The world-weary and at times anachronistic knight — the Doctor's greatest secret. The War Doctor was a "lost" incarnation of the Doctor who existed between his Eighth and Ninth previously known incarnations. He was the incarnation who fought in the Last Great Time War, and lost his right to be called "the Doctor" for it. He renounced the promises behind his name and spent an enormous period of his life in battle, doing the exact opposite of a healer's work. He evidently knew how to survive the war quite well, since he aged to the point he went from a young, fiery warrior, to an exhausted and curmudgeonly old man, complete with a scruffy beard.
His tenure is, bar none, the darkest chapter of the Doctor's entire life. On top of that, his introduction to the story was a cover-all solution to a problem writers faced that kept them from chronicling the Time War beyond a surface probing of its enormity, because no writer would dare touch the subject due to not knowing which incarnation was the one who dutifully lived out the war to the bitter end, and not wanting to risk contradicting each others' narratives. This is where the War Doctor came into play, as a surprise addition to the family.
The biggest issue stalling progress in the Time War canon was that no one outside the TV series received the final authority to confirm if it was the Eighth or Ninth Doctor or a combination of the two who participated in the Time War, only compounded with the lack of a filmed connecting regeneration sequence to sort everything out and finish the bridge from the classic era to the revival era. The general conclusion was that both of those Doctors had seen so much Character Development and behaved so enthusiastically (Eight)/reinvigorated (Nine) that writers were incapable of seeing either Doctor fit the intensely gritty and hope-starved characterization the Time War called for. Despite the Eighth Doctor's turn towards a darker character as heard in the Big Finish audios. Every time they tried to resolve things with their take of an answer, they'd end up unconvincing themselves it would work, so the issue floated unanswered in narrative limbo for an insufferably long time.
After eight years of narrative stalemate in the revival era series, the time finally was right to address the problem, with the prestigious fiftieth anniversary of the show practically begging for the Time War to be at its central focus. Unfortunately, Christopher Eccleston chose not to return, and then-showrunner Steven Moffat claimed to have a hard time believing the Eighth Doctor had been the one who ended the Time War. So he chose to invalidate both as possibilities, create the retcon twist of the War Doctor and go in with a blank slate, and Paul McGann was brought back for the regeneration. When the War Doctor was conceived, it solidified the issue at hand and opened the gates to the uncharted wilderness that is the Time War itself. However, factoring in both the War Doctor and the Metacrisis 10th Doctor from Journey's End, it meant the Doctor's regeneration cycle limit would have to be handled much sooner... fix one leak, and another one springs.
While he regains his title at the end of "The Day of the Doctor", the War Doctor still doesn't count in the Doctor incarnation numbering as he was never an "incumbent" Doctor, but added retroactively. And thus the War Doctor hails from a time before the 2005 reboot, even if his story was told eight years later... and for good reason. The Doctor didn't want to bring him up.
His actor, Sir John Hurt, who became the first of the Doctors to be knighted, continued portraying the role of the War Doctor in a 12-episode line of audio stories that were clearly working toward the last act of the War Doctor's life. Sadly, he suffered a bout of recurrent pancreatic cancer that lasted for about two years and finally led to his passing right after his 77th birthday in 2017, leaving future plans for his Doctor in the air outside of printed works.
Tropes associated with the television series
- Affectionate Nickname: The Eleventh later refers to him as "Captain Grumpy".
- All for Nothing: In hindsight, protecting Gallifrey in a pocket dimension seemed like a waste of time as the Master destroyed it much later in his lifespan. However, no one knows if the Gallifreyans and Time Lords were 100% eliminated, or if they just fled to another world, while some were left behind to become Cybermasters.
- Anti-Hero: Seemingly killed his own entire race, including children, to save the universe from their war with the Daleks.
- Anti-Villain: Even the Doctor agrees this incarnation has crossed the line, even if it had to be done. As we learn more about him, however, this is inverted: he is in fact a Pragmatic Hero, and he gets better in the end.
- Arch-Enemy: The Daleks, though this time it's treated more along the lines of them being the opposing faction of a war than the personal conflict it was previously.
- Armour-Piercing Question: Courtesy of the Moment:The Moment: How many children on Gallifrey, right now?
- The Atoner: He ends up undoing the destruction of his own race, even if he doesn't remember it.
- Audience Surrogate: For Classic Who fans annoyed at the Hotter and Sexier changes of New Who, the War Doctor openly shows his disdain for the frivolous antics of his successors. (see Who Writes This Crap?!).
- Awful Truth: He's the one who ended the Time War, by murdering everyone involved. The Doctor has unsurprisingly hidden this incarnation's existence from all of space and time.
- Badass Bandolier: Has a bandolier strapped across his left shoulder, with his version of the Sonic Screwdriver stored in it. Picked it up from the woman that the Eighth Doctor failed to save at the end of his life.
- Batman Grabs a Gun: The War Doctor in a nutshell: A time so desperate, so bleak and so bad that the Doctor had to abandon his moral code and commit the worst mistakes of his life.
- Battlecry: "Gallifrey stands!" Unlike his successors' dorky catchphrases, his is deliberately a well-groomed and dignified choice of words appropriate for the moment, as an answer to their foolishness.
- Beard of Sorrow: His scruffy beard adds to his world-weary appearance. He is the only Doctor with a full-time beard.note
- Beware the Silly Ones: This short, scruffy, oddly dressed old man... well, you know how future Doctors will be called the Oncoming Storm? That's after a few centuries of mellowing out from being this guy.
- Bittersweet Ending: In "Day of the Doctor", he gets to end the Time War by saving Gallifrey rather than burning it. But since it involved a Temporal Paradox, his Ninth and Tenth incarnations only remember trying to destroy it, and shun him as a monster that destroyed their own species. However, his Eleventh and subsequent incarnations retain the memories of the truth as the Doctor with the dominant timeline, vindicating his younger self.
- Black Sheep: The Doctor who was disowned for deviating from the principles his other lives have followed.
- Book Ends: "Doctor no more."/"Doctor again."
- Bowdlerise: He is also officially referred to as the "Other Doctor", presumably because they don't want "War" in big letters on the merchandise.
- Came Back Strong: The 8th Doctor chose to come back as The Unfettered, who wouldn't run away from the Time War like he had been doing.Eight: Make me a warrior now.
- Car Fu: Mows down a mob of Daleks in his TARDIS, proving how sturdy the old girl actually is.
- Catch Phrase: "No more," or maybe, in the end, "Gallifrey Stands!"
- Lampshaded by the Moment (appearing as a Bad Wolf facsimile), who struts around parroting this line until the War Doc loses his temper at her for stepping on his gravitas.
- Celebrity Paradox: John Hurt actually exists as an actor in the Whoniverse, his role in Alien first being briefly mentioned in Torchwood. The Twelfth Doctor is actually a bit offended when he hears there's a horror movie simply called "Alien".
- Cliffhanger: His unexplained appearance serves as the final scene of series 7.
- Composite Character: Has Eight's fob and waistcoat, Nine's leather duds, and Ten's faux-hawk hairstyle. His personality also evokes the spirit of the Classic Doctors, particularly the First Doctor, whose dialogue he borrows (his TARDIS even sports the classic "round things"). Lastly, his advanced age can double as a reference to the 9-year hiatus between the TV movie and "Rose", encompassing all of the 'auxiliary' Doctors from print and audio.
- Cool Old Guy: Swings between this and Grumpy Old Man, the latter mostly directed at his more childish older selves.
- Covered in Mud: Centuries of warfare have taken a beating on his jacket, and walking miles through a desert hasn't done it any favors, either. Likewise, the exterior of his TARDIS is covered in soot and scorch-marks, and even bits of the blue paint have rubbed off to reveal plain wood underneath.
- Dare to Be Badass:
- The Sisterhood of Karn's sales pitch forms one and the Doctor later regrets taking the dare. ("Coward, any day.")
- Clara's oddly understated Rousing Speech to him and the Tenth and Eleventh Doctor convinces him that he still has it in him to end the Time War by other means, in line with his Science Hero and pacifist convictions.
- Dark Is Not Evil: The gruffest, least goofily clad incarnation of the Doctor, dressed in predominantly black, dark brown and dark green colours. On the inside, he's a compassionate, caring and at times downright sweet fellow, is absolutely sick of the Time War and all the suffering it has brought, and is quietly horrified at the thought that he might be forced to annihilate even his own people in order to end the war.
- Dark Messiah: The Doctor, having no particular allegiance to any side in the war (Time Lord or otherwise), aims solely to make the collateral killing stop — by any means necessary. In "Dalek" and "The End of Time", we learn this involved nuking Gallifrey and everyone in orbit.
- Dark Secret: He was the greatest, most terrible secret in the Doctor's past.Eleven: He is my secret.
- Deadpan Snarker: Repeatedly snarks at Ten and Eleven for their childishness and being afraid to "grow up", their tendency to brandish sonic screwdrivers like "a water pistol" and the strange frequency of people starting to snog his later incarnations.
- Death Seeker: Centuries of fighting in the Time War have turned him into this. When he's preparing to activate the Moment he tells its Interface with a Familiar Face that he has no intention of surviving afterwards.
- Designated Villain: In-Universe. The Tenth and Eleventh Doctors later realise they were wrong to erase all evidence of him and deny his existence, since he genuinely didn't have any other choice but to end the Time War by the means he did, "on the day it wasn't possible to get it right".
- Despair Event Horizon: The Eighth Doctor's reason for becoming the War Doctor. The Universe was on the verge of ripping itself apart from the Time War, the Time Lords had become as bad as the Daleks, and his newest prospective companion elected to die instead of being saved when she found out he was one of them. The Eighth Doctor could no longer save anyone, so when presented with a choice of regenerations, elected not to come back as a "Doctor" at all.
- Doesn't Like Guns: Played with. The War Doctor's introduction involves him asking a Gallifreyan soldier for his weapon in an apparent Establishing Character Moment, but he only uses it to blast NO MORE in a wall. Likewise his disdain for his future incarnations using their sonic screwdrivers as weapons implies this, but his Badass Bandolier only carries his own sonic screwdriver. Given that the Doctor's most dangerous weapon has always been his mind, it's likely he doesn't feel the need. In "Hell Bent", a Gallifreyan soldier states that the first thing many people noticed about "The Doctor of War" was that he wasn't armed. But to many, it was also the last thing they ever noticed.
- Doomed Moral Victor: He eventually chooses to save Gallifrey rather than burn it. He, Nine and Ten don't get to remember they changed the past, though, and continue to live with their former guilt. Only Eleven and on know the truth.
- Downer Ending: His existence lets us know just how well the story of the Eighth Doctor ended.
- The Dreaded: When the Doctor sees him, he keeps imploring Clara they leave immediately.
- The 50th Anniversary reveals he's basically this on steroids compared to the other Doctors. Lampshaded when Ten and Eleven respond to him questioning their maturity by looking at him. The only word he can come up with to describe those looks? "Dread." And a group of Daleks in the middle of exterminating Gallifreyan civilians drop everything and immediately make a bee-line for him, with their voices in utter panic.
- Dying as Yourself: "But for now, for this moment, I am the Doctor again. Thank you."
- Establishing Character Moment: Most Doctors when faced with a group of Daleks would run or try to reason with them. This Doctor plows his TARDIS right through them, tearing them to shreds. This comes shortly after landing in the middle of the fall of Arcadia, where his first act is to nonchalantly ask a soldier for his gun, before proceeding to shoot the words "NO MORE" into the wall.
- Face-Revealing Turn: Our first sight of the War Doctor is in the Doctor's memories, standing with his back to the Doctor and Clara.
- Fallen Hero: His later incarnations feel that he is not a "doctor" anymore but a traitor to the promise implied by such a title.
- Famous Last Words: "I hope the ears are a bit less conspicuous this time."
- Final Solution: Attempted genocide on both the Daleks and the Time Lords to end the Time War once and for all.
- Foil: To every other Doctor, but particularly Ten and Eleven. Where they are both "young" excitable Sad Clowns, War is "older", weary, and doesn't bother to compensate his angst with glib. Whereas they are prone to bursts of anger amongst a generally pacifist attitude, War is quicker to use violence, but isn't nearly as angry.
- In "The Beast Below", the Eleventh Doctor states that if he lobotomized the Space Whale, he'd no longer be able to call himself the Doctor, hinting at this "non-Doctor" incarnation.
- "Doctor" coming to mean "great warrior" in "A Good Man Goes to War" hinted at shades of this incarnation.
- All references to the Time War, like the Nestene Consciousness freaking out when it meets the Ninth Doctor in "Rose".
- Future Me Scares Me: The War Doctor went back and forth on this verdict, from immediately changing his mind about using the Moment because he's sick of Ten and Eleven and wants nothing to do with them, to (eventual) pride for these fine lads and worry over erasing them from history if he doesn't stay on track.
- Genocide Dilemma: Either let the Time Lords destroy reality so they could ascend, let the Daleks win and destroy everything not them or save the universe and destroy both sides.
- Godzilla Threshold:
- Was prepared to kill billions to prevent Rassilon from destroying all of reality. Then locked the rest of the Time War away, to prevent all of reality from becoming a living hell.Tenth Doctor: You weren't there. In the final days of the war. You never saw what was born. But if the time lock's broken then everything is coming through. Not just the Daleks, but the Skaro Degradations. The Horde of Travesties. The Nightmare Child. The Could-Have-Been King with his army of Meanwhiles and Neverweres. The war turned into hell!
- The Time War is shown in The Night of the Doctor as the reason why the Eighth Doctor elected to regenerate into an incarnation capable of such actions in the first place.Eighth Doctor: Make me a warrior now.
- Was prepared to kill billions to prevent Rassilon from destroying all of reality. Then locked the rest of the Time War away, to prevent all of reality from becoming a living hell.
- Gone Horribly Right: The Eighth Doctor, when presented with his pick of regenerations, specifically asked to come back as a warrior instead of a lovable coward for once. The Doctor turns out to be an exceptional warrior, murdering billions before the Time War's end.
- Good Is Not Nice: He's every bit as nice and caring as the other incarnations of the Doctor, but his lonely, weary and all-around depressing experiences during the Time War have made him very introverted and shut-in, at least at first glance. On the last day of the Time War, he decides that the most pragmatic solution to the war would be to activate the Moment and end it all. Despite his apparent determination to do so, his heart and ethics tell him otherwise and he's seen constantly hesitating whether to go ahead with the plan.
- Go Out with a Smile: He's absolutely delighted when he realizes the exertion of The Day's events killed him, because it means he can finally leave the War behind him. Or so he believes.
- Guttural Growler: One of the most 'gravelly'-sounding incarnations.Ten: Still, loving the posh, gravelly thing, it's very convincing.
