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Steven Moffat Ignores Canon, Insists That the Doctor Could Be Human

This is a great one. Apparently, in a recent issue of Doctor Who Magazine, Steven Moffat insisted that the Doctor never explicitly stated that he was an alien in Classic Who. Therefore there’s no proof that he is.

Do we have to do this now, Moffat? It’s too early in the week for this.

The challenge, as it were:

“Here’s a question I tried on some Doctor Who fans recently, and we were all a bit startled by the answer, when it finally emerged – if we got it right. Okay; keeping in mind that everything you know for sure is probably wrong, answer me this: in which story is it confirmed, definitively, that the Doctor is not human?

“Now before you jump up and yell An Unearthly Child – sorry, but wrong. He makes it clear he’s not from this time, and seems to indicate that he was born on another world, but he never says he’s an alien. He could, just as easily, be a human being from the far future, born on some colonised world. Indeed, most of his conversation in the early days would seem to confirm that he thinks of himself as human, and he even explicitly states that he is, at least once.

“So come on then. To your DVD collection. In what story do the wise men and women of the BBC stop fudging the issue, and make our hero Not One Of Us. I’m not talking about him having remarkable abilities or attributes – we’ve always known he’s not ordinary, that’s fair enough. Spider-Man’s not ordinary, but he’s not an alien. And I’m not talking about series bibles, or internal memos or retconned continuity – when did the Doctor Who production team stop hedging their bets and make him alien?

“Fandom, to your work. Yes, Russell, you too.”

Here’s the thing, though; Russell T. Davies wrote—in his very first episode—that the Doctor was an alien. Unequivocally. And as much as Moffat seems determined to overwrite a huge portion of the Davies Era, the fact that RTD wrote it does not make it less canon than Classic Era Who. Saying that’s the case is just plain disrespectful. If you’d like the quote from “Rose,” by the way, here it is:

ROSE: It’s alien.

DOCTOR: Yeah.

ROSE: Are you alien?

DOCTOR: Yes. Is that alright?

ROSE: Yeah.

Sorry, there’s just not much ambiguity there. In addition, the Doctor could not have used his blood to make Florence register as an alien to the Judoon in “Smith and Jones” if he were not an alien himself, but I guess we’re not going to count that anymore either because Davies wrote it?

You know where they did suggest that the Doctor was maybe a little human? Oh right, in that television movie that everyone would forget and write out of canon, were it not for the fact that we got the superb Paul McGann as an incarnation of the Doctor out of it. Davies actually subtly poked fun at that in his own run, which made most of the fandom assume that the Doctor had tricked the Master into believing he was half-human. And that made sense, because if the Master was Eric Roberts back then, wouldn’t you want to mess with him, too?

Of course, there’s every chance that Moffat is just nagging at fandom and having some fun, but if this ends up getting used? If it’s decided that the Doctor has been lying about his heritage, or that Time Lords are just super advanced humans? That would be a disappointment of the highest degree. Like, right up there with terrible endings to good TV shows, and Jar Jar Binks, and finding out that Michael Bay is directing a film based on yet another precious piece of your childhood.

The fact that there is the slightest room for wiggly interpretation does not mean that something needs reinterpreting. Sure, we could adopt this philosophy because we think it makes us sound terribly clever, but all that really leads to are statements like:

“Well, can you prove that aliens didn’t build the pyramids? Because if you can’t, that means they did!”

“Are you really sure you’ve got pneumonia? Because your symptoms could indicate a few other viruses, so it’s probably them instead!”

“The writers of the Oxford English Dictionary could have been pulling our legs this whole time—so it’s completely reasonable to suggest that a ‘bunny’ is a different animal entirely!”

What’s most irritating about this, is that it would be a huge undermining of the character. The Doctor is not Spider-Man, no matter how Moffat would like to compare them. The reason why the Doctor matters, why his opinion seems relevant at all, is because he’s an alien who finds humanity extraordinary. That makes us special by default, this idea that there is some wonder to be seen in us, coming from an alien with abilities so far beyond anything that we understand. If it were to turn out that he was just a human with two hearts, all that wonder would come off so cheap. The Doctor’s interest in us would cease to matter. Of course he time travels with humans all the time! We’re just the same as him, after all.

Just prodding for the sake of prodding is not really funny, or even very interesting. It would be nice if maybe Moffat spent less time figuring out ways to completely change Who canon for funsies, and spent a little more time on season finales that didn’t rely on characters we’ve never met, doing things we never knew were important. Yeah, I’d settle for that.


Emily Asher-Perrin just really hopes that a few things RTD put in place remain intact by the time Moffat is finished. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

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