a case of canon vs canon, david tennant, doctor who, doctor who 50th anniversary, eleventh doctor, john hurt, matt smith, russel t davies, steven moffat, tenth doctor, the day of the doctor, the doctor, tv reviews
I embarked on this analysis to comfort myself after considering the implications of the 50th. Somehow “The Day of the Doctor” doesn’t gel with years of previous canon material, and here I’ll try to explain how. In the previous segment, I outlined how the Doctor did watch his planet destroyed, and how the 50th should have implied how the Doctor found it impossible to sense that he was not alone if a whole planet of Time Lords were still alive. This update presents a characterization argument.
The Doctor’s mercy towards Daleks/hatred of genocide
DOCTOR: But you were destroyed. In the very first year of the Time War, at the Gates of Elysium. I saw your command ship fly into the jaws of the Nightmare Child. I tried to save you.
DAVROS: But it took one stronger than you. Dalek Caan himself.
CAAN: I flew into the wild and fire. I danced and died a thousand times.
DAVROS: Emergency Temporal Shift took him back into the Time War itself.
DOCTOR: But that’s impossible. The entire War is timelocked.
(4.12 “The Stolen Earth”)
DOCTOR: Davros? Come with me. I promise I can save you.
(4.13 “Journey’s End”)
Notice how the Doctor even wanted to save Davros. The most horrible enemy, the creator of the Daleks, and he wanted to save him. But the Doctors at the end of the 50th hadn’t the faintest regret or sorrow that millions of Daleks were about to kill each other. The Tenth Doctor has huge sorrow over genocide of any kind (as we saw in his powerful admonition in 4.6 “The Doctor’s Daughter”). In 3.5 “The Evolution of the Daleks” specifically he saw the last Dalek, Dalek Caan, and told him that he wasn’t going to kill him because he didn’t want to commit genocide. I don’t think he’d go back on his morality in the 50th. Life is precious to the Doctor, and in the Tenth Doctor’s era especially, we never see him take unmitigated pleasure in the fall of his enemies, even of Daleks.
DALEK EMPEROR: I want to see you become like me. Hail the Doctor, the Great Exterminator.
DOCTOR: I’ll do it!
DALEK EMPEROR : Then prove yourself, Doctor. What are you, coward or killer?
DOCTOR: Coward. Any day.
(1.13 “The Parting of the Ways”)
The Doctor hates to take life, but he would if he had to and only after he had given that enemy a chance to be good or change their mind (Sycorax, Krillitanes, Racnos, Sontarans, etc), and it’s often with sorrow and seriousness (the Cybermen in “Age of Steel”). There was none of that emotion and moral complexity in the 50th. In Eleven and the Hurt Doctor I might not have minded this lack of complexity, but in the Tenth Doctor? Ten is a morally complex and responsible incarnation. He should have at least a moment of sorrow for all the Daleks he is about to laugh off to their deaths. But the Doctors were happy to just let the Daleks destroy one another. It was a complete victory to them, with no sense of the loss of life at all. That doesn’t fit the definition of the Doctor at all.
DAVROS: Oh, that’s it. The anger, the fire, the rage of a Time Lord who butchered millions. There he is. Why so shy? Show your companion. Show her your true self. Dalek Caan has promised me that too.
CAAN: I have seen. At the time of ending, the Doctor’s soul will be revealed.
(4.13 “Journey’s End”)
This whole speech by Davros is obviously talking about the Doctor’s actions throughout his life of fighting aliens, but I think specifically of war, where the word “butchery” is more often used of killing mass numbers of people (read: genocide). The thing about this statement, too, is that the Doctor believed Davros’ accusation, which is why the Doctor felt ashamed at what he had done in the Time War and the lives he took. The kick in Davros’ charge is that the Doctor “killed” the lives of friends throughout his life (e.g., River, Jenny, Astrid), but “millions” would mean the Time War, and the “friends” of his fellow Time Lords. That’s the only way Davros could burn the Doctor’s soul, by accusing him of guilt over butchering his people, his “friends.” Because Davros accusing him of killing Daleks would (in his mind) be simply accusing one side of killing the enemy in battle. Not much guilt in that, at least Davros would think. Again, the kick of the whole of Davros’ words is that the Doctor is responsible for his friends dying or somehow going bad because of him. Companions and Time Lords alike.
CAAN: I have seen the end of everything Dalek, and you must make it happen, Doctor.
META-CRISIS DOCTOR: He’s right. Because with or without a Reality bomb, this Dalek Empire’s big enough to slaughter the cosmos. They’ve got to be stopped.
DONNA: Just, just wait for the Doctor.
META-CRISIS DOCTOR: I am the Doctor. Maximising Dalekanium power feeds. Blasting them back!
(Daleks start exploding all over the Crucible and all over the Medusa Cascade. The Doctor runs out of the Tardis.)
DOCTOR (horrified): What have you done?
META-CRISIS DOCTOR: Fulfilling the prophecy.
(4.13 “Journey’s End”)
DOCTOR: But you’ve got to. Because we saved the universe, but at a cost. And the cost is him. He destroyed the Daleks. He committed genocide. He’s too dangerous to be left on his own. (…) You were born in battle, full of blood and anger and revenge. Remind you of someone? That’s me, when we first met. (4.13 “Journey’s End”)
Again, we see how much the Doctor hates to take the lives of even his enemies, and how he objected to his human metacrisis’ idea of killing all the Daleks. The Doctor puts the genocide of the Daleks on his list of personal sins. The very action (and against the same alien enemies) that he deemed wrong in “Journey’s End” is taken without remorse or depth of thought in the 50th. It’s a glaring characterization error, at least on Ten’s part, and one I find particularly irksome because it jars violently against previous canon and careful characterization. What I loved about watching the Doctor was how sorrowful he was when he had to take life. I didn’t get that vibe from the 50th, no sense of the moral immensity of his action at all.