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Who is that Scarfed Man?

By Alden Bates

Exactly who is the Doctor? This is a question which has bugged fans since Silver Nemesis, but it goes further than that, for in the beginning, we didn't know anything at all about the mysterious being known as the Doctor.

The first things we knew about the Doctor were that he was an old man, wandering time and space in a police box called the TARDIS. Then, in 1966, he regenerated, followed in 1969 by the appearance of the Time Lords who banished him to Earth. By the Fifth Doctor's era, Time Lord culture turned out to be based on Gallifrey and the past Time Lords Rassilon and Omega were known of. The Master was suspected to be the Doctor's brother and people didn't know what to make of Susan, the Doctor's first companion.

Then, come 1988, Andrew Cartmel decided to put some of the mystery back into Doctor Who. Suddenly we get hints that the Doctor is a powerful long-lived being who fights immensely powerful beings from the Dawn of Time. So now we establish that the Doctor isn't a Time Lord or, at least, he only has the appearance of one, the Master probably isn't his brother and we still don't know what to think about Susan.

What about these powerful beings that the Doctor fights? The first could be the Toymaker who popped up in the sixties. The novelisation of The Celestial Toymaker states that he and the Doctor had clashed before and that the Toymaker is only one of a small race of toymakers. Then, more recently, there has been Fenric and the Gods of Ragnarok. In fact, considering the powerful beings the Doctor had been dealing with recently (Light included) you'd think that the Master would be a push over.

The Doctor himself is an odd figure. Up until around about Remembrance of the Daleks and Silver Nemesis there was no hint of him being any different either physically or in his mental capabilities to other Time Lords. Then he is suddenly a powerful figure who has fought evil for eons. There are several explanations: The Doctor has been powerful all along but hasn't actually told anyone or hasn't been aware of them; he gained his powers during his regeneration or sometime since; or he is suffering from delusions.

My opinion is that one of the first explanations is true. The delusion theory would not work because the Doctor seemed fully capable of defeating Fenric which should not be possible if his powers were delusion based. Gaining his powers during regeneration would make sense, but how could he trap Fenric all those years ago, or know about the Gods of Ragnorok if he gained the powers then?

Leaving me with the first explanation: he had them but didn't know/didn't tell anyone. The lack of knowledge theory seems more likely, as to know about his powers and not use them seems odd for a person who fights evil as diligently as the Doctor does.

Jon Preddle's theory on this matter involves the Hand of Omega erasing parts of the Doctor's memory when he leaves it before 100,000 BC (alias An Unearthly Child) and restoring them come Remembrance of the Daleks.

What about the powers themselves? It is hinted in Remembrance that the Doctor was around in the days of Rassilon, making him rather older than his previously stated age of 953. Then later it is suggested that he has been around since the Dawn of Time. The Big Bang? Remember that in the Doctor Who universe, the Big Bang was created by the Terminus craft from a universe before our own, so the Doctor may come from the previous universe; have been created during the Big Bang; or had existed since the 'first' universe, if one existed.

I prefer the idea that the Doctor, Fenric and co are all leftovers from the (or a) previous universe. Perhaps one of them engineered the Terminus disaster? A distinct possibility.

Regarding the other theories, the 'first' universe would have existed an untold amount of time ago, and I don't believe that anything could last that long. It is intriguing though that the Doctor and his enemies may have fought for control of whole universes throughout time. Perhaps when one not of their number such as the Master manages to conquer a universe, they become elevated to immortal status, and for an immortal to conquer one means advancing their powers.

Creation during the Big Bang is possible, but I would rather think that the Doctor is the product of billions of years of evolution as in the first explanation.

Scene excerpt cut from Rona Munro's script for Survival Part Three:

The Master: Who are you? What are you?
The Doctor: We were at university together, remember?
The Master: You're not a Time Lord.
(The Doctor winces, he doesn't want to get into this)
The Doctor: Well, strictly speaking... that is to say... well, not just a Time Lord. We all have to evolve a bit as the years go by. Evolve or become extinct.
The Master: What are you?
The Doctor: Shall we just say I'm multi-talented?

(source: DWM 160).

What of the nature of these super beings? The Toymaker seemed to be merely immortal, with an eternal body, whereas Fenric seemed to need to occupy the bodies of others. The Doctor, judging by the original ending to Survival and the fact that he appears to be a Time Lord, seems to need to 'evolve' to survive. Perhaps he is a member of the same race as Fenric, and Fenric can evolve also, but it suited him to use the bodies of others as his evolution process might take too long before he could battle the Doctor again.

Looking at the flask in The Curse of Fenric, perhaps it is some sort of hibernation chamber for the Doctor's race when their powers run down. The myth of the genie in the bottle can be pointed out to have direct parallels. The Doctor, then, has brought artifacts with him. The First Doctor's ring is perhaps one?

In the end we are only left with speculation as to who the Doctor and the immortals from the Dawn of Time are. If the series ever returns, we may find out, or the production team may choose to continue the mystery. Either way we would have back a wonderful programme which has been missing from our screens for too long.

This item appeared in TSV 37 (January 1994).