4

Season 6 implies a new storyline coming up revealing more about the oldest question in the universe and the character Dorium Maldovar makes it clear that the question is:

"Doctor who?"

A friend of mine stated that the actual phrase "Doctor who?" is used less often than "Doctor what?" or derivations of it.

I have not yet had the time to watch all the old episodes, so I simply don't know what's said more often. Can someone help me out here?

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    Welcome to Sci-Fi SE! Sorry, I don't understand what you are asking. What is the question you want us to answer? – Wikis Feb 8 '12 at 9:01
  • You might also wish to read the answers here: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/3637/… which go into more detail about the name "Doctor Who". – Tony Meyer Feb 8 '12 at 10:18
  • In the new episodes, the "Doctor Who?" bit has become a running joke almost every time the Doctor introduces himself to someone. (They're really playing it up with Clara, for example). In the older series you were as likely to get someone asking "doctor of what?" (e.g. what's your field?) as "Doctor Who?" (e.g. what's your name?) – KutuluMike Apr 22 '13 at 16:51
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The question "Doctor who?" does not refