If I never again hear someone asking if the Doctors now need to be renumbered in the wake of “Day of the Doctor”, it will be too soon.
If it were only a bit of fun or mischievous shit stirring, I could understand it. But some people have been asking the question in serious tones, as if it were conceivable that any sane person would answer “yes”.
The fan mentality of course naturally drives us every waking moment to draw up lists but there are limits. Do we draw up lists of the order in which we love members of our family?
This isn’t like positing the existence of a Season 6B or insisting on referring to the New Who series as Seasons 27 onwards. This is the Doctors we’re talking about.
Each time that we call Matt Smith “The Eleventh Doctor”, we’re not simply pointing out his position in a list. “The Eleventh Doctor” is not his number, it’s his title. The question of what any one Doctor’s title should be is only seriously open for question at one point – the point at which his predecessor regenerates into him. At that point, we look at his predecessor’s title, add one and get the new title. And it sticks. It’s as much a part of him as his bow-tie or hand-flapping.
It may seem easier in the current climate to imagine that the Doctors’ titles can be adjusted at a whim. Steven Moffat has had to bugger about with the number of Doctors in order to artificially bring forward the end of his regeneration cycle. Quite why he did this is a mystery, or actually not much of one. It’s not as if he’d come up with a genius idea for solving the problem of a brand new regeneration cycle. The idea that the new cycle needed to begin at the 50th anniversary in order to relaunch the Doctor into the next 50 years is the sort of specious writerbabble bullshit that Doctor Who’s showrunners come out with in the modern era whenever they need to give an authoritative sheen to what is usually just a writer’s whim. I suspect that Steven Moffat just wanted to be the man who solved the regeneration cycle question, just as his predecessor used the Hand Doctor regeneration to give an extra dramatic kick to a series finale cliff-hanger. Thus the concept of regeneration, which used to be a momentous event and a milestone in our childhood memories, is reduced to a mere banality.
Imagine if you will that the previously unsuspected extra Doctor had been inserted into the hazy period between The Second Doctor’s trial at the end of “The War Games” and The Third Doctor falling out of the TARDIS at the start of “Spearhead from Space”. Would anyone take seriously for a moment the suggestion that Jon Pertwee should henceforth be referred to as The Fourth Doctor? That the grand old man himself should be elbowed along the bench to become The Fifth Doctor? It’s too risible to even contemplate. Tom Baker is so indelibly “The Fourth Doctor” that the words themselves almost cease to have any internal meaning. It’s a title, not a number.
Thankfully, even Steven Moffat hasn’t tried to go against nature and gave the John Hurt incarnation the convenient title of “The War Doctor”.
One is almost tempted to wonder whether, for the people seriously asking this question, Doctor Who and the Doctors themselves exist in their hearts or in a formula at the foot of some statistical analysis spreadsheet. Not for nothing does “analysis” begin with those four letters.
Have some bloody heart, people!