Eleven: Huh. Brave words, Dick Van Dyke.
- Heroic Self-Deprecation:
- In the trailer for "The Day of the Doctor," the War Doctor states that "Great men are forged in fire. It is the privilege of lesser men to light the flame." The episode proper reveals that he's counting himself as the "lesser man" and his future selves as the great ones.
- He says "If I grow to be half the man you are..." seemingly to his 10th and 11th incarnations, then turns around and says: "Clara Oswald."
- Iconic Item: He wears a dark leather jacket on top of a worn down set of Victorian clothes similar to Eight's. He has a unique Sonic Screwdriver that glows an eerie red. His bandolier was the first item he picked up during his first moments of life, and is also similar to the satchel from Eight's new costume in "Dark Eyes".
- I Did What I Had to Do: Claims he killed everyone in the Time War and then locked them away "without choice", for "peace and sanity." Eleven agrees with him.
- I Hate Past Me:
- The other incarnations of the Doctor refuse to speak about him, as he's the one who soaked his hands in the blood of a billion galaxies.
- When they physically meet, however, both 10 and 11 treat him with a mixture of dread and pity, knowing what he was forced to do, and clearly have respect for him, by the end declaring him more the Doctor than anyone else due to the impossible situation he faced.Eleven: You were the Doctor on the day it wasn't possible to get it right.
- Intergenerational Friendship: Forges one with Clara after she talks with him about the Eleventh Doctor's confessions to her about the haunting memories of the Time War. He also has a bit of an intergenerational friendship with his Tenth and Eleventh incarnations, once they forgive him and he warms up to them.
- Ironic Echo: In "The Day of the Doctor" towards the 10th and 11th Doctors.War Doctor: I'm looking for the Doctor...
Tenth Doctor: ... Well, you've certainly come to the right place.
- Irony: The sole warrior incarnation of the Doctor is one of the only ones to actually die of old age.
- It Has Been an Honor: He says this once he leaves the company of Doctors Ten and Eleven.War Doctor: Well, gentlemen, it has been an honor... and a privilege.
- It's a Wonderful Plot:
- In reverse. Before he can activate the Moment, the "conscience" of the device interrupts to show the War Doctor who he'll become: the man who regrets (Ten), and the man who forgets (Eleven). But because he is destined to forget these events, this turns into a Foregone Conclusion that he will first and foremost become a man who resents (Nine).
- Zig-Zagged by the conclusion: Despite (or perhaps because of) all that he's seen, the War Doctor still opts to carry through with his mission, his reasoning being that countless species owe their lives to the Doctor's atonement. Ten and Eleven deliberate over this, and the three Doctors conclude it's better to fail doing the right thing, than it is to succeed doing the wrong thing.War Doctor: She didn't show me just any future! She showed me exactly the future I needed to see!
- I Was Quite a Looker: When the War Doctor peers at his reflection for the first time, the face which greets him is a young (and clean-shaven) John Hurt's. Given it took a thousand years for Eleven to grow old, this implies the War Doctor lasted a very long time.
- I Was Quite a Fashion Victim: He's a inverted example as he thinks the fashion choices of his future selves ( "sandshoes" and "dicky bow") are nonsense, and reflective of a mid-life crisis.
- I Work Alone: Doesn't appear to have ever had a companion. Other media suggest he had troops instead. His future selves make it very clear that they want the former, not the latter.
- Knuckle Cracking: Seen doing this pose on the promotional cover for the 50th in SFX Magazine issue #241.
- Lampshade Hanging: a big part of his screentime and dialogue is taken up with him pointing out all the weird tics of the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors.
- Loners Are Freaks: The only Doctor not to take a long-term companion (onscreen anyway). Of course, he was fighting a war at the time, and could no longer afford the luxury of a companion, or for that matter, risk someone's life travelling with him, but it does contribute to his overall image in the eyes of Ten and Eleven.
- Loophole Abuse:
- Steven Moffat created the War Doctor to deal with the issue of which Doctor fought in the Time War and the regeneration between Doctors Eight and Nine, without disrupting the numbering by saying he is an incarnation who does not call himself the Doctor full-time.
- Other writers had trouble trying to frame Eight or Nine in the Time War because the Eighth Doctor started off far away from a warlike personality, and the Ninth Doctor was introduced as though he had just regenerated, making him feel too new to have been in the Time War. Because of this, Big Finish slowly pushed Eight into darker depths of misery and anger to lead him toward the Time War, but he was never made into a fully-fledged warrior. Moffat decided to have the Eighth Doctor logically perish in despair and become the War Doctor to strike back at the villains who broke him.
- Moffat upheld the Ninth Doctor's characterization by giving him a feasible reason to hate his past through the War Doctor, remembering an apparent double genocide was his fault. The idea Gallifrey was lost carried over to Ten and Eleven until Eleven learned he had saved Gallifrey and could finally put an end to his guilt.
- Memetic Badass: In-Universe
Gallifreyan Soldier: The first thing you notice about the Doctor of War is that he's unarmed. For many it's also the last.
