Why The Doctor is best when they are “just a traveler”

I’m pretty relaxed about the whole Timeless Child thing. I get why some parts of Who fandom are angry about it, I get why some parts are confused by it (I am, if I think about it too hard), and I get that a lot of people are fine with changes to the mythos as long as those changes are good, well thought out, and well-executed… which they don’t think the Timeless Child changes are. But broadly, I’m pretty relaxed about it. I even wrote a post a while back about how I thought The Timeless Child might actually be kind of a good thing; there is no reduction in peril for The Doctor even if they have infinite regenerations as each one is different to the last, The Doctor as we know them (and they know themselves) dies and the next Doctor could be anyone.

At the end of the day this is a TV show where time is routinely rewritten, the universe has been rebooted at least once to my limited knowledge, and it’s entirely possible that the whole thing can be neatly ret-conned at some point in the future.

So, why another Timeless Child article?

Well, there is one thing that I think irks me about it. The Doctor is special, we all get that. They are an alien, on and off the last of their kind, certainly unique amongst them, but not born to some special status or priviledge. The point of The Doctor is that they don’t want the immense power that comes from the Timelords, that is key to the moral core of the character. They don’t want to rule, or to lead, or to hold sway over anyone else. The Doctor preaches kindness, even love, but without ever making those sorts of connections for themselves. The Doctor is the ultimate outsider, the person “just passing through” and who, no matter how deep a connection they may make in the short term, will always move on at the end of the story.

This is, of course, a well-worn trope. Westerns are full of mysterious strangers who ride in to town, deal with the bad guy, then ride off into the sunset. But being a trope isn’t a bad thing. The core moral of The Doctor, the thing that is worth emulating, is that they never walk away from a bad situation. The Doctor is the one who crosses the road to help, rather than walking on by, and that is a much more powerful message when the character is “normal” rather than “a chosen one”.

Yes, The Doctor is an alien but, on their world, they are normal. Smarter than any human? Yes. Smarter than any Timelord? No. The Doctor is, in their own words, famously slow.

I hope the new direction for the character doesn’t take us down the “Doctor as Messiah” route. I much prefer my Doctor as a samaritan, a traveler who can’t just walk on by, can’t help but help, and who always pays the highest price for that kindness in the end.

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