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Alternative Character Interpretation / Doctor Who

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"Most troubling of all, everyone on record as having known the Doctor insists that he is a good man, a hero in fact. But did they think that for themselves? Or did he think it for them?"
Professor Candy, "Continuity Errors"

The Doctor

  • With Ten in particular, the question is, "Does he mean well?" Many are convinced he's being intentionally written as an egotistical Jerkass who demands the attention of others and refuses to give anything in return, running roughshod over people's lives and never feeling the need to explain himself or ask permission.
    • Brilliantly illustrated in a popular fanvid, which shows Ten straddling (or crossing?) the line between Guile Hero and The Caligula.
    • Ten's regeneration scene in "The End of Time": one of the most moving and emotional scenes in the franchise's history as he desperately hangs on for as long as possible, or an act of spite against his next incarnation, forcing him to be born in a crashing TARDIS? Or both?
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    • Is treating regeneration like death a complete break from the show's established canon and positive attitude towards change? Many think that the Tenth Doctor was far too self-pitying in equating his regeneration (which he has done 11 times already and does not actually kill or replace him) with Wilf's actual, permanent death.
      • The show itself nods to this interpretation in subsequent episodes; his next incarnation refers to the Tenth Doctor as having "vanity issues" and, notably, faces his own regeneration/death with much more equanimity.
      • While it would be a few years before Moffat came up with the idea, his attitude also fits quite well with his next regeneration being his very last life for all he knows.
  • Perhaps the Tenth Doctor's strident pacifism is a form of detached arrogance fitting with his god-complex. He pompously berates the "little" lifeforms for using violence (frequently in self-defence) because, as a Time Lord, he has no way of seeing things from their perspective or at their level (or at least no way that sticks after he reopens the fob watch). There's a hint supporting this theory in the episode "The Christmas Invasion" from 2005: Ten berates the Prime Minister for destroying a Sycorax ship. The Prime Minister measuredly responds by telling him that Earth needs to defend itself because the Doctor is "not always [there]". Ten petulantly rejects this and sets events in motion to force the Prime Minister from office.
    • Which in turn results in disaster for the UK (and indeed, the entire Earth) for years to come, as first the Master and then the Children of Earth government succeed her, instead of Britain's Golden Age occurring. Apparently by Eleven's time, it got better.
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    • And despite his pompous attitude, Ten is not the pacifist he sometimes claims to be. He can get quite nasty. Either by losing his temper or worse, while telling you how sorry he is.
    • Then of course his arrogance seems to have got to the level that he feels he holds absolute responsibility over the laws of time and claims there isn't a higher authority then him. He may claim he has good intentions, but obsessively thinking of saving everybody, whatever the cost, can make him seem quite a Well-Intentioned Extremist.
    • Is Ten's obsession with his idea of pacifism simply his egotistical view of humans as lesser beings due to their inability to think of peaceful alternatives that he as a Time Lord with centuries of experience and reserves of time-altering power is able to execute? Or is it the result of a man with severe PTSD hellbent on proving to himself that how he believes he ended the Time War was in fact not the only way out, and that he's desperately latching onto alternative means of dealing with conflict to confirm his own self-flagellating belief that he was a monster for doing what he felt was necessary to end a horrific conflict in his past? Or is it a self-righteous mixture of both?
      • "Time Crash" posed another theory that works on even a meta level. Five was a sweet, gentle soul who wanted to travel the universe, make friends, and solve conflicts. Unfortunately, the universe tended to repay Five with horrible luck and a high body count; twice during his tenure, the list of those killed off over the course of an adventure included one of his companions. Eight was also much the same way - out to have fun and merciful to a fault...which ended with the Time War and a potential companion committing suicide out of fear of him. Ten really wanted the same things as Five and Eight, but knew all too well that the universe was going to punish him for it, so he developed a Do Unto Others Before They Do Unto Us streak that Seven would have approved.
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    • The way he treats his clone in "Journey's End" seems bizarre. After the clone wipes out the Daleks, the Doctor treats him like a monster and exiles him to a parallel world. Yet the clone was completely justified in doing so, as the Daleks were only incapacitated and had come very close to destroying entire Universes. What else was 10 expecting him to do? Give them another chance after they have kept proving themselves to be Always Chaotic Evil apart from very rare exceptions? In a similar situation in "The Poison Sky", 10 feels he has to give the Sontarans a chance before he activates a weapon to destroy them, even though he knows it is very unlikely they'll take it and he'll get killed by doing this. Before that, in "The Fires of Pompeii", he and Donna wipe out the Pyroviles to save Earth, even though this kills 20,000 innocent people, though this is a fixed point in time. Is 10 a jerkass who obsessively follow his hypocritical and obviously-flawed moral code to the point of Too Dumb to Live and treats anybody who doesn't agree with him, no matter how valid their reasons, like a monster?
    • There is also another interpretation of leaving his clone on a parallel world in that the "punishment" was just an excuse to let his clone have the relationship with Rose that he never could. Or that he simply didn't trust someone with his knowledge that he couldn't control. Then there's the interpretation that he left it to stop Rose making more attempts to break through the barrier between worlds...