- Sontarans tell legends of the War Doctor leading the Time Lords into battle.
- In "Hell Bent", one of the soldiers says that, frighteningly, the War Doctor still usually worked without weapons.
- Morality Chain: Unlike other Doctors, he has apparently shunned the use of a companion so he can remain The Unfettered. Likely with this trope in mind, the Moment assumes the form of a companion for its Interface with a Familiar Face (unfortunately getting it wrong and picking a future companion the Doctor hasn't encountered yet).
- Morton's Fork: He had the options to: let the Daleks wipe out the Time Lords and destroy all of existence, let the Time Lords wipe out the Daleks and destroy all existence... or wipe out both sides and save all of existence? The War Doctor chose to do the latter... at least until he got a second chance to pick a better option.
- My Future Self and Me: He's technically the Doctor's ninth persona so he's this with Ten and Eleven.
- My Greatest Failure: Was forced into ending the Time War by murdering billions upon billions in fire. His future incarnations have been haunted by it ever since.Eleventh Doctor: My name, my real name, that is not the point. The name I chose is "the Doctor." The name you choose, it's like a promise you make. He's the one who broke the promise.
- My Greatest Second Chance: Thanks to the Eleventh Doctor, who had 400 self-flagellating years to think of a way out: Just as his sonic screwdriver still contains data from the War Doctor's old version, Eleven reckons they can enlist the help of the First Doctor — and his twelve successors — to crunch the numbers necessary to move Gallifrey into a pocket dimension.
- My Revenge Is Mercy: As Nine would hint at, he had no desire to live past the end of the war. The Moment itself decided living on would be his 'punishment'.
- Necessarily Evil: Turned himself into a warrior who killed billions "in the name of peace and sanity". His later incarnations deeply regret he chose to walk down this path.
- Neutral No Longer: His previous incarnation refused to fight in the Time War proper, instead doing all he could to save those caught in the crossfire. After a series of losses and tragedies, he finally elects to regenerate into a "warrior" and wade into the fray.
- No Name Given:
- Is referred to simply as "The Doctor" in the episode he debuted, without being given a numbered regeneration. In "The Night of the Doctor" he's credited as "the War Doctor". Then in "The Day of the Doctor" he is once again credited simply as "The Doctor," as part of a long list of people credited as such, listed between Paul McGann (the Eighth Doctor) and Christopher Eccleston (the Ninth Doctor).
- This version of the Doctor also follows the trope in another way by refusing (until the very end) to answer to the name Doctor. Other than being called "the renegade" once by another Time Lord, on screen it has yet to be revealed what monicker he actually went by (assuming he didn't just rely on "Hey, you"). This has not been consistently followed in the expanded universe media; in the novel Engines of War, for example, he is addressed as and answers to "the Doctor" throughout (though he never actually identifies himself by that name). A soldier on Gallifrey refers to him as "The Doctor of War" in "Hell Bent".
- It's entirely possible that, since he never took on any companions, he had nobody to regularly converse with for his entire life, and thus no actual need for a name.
- Not So Above It All: Ironically, despite being The Dreaded to his other incarnations, the Time Lords and half the Dalek Empire, this Doctor is still not above trading petty insults with his future selves, deadpan snarkery, or a Catch Phrase.
- Not-So-Imaginary Friend: The Moment tags along behind the War Doctor during his story. Since she inhabits his head, she can't be seen or heard by others — although Ten registers an Eye Take when War Doctor blows a kiss to the "Bad Wolf girl".
- The Oathbreaker: Eleven describes him as "the one who broke the promise" inherent in the name "The Doctor";War Doctor: What I did, I did without choice.
Eleven: I know...
War Doctor: In the name of peace and sanity.
Eleven: But not in the name of the Doctor!
- Odd Name Out: He's the one non-Doctor among the Doctor's many lives. "Doctor no more" are literally his first words after regenerating. Even when his Doctor-ness is restored at the end of "The Day of the Doctor," he doesn't get a numbered name like his fellow Doctors do, and is instead referred to as "The War Doctor." (Steven Moffat has stated that the numbers stay in place as they were, and that the Doctor themself doesn't usually use numbers to refer to their incarnations anyway.)
- OOC Is Serious Business:
- In "The Name of the Doctor", the rest of the Doctor's "ghosts" are effectively Palette Swaps of the same running figure, one that ignores Clara and Eleven. Then this guy shows up. He's not running. He's looking back over a field of ruins, and he knows they're there.
- Over the course of "The Day of the Doctor," it becomes obvious that he's unique among the Doctors in terms of his ruthlessness (even the Sixth and Seventh Doctors would have warned the Time Lords and Daleks before using the Moment), but he's also so full of self-loathing that he refuses not only the name of the Doctor, but even to acknowledge his own self-worth. The Doctor is many things across his incarnations, but he's never been humble.
- Old Soldier: When he regenerates from the Eighth Doctor, he's shown as John Hurt as a young man. This means by the end of the Time War he's very old, implying the war lasted well over a thousand years. He's also played by the oldest actor to ever play the role, selling how exhausted he's become of the Time War.
