Doctor Who fans have grown comfortable over the years with referring to each successive incarnation of the Doctor by their numerical order, but current showrunner Steven Moffat threw a wrench into things with the introduction of the War Doctor who came between the Eighth and Ninth Doctors. The idea that the numbers for the following Doctors might have to change has caused an unexpected rift in the fandom, so Moffat has decided that we’re all wrong.
You are all wrong! He has never called himself the anything-th Doctor in the show.
If the Doctor was a real person and walked in here, and you said, ‘Which incarnation are you?’ he’d have to think, just as you’d have to think about how many houses you’ve lived in. He never thinks of himself as a numbered Doctor. The Twelfth Doctor means the twelfth actor to have played the lead in Doctor Who. That’s all it means. There is no such character as the Twelfth Doctor and never has been.
And that’s actually been demonstrated in recent conversations where Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor counted back his incarnations to tell Clara that he couldn’t regenerate anymore. Not only did he put some thought into the regeneration numbers, but he even referred to David Tennant’s Doctor as “ten,” saying, “Well, number ten once regenerated and kept the same face. I had vanity issues at the time.”
“Never” might be a strong word, but just because the Doctor can count—I should hope he can—and referred to one of his incarnations by number in that instance (and kind of did a few other times) doesn’t mean he actually generally thinks of his incarnations that way. While we’re at it, the Doctor said that right after he mentioned that John Hurt’s War Doctor didn’t call himself the Doctor. That suggests, though Smith’s Doctor is technically the twelfth different regeneration, that the Doctor himself wouldn’t count the War Doctor even if he did feel like numbering his faces and still thinks of Tennant as number ten.
Moffat says he doesn’t generally like to think of them by number, either, no matter how many not-so-subtle nods the last few seasons have made to the numbers eleven and twelve. Still, the 50th anniversary script needed some way to differentiate. He reportedly told SFX Magazine:
It’s a long time into the show before any such nonsense ever comes up. It’s purely us lot, us fans, wittering on about calling him the Third or the Fourth Doctor – which is actually quite an unpleasant thing to do. It doesn’t feel right at all when you type that. I had to do that for the [50th] special. It was the Tenth Doctor, the Eleventh Doctor, and it felt like a betrayal, in a way. But what else could you do?
So if the Doctor himself still references the pre-War Doctor numbering scheme and it’s the fans who actually make use of it, there’s really no reason to go around rearranging it. Before the show’s comeback in 2005, the writes referred to different Doctors by actor name, which is how I prefer to think of them. Moffat told SFX:
Out of curiosity I looked at what they did in [1983's 20th anniversary special] The Five Doctors. They didn’t number them at all. Do you know what they called them? The Hartnell Doctor, the Pertwee Doctor…
If you’ll excuse me, I have some Hurt Locker posters to photoshop with “The Hurt Doctor.”
(via Radio Times)
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