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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The 10th Doctor's Mistake

Alright, here we are- floating in the void between Doctors. Now, before we get to Patrick Troughton and his Second Doctor, I’m going to kick-start one more new tradition for this blog.

I’m fairly well-versed in the New Series of Doctor Who, having seen every episode, and most multiple times. But that, of course, is not what this blog is about- I’ve chosen to focus on Old Who… and after all, if you wanted New Who reviews, the internet is full to brimming with them.

However, every time we see a new Doctor appear, following a retrospective on that Doctor’s time, I think we’ll enter a brief New Series diversion before diving back in with the next Doctor’s era.

This first time, I’m going to talk about David Tennant’s 10th Doctor… and my unifying theory of the Whoniverse that suggests that everything bad that happened to him, he did to himself… with one single action on the day he was born.

I’ve spoken and posted on this topic often enough, I figure I may as well blog about it, get it down somewhere permanent. :-)

So, what one action could be responsible for his every woe- from the Loss of Rose to his death and regeneration? What single choice could have such catastrophic consequences that it would crush his youthful enthusiasm into the malaise of depression, self-pity, and arrogance that eventually led to his downfall? How could he pre-destin his death on the day of his birth?

Six little words: “Don’t you think she looks tired?”

That’s it. The spiteful toppling of Harriet Jones on Christmas day. Now, before we get into the why of Tennant’s woes, let’s take a look at the ‘why’ of ‘why was it wrong?’

When Harriet Jones is first encountered by the Ninth Doctor, he calls her brilliant. Says he likes her. She’s an unassuming woman who just wants to do what’s best for the people. And eventually, she’s revealed to be the architect of Britain’s Golden Age.

What changes?

She destroys a retreating Sycorax spacecraft with a ground-based energy weapon to send a message to the rest of the alien marauders not to mess with Earth. 10 is piqued, and declares he’ll end her reign.

First off… was this wrong of Harriet? Well, yes and no, by my reckoning.

Destroying a fleeing enemy, a retreating opponent? Not right. Very dishonorable.
However- the Sycorax were the aggressors, bent on Earth conquest. They had already committed murder. And yes, they had been turned away by the Doctor after he defeated their leader in single combat, ordered never to return, and to spread the message that Earth is protected.

However, the Sycorax leader had already demonstrated duplicity, and a lack of following through on his word, trying to stab the Doctor in the back after being defeated in single combat. The likelihood of the Sycorax double-crossing Earth and returning in force was high. And Harriet Jones, as an elected representative of the people (a distinction 9 loved because it freed him to act without accepting the moral consequences… but which 10 apparently ignored as her right once it became inconvenient to him), was tasked with making the choice for those people that she believed best defended Earth.

So, that brings us to Reason #1 why it was wrong of Tennant to dethrone her: He had no right. She was an elected official acting on behalf of the people, doing what she thought was best, just as she’d always done. This time, he just happened to disagree with what was best. He didn’t consult her on his defense of Earth- nor did she consult him on hers. She attacked an enemy with a high degree of duplicity already demonstrated, and with an ability to easily attack and ravage the Earth, were the Doctor not around. Agree with her choice or not, he had no right to remove her from power because he disagreed.

And that brings us to the second question in determining “Was this (the destruction of the Sycorax) wrong?” – Harriet’s reasoning; the Doctor is not always around to defend Earth, and a message needed to be sent. Was this right or wrong?

Well, first off- like shooting a retreating enemy, killing to prove a point is never right. (Again, I abrogate this with the fact that these were enemy combatants who had demonstrated a propensity for attacking after they were supposedly surrendered.)

Was Harriet right, though? Yes! While it previously seemed as if the Doctor was Earth’s continual savior, concurrent spinoffs Torchwood and the Sarah Jane Adventures have shown us that the Earth is indeed often threatened, several times with Earth-destroying menaces, in the Doctor’s absence. He is not always around to protect us- in this, Harriet is absolutely correct!

On the other hand, she sent her message… and aliens still came. Less than might have otherwise? Perhaps. But we’ll never know.
This one, I’m calling a draw.

So, to wrap up, here’s Reason #2- unrelated- that the Doctor’s actions were wrong.
His moral outrage and fit of pique cost Britain its entire Golden Age. Just who the heck does he think he is- redirecting an entire civilization from a period of unparalleled prosperity simply because he’s angry at a single person? This is inexcusable, even if the people of Britain will never know what it cost them. But it will cost the Doctor something as well…

So, back to the thesis of this episode. How did the Doctor cause all of his own woes through this?

Well, to understand that, I first need to clarify something in temporal mechanics 101. Remember that, to a time traveler, time is subjective. If you go to 2010, then come back to 2005, and change history, 2010 will now be different. But you, as a time traveler, will remember 2010 as it was when you visited it, even though that 2010 no longer exists, and if you visit it again, it will be a new, different 2010 that came from the new, different 2005 that you altered. You visited it before you changed the timeline, so you remember it the way that it was- but now it will only exist that way in your memory.

