The Doctor Who finale, “The Name of the Doctor,” was a satisfying outing that answered many fan questions, but left us with one MAJOR question that is tearing the fandom apart: John Hurt Who? Let’s examine the theories crawling throughout the internet about who this character is, and how he might be involved in the Nov. 23 50th Anniversary Special. Because, let’s face it, we’re dying of curiosity, and what else can we do?
2. He is an older version of the Eighth Doctor
After DW’s cancellation in 1989, the TV movie Doctor Who was the only televised story fans had until the 2005 reboot. This movie was the only TV outing the Eighth Doctor ever enjoyed. Canon doesn’t provide us with very much information regarding how many years the Doctor existed in this incarnation, and it’s possible that the doctor aged quite a bit before regenerating into the Ninth. In addition, Paul McGann has contributed his voice to many more audio stories than a typical former Doctor, which suggests that Eight had a good, long ride. Supporters of this theory suggest that John Hurt is a battle-hardened version of 8, or 8.5, because this is the Doctor that fought in the Time War, and really, who knows how long a Time War lasts?
3. The Problem
Paul McGann has made clear, time and time again, that he loves being a former Doctor, and he would be thrilled to take up the mantle again, anytime. He doesn’t look very different than he did in the 1996 movie, and he already has an established DW fanbase, especially taking into consideration his audio contributions. If the writers simply wanted to age the 8th, why wouldn’t they just use McGann?
4. Similarly: John Hurt is the REAL Ninth Doctor
This theory is similar to the previous theory. Rather than an aged Eighth, however, John Hurt is truly the Ninth Doctor, and Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor was really the Tenth, and so on. John Hurt does seem battle-hardened, and it makes sense that he would be the Time War Doctor. The Doctor has occasionally alluded to the fact that he did things in the Time War that he wasn’t proud of, and it would fit into the Doctor’s explanation to Clara that John Hurt is one of his faces, but not the Doctor.
5. The Problem
Recent seasons/series have made a VERY big deal out of the fact that Eleven IS Eleven, and have thrown the number 11 out there whenever possible. Just in the past several episodes, Clara names Chapter 11 as her favorite in Summer Falls and names whiskey as the “Eleventh most disgusting thing ever invented.” Supporters of the theory might defend it and say that Eleven would still be Eleven and Ten would still be Ten, because the Doctor said he was Something Else. But it seems like Steven Moffat, for whatever reason, wants us to know exactly where we are in the order of regenerations.
6. John Hurt is the pre-TARDIS-stealing Doctor
What we know about the Doctor and the TARDIS is that he stole it. He has admitted to it many, many times. And we saw Clara this week make her first intervention to helping him by directing the First Doctor to the correct TARDIS to steal. Ever since that encounter, echoes of her were fractured around space and time, trying to help various Doctors in various emergency situations. It is possible that the reason she didn’t recognize the John Hurt face is that he was the Doctor before he took the name of Doctor. Whatever his actions were, that major secret, the Doctor felt the need to escape Gallifrey by stealing a TARDIS and become something entirely different. He just regenerated into One first.
7. John Hurt is an aged version of the Human Tenth Doctor
When a human version of the Tenth Doctor was creepily/sweetly awarded to Rose Tyler, it seemed that was the last we would ever see of them as a couple. It was specifically stated that he would age as any normal human would. We already know that both David Tennant and Billie Piper are involved in the 50th Anniversary special. How interesting would it be to see the Doctor interact with an aging human version of himself? He technically wouldn’t even be crossing his own timeline.
8. The Problem
If John Hurt is a human Tenth Doctor, then he probably wouldn’t be in the actual Doctor’s head as one of his faces. Also, what did he do that was so terrible that Eleven feels the need to hide it?
9. John Hurt is the Valeyard
So what is the Valeyard? He is a future incarnation of the Doctor that is an amalgamation of his darker side. He is potentially the 12th or 13th regeneration of the Doctor, or his last regeneration, depending on whether or not you subscribe to the theory that there are a limited number of regenerations. Obviously, this is already a version of the Doctor that is doing evil things under a different name, which is what is implied with John Hurt. Supporting this theory is the fact that Simeon specifically called out the Valeyard in the same episode, reminding us that he existed before we (maybe) got re-acquainted with him.
10. But it is probably something else entirely.
Steven Moffat usually comes up with something no one can see coming. Arguments all over the internet are getting heated, even though no one really knows for sure, with the exception of the cast and crew. There are probably at least 100 more theories out there; what is yours?