- One Extra Member: He is the extra member, having been retconned in between the Eighth and Ninth Doctors years after Nine's tenure ended.
- Perpetual Frowner: He's fighting a war. There's very little for him to be happy about.
- Pragmatic Hero: He is a good man put in a dreadful situation of having to destroy his planet... which he desperately wants to avoid, and when convinced of having a better variant, he grabs it immediately.
- Red Baron: He ditches the name of the Doctor, and while it isn't clear what name he takes up instead, one Gallifreyan soldier refers to him in Hell Bent as 'The Doctor of War'. At first, this just seems like a rejig of the 'War Doctor' name. Then, on further consideration, the full meaning sinks in: the title of Doctor is accorded to someone who hasn't just Mastered an art, they've taken it to a whole new level. What did he do to earn such a title?
- Redemption Equals Death: As if on cue, he starts to regenerate shortly after helping to preserve Gallifrey. Job done, he returns to the old school TARDIS and suddenly remembers his own advanced age. ("Wearing a bit thin.")
- Redemption Quest: The Moment kind of forcibly sends him on one in order to dissuade him from using it. This works spectacularly.
- Retraux: His TARDIS desktop theme is a return to the roundels associated with 1-7, plus the coral struts and console associated with 9-10. It's unclear whether this was the control room of the 8th Doctor at the time of his regeneration or whether the War Doctor jettisoned the extra space commonly associated with 8 in keeping with his more bare bones, down to basics style.
- Rummage Sale Reject: Wears an outfit that evokes both Eighth and Ninth's wardrobe: an old scarf, striped shirt, a raggedy waistcoat and chain, along with a dark leather jacket similar to his next incarnation's, with faded, beaten up trousers, a rugged leather belt, worn down stirrups, and combat boots, almost like an old lawman. The scarf may be a throwback to the Fourth Doctor, and his messy, battle-damaged clothes hearken back to the Second Doctor's unkempt style. He also nicked his bandolier off the lifeless Cass and uses it to house his Sonic Screwdriver.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: His entire existence had been brought about by the Time War and Eighth's embittered decision to join it, despite his original plans. On the last day of the war, he seems to have lost all hope for ever saving Gallifrey, so he hatches a plan to eradicate both his people and the Daleks with the Moment. His repeated proclamations of "No More" are less a sign of anger at how things are going, and more of a general resignation on his part. He feels like he's betrayed everything he stood for as the Doctor and that his attempts to help defend Gallifrey and win the war in favor of his people were All for Nothing to begin with. Luckily, the Moment decides to pose as the weary Doctor's conscience and tries its best to renew some of his lost hope.
- Sinister Silhouette: He first appears as a shadowy figure with his back to the camera.
- Small Role, Big Impact: By far the Doctor with the least outings of them all in any medium, but the biggest weight to carry. This is the one Doctor who sets the guilt-laden tone for the rest up to Eleven. We can infer he's been around for an enormous length of time beyond what is visibly shown, but he's only made one full TV appearance, planted at the very end of his story. He doesn't spend his life running around the universe visiting planets at will. He involves himself in the Time War and keeps fighting until he's quite old and out of steam, but the door has been left wide open for others to fill in the gaps.
- The Snark Knight: Spends much of his introduction to Ten and Eleven comedically snarking at the more stylistic indulgences of the series since its revival in 2005.
- Sociopathic Soldier: He counts as a Type 4/Broken Soldier variety.
- Take a Third Option: After having four hundred years to reflect on this decision, his Eleventh incarnation convinces him to simply bluff the destruction of Gallifrey by shunting it into a Pocket Dimension, where it'd be safe.
- That Man Is Dead: This is his whole shtick, as he denies the moniker of "the Doctor" in favor of fighting in the Time War as a warrior. His first words after he regenerates from the Eighth Doctor are even "Doctor no more.".
- That Mysterious Thing: When he first appears in "The Name of the Doctor", it's never explained what horrible act he committed to lose his right to be called the Doctor (although admittedly, the bulk of the fanbase guessed he was the one who ended the Time War). He himself also used to be the Doctor's greatest, and totally undefined, secret. The truths are later revealed in what led to his birth and the anniversary special.Clara: What is it? What's his biggest secret?
Jenny: We don't know. It's a secret.
- This Is Unforgivable!: Eleven states his actions were so unforgivable he refuses to acknowledge this incarnation as the Doctor.
- Thousand-Yard Stare: He appears haunted by his dishonorable actions.
- Tragic Hero: The War Doctor doesn't get to remember saving Gallifrey in "Day of the Doctor", so he, Nine, and Ten continue to despise him. He's still grateful to have been "The Doctor" again.
- Tragic Keepsake: His bandolier is taken from a woman named Cass, whom the Eighth Doctor tried to save but failed, leading to his regeneration.