Got it?


Okay, so here’s my postulation. The Doctor clearly changed time in The Christmas Invasion, altering the timeline to preclude Harriet Jones’ multiple terms, and erasing Britain’s Golden age. This means that the timeline shifted. Season 1- the 9th Doctor years- are Timeline A- the future as it would have occurred. But everything in Season 2-onwards exists in timeline B… 2006-forwards have now been re-written. They are a new timeline without Harriet Jones’ Prime Minister-hood.

So, what’s different in Timeline B?


Here’s my central conceit- Harriet Jones would have kept control of Torchwood. She clearly had control of them in the Christmas Invasion!

And if Harriet did keep control of Torchwood, what would have happened? First off, no Army of Ghosts. With those experiments put a stop to… no Cybermen. The Cult of Skarro would have also remained in the void. No Daleks. No Cybermen. No loss of Rose. Martha Jones would never have become a companion. Donna Noble would have been a one-time companion. No Daleks in Manhattan. No Dalek rescuing Davros. No Stolen Earth. No Victory of the Daleks. No Cyberking. And that’s not all…

No Mister Saxxon, because there was no power void for the Master to fill. Likely, the trip to the future would still have occurred, but the Master would have arrived back in an entirely different manner- never becoming Prime Minister. Entirely likely that there would be no Year-that-never-was (redundantly). No Master-cult created while he was Saxxon. Thus, no resurrection, no Vivoci/Master/Time Lord endgame. Maybe even no encounter with Wilf. And thus… no regeneration into Matt Smith.

So, in short, the Doctor unleashed the Daleks and Cybermen onto the universe anew, lost Rose, and gave the Master a position of power from which to launch the schemes that ultimately caused both of their deaths. (Apparently.)

Now, I call this a pretty compelling and ironclad scenario…But, you ask, where’s my proof?


In this Season One episode- taking place in 2012- no one had ever heard of Daleks or knew what they were, despite their multiple invasions. But remember, this was the 2012 of Timeline A, witnessed subjectively BEFORE changing the timeline in the Christmas Invasion. This implies that no Daleks were ever witnessed by Earth in the 2000s… and since all Daleks in Tennant’s era date back to the Cult of Skarro, it’s clear that they were never released in that time period, because Harriet Jones kept Torchwood under control. (It’s also supported by logic, that a period labeled a ‘Golden Age’ would probably not have multiple genocidal invasions in it.)

More than likely, with Harriet ousted and timeline B in place, if the Doctor revisited 2012 (or gets there on his own, eventually) the events with Van Staten would not occur- or at least not in the same way- as everyone would know about Daleks.

Originally, I noted that there might be one ‘crack’ in my proof, relating to Matt Smith's first year...
However, everything we have come to understand about the Big Bang 2.0 and the cracks in the Universe suggest that the effects were not retroactive to the series to this point- and that Van Staten and the results of Dalek were NOT due to the cracks in the universe- everything we were seeing was, in essence, Universe 1.0 during that time. And while we still don't know if Universe 2.0 is lacking the Cyberking, Dalek Invasions, etc. and everything that Amy didn't remember... Universe 1.0 clearly did. So, no Cracks scapegoat to explain a Dalek-less 2012 (and indeed, unless the events of Waters of mars were also greatly altered, it appears that future memories of the Dalek invasions are fairly crucial to the future, so one can assume that they were, indeed, restored.) As I noted in the previous draft of this article, one would think that the Universe 2.0 would have major gaps if it only contained things Amy knew about.

Either way, cracks or no, regardless of the events in Dalek, I stand by my theory and reasoning- the Tenth Doctor made the WRONG choice, and all of his suffering was because of it. Themeatically, this is appropriate to the themes of the melancholoy, legacy-tarnishing, major-mistake Gap Year... the Tenth Doctor's arrogance and self-righteousness ultimately proving to be his undoing... with the thematic groundwork laid for his eventual fall in his very first adventure. (Note from Sarah: I think you have a sound argument...but unfortunately most people, since he is 10, hold him beyond reproach. I am afraid your argument will fall on a lot of deaf eyes. :-D)

That’s my thesis. 

And now, after that self-indulgence… back to Classic Who with Patrick Troughton and the Second Doctor! 


  1. "(Note from Sarah: I think you have a sound argument...but unfortunately most people, since he is 10, hold him beyond reproach. I am afraid your argument will fall on a lot of deaf eyes. :-D)"

    How fitting for you to finish this post with this condescending comment.

    What the 10th Doctor did was what the Doctor does all the time: stand up against aggressors. You're basically rationalizing that committing genocide (and on a fleeing enemy too) is acceptable and that taking away the power of the perpetrator of genocide is wrong.

    This observer would say you got your morals all backwards.