      • Or that, because he was such a jerk to Jenny, he wasn't going to abandon and make the same mistake with another "offspring" of his. He's not that great of a parent or parental figure and knows it (see Susan and Ace), so maybe the best option was to leave him behind with someone who made a very good Morality Chain.
    • Are Ten's offers of "stop or I'll have to stop you" a genuine attempt to resolve a situation peacefully, or a simple excuse for any future actions that can be waved off with "I gave them a choice"?
  • Ninth Doctor: Emotionally unstable, battle-scarred Woobie Last of His Kind? Or egotistical, violent Knight Templar?
    • His actions towards the Daleks. Is this a dangerous obsession which is putting him through a He Who Fights Monsters effect? Or is he completely justified, considering how he has seen first hand how dangerous the Daleks are and it is proved he is right in treating them as incredibly dangerous monsters?
  • Is the Eleventh Doctor more like an old man with a child's personality and a young man's body, or a child with an old man's wisdom and memories and a young man's body? And for that matter, how much of his eccentric, playful demeanor and silly mannerisms is a pasted-on Stepford Smiler coping mechanism and how much is just his natural state?
    • Some see The Eleventh Doctor as an irresponsible, demanding, smug, preachy, Jerkass. Much of the same things about 10's alternate interpretation can be made about the Eleventh Doctor.
  • In-Universe, the Eleventh Doctor episode "The Pandorica Opens" gives us an idea of how the Doctor is seen by species he doesn't save every week - particularly the Always Chaotic Evil ones, but possibly also the no-worse-than-humans ones as well: he's a world-ending demon who must be shut away for all eternity before he destroys the entire universe.
    There was a goblin. Or a trickster. Or a warrior. A nameless, terrible thing, soaked in the blood of a billion galaxies. The most feared being in all the cosmos. And nothing could stop it, or hold it, or reason with it. One day it would just drop out of the sky and tear down your world.

    You make them so afraid. When you began all those years ago sailing off to see the universe... did you ever think you’d become this? The man who can turn an army around at the mention of his name! Doctor. The word for healer and wise man throughout the universe. We get that word from you, you know. But if you carry on the way you are, what might that word come to mean? To the people of the Gamma Forests, the word "doctor" means "mighty warrior". How far you've come!
    • It should be noted that when those species come to confront him, it's right after a frantic monologue wherein he's literally shouting at the sky like a madman, daring entire armies of his enemies to come get him, and implicitly saying that he can take them all by himself. In a later episode, he has another monologue instructing a man to humiliate himself as an example to future aggressors. This is after The Doctor's enemies had already agreed to surrender. The Doctor, Eleven in particular, is often a vicious, brutal enemy.
    • Some of it's the writers trying to force it where it doesn't really go - most of the time, when the Doctor is confronted thusly, he's done nothing wrong. But nobody ever blinks an eye at any of the worst of the Harriet Jones-type moments. The Tenth Doctor era was plagued by it, but far from the only time this has appeared. A guy who can bring down Daleks, Cybermen, and other planet or even universe-threatening foes is kinda scary, but that doesn't mean he's wrong for doing it. It looked like we were headed back there, but we finally get some elaboration of those who fear the Eleventh Doctor so much: they think the future destruction of the universe that's causing the Timey-Wimey Ball its present distress will be his fault. In the season finale, when the Doctor is about to have to make a Heroic Sacrifice, River Song can't let him go without showing him how much the whole universe loves him and would have done anything to save him if they could. He's also more likely to be questioned when actually going too far, or not seeing the full effects of what he's doing.
    • Let's look back in "A Town Called Mercy", where the Doctor thinks that he may as well have pulled the trigger on everyone ever hurt by those he didn't take down. That mindset is completely justified. He has showed mercy to villains like the Master and Davros a lot of times in past, allowing them to live despite their horrible actions. This act, however, has gotten many, many more people killed whose deaths were caused by said villains later on. This was a major problem for 10, in refusing to finish the Daleks by killing Caan he enabled the Dalek race to survive and got angry at the idea of them being wiped out even after that. How can anyone honestly blame the Doctor for acting that way since that is just one example that his mercy has come back to bite him on the ass?
  • The conventional view of the Seventh Doctor — and certainly the one which carried primarily into the expanded universe — is that he's The Chessmaster, a ruthless Manipulative Bastard who knows all the moves and has the winning gambit planned out before the game's even started, and who's willing to ruthlessly play his companions like pawns. However, if you watch his television episodes closely, you see that for a supposedly hyper-sharp chessmaster he seems to screw up a hell of a lot. Things that he didn't anticipate keep happening, meaning he has to compensate for them. People make moves he didn't expect and hasn't planned for. Sometimes it looks like the villain actually has won, until the Doctor essentially pulls a rabbit out of a hat to save the day. A convincing case can be made that the Seventh Doctor actually sucks at being a Chessmaster, but happens to be excellent at improvisation and for whatever reason is determined to make it look like he knew what he was doing all along.
