Dark Heroes: The Doctor

As a child of the Seventy’s, I grew up watching Doctor Who. I loved it; this story of a man with two hearts, who stole a time ship and ran away, who could regenerate into a new body, who chose human companions and showed them the universe. It was a television show that defied the boundaries of time and space and possibility. It was also a show that could be (and still is) very dark at times.

My earliest memory, aside from hiding from Cyberman, is the episode Genesis of the Daleks. Daleks were once humans but adapted for war by Davros, becoming a xenophobic race that wanted to exterminate every other species in existence in a purge of “impurity” that would put Hitler to shame.

When the Doctor finds himself back at the point of their creation, he’s faced with a moral dilemma – allow the most destructive race in the history of the universe to come into being, or become the very thing he wants to stop.

Eventually he decides to walk away, but it was interesting as a child to be presented with that decision and think, for a moment, that the Doctor would kill hundreds to save thousands more. That was the episode that I realised that for all the wonder of the universe, there were still evil things and hard decisions.

When Russell T Davies brought Doctor Who back in 2005, he recreated the Doctor as the survivor of a long and bitter battle – the Time War – which had seen the rest of the Time Lords die. Now the last of his kind, the new Doctor was a harder, angrier hero and his scars ran deep. In episode The End of the World, he brings back the murderous Cassandra and issues his own form of justice – allowing her to dry out and die. This is the regeneration who would, quite possibly, have put those two wires together and wiped out the Daleks.

Things got no better with his next regeneration.

In The Christmas Invasion, the Tenth Doctor’s very first appearance, he battles the Sycorax and, when the leader tries to stab him in the back, he dispatches him with “No second chances. I’m that sort of a man.” Gone is the Doctor with infinite patience, though companion Rose manages to mellow him a little. But when Rose is trapped in an alternative universe, the Doctor – aware that his time is growing short – becomes something else entirely. Breaking the rules for which he’s always stood, he interferes in a “fixed point in time” and saves the first manned mission to Mars (The Waters of Mars), recreating himself as The Time Lord Victorious. After saving three and returning them to Earth, he faces leader Adelaide Brooke and boasts at how good he is, which leads to this exchange

Adelaide: Is there nothing you can’t do?
the Doctor: Not any more.

This defiance only lasts as long as it takes for Adelaide to take control, killing herself and restoring the time line, after which the Doctor realises that he’s gone too far. But Mars is his darkest hour, when he becomes more than a hero. He is the Lonely God, capable of tweaking time itself as he sees fit. When Adelaide shoots herself, he lets go of that terrifying persona, but that darker side is already revealed.

The Tenth Doctor has regenerated again, but the Eleventh, while initially seeming a lighter Doctor, has already suffered a loss. In the recently aired Children In Need special he claims to have “retired” and point blank refuses to help. And in the promotional photos of upcoming Christmas episode, The Snowmen, he appears very much as a Scrooge-like character, lonely and bitter. It’ll be interesting to see if he can be redeemed once more.


Misa Buckley is a sci fi geek who escapes the crazy of raising five children by creating imaginary characters who experience adventure, romance and really hot sex on their way to a happily-ever-after. You can keep up to date with Misa’s latest news by following her on Twitter or at her website.

About Misa

Crochet designer, occasional author of science fiction romance.

Posted on November 21, 2012, in Misa Buckley and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Ah, the Doctor! Tom Baker was probably my favorite of them all but my husband likes the newer Doctors. We’re looking forward to the Christmas episode.
    suz2(at)cox(dot)net

  2. I am a long time Dr. Who fan. David Tennant remains my favorite because he showed such a range of emotional nuance, including stepping over the line into godhood and the emotional consequences associated to that. Of the older ones, Jon Pertwee encapsulated the Dr. for me with Tom Baker a very close second. Matt Smith, to my surprise, is a wonderful 11th. I felt for anyone coming after DT but he did it. Great post, Misa.

  3. I’d never considered The Doctor a Dark Hero, really, but you makes a good case of it, and now I’m definitely seeing him in a new light. Maybe it’s because the most Doctor Who episodes I’ve seen have been from the Sarah Jane years because those are my daughter’s favorite episodes. Especially Pyramids of Mars! 🙂 (The newer ones are too intense/scary for her to watch yet. She’s seven.) I’ve watched Nine, but never seen much of Ten, and I’ve watched zero Eleven. But as is the way of the Internet, I feel like I know a ton about The Doctor, but I’ve never really cast him in the dark hero role in my head. It definitely gives me a more clear view of him! Interesting post, Misa!

  4. Fabulous post! I love Dr Who, but you are so very right in saying he has a darker side.

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