- Tricked Out Time: How he, Ten and Eleven save Gallifrey. This time around, the Doctors make Gallifrey vanish into a Pocket Dimension. However, as the attacking Daleks all get caught in their own crossfire, Gallifrey still appears to blow up. As the past and future Doctors coming together causes a Temporal Paradox, the Ninth and Tenth Doctors retain no memory of these revised events.
- The Unfettered: What happens when the Doctor abandons his own self-imposed rules.Eighth Doctor: I don't suppose there's any need for a "Doctor" anymore...
- Unperson: The Doctor has removed nearly all signs of his existence, to the point Clara only sees him after traveling through the Doctor's entire timeline (though River, who made it a point to acquaint herself with all the faces of his first regeneration cycle, has a photo of him in "The Husbands of River Song"). However, when the Tenth and Eleventh actually get to know him and understand his anguish, they regret doing this.
- Vindicated by History: In-Universe. The Tenth and Eleventh Doctor eventually come to forgive him and apologise for how they thought of him, realising it was wrong to deny his existence.Tenth Doctor: All these years burying you in my memory...
Eleventh Doctor: Pretending you didn't exist, a secret even from myself...
Tenth Doctor: Pretending you weren't the Doctor, when you were the Doctor more than anybody else.
Eleventh Doctor: You were the Doctor on the day it wasn't possible to get it right.
- Waistcoat of Style: Wears an old, worn one.
- Walking Spoiler: Knowing anything about him gives away The Reveal of his existence in "The Name of the Doctor".
- We Hardly Knew Ye: John Hurt made only three appearances as the War Doctor, never signing on for a full tenure, just guest appearances to commemorate the 50th. One was a brief cliffhanger, while another was a CGI illusion to visualize a young Hurt as the War Doctor in his prime when the Eighth Doctor first regenerated into him. His only full appearance is in "The Day of the Doctor", and since Hurt wasn't going to stick around, his Doctor was given a regeneration sequence to stitch up the missing transition to the Ninth Doctor and close the book on the War Doctor. Luckily, the rest of his uncharted lifetime became open season for writers - the big one being Big Finish, who got Hurt to reprise the War Doctor as the main character in twelve hour-long dramas (comprising four box sets of three episodes each). Sadly John Hurt died in 2017, shortly before the release of the last box set.
- Wham Shot: Just as the day seems to be saved at the end of "The Name of the Doctor", the scene cuts to him in shadow, a Doctor no one has ever heard of before.
- When He Smiles: He's grumpy, sour, and snarky, but not devoid of the humor and optimistic joy that are fundamental to who the Doctor is as a person.
- Who Writes This Crap?!: The War Doctor is not shy in his opinions of his successors, in what could be taken as meta commentary on elements added to the show since its revival in 2005; jabs at elements such as the younger, sexier casting choices ("... am I having a midlife crisis?"), the Revival Doctors' habit of pointing their sonic screwdrivers like Dirty Harry ("There you are with the pointing again! What are you going to do, assemble a cabinet at them?!?") or getting snogged by the various women they encounter ("Is there a lot of this in the future?").
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Was forced into ending the Time War by killing billions. The alternatives were allowing space and time to become a living hell, or letting the Time Lord Council destroy all of reality.
- Would Hurt a Child: Though he deliberated about it for some time, he ultimately accepted that destroying Gallifrey would take all 2.47 billion child inhabitants with it and decided to go through with it anyway. That is, until his future self realises he can Take a Third Option.
- You Are Not Alone: The Tenth and Eleventh Doctors both join hands on the Moment's trigger, to spare their counterpart the burden of making this decision alone.
- You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Along with reassuring him that he shouldn't be left alone with his suffering and moral dilemma, the Tenth and Eleventh Doctor and Clara give him a tender pep talk about why he isn't a heartless monster, or a villain, but still the Doctor. The Tenth and Eleventh Doctor waste no time in admitting that they judged him too harshly and treated him like a pariah in their memories, but have changed their opinions on him once they actually witnessed the enormity of what he had to face. They apologise to him and assure him that he is the Doctor, like all the other incarnations, and was just unfortunate to get the short end of the stick.
Tropes associated with BBC New Series Adventures
- Apologetic Attacker: He apologises to a Time Lord before knocking them out.
- Arch-Enemy: Rassilon is depicted as a more personal foe to the War Doctor than the Daleks, as, unlike the Daleks, Rassilon is on the Doctor's side of the war and the Doctor can't strike Rassilon down like he does with the Daleks. Eventually, Rassilon proves the worst of two evils, and the Doctor takes drastic action to stop the war.
- Save the Villain: He saves the Time Lord Karlax even though they were trying to kill him. Averted later, however: when Karlax tries to kill him and Cinder dies as a result, the Doctor dematerialises the TARDIS around Karlax, leaving him surrounded by Daleks.
Tropes associated with Big Finish
The Warrior. Expanding upon his main appearance in "The Day of the Doctor", we see him at the heart of the Time War; blunt, no nonsense, really grumpy, and ready to do what has to be done. The War Doctor insists he's not the Doctor anymore, but there are still hints of his old self that pop up occasionally. The War Doctor's story is told in a 12-part series released in four installments separate from the monthly range.