    • Or is he somewhere in between the two: a Chessmaster who always knows what his plan is and where he wants it to go, but is constantly having to improvise to keep his plans on track, because he knows that no battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy?
  • Similarly, the Sixth Doctor; is he just an arrogant, pompous bully? Or is he maladjusted and riddled with psychological issues from a difficult regeneration — including PTSD — that he never fully manages to overcome?
    • There is a theory that the experiences of the previous Doctor influence the new Doctor. The 5th Doctor tried to be nice and didn't have a forceful personality, yet his adventures often involved a lot of deaths, including those of two of his companions. He was forced to watch helplessly as a space freighter crashed into the prehistoric Earth with Adric trapped on board and later had to destroy Kamelion, the second (and, to date, last) robotic companion to feature in the series. The 6th Doctor might be a reaction to that, he hopes that a reversal of the 5th Doctor's personality will prevent more death and misery.
  • Or the First Doctor: is he condescending and prickly because he's a weary, Seen It All old man who doesn't have patience for stupid apes and their limited minds, or because he's a rebellious young man who wants to appear mature and important and his treatment of humans is due to the fact that he simply doesn't know any better?
    • He's said repeatedly in both series that he left Gallifrey because he didn't approve of how the Time Lords treated time and lesser species. Yet he shows an awful lot of those Time Lord traits in early serials until he spends enough time stuck with the human intruders on his ship that he learns to like them and softens up. In later stories, he seems to revert back to a bit of the old Time Lord Fantastic Racism when he's in a really foul mood. So, did he always have the high ideals he shows (or claims) in the later seasons, or merely high ideals by Time Lord standards? Did he have them, then lose sight of them because Susan couldn't challenge him when he crossed the line, as other companions would down the line? Or does he just claim higher ideals and reasons to keep everyone's trust and assuage his own guilt over the violence that follows him wherever he goes? When he removes his War incarnation from Doctor-dom, is he ashamed of his actions, or merely hiding from them, pretending they don't exist so he can keep claiming to be the better man?
  • The Doctor in general: is he closer to several different people who all share the same unbroken set of memories but who have entirely separate personalities, or one person with one overarching personality, whose changes in characterization between regenerations is due to different aspects of that single personality being emphasized or downplayed depending on the incarnation? Viewers who lean heavily towards the second theory tend to be rather befuddled by fans who like one incarnation but dislike another.
    • It seems reasonable to believe that the Doctor is the same person - after all, regeneration is a survival adaptation of Time Lords, not a method of rebirth. As the Doctor says before regenerating into his 12th/13th/14th incarnation, "We all change, when you think about it." The Doctor does not change (personality-wise) more than any normal person does throughout their lifetime - especially if that person lives for centuries and undergoes extremely traumatic experiences. Most 5-year-olds would have a completely different personality at 80.
    • The claim from "Timewyrm: Revelation" that the previous Doctors live in the Doctors mind does add a lot to this.
  • In regards to Eleven's treatment of Clara: Is he genuinely trying to protect her because he fears her dying again and is still scarred by his separation from the Ponds, or is he being creepy, obsessive, and depriving her of her agency by withholding information she really ought to know? "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" especially divided fans on that last point.
  • The show provides one with the War Doctor. Is he a version of the Doctor who crossed the line, meaning he is the Black Sheep of the Doctors and doesn't even deserve the name? Or is he someone who did what he had to, considering the Sisterhood of Karn told the Eighth Doctor before he made the choice the Universe was being torn apart by the Time War? The War and future Doctors seem to think both. Despite being treated with dread, the War Doctor showed he would only have been reluctantly willing to destroy Gallifrey after seeing he would still turn out good and the Doctor realises on his own he wouldn't have a choice. By the end the future Doctors decide the War Doctor was the Doctor most of all, and he knows he is the Doctor again.
  • The Twelfth Doctor is the broodiest, most introspective incarnation yet. He openly wonders about what kind of man he really is and is becoming — i.e. how he should be interpreted. Thus, some of the following questions are actually addressed in-series as he undergoes a lot of Character Development.
    • Series 8: Are the occasional situations where he leaves Clara on her own a Secret Test of Character that might rightfully be classified as patronizing mindgames, or does he simply know that — after everything she has already accomplished by this point — she is capable and is willing to use her abilities in a pinch because he respects her? Did he get "darker", or is he simply less afraid to show his imperfections and the rougher edges of his personality that were there all along, in line with Madame Vastra's speech in "Deep Breath", and just downplayed to avoid weirding out the companions? Are his quips about Clara's appearance due to scatterbrainedness, an inability to perceive her as attractive, or at least partially deliberate payback after her thoughtless remarks about his new face hit him straight in the ego?
    • Series 9: Is his choice in "The Girl Who Died" to save Ashildr in a way that makes her immortal a selfish outgrowth of self-pity over all the loss he's experienced in his lives (companions who inevitably leave him, one-shot characters who die helping him); borne of genuine affection, grief, and guilt for her specifically; and/or a noble effort to rise above his Pragmatic Hero tendencies seen most recently in "Before the Flood" (the previous episode), in which he takes special trouble to save a companion but not a one-shot character — a rescue that's truly holding himself to his chosen title, proving he sees the preciousness of every life and resents the cruel laws of nature that keep striking them down?
