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The Darkest Path

Further speculation on the origins and destiny of the Valeyard, on screen and in print

By David Ronayne

'We cannot choose what we are - yet what are we but the sum of our choices?'
- Juvenal, Satires

In TSV 49 Peter Adamson wrote Time's Chump, detailing the direction Virgin Publishing has taken in developing the characters of the Sixth and Seventh Doctors. It also outlined how the New and Missing Adventures have handled some of the most controversial aspects of the later years of the television series, and incorporated them into their developing canon. However, taking the same evidence from both the books and the show it is possible to construct another theory into the fall and rise of the two Time Lords. Submitted for your approval, an alternative view of the relationship between Time's Champion and the Valeyard, no more accurate or valid than the previous one, but hopefully it will provide an effective counterpoint to the more obvious argument outlined previously.

It has to be admitted the character of the Sixth Doctor had many flaws. While the Fifth Doctor was widely noted for appearing vulnerable, the main personality trait of his successor was insecurity; the bombastic and aloof nature a bluff to cover this particular incarnation's self-doubt. He started traumatically - strangling Peri, the emotional swings; all possible signs of some form of regenerative failure (at least on a mental level) - and it was only after his first few adventures that he settled. Even then there was a rather morose, introspective aspect to his personality. Perhaps as a result of these problems early in his tenure he is more aware than any other previous Doctor of how fallible he can be.

Despite this the Doctor seems to have mellowed by the time that The Mysterious Planet takes place. This is the first period of 'lost time' for the Sixth Doctor, and sadly no Missing Adventures author has yet exploited it. His relationship with Peri has vastly improved, and emotionally he seems more stable. Unfortunately this period does not last long, as in Mindwarp the Doctor seems to suffer a relapse of the personality trauma that struck soon after his regeneration. It is interesting that the change was artificially induced in this story, and is comparable with the personality changes his second incarnation suffered in The Two Doctors. Immediately after this - or possibly perhaps as a result of it - he is confronted by the Valeyard, the twisted antithesis of what he really is, or at least what he believes himself to be.

One of the more controversial aspects of The Trial of a Time Lord was the very last scene where the Keeper of the Matrix turns to the camera and is revealed to be the Valeyard, smiling smugly to himself. This implies that the Doctor has not avoided his future as the Valeyard as he still exists at the close of the story. Perhaps the scene itself is not really surprising; from a dramatic viewpoint it would seem almost obligatory. Many would argue that this tends to throw a major spanner in the works; 'a continuity nightmare best avoided', according to one of the early Virgin writers' guides. Complex theories have been developed to explain all the paradoxes of the last story, (see articles by Jon Preddle in previous TSVs) but these problems, in hindsight, can be explained.

In the Virgin canon we have seen instances where the Doctor interacts with his past and future selves. As long as the Blinovich Limitation Effect is observed it is quite possible for anyone to cross their own timeline without assistance from the Time Lord High Council.

The mind-wipe apparently given at the end of the trial doesn't seem to have removed much at all. In both Killing Ground and Millennial Rites the Doctor seems to be quite aware of his trial, the Valeyard, the Vervoids, and Mel - he gives a clear description of her on page 276 of Time of Your Life, as a checklist of everything Grant Markham shouldn't be. These are memories of people and events from his future that you would expect to be removed, especially considering the efficiency of mind-wipes apparently used in other televised multiple Doctor stories. Could the mind-wipe somehow have been sabotaged and if so, by whom and why?

Why would the Valeyard tamper with his own history? The Virgin canon suggests that the Sixth Doctor was destined to become the Valeyard so why would the Valeyard try to have that particular Doctor killed off, especially when the Seventh Doctor claims he has prevented the Valeyard's emergence by doing exactly the same thing? The trial suggested if the Doctor was executed, somehow his forfeited regenerations would be assigned to the Valeyard. This makes no sense. The Valeyard cannot be a future persona of the Doctor if the Doctor dies, and with the Valeyard's links to the High Council, surely it would be easier to get a new regenerative cycle (as offered to the Master in The Five Doctors).

