctor.

When I say catch up, I mean I binge watched the entire series on Netflix. From Eccleston to Tennant to Smith and now to Capaldi. I'm only talking about the 2005 revival of the show. 

A few things have struck me about the show and some of the ramifications of the plot lines. I thought I'd share some of them with ya. Be warned, though; if you're not a Whovian, there are spoilers ahead!

Foremost among my observations deals with The Doctor's true name. In 50 years of the show being on the air, it has never been revealed. In fact, in this last season (or series as the Brits call it), it became a major plot point. They even went so far as to call one of the last three episodes "The Name of the Doctor". A lot of folks were convinced they were finally going to give us the name of our favourite Galifreyan. Alas, it was not meant to be. Nor will it be meant to be. Like, ever.

The real conundrum here is the fact that the name has remained hidden for 50 years. There is absolutely, positively no way you can ever reveal it now. Not only would it likely end up being a let down after five decades of build up but, more importantly, where would you go from there? It's the last great secret on the show. To reveal it would be to end all the intrigue and suspense and have nothing to follow it up with.

That's why this past season really surprised me that the show runners made it a central plot point. I understand that the show is called Doctor Who, so it's natural that you'd be asking yourself the same question. As a throw away, it's a cute line (sort of like "It's bigger on the inside"), but using it as a plot device simply hems you into a corner and ties your hands together. You can't reveal it, so why bother building up to it as though you can and will?

Which leads me to my next question. Who actually knows his true name? So far, on the show, the only character that has flat out said they know it is River Song. We thought we were going to see the scene where the Doctor tells her his true name on the day the two got married. Turns out he said something else to her entirely. I'm not saying there may not be some future episode where some incarnation of the Doctor tells River what his true name is, but I can't imagine the circumstance or the reason he would.

Who else might know? Well, what about the other Time Lords? They've shown the rulers of Galifrey on a few different episodes now. They even address him directly and yet they still call him The Doctor. Same with The Master. So what's the deal? Do Time Lords adopt some kind of nickname or moniker early in their lives then assume it as their identity, making everyone refer to them as such? If that's the case, what is the point of having birth names at all? And what would make them so earth-shatteringly important?

I'll be the first to admit I'm not well versed in Who lore. I caught the show on TVO when I was a kid whenever it was on (the Tom Baker era), but I remember very little of it. Some of these questions may have been dealt with during the Classic series. If so, I invite you to drop me a comment and set me straight.

I've got more Who to discuss, but I think I'll save it for next time.

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