    • In "Hell Bent", is he just a Time Lord Victorious 2.0 in his mad efforts to save Clara's life? Is his Sanity Slippage to be blamed solely on his not summoning the inner strength to move on from a colossal tragedy and instead giving into grief and rage...or might he have been able to do so had he not been thrown into a lonely torture chamber, designed to prey on his fears and weaknesses, right after said tragedy happened, which could only encourage said grief and rage? And with this in mind, should those who condemn his Driven to Madness actions and show No Sympathy or even comprehension towards his plight, such as Ohila, consider mending fences with him once he's back to normal, a sadder and wiser man?
    • Is his tendency to "zip zip zip zip zip, getting into scrapes" across the universe rather than stick around to witness/address the long-term consequences of his actions — one not unique to this incarnation by any means — thoughtless abandonment on his part? He can't hold everybody's hand all the time, and he does make efforts to keep tabs/follow up on the fallout of saving Ashildr and setting up the human-Zygon peace in Series 9, when this concern about his behavior is broached by people involved (especially Ashildr). Are those who complain about his actions too often using him as a scapegoat for their own failures to continue where he leaves off and inability to accept that no solution is perfect/will make everybody perfectly happy?
    • With regards to Clara Oswald:
      • In Series 8, is his interest in her purely platonic, or is he simply holding back for fear of ruining her life? Either way, in the wake of the events of "Last Christmas" he is noticeably, if unconventionally, more affectionate and open in Series 9, his actions in its final three episodes confirming that he loves her as he hasn't loved anyone since Rose Tyler.
      • Over both seasons, is he a bad influence on her, turning her into a callous adrenaline junkie and all-too-"breakable" heroine? Or did the two, contrary to Missy's apparent assumptions when she brought them together, have similar personalities to begin with, including character flaws like ego and secretiveness — but also their good traits like courage and determination? For his part, the Doctor becomes convinced it's all his fault that her fate is what it is, though he is told otherwise by her and others.
    • This Doctor is noticeably empathetic and/or compassionate to antagonists when he understands their plight, though he won't go soft on them if there's no other choice in serving the greater good — consider how he treats the Teller, the Skovox Blitzer, the Foretold, Missy, Davros, and Bonnie the Zygon. But the Series 9 endgame has exceptions that beg the question of his motivations.
      • With regards to Ashildr betraying him and inadvertently paving the way for Clara's death in "Face the Raven", that's apparently a case of This Is Unforgivable! and he never forgives her onscreen, although he does allow her to follow him into the second TARDIS instead of leaving her to die at the end of time. Is he simply too consumed by soul-crushing anguish to realize that she was merely Trapped in Villainy in trying to protect the refugees, or were her acts truly despicable on a personal level after all he'd done for her and his willingness to not give up on her potential for good in "The Woman Who Lived"? The Doctor gives second chances, but rarely thirds.
      • With regards to Rassilon and the High Council, who imprison him in a horrific torture chamber in "Heaven Sent" and are the season's Final Boss, is the bitter, Driven to Madness Doctor's subsequent choice to bloodlessly overthrow and exile them to wherever they can find a home in "Hell Bent" as cruel and cowardly as his detractors suggest it is — driven by a need to protect himself from further wrath, especially when his plan to save Clara and flee Gallifrey (which they certainly would have tried to stop him from achieving) is revealed? Or is it far more merciful than they deserve given that they not only paved the way for Clara's death and let Gallifrey's greatest hero, now grieving, suffer for billions of years but also were the architects of the Last Great Time War which slaughtered untold innocents across space and time; is it possible he even did it to protect them from his wrath?
  • The Eighth Doctor in "The Night of the Doctor". Was he trying to save Cass by staying on the ship till it crashed? Or effectively killing himself out of despair, feeling he should do so if he was unable to save anybody? Considering how badly this character was broken in the Big Finish audios...
  • Was the Fourth Doctor asexual or just only into Gallifreyans? In "City of Death", he made the uncertain statement re: a human woman, "You're a beautiful woman, probably."note  Yet, in "The Pirate Planet" he unambiguously referred to Romana as being attractive.
  • The Doctor's relationship with Rose, did he really love her or was he protecting his subconscious memories of The Moment onto her?

The Companions

  • Rose Tyler. A book dumb but brilliant girl who was loving and caring, and helped the Doctor recover from the pain of his war, but with human flaws? Or a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing who cares nothing about her friends and family, cannot take responsibility and is unable to cope without the Doctor? Or a mix of both?
    • The fact that it seems Rose gets whatever she wants annoys fans. Create a paradox and almost destroy the universe? Get a second chance, despite the episode before, the Doctor kicked Adam out of the TARDIS for trying to do that. Lose your dad? Get him back but this time, he's rich. Trapped in a different dimension away from your boyfriend? Have your rich father create a device that allows you to dimension hop. Can't be with the man you love? Hook up with his clone. This video from Welshy really illustrates this view.
