Wednesday 11 December 2013

The Other Doctors, Part Three: Pasts, Potentials and Parallels

We've already looked at the many other actors who have played the Doctor on film, TV and radio over the years. However, some of the most intriguing versions of our favourite Time Lord only exist on the printed page. Others were played by the familiar eleven actors, but were separated by whim and possibility, existing in distinct timelines. Here are just some of the past, future and parallel Doctors who have cropped up over the years.

The Other

The Other? (Image by Paul Hanley)
Ten million years before the time of the Doctor, the Time Lords came into existence due to the actions of the three great players of Gallifreyan society. They were Rassilon, Omega, and an unnamed 'Other.' We learn of this mysterious individual in Marc Platt's climactic New Adventure Lungbarrow. We learn a great deal more too. We learn that the Doctor abandoned his family, that he, along with other Time Lords, are loomed, fully grown, and that their ancestors were ageless but could not regenerate. We learn that the Other had a granddaughter, who was taken from Gallifrey in a TARDIS. We learn that, fearing for Gallifrey, he threw himself into the looms, only to be reborn, millions of years later, his essence surviving in the form of a newly loomed Time Lord. Not even the Doctor was aware of this, until he began to have inklings in his seventh incarnation. It turns out he was far more than just another Time Lord. How any of this squares with the snatches of information we have since learned about the Doctor's childhood is anyone's guess.

The Morbius Doctors

It has been revealed that the eleventh Doctor is, in fact, the last of the Doctor's possible incarnations, having previously used all twelve of his regenerations up. We must wait to learn how he shall affect another regeneration in the upcoming Christmas special, although it's tempting to think that the Sisterhood of Karn's special regeneration brew may have altered the stakes somewhat, or indeed, that River Song's gift of her remaining regenerative energy to save the Doctor's life may have given him an extra bundle of changes. In any case, there's no need to fret, for the Doctor, as we all know, has actually had far more than thirteen faces.

Back in 1976, The Brain of Morbius saw the Doctor face a mind battle with the great Time Lord emperor Morbius. Back, back to his very beginnings the Doctor was taken. On the monitor we saw the Doctor's current, fourth visage, then his third, his second, his first... and then eight other faces. These were intended to represent even earlier incarnations of the Doctor – as has been explicitly confirmed by members of the production team of the time – and this is, indeed how the scene plays. Of course, we all know that the Hartnell version was the first. So do we have a big mystery? Well, many fans have rationalised that the faces actually represent the faces of Morbius. Well, possibly, but that's not how the scene plays. Indeed, it is Morbius who wins the battle, only falling because his artificial brain case can't take the strain. The Doctor is virtually finished, only surviving due to the Sisterhood's elixir.

So, who are those eight men in wigs and period dress? Well, they are, in fact, eight members of the production team, including writer Robert Holmes and producer Philip Hinchcliffe. But are they the faces of the Doctor? It seems inarguable that they are, but how they can fit into the Doctor's timeline is a mystery. Lungbarrow hints that they might be faces of the Other, although seeing that he could not regenerate, this seems dubious. An earlier reincarnation? Or perhaps earlier regenerations that even the Doctor doesn't remember. The fifth of these faces, played by Douglas Camfield, appeared in a dubious flashback in Lance Parkin's novel Cold Fusion.

Barry, Gallaccio, Banks Stewart, Hinchcliffe, Camfield, Harper, Holmes and Baker

“It is true to say that I attempted to imply that William Hartnell was not the first Doctor.” Philip Hinchcliffe.

The Infinity Doctor

Lance Parkin's seminal novel The Infinity Doctors was published for the series 35th anniversary, and saw a distinctly different take on the series than the usual BBC novels. We meet the Doctor on Gallifrey, settled into a life of teaching and diplomacy, the youngest member of the High Council. He mourns his dead wife, and has no particular desire to travel anywhere away from his homeworld. Parkin took pains to tie into every adventure featuring the Doctor's people published or broadcast up that point, embracing the contradictions to create an undateable adventure. He has remained tight-lipped concerning the correct placing of the story, although he has stated that the readers' interpretation should always be considered valid.