Another theory suggests that while the Valeyard was an amalgam of all the evil residing in the Doctor, he is only a potential incarnation. The 'reassignment' of regenerations would somehow allow him to come into definite existence. But again, this is at odds with Paul Cornell's theory that the Valeyard is the ultimate manifestation of the Doctor's sixth persona.

If the Valeyard was a future incarnation of the Doctor, the events of the trial should be a matter of history to him. Even considering the partial mind-wipe used on the Sixth Doctor in the Missing Adventures he seems able to remember enough about the event for his future self to realise the plot was doomed to failure. Even gaining the position of Keeper is by no means a victory for him as he already had full access to the Matrix. To have to go though the process of a trial to formalise the arrangement seems far too convoluted. Could he be after something else entirely?

The Doctor has beaten his future self, his greatest enemy (a little too easily perhaps?), but there has been a cost. Because of the faulty mind-wipe he tries to second guess his every move, hoping to prevent the future. As noted by Peter Adamson in TSV 49 the Missing Adventures presented the Sixth Doctor with a unique opportunity to explore new territory. Between The Trial of a Time Lord and Time and the Rani a whole series of potential adventures opened up. It is strange then that the stories that have been written for this period have tended to be quite introspective and moody, with the Doctor haunted by the ghost of the Valeyard.

Perhaps this isn't essentially a bad thing. It is his fear of the Valeyard that fortifies the Doctor's resolve in both Time of Your Life and Killing Ground, two stories that, by virtue of their content and circumstances, would have taxed any previous Doctor.

While claims of the Sixth Doctor's indecision and apparent lack of compassion are valid, it is worth noting that these are growing pains and that throughout these stories he is developing. Having seen the potential dangers of meddling, he is developing a growing awareness of the consequences of his continual interference. In addition, the Doctor is also continually battling his own self doubts and shadow-dancing with the Valeyard he creates in his own mind. The fact he has these doubts and that he is able to rise above them, keeping control of himself, if not always the situations, suggests that the post-trial Sixth Doctor may be more capable than many give him credit for. He is maturing, from petulant schoolboy to responsible adult, with the climax of Killing Ground showing this Doctor at his most heroic, spurned on in defiance of the future, refusing to give up and let go of the rope.

The ultimate representation of this newfound strength comes in Millennial Rites, chronologically Virgin's last Sixth Doctor story (there is evidence to suggest that the Vervoid story occurs, in some form, soon after). Again, under artificial inducement, the Doctor is forced to battle with the Valeyard for the control of his personality, however this time it is different. The Valeyard he faces in this story is the creation of his own mind; a creation of his own paranoia, a personification of all his self doubt about what he will become. Again this is a paradox. The Doctor creates the entity of the Valeyard in his own psyche as a result of meeting his future self at the trial.

However this is not the end. Millennial Rites finishes on an upbeat note. The Doctor overcomes his evil self, denouncing manipulation and Machiavellian meddling in the last line. Ultimately there is a feeling that the Doctor knows 'the distant recesses of his own mind. And the Valeyard was safely under lock and key.' So where did it all go wrong?

In Millennial Rites (p296-298), the Valeyard confronts the Sixth Doctor, warning him that there is a dark time ahead, that Time requires a champion, one that will not flinch or be reticent about sacrificing pawns to win the game. The Doctor says that he is learning to make the difficult decisions, but will not become corrupted. The Valeyard replies that this Doctor's indecision will be the death of him.

When comparing this to the argument in Head Games (p239-244), an eerie similarity can be noted. Again one of the protagonists is not truly real. The Sixth Doctor here is merely a construct of the Seventh Doctor's fears about his previous self, and may not be a true representation of how his former persona is developing while he rages behind the mental barriers that bind him. The argument also illustrates the justification the Seventh Doctor used to assassinate his previous incarnation.