    • Something that a lot of people don't pick up on is that in "Journey's End" Rose clearly says she was working on travelling back to her world despite the Doctor saying this would destroy both worlds before the barriers between worlds began collapsing. Before that in "Doomsday" when the Doctor says returning would destroy both worlds her reaction is "So?" Is this really admirable and loving behavior or a dangerous obsession, Rose thinking her relationship with the Doctor takes priority over other peoples' lives, which makes this idea of her as a selfless figure quite questionable?
  • Amy Pond has been getting a lot of this. Is she a quirky girl/young woman who never quite fit in and has found someone like her in the Doctor? Or a somewhat unbalanced, obsessive woman who can't relate to anybody easily because she's just spent that long devoting her life to waiting for the Doctor? How much of this is directly because of her abandonment by the Doctor, and how much is just her?
    • And then there's the issue of how she had a psychic parasite living in her house and actively absorbing her memories from her formative years through to adulthood...
      • On top of that, the crack kept pouring the Universe through her dreams. The Doctor says that affected her memory; did it affect anything else?
    • And now she remembers all sorts of complicated events that never really happened; what would that do to your mind?
      • And others can't help but interpret her as a horrible person due to that time she tried to seduce the Doctor the night before her wedding with her wedding dress hanging on the wardrobe. And does she really deserve Rory's Undying Loyalty when it takes near-death experiences for her to show him affection? She had a terrible case of cold feet about the wedding and at the end of the series is pretty open to kissing the Doctor in front of him. She can also been seen as having an attachment disorder.
      • Then on top of that, the show throws the possibility out there it was pure adrenaline and not in character for Amy. And this brings us to Rory- how much does he actually like his relationship with the openly-flirty Amy? Is he just willing to put up with it because he loves her that much, or does he not mind much as long as it stays at the flirting level? In general, series 5 is... debatable.
      • Also, does Rory's love for Amy border on Loving a Shadow? She's (on the surface at least) a beautiful and funny young woman, and Rory is clearly amazed by his good fortune but at times seems pretty willfully ignorant of her flaws. And then he waited 2000 years for her, and that's got to be hard to live up to.
  • This carries on with another of Eleven's major companions, River Song. Is she an egotistical psychopath who cares more about herself and the Doctor than doing what's good? Should she be pitied because of his twisting path and timeline which has blasted every possibility of a normal life from her? Is she too dependent on the Doctor to the point where he's her only reason for being, and if that's true, should we interpret this as just part of her character, or a bad thing? Or considering that she teaches at a university and willingly breaks in and out of prison, is she independent and free to do as she likes, which occasionally involves the Doctor?
  • Clara Oswald: Loving woman unafraid of speaking her mind when the Doctor says something she doesn't like, who makes some bad decisions that have unexpected negative consequences — or an egotistical control freak who cannot let anything she does not like happen and lies to protect herself? On that note, are the adrenaline junkie and more "Doctorish" traits she picks up by the end of Series 8 a result of her travels and the Doctor's influence, or were they always there and just recently brought to the surface? This is a key question in Series 9, in which she firmly becomes the Doctor's Distaff Counterpart. When her choices lead to catastrophe in "Face the Raven", the Doctor's actions for the remainder of the season partially stem from his belief that It's All My Fault — but as noted above, other characters disagree, including her.
  • And then there's Adric from the Classic Series. Was he an annoying brat who thought he knew it all, repeatedly rubbed people the wrong way, went into a sulk at the smallest slight to his ego . . . and so on? Or was he simply experiencing normal adolescent angst which, in his case, was exacerbated by the fact that, following the events of "Warriors' Gate", he'd entered what was to him an unfamiliar universe?
  • Nardole during Series 10: should he be a companion in the first place? While some fans enjoyed him in his debut and were happy for his return, others found him tedious and unnecessary in both instances, while still others thought he was good in "The Husbands of River Song", but should not have become a recurring character.
    • His continual attempts to keep the Doctor from traveling: responsible or irritating, considering how traveling is central to the show's premise?


  • Doctor Who is an example of Alternate Character Interpretation within a series, thanks to being portrayed by thirteen different actors (in canon, anyway) and a slew of writers, directors and producers over half a century, the Doctor has received every interpretation imaginable, from eccentric wanderer, to a literal god, and everything in-between. Not to mention the various speculations on the nature of the Doctor's relationship with various companions.
  • Apropos "Night of the Doctor", SF Debris floated a theory about regeneration trauma on his site's blog. Time Lords are meant to regenerate on their home soil of Gallifrey. The TARDIS, while equipped for emergency regenerations, is a poor substitute.
  • "The End of Time" adds a bit of this for The Master, who up to that point had mostly come across as a Card-Carrying Villain with extra Foe Yay, with The Reveal that the drumming that had been driving him insane throughout the appearances of his incarnation played by John Simm was implanted by the other Time Lords as a Gambit Roulette to get themselves out of the Time War. Whether you think this is a Stable Time Loop or not (i.e., the drums were the reason for his insanity in the old series as well) can change him from a borderline Complete Monster who happens to be a victim to a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds. Though either way, the Time Lords were bastards for doing that to him.