  2. Hey! Sarah here, you raise a good point that perhaps I shouldn't have ended the post with that was semi-joking semi-serious but either way it probably wasn't the best way to 'end' the post, you are right.
    I am still a fan of 10 but do think personally think that people can see him as the "one who does no wrong" just because he IS so popular. That said I am entitled to my opinion just as much as you are entitled to yours. I can't speak for my husband's opinion but I am sure he will be commenting later. Either way thank you so much for reading this and for taking the time to leave a comment. :)

  3. Hah! Had to come back and add something, this is Sarah again. I think for me personally I've always just had more of the problem with the Doctor cheating everyone out of their "golden age" like...just because Harriet Jones might have made a bad choice...doesn't mean the Doctor had the right to afterwards take away a 'golden age' of peace from the people, like that to me DOESN'T seem like the Doctor because all he got out of it was satisfaction that Harriet would get sacked...does that make sense? I think that's my main problem with the whole thing, it would have been different if what the Doctor said had made everything 'alright" again or had had something more to do with things than just 'getting back" at Harriet for what she did, but to me it really just seemed like he had no reason to say that and cause Harriet's downfall other than that he was mad at her, and to let his emotions so get in the way of other people's good and to get in the way of years of peace just seems more human than Timelord.

  4. I am sorry that you feel that way, Anonymous. Our intent was not to be condescending- rather to lay out a solid and well-supported case on why the Doctor's actions were no more right than Harriet's, petty, spiteful, and potentially, the cause of all his griefs... as I think the evidence laid out in the post speaks for itself. I will try not to reiterate my entire post here.

    I would simply note that, firstly, what occurred was not genocide. This was a single Sycorax raiding ship, not the Sycorax culture. Genocide is "the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group." What Noah did in The Ark in Space? That was genocide. What the Tenth Doctor did in the Runaway Bride? That was genocide. What the Doctor did to end the Time War...? That was DOUBLE genocide (perhaps averted by the fact that he, essentially, left HIMSELF as a survivor, thus not COMPLETELY wiping out the Time Lords). The destruction of this Sycorax spacecraft, however, was no more genocide than the sinking of a naval vessel in WWII constituted the genocide of the German, Japanese, or American peoples. And even so, it seems that the Doctor certainly has no moral high ground to strike from- why has no one proposed confiscating his TARDIS for his own 'acts of genocide', which have already cost billions more people- his own people- than Harriet's? If his actions were in any way justifiable, then one must ask about hers being equally explicable...(see comment below for continuation)

  5. And I do admit, as in the post, that destroying a fleeing enemy is not exactly the most ethical of actions (though I also temper that with the fact that the Sycorax have already proved treacherous and deceitful, feigning defeat and then attacking when the enemy's defenses are down). Regardless, Harriet Jones made a choice to defend the Earth aggressively against alien invaders by taking life- something that the Doctor was GLAD for her too do, which was, as she pointed out, her RIGHT as the elected representative of the people- in World War Three. When it was what he wanted to do, he was glad of her actions because it freed his hands from a difficult moral choice. When he doesn't agree, suddenly the Doctor decides that she doesn't have that right, that he is authority and judge over her (when in World War Three he was just the opposite), and he decides, most crucially, that he has the right, on his own behalf, to deprive history and the entire populace of Britain of their golden age... because he disagreed with a single decision of a leader to defend her people with military force (and justified by reasoning of the Doctor's common absence during invasions that the Torchwood and Sarah Jane series ironically prove right.)

    Does this mean that I endorse Harriet's actions 100%? No. Does it mean I'd do the same thing in her place? Probably not. Was it genocide? No. Did the Doctor have the right to do what he did to the entire nation because he was personally irked at a single person? Heck no- he was playing god- a common theme of the Tenth Doctor- and acting presumptuously on personal bias... which, as this post posits, cost him in the end. He decided suddenly that the decision of what was right and wrong that he submitted to as being higher than him when it was CONVENIENT was now suddenly his to define, arbitrate, and punish as he saw fit. And that, I believe, was a grave error in judgment- for himself, for Rose, for everyone that suffered from the chain reaction resulting from his decision, and for Britain, deprived of its golden age. That doesn't mean that Harriet Jones' decision was above censure... but this costly, presumptuous, arrogant, self-righteous censure of the Doctor's was not the right answer... and frankly, begs the question "Who does he think he is to decide to remove this glorious golden age future on behalf of the entire nation?" That's my problem- and I think, or at least I hope, that this post makes my case for that clearly.

    I am sorry for any offense my perceived points, or a perceived condescending ending, may have caused- no such offense is intended.

  6. Very interesting read glad I stumbled across it, however two questions, is it possible that, A Britains Golden age already happened, as we have no idea how long it is, and B Things could have been WORSE due to Ms. Jone's trigger happy attitude? That she would have pushed torchwood to new heights in her obsession in protecting earth, possibly drawing the ire of even more powerful alien foes?