Peter Adamson has already detailed the history of Paul Cornell's 'Time's Champion' motif in his article in TSV 49 so I will not repeat its development here, however it is worth noting how the Seventh Doctor's personality has changed to accommodate this role. The character has become much harder and more manipulative in achieving the 'justice' and 'duty' he mentions in Head Games and, without realising it, he is making the 'difficult decisions' mentioned by the Valeyard in the earlier novel. This is the Doctor who bides his time in the Land of Fiction by doing 'what, in a previous incarnation, he had been unable to face: he confronted Davros in his own control centre and shot him down dead' (Head Games, p238); betrays and manipulates his companions (almost every New Adventure, most notably Love and War); opens fire on Legion and claims it was time to face his own responsibilities (Lucifer Rising), condemns entire realities to death (Blood Heat and Conundrum), and rages alone at night, wanting 'to find them across time and space, and show them how small their meagre idea of horror was...' (Happy Endings p25), and crucify his most innocent self on the cross of his own insensitivity (Revelation).

It is also interesting that all the revelations the readers have been given about the Doctor becoming Time's Champion have come in 'dream sequences'. None of it is essentially real. As seen in several stories (Genesys for example), the Doctor can easily influence the minds of those around him. Could it be possible that his belief in his new-found responsibilities is a self delusion and can be picked up subconsciously by others?

I believe these contradictions can be put together to form a plausible theory. It has never been explicitly stated in any of the books, but then again nothing ever really has. I suspect that this may have been what both Craig Hinton and Steve Lyons may have been hinting at.

The Valeyard exists, just as Muldwych does in the New Adventures, the Merlin Doctor in the television canon, and the Party Animals Doctor in the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip. He is a fixed part of the Doctor's future, but he is also aware of the rather convoluted timeline that resulted in his creation. In order for the Valeyard to ensure his existence, he must make sure the Doctor follows the past he remembers, and one of the key factors in his development was the trial.

Knowing that his sixth persona is highly vulnerable, and how the Ravolox plot must end, the Valeyard contacts the High Council and convinces them to let him prosecute his former self. (I see no reason to believe that the council wasn't convinced by the cover story he gave). The trial commences as the Valeyard remembers and the Sixth Doctor 'wins' and escapes. The High Council is deposed, leaving the future Doctor free to act. As Keeper of the Matrix, he sabotages the mind-wipe so his sixth self remembers just enough to terrify him.

The Sixth Doctor, already insecure, now doubts himself, and his actions even more. Initially he fears there may be nothing he can do to prevent himself from becoming the Valeyard, and while he eventually regains his control and self confidence, these fears create two breakaway personalities in his subconscious. The first is the Valeyard he meets, and successfully contains, in Millennial Rites. The second is a reaction to this paranoia, a persona who believes that he must do right, and righting wrongs at whatever the cost. This is the entity that kills the Sixth Doctor, assumes his next body, and embarks on a crusade with a temporal mandate from heaven - 'for the good of time' - becoming more manipulative and Machiavellian as he progresses, and drawing on reserves and objects of power his previous selves may have feared to deal with. Power corrupts, usually insidiously. This is the entity that is far closer to the Valeyard persona than the Sixth Doctor was before his trial. This is the Seventh Doctor, self-styled Time's Champion, and he is following the path that leads to the creation of his antithesis.

This is why the Valeyard turns to the camera and smiles - he's got exactly what he wanted. This is how he ensures his own creation.

This is only a theory, but it is constructed from the same evidence as the one outlined previously. The only difference is how much we are willing to accept at face value, and how much of what we have been presented with in dream sequences and in the Seventh Doctor's rhetoric is true. Only Marc Platt's Lungbarrow seems to offer hope of a resolution by resolving the Time's Champion theme. However, given Platt's previous work, there may be no concrete solutions and the riddles may be left unsolved.

Personally I hope for a definite conclusion and ultimate reconciliation between the two battling Time Lords. I also hope that it is the Seventh Doctor who is in the wrong. The defence of the underdog against the strong, immoral and powerful has always been a cornerstone of the series. Virgin's authors have endowed their dark creation with powers and abilities at the expense of his former self. Maybe it's time to treat their victim as a hero rather than a martyr.

Only time will tell - she always does.

'Quis custodiet ipsos custodes.'
- Juvenal, Satires

This item appeared in TSV 50 (February 1997).

Index nodes: Trial of a Time Lord Parts 13-14, Millennial Rites, Killing Ground,