  • Christina is meant to be seen as a adrenaline junkie Femme Fatale with a heart of gold but can be more easily seen as a borderline sociopath when you notice she had no regrets about getting her partner arrested, is extremely selfish, arguably kissed the Doctor just to manipulate him and only wanted to come along because the police were about to catch her. Also her saving the people on the bus wasn't an act of selflessness, it was because she was one of the people in danger.
  • Some fans theorize that Rassilon was benevolent at one point, partially because he was one of the founders of Time Lord society, and partly because there is canon of another Time Lord whose dark side attempted a takeover. On the flipside, while in the canon Time Lord society as a whole certainly thought he was benevolent, but the show itself strongly implied he was just a Not Quite Dead Villain with Good Publicity, with both appearances of the character being egotistical megalomaniacs; it is also speculated / implied that Omega's accident that got him trapped in the Anti-Matter verse was actually engineered by Rassilon himself. The darker views of his character were wholly endorsed by "The End of Time".
    • Is Timothy Dalton's character really Rassilon fallen to the Dark side? Or is he just an arrogant dictator who took Rassilon's name to make himself sound important? (Bear in mind he's credited not as "Rassilon" but merely as "The President"). Word of God says he's the real Rassilon, having at some point re-emerged and reclaimed control, but since it was never said onscreen Death of the Author applies.
      • It is confirmed he is the real Rassilon in the novel "Engines of War" though. Although since this is technically part of the Doctor Who Expanded Universe and not the television series proper, this one can depend on whether you view the novels as 'canon' or not.
      • According to this article, Rassilon may not be a bad guy or at least not as bad as the Doctor would like us to believe.
  • The Bad Wolf. Is it Rose using the power of the time vortex to save the Doctor, or the time vortex controlling the mind of Rose to stop the Daleks?
    Bad Wolf: I want you safe. My Doctor.
    • Or The Moment?
  • The Beast, from "The Impossible Planet"/"The Satan Pit". Is it actually the Whoniverse's version of the Devil, who fought before time against the followers of God, the Disciples of Light, and has inspired all the devils in every religion? Or is the Beast simply an incredibly powerful and evil being who lies to cash in on fears of religion's Satanic figures, so that the scared humans are more easy to defeat and influence? There's evidence for both, and by the end even the Doctor doesn't seem completely sure.
  • This YouTube video of a Doctor Who Confidential offers one for Madame Kovarian: a woman "of a certain age" who never had any children of her own. It seems to be suggesting that not only will Melody/River be raised to be a weapon, but also that Madame Kovarian intends to make Melody/River into something of a Mommy's Little Villain.
  • Elton Pope - despite several references to LINDA and Clom in later episodes seemingly contradicting this, it is commonly believed that Elton is insane, and is imagining the events of this episode (perhaps in order to deal with his mother's death).
    • Alternately, the events happened (mostly) as described, but Elton's mind completely shattered was after witnessing Ursula's death and he's simply talking to an empty paving slab, since only he ever sees her, while the camera recording him only sees the slab from behind).
    • The funny thing about "Love & Monsters" is that it's a rare episode where this trope isn't so much YMMV as deliberately invoked. We know the scenes with the camera HUD overlaid actually happened. Elton filmed them, we're looking at the footage as captured. We also know that at least one of the scenes, right near the top of the episode, with the Hoix and the bucket, definitely didn't happen as broadcast because it was patently ludicrous. The cards are on the table right from the start that this is a potentially unreliable account of what actually happened, but it never quite takes a side on how much was real and how much was in Elton's head.
  • The series as a whole - is it about an ancient alien travelling time and space in a dimensionally transcendent box, or is it about the people who he travels with and how he changes them? Arguments could be made for both sides.
  • Did the Time Lords grant the Doctor a new set of regenerations out of the goodness of their hearts due to all the good things he's done, or did they do it because the Doctor is the only one who can get them out from where they are now?
  • The Sisterhood of Karn. A group of wise individuals in the right place and time to give the Doctor the final push he needed to enter the Time War, or a group of manipulative bastards who engineered the entire scenario to begin with? The audience is never told what caused Cass' ship to crash so close to Karn and it seems highly suspicious that they happened to have prepared all those regeneration potions - including the specially made one for the War Doctor - in less time than it took to retrieve their bodies from the wreckage? Remember also that in the previous appearance from the Sisterhood of Karn in "The Brain of Morbius", they were forcing all ships that flew near to crash in order to protect themselves (the Doctor's condition for helping restore the Flame was that 'it's got to stop').
    • It seemed to be a combination of preserving their own existence by sending someone who could turn around the Time War (i.e., the Doctor,) and repaying their debt to said someone for restoring their eternal flame, stopping Morbius, etc. etc.
  • Cards Against Humanity hinted at this trope with the card "A madman who lives in a police box and kidnaps women".