- Aborted Arc: John Hurt's passing prevented any more stories apart from the four boxsets from being made.
- Arch-Enemy: The Dalek Time Strategist.
- Berserk Button: He really doesn't like being called the Doctor, since he's renounced the name. He'll freak out if you call him it enough.
- Break the Cutie: He does a little tampering on a constantly time fluxing planet to see if Time Lords and Kaleds can live in peace by removing their memories that they're enemies and having them live in an arcadian society. It doesn't work however since they've been fighting for so long and the Kaleds quickly revert back to being Daleks, and all he can do is futilely trying to convince them that they don't have to fight.
- Dark Reprise: his version of the Doctor Who is a lot more ominous and martial than the other incarnations' openings.
- Deadpan Snarker: He snarks at everyone constantly - especially Time Lord High Council members.
- Death Seeker: He often gets himself in impossible situations, hoping he won't survive.
- Despair Event Horizon: Every installment has him inch closer and closer to the day he'll cross it and eventually decree... No More!
- Doomed Moral Victor: He insists that the Time Lords need to have the moral high ground or else any victory is meaningless. Of course by the time of "The Day of the Doctor" we know things have gotten so bad that he resolves to end it once and for all.
- Grumpy Old Man: Definitely more grumpy than he was in his brief TV appearances.
- I Work Alone: He explicitly does not take on companions since he's got a war to fight. Not that it doesn't stop from befriending young women he meets on his adventures anyway, mind you.
- Informed Attribute: Many note this "unfettered" Doctor really isn't that different from his previous incarnations, something Lara, a Dalek mercenary in "Agents of Chaos" mocks him for. He proves her wrong. Specifically, when he RetGones her using the Pauli Exclusion Principle - two atoms can't occupy the same space at the same time. He has to override the TARDIS safety protocols to do it but he does it, nonetheless.
- It's All My Fault: He feels responsible for the Time War since his Fourth incarnation didn't finish them off in "Genesis of the Daleks" when he had the chance. He speculates that the Daleks have never forgotten that - hence why they declared war on the Time Lords.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He can be really rude, but his hearts are still firmly in the right places.
- Kill 'Em All: In "Casualties of War" he asks the Enigma to wipe out both the Daleks and the Time Lords to make sure there can never be another Time War. However they refuse since they know that deep down below the Doctor doesn't want it. Of course, he'll eventually try it himself when he gets his hands on the Moment.
- Mercy Kill: He does this a lot given how in the Time War, death isn't necessarily permanent... until he makes it so.
- Never Hurt an Innocent: What sets him apart from the rest of the Time Lords. Whatever he does, he's doing his damn best to make sure bystanders aren't hurt in the cross-fire. However we know that he'll eventually grow out of this mindset when he decides to use the Moment to end the war once and for all - regardless of how many innocent Gallifreyans have to die too.
- Noodle Incident: What finally drove him over the edge to use the Moment goes unexplained - and since John Hurt passed away we never will— at least not without the help of a soundalike. note
- Only Sane Man: He's absolutely disgusted by the insane chaos of the war and is the only one to see how the Time Lords have gone off the deep end and how the longer they fight the more they become like the Daleks.
- Really 700 Years Old: He's been in this body long enough that he aged from a young man into an old one.
- Rogues Gallery: Daleks, Taalyens, Cardinal Ollistra, Dalek Prime, Traanus, Varga plants, Lara Zannis, Sontarans, the Dalek Time Strategist, Heleyna, the Unlived, and the Enigma.
- Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: He's not a polite chap to say the least.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: He's been fighting the Time War way too long.
- Sociopathic Soldier: He's a Type 4 "Broken Soldier" kind.
- Take a Third Option: Averted. He's stuck in a situation where there are no third options; you either do what has to be done or everyone will die. The one time he tries it backfires horribly.
- Teeth Clenched Team Work: With the Time Lords. He prefers to fight the war on his terms - i.e. alone rather than taking orders from them.
- That Man Is Dead: He's renounced the name of the Doctor, claiming he's no longer him. Nobody buys it.
- Unwitting Pawn: The Time Lords have figured out that the best way to get this Doctor to do something for them is to pull a bit of reverse psychology on him.
- You Are Better Than You Think You Are: He thinks himself a monster because of all the horrible things he's done in the Time War. The fact he feels immense guilt over all the things he's done proves he isn't; if he were, the things he's done wouldn't have bothered him in the least.
Tropes associated with Titan Comics
- Rogues Gallery: The Volatix Cabal and Cyclors.
Tropes associated with other comics
- Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: His appearance in The Clockwise War and Ambush is obviously based on John Hurt's appearance in The '70s.
- Frontline General: Doctor Who: Four Doctors actually shows him in action during the Time War, personally leading some truly irregular forces- a platoon of Voord. You can either read it as a sign of how far he's fallen, or as a show that he's still a Defector from Decadence to Gallifrey's Armchair Military.