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Is Steven Moffat Crowd-Sourcing Doctor Who Canon?

Is Steven Moffat Crowd-Sourcing Doctor Who Canon?

By Ryan Britt

Recently, Doctor Who showrunner and-fan-outrage-lightning-rod, Steven Moffat seemed to flippantly suggest that the beloved two-hearted Time Lord from Gallifrey is never expressly said to be an alien and indeed could be human. Moffat then said “fandom to your work,” which, while a little offensive, could be interpreted by all of us as actually just is a little more direct version of “keeping writing about Doctor Who.” But what’s the deal? Could Moffat have a point? Is the Doctor NOT necessarily a human being?

Here’s the essential ending part of what Moffat actually said: “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?” And already, the fans—professional or not—have pointed out exactly when it happens. Noted Who Blogger Emily Asher-Perrin (Queers Dig Time Lords) mentions a very specific exchange between the 9th Doctor and Rose in which she asks him if he’s an alien and he says yes. Meanwhile on io9’s Observation Deck, the question is being parsed out differently and that Moffat was really just pointing out how often continuity in any universe is sort of in flux. So what’s the deal?

The more interesting question might not be is a fictional character who most assume to be an alien not an alien, but instead, why would Moffat randomly make this suggestion? Could it be that instead of actually trying to annoying his fanbase, that Moffat is instead genuinely asking the question, his own version of crowd-sourcing? Infamously or not in the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie, the Doctor mentions he is “half-human on his mother’s side.” As pointed out by Steven Moffat’s predecessor, former Who showrunner Russell T. Davies, this fact isn't well-liked but also, according to Davies, can’t be ignored. During the Davies era, it’s not as though great-pains are made to prove he’s an alien, it’s just simply stated as fact. In "Human Nature" and "Utopia" the Doctor and the Master even use a device called “the chameleon arch,” which re-writes their DNA in order to disguise themselves as other kinds of lifeforms, specifically, humans. While this detail, along with the 11th Doctor’s line to Amy Pond in “The Beast Below” (written by Steven Moffat!) that she “looks Time Lord” and the Time Lords came “first,” the issue seems to be all but settled. And while a tie-in comic book is hardly canon, the 2010 Doctor Who IDW series “The Forgotten,” even showed the supposed half-human 8th Doctor mouthing-off about how he fooled an enemy into thinking he was half-human. This dismissal totally doesn't “count,” since it wasn't seen on screen, but elements of this section of “The Forgotten” are oddly prescient of how the end of the Time War is depicted in “The Day of the Doctor.”

Oh, but Who cares? If you look at the old continuity of the 1960’s Star Trek, the writers couldn't actually even decide what to call the race of aliens Spock belongs to; instead of “Vulcans,” there are many episodes where he’s referred to as a “Vulcanian.” They also didn't really know back then if Star Trek was set in the 22nd or the 23rd century, owing partly to the fact that StarDates don’t make any sense at all. And though inconsistencies in Star Trek don’t prove their okay in Doctor Who, pop TV science fiction often has a fairly big problem keeping their facts straight.

Here’s the possible big takeaway: if Russell T. Davies said in May that the half-human Doctor "can’t be ignored", and Moffat is now crowd-sourcing the idea that the Doctor might be some sort of weirdo future-human, then it’s not out of the realm of possibility that something season 8 will deal with the idea that some Time Lords might have combined their DNA with humans to make other Time Lords. Which leads to the more important question: if the Doctor is half-human on his mother’s side, then who will be cast to (officially!) play his mother???

Would you be interested in meeting a human member of the Doctor's family?

Tags: tv, doctor who, star trek, bbc, whovians, steven moffat

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About the Author
Ryan Britt

Ryan Britt's writing has appeared with The New York Times, Omni Reboot, Tor.com, Clarkesworld, Crossed Genres, Story Magazine, The MindHut and elsewhere. He's performed stories on stage with The Moth, The Liar Show, and is the curator of two reading series; Lust for Genre and The HiFi Reading Series. He teaches at The Gotham Writers' Workshop and lives in New York City. Follow him on Twitter @ryancbritt.

Wanna contact a writer or editor? Email contribute@sparknotes.com.