  • The regeneration between the Second to the Third Doctor was caused directly by the Time Lords as punishment. Much fun can be had trying to Fan Wank out just how much of the Third Doctor's - and, for that matter, the personality of all future Doctors - personality is the Doctor's himself, and how much of it was deliberately engineered by the Time Lords to rehabilitate him... or even to influence him into becoming the Fourth Doctor, constantly used by the Time Lords as a very effective Boxed Crook.
  • The Telos Novellas like to deliberately stretch the Doctors' characterisations a bit in order to more directly explore what is implied by each Doctor's subcultural theme. For instance, the Second Doctor, who had a Beatles-inspired look, gets to fight evil LSD in San Fransisco in the Summer of Love. The Fourth Doctor, intended as a bohemian, gets a story in which he gets to spend much of the story quoting 19th Century poetry, thinking about 19th Century music and being the kind of main character and having the kind of experiences associated with late 19th Century authors.
  • The rejected book Campaign exploits this for Metafiction. Various versions of Ian, Barbara and Susan appear, sometimes even using different names (such as Cliff, Lola and Mandy, or Susan English, or "Dr. Who") or with different professions (one Ian is not a science teacher but a physicist, another Barbara is an art teacher, one Susan is a rocker girl who had a teenage pregnancy, chain-smokes, wears a lot of leather and insists on being called "Sue", and "Tony" and "Amy" are (incestuous) brother and sister). Even within the narrative itself, there are elements of this - for instance, some of the members of the TARDIS crew remember Ian fighting alongside Alexander the Great, genociding innocent people, and have difficulty reconciling this with his usual noble personality. It's a weird book.
  • The Short Trips story "Nothing at the End of the Lane" is based around the idea that Susan is just a normal child being abused by her mad grandfather, and Barbara finds her murdered at the end before going into a Police Box to call the police. Barbara herself has a mental illness that leads to her experiencing periods of detachment from reality that she calls 'episodes', during which she experiences dreamlike fantasy images of aliens and history.
  • In "The Unquiet Dead", the Gelth - evil conquerors with no regard to sanctity of other life, or just one of many beings driven mad by the Time War, trying desperately to cling to life themselves?
  • From Big Finish Doctor Who, the Neverpeople. Are they a lot of selfish beings who want to take revenge on the Universe for what the Time Lords did to them? Or have they been driven mad by isolation in a timeless universe and do they genuinely think destroying the Web of Time will better the Universe? For all we know not all the Neverpeople agreed to the scheme and it is just being orchestrated by the most zealous.
  • Are the Divergence a terrifying race that Rassilon locked away to protect his people? Or were they just a potential threat that he overreacted over? The Doctor even points out that Rassilon is trying to destroy them now because of what they'll do to him if they escape.
  • The society portrayed in "The End of the World". The fact that religion is banned is meant as a good thing by Russell T. Davies, who sees it as they have Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions. However it could easily be seen as an oppressive and bigoted regime, the fact they feel the need to ban it shows there must still be religion, not that there is no religion. Would the Doctor still be fine with this if they had banned atheism?
  • In "The Time of the Doctor", did the Time Lords give the Doctor a brand new regeneration cycle out of gratitude for his actions in Day of the Doctor, because they empathized with Clara's words, or because they simply needed the Doctor alive since he's the only one who can help them return? Since there's more than one of them, it could be all of the above. Given that in the future Trenzalore the Doctor and Clara saw, featuring his tomb, it may be in an alternate timeline, one where Clara had not yet jumped into his timestream. So Clara talking to the Time Lords definitely had something to do with it, because obviously that future was averted; the Doctor did not die (permanently). Series 12 adds a new wrinkle to this with the revelation that the Doctor has infinite regenerations and could have survived the Siege of Trenzalore without their help. This raises the possibility that the real reason the Time Lords granted the Doctor a new regeneration cycle was to protect the Dark Secret that regeneration came from the Time Lords' horrific abuse of the Doctor as a child.
  • "Kill the Moon":
    • Was the Doctor as ignorant of the outcome as he says, or did he know what would happen all along and pretended he didn't to pose a Secret Test of Character? In the dialogue where he expresses his inability to see what will happen, he happens to namedrop the exact outcome (the Moon in the future being a different one); is this coincidence or a sign that he knows more than he says?
    • Did Clara stop the countdown because she couldn't kill the moon creature, or to save her own skin — seeing as the Doctor returned only after the bomb would have exploded?
  • In "Mummy on the Orient Express", did the Doctor really save everyone? Or just Clara and Perkins? How exactly he managed to get everyone into the TARDIS is never shown, and he specifically asks Clara if it's easier to think of him as pretending to be heartless.
    • However, the line "Would you like to think of me that way? Would that make it easier?" can also be read as "Would it be easier (to leave me) if you kept on thinking I'm heartless and do you want me to pretend?" Given Clara's change of heart, she takes it this way. It helps that he remembers the names of every person he couldn't save in this story — and recites them with emotion in his voice.