In many ways, The Infinity Doctors reads like the first adventure, galvanising the Doctor into leaving Gallifrey and engaging in a life of wandering. So perhaps this is a young Hartnell Doctor? Or, knowing that Parkin interprets the Morbius faces as I do, an even earlier incarnation? On the other hand, the Doctor in this story is described as looking rather like Paul McGann, and the initial plan was to have McGann read an audiobook version. Is it then the eighth Doctor? Fan consensus places the story after Parkin's later The Gallifrey Chronicles, the last book in the series which has many links to The Infinity Doctors. On the other hand, Parkin has said that this was not his original intention. Perhaps it is even later, on a Gallifrey rediscovered, involving an incarnation later than Peter Capaldi's.

Alternatively, this could be the Gallifrey of a parallel timeline. Or one of the many Gallifreys created for the War in Heaven. I like to read this novel once every couple of years, and each time I try to imagine a different Doctor in the lead role.

The Emperor and Soul

One individual who might be a version of the Doctor is the Emperor of the Universe, another creation of Lance Parkin. Although only alluded to in the novel Father Time, the Emperor was one of the last surviving Time Lords in a distant, dying future, where whole galaxies had been evacuated due to the destruction caused by terrible time wars. His daughter was the sole heir to the universal throne after his assassination at the hands of a rebel faction. This young girl, who came to be known as Miranda Dawkins, was hidden away on 1980s Earth and was adopted by the amnesiac eighth Doctor. But was the Doctor her real father? Well, the Emperor certainly sounds like he looks like Paul McGann, but beyond that, who knows?

A related mystery is the existence of another version of the Doctor, originating at the end of the universe. Sometime Never... by Justin Richards saw the Multiverse threatened by the Council of Eight. However, the eighth Doctor and Miranda put a stop to their plans, at the cost of Miranda's life. Zezanne, Miranda's daughter – and thus, the Doctor's adopted granddaughter – escaped with a benevolent member of the Council, Soul, who had disguised his natural crystalline form as an old man. Zezanne and Soul – now sporting some of the Doctor's life essence – escaped into the past in the timeship Jonah, which disguised itself as a police box. You see where this is going? This strange, alternative origin for the Doctor in a universe without Gallifrey has now been quietly forgotten, but it seems that in “just one of many universes” Soul and Zezanne take the roles of the Doctor and Susan.

Grandfather Paradox

There seems to be no shortage of evil versions of the Doctor. Lawrence Miles created Faction Paradox for the BBC eighth Doctor line, but it was Anghelides and Cole who brought its leader to life in the novel The Ancestor Cell. Grandfather Paradox was revealed as a twisted future version of the eighth Doctor, one-armed, scarred and driven insane by hatred for the Time Lords, his timeline warped by a Faction virus. His battle with his younger self led to the destruction of Gallifrey in this version of events. The later novel The Gallifrey Chronicles made it clear that Gallifrey would return, and that, rather than being the Doctor per se, the Grandfather was a dark reflection of everyone's future. With his regeneration now known and the Faction out of the picture, it seems that the eighth Doctor has avoided ever becoming Grandfather Paradox. On the other hand, a figure known as Grandfather Halfling, head of House Halfling, is mentioned in the Faction-linked novel Of the City of the Saved. He stands for the rights of the partially human in this all-human enclave, and we know which version of the Doctor is said to be half-human...

Johann Schmidt

Another alternative version of the eighth Doctor was alluded to in the 2001 audio Colditz. In this acclaimed story, the seventh Doctor and Ace found themselves captive in Colditz Castle, only to be contacted by a woman named Klein, who hailed from a future in which the Nazis had won WWII. It turns out that Ace's walkman had been analysed, yielding laser technology to the Nazis and giving them a significant tactical advantage. However, Klein's trip back in time was all part of the Doctor's plan. In her timeline, he had been shot, regenerating into his Byronic eighth self, who went under the name Schmidt and tricked Klein into travelling into her own history and putting things right. Much later, the Doctor took in the temporally displaced Klein, and we heard the story from her point of view – in flashback, and starring Paul McGann as Schmidt.

Lord Burner

The fourth run of Big Finish's Gallifrey series saw Romana, Leela, Braxiatel and Narvin hop from reality to reality, visiting parallel Gallifreys kept separate by the Axis. Some of these Gallifreys included their own version of the Doctor, seemingly only in his sixth incarnation. Colin Baker returned as the Lord Burner, a Time Lord assassin. We learned that the Burner was charged by the President to 'burn' unsavoury Time Lords from history. In the primary timeline, the Doctor's brother, Braxiatel once held the position, and was given the order to execute his sibling. He allowed him to escape, and covered up the incident. In another timeline, the Doctor killed Brax and escaped. We can imagine that this left the Doctor with a darker outlook on life at the very beginning of his travels. Later, when he was put on trial, the Doctor was reintegrated into Gallifreyan society and given his late brother's position.

Other alternative versions of the sixth Doctor have appeared. Gallifrey IV also saw a cameo by Colin Baker as a minor reporter named Theta Sigma, while Gary Russell's sixth Doctor finale novel, Spiral Scratch, involved a plethora of parallel Sixies, including an expansive, black-clad, scar-faced version, who collected his companions from an eternal Roman Empire.

The Savant

As well as the New and Missing Adventures, Virgin published short story collections called Decalogs. The third Decalog ended with 'Zeitgeist,' a story by continuity maestro Craig Hinton, in which the shattering of timelines led to the introduction of an alternative version of the Doctor known as the Savant. This dangerous individual was even more convinced of his own superiority than the regular Doctor, and worked as a Time Lord agent. Although he was physically identical to the fifth Doctor, he was very different in temperament. For the charity anthology Shelf Life, published to commemorate Hinton after his death, Mike Morgan wrote a sequel story in which we learned more about the Savant, and the alternative life that damaged him.

The Leader

The 1970 serial Inferno saw the third Doctor thrown to a parallel Earth, one where a fascist British Republic was ruled by a Big Brother-like Leader. The photograph seen on the poster was that of special effects chief Jack Kine, and we never leaned anything more about the character... until Paul Cornell's 1993 New Adventure, Timewyrm: Revelation. It is revealed that the Doctor recognised this face as one of those offered to him by the Time Lords at the culmination of his trial. Well, we never saw it on screen, but why not? Apparently, in this reality, the second Doctor chose this face, and upon being exiled to Earth, positioned himself as the Leader of the Republic. All a bit of a stretch, but a fascinating idea. It's a pity the Leader presumably died with that parallel Earth.

Other parallel versions of the Doctor were glimpsed in the much later New Adventure So Vile a Sin, including a version of the third Doctor who handed Earth over to the Ice Warriors and lived for a thousand years in a house in Kent, and a version of the eighth Doctor who married Grace and settled down in San Francisco.


In the 1989 serial Battlefield, the seventh Doctor learned that, in the past, but his personal future, he would travel to a parallel Earth, were he would be known as Merlin. There, he would face the sorceress Morgaine, and work alongside King Arthur and the knight Ancelyn. The production team at the time had an idea to visit this sequence of events in the future, with each of the Doctor's adventures on Arthur's world taking place earlier in history, tying in with the legend that Merlin aged backwards through time.

Marc Platt's novelisation of Battlefield included a prologue in which we saw the Doctor, posing as Merlin, in the ancient history of Arthur's world. This scruffy old fellow, who liked to wear an afghan coat and sock with sandals, later went on to appear in several stories in the Short Trips series. In these stories by Peter Anghelides, this red-haired future Doctor was revealed to be no less manipulative than his seventh self, albeit an even worse dresser. He even travelled, for a time, with a young lady named Guin – short for Guinevere. Writer and editor Jay Eales also tackled a Merlin version of the Doctor, penning three excellent stories for charity anthologies which saw him aid a supernatural crimes organisation in a parallel world. As scientific advisor to the Malleus Pre-Crimes Unit, Merlin battled such beings as a Daemonic version of the Master, while raising Arthur and protecting a world where magic coexisted with science.

"I hate good wizards in fairytales. They always turn out to be him." River Song


In the nineties, the New Adventures had free reign to take the Doctor's story in new directions. While they couldn't regenerate the Doctor, they could hint at his future. With this in mind, Nigel Robinson wrote Birthright, a novel which saw the Doctor's companions Ace and Benny stranded in opposite ends of Earth's history, with the Doctor nowhere in sight. Ace found herself in the distant future, on the planet Antykhon – the Earth, at a time when it was abandoned by Man and inhabited by an alien civilisation called the Charrl. Here, she encountered a solitary figure who lived alone in a cave. The manipulative, untrustworthy Muldwych never revealed his origins, but when the seventh Doctor later met with him, several hints were dropped as to his real identity. Indeed, as we know that Morgaine believed Merlin to be forever imprisoned in the crystal caves, perhaps this is what became of the Doctor's Merlin incarnation? After a millennium of hermitude, Muldwych eventually escaped in the novel Happy Endings. I always imagined the disagreeable little sod as being played by Hywel Bennet.

The Telos Doctors

Telos Publishing had a short-lived license to create new Doctor Who stories, publishing a series of luxury novellas in 2003. Characterised by more experimental stories than the usual Who novel lines, the Telos Novellas included some forays beyond the standard remit of Who fiction. Starting with Time and Relative, the first licensed story to explore what the Doctor was doing in London before An Unearthly Child, the range explored various incarnations of the Doctor, including some we hadn't met before. Danile O'Mahony's novella, The Cabinet of Light, introduced a future incarnation of the Doctor, who had regenerated after being shot by the villain of that story. This manipulative incarnation, coincidentally, bore a resemblance to the soon-to-be-unveiled animated version of the Doctor played by Richard E. Grant. After Telos lost their Doctor Who license, this version of the Doctor appeared, going once more by the name John Smith, in the finale of the spin-off series Time Hunter, where the nature of his plan and the extent of his manipulations became apparent.

Another – or possibly even the same – version of the Doctor appeared in the final release in the Telos series, Simon Clark's The Dalek Factor. It's entirely possible that this version of the Doctor, who had lost his memories due to the machinations of the Daleks, was one of the various incarnations we already know. Clark elected to keep the version of the Doctor involved vague. Considering that he remains in Dalek captivity at the end of the novella, potentially for years, this could very well be the War Doctor, during the Time War. On the other hand, maybe he never escaped, and this is the Doctor's final fate.

The 42nd Doctor

Lance Parkin didn't only create the Infinity Doctor and the Emperor in his quest to play around with continuity. He has a habit of including a character in his work that is to be portrayed, in the imaginary cast list, by the late, great Ian Richardson. In his early fanfic, Parkin, and Mark Clapham created the Doctor's 42nd incarnation, based on Richardson, who travelled with his young wife, Iphegenia (based on Caitlin Moran). The only published story to star this Doctor was 'Saturnalia' in the charity anthology Tales of the Solar System. The 42nd Doctor made a cameo in Parkin and Mark Clapham's New Adventure Beige Planet Mars, and was to appear in at least two versions of the unused epilogue to The Dying Days. You can read these stories and meet this dapper incarnation on Parkin's own site.
Valeyard of the Daleks
Eulogy of the Daleks
Alternatively, this gentleman claims the title of the 42nd Doctor:
The 42nd Doctor?

"The idea was to imagine what Doctor Who would be like decades on (we were writing in the mid-nineties) and to just shift the Doctor Who universe along, TNG-style. The Daleks had been wiped out in a time war, Gallifrey was gone, the Doctor had a tomboyish wife, a bunch of mates throughout the universe and they spent their time going to fun places and fighting evil almost as a sideline." Lance Parkin

The Curator

The Day of the Doctor left us with a mystery. Who was strange old man who claimed to be Curator of the National Gallery? Well, he was played by Tom Baker, who was listed in the credits only as 'the Doctor.' And the Doctor was appointed curator by Elizabeth I. And, while he spoke in riddles, the Curator did imply that the Doctor might, some day, find himself revisiting a few old favourite faces. So, is he the Doctor? I guess we'll never know. Still, I'd like to think he is. I don't think the Doctor need worry about his regenerations running out. We know he'll get to look like Peter Capaldi soon, and after that... Well, after that, after being Merlin, and Muldwych, and the Valeyard, and who knows what else, perhaps he'll settle down to run an old gallery on Earth, and just happen to look like Tom Baker again.

Doctor Lovejoy

In 1967, Walls released a series of card with their Sky Ray lollies, that told the story Daleks Invade Zaos. These could be stuck into Dr. Who's Space Adventure Book (a steal at a shilling) to tell the story of Dr. Who and the Sky Ray Space Raiders and their battle against the Daleks and the giant Astrobeetles. Dr. Who was supposedly the version played by Patrick Troughton, but I think it's clear from the cover that he was actually portrayed by Ian 'Lovejoy' McShane.

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