    • Given all of the above issues, in Series 8 the Twelfth Doctor seems to be looking back at the Seventh Doctor, who, whether or not you consider him a chessmaster or a joker, certainly was more manipulative and a bit darker than other Doctors. It might be a Scottish thing. He's still a good (as good as the Doctor can get) man, and he still goes to save other planets, etc. but he doesn't have as many qualms about other people's feelings. Truthfully, when the Twelfth Doctor agonizes about whether or not he's a 'good man,' it almost seems like he remembers the times he manipulated other people, ("The Curse of Fenric", anyone?) — and is terrified he'll end up becoming that again.
  • "Death in Heaven":
    • The morality of all things Clara.
    • Danny's final "Reason You Suck" Speech — Correct, deserved, understandable bitterness in the face of death and betrayal, the former but directed at the wrong person (in the sense that he should be upset at Clara for lying and not putting him first), or unnecessarily petty? Or intentionally being too harsh in an attempt to make the Doctor dial it back, for Clara's safety?
    • The cafe scene, in which Clara and the Doctor part ways - indicative of both their unconditional caring for each other, fundamental unhealthiness of their interactions, normal/acceptable display of human (and Time Lord) imperfection and fallibility that will be easily remedied by the Christmas Special, or something in between?
    • Even discussed in the episode proper when the Doctor mentions and rejects various potential interpretations of his person and sort of comes away with "not perfect, but most definitely not interested in megalomania".
  • Cessair of Diplos is, on the face of it, an alien criminal who happens to be in posession of the third segment of the Key to Time, disguised as the Great Seal of Diplos and will stop at nothing to prevent the Doctor from obtaining it. But the story hints that there's more than this than meets the eye: is she an agent of the Black Guardian who is trying to stop the Doctor getting the segment on the Guardian's behalf? Maybe, but a third explanation arises from ''The Armageddon Factor'': Cessair was a false agent of the Black Guardian. She was given the task of stealing the Great Seal, supposedly to stop the Doctor getting his hands on it, but actually to help him. The Guardian's plan was to trick the Doctor into giving him the complete Key. By this reasoning, Cessair stole the Great Seal, and was actually doing what would have been the dirty work. End result: the Doctor has the relatively easy job of recovering the Seal from a criminal as opposed to stealing it from its proper home on Diplos. Cessair got turned to stone for her efforts. The Doctor was then able to seek the remaining segments.
  • Regarding Davros: Are the heartfelt conversations in "The Witch's Familiar" between him and the Doctor just a ruse to trick the Doctor or were there some hints that at least some of them was genuine?
    • In the same episode, the denouement has Clara's life saved because the boy Davros was taught the concept of mercy by the Doctor rescuing him. When the Doctor returns to the past to make that happen, he says he's doing what he's doing to save his "friend". Does he mean Clara, which would fit into his Series 9 actions in general, or Davros himself? It's the latter interpretation that is foreshadowed by the Doctor's own dialogue in the shorts "Prologue" and "The Doctor's Meditation". Moreover, in the course of the episode it's revealed that Dalek language and thought is so limited that "I love you" is one of many phrases that just comes out as "Exterminate". So when the Doctor says that just before he blasts the handmines...well!
  • Ashildr (or "Me"): A classic case of Immortality Immorality? An Ungrateful Bitch who used the opportunities she had been given to selfish ends? An Anti-Villain who demonstrates that The Doctor's benevolence has unforeseen consequences? The Sociopath? A Jerkass Woobie who went more than a little cracked in the head from having an immortal life and a human memory? Someone who is trying to do the right thing, and just ends up blowing it instead? And does she earn her happy ending of becoming Clara's companion, or is she a Karma Houdini who gets away with betraying the Doctor (albeit for sympathetic reasons) and inadvertently paving the way for Clara's death?
  • The Time Lords and Ohila treat the Doctor banishing Rassilon and the Time Lord High Council in "Hell Bent" as a cowardly and cruel action, even though they were warmongering dictators who caused the Last Great Time War and nearly destroyed the universe. However, Rassilon and co. are still around and capable of coming back for revenge or causing problems for the places they went after banishment (the comic book Supremacy of the Cybermen uses this as a plot point). So are they actually angry at the Doctor for making them someone else's problem and not considering what they would do after banishment? Also, considering Ohila keeps insulting Rassilon and some of the Time Lords help the Doctor overthrow him, are they actually angry at the fact he was too lenient on the warmongers?
    • Then there is the fact the Doctor is not listening to any of them at all; is he simply too consumed by his plans to save Clara Oswald due to being broken by 4.5 billion years of torture on top of her unjust death to do so? Or is it also because he knows most, if not all, of them were okay with him being tortured for 4.5 billion years and thus were never really his allies to begin with?
    • Also, Ohila having No Sympathy for the Twelfth Doctor's losing Clara and accusing him of betraying his principles is suspicious given that she and the Sisterhood effectively encouraged him to no longer be a Doctor during the Last Great Time War because he wasn't doing enough good in that state. Would she approve of Twelve's actions if they had any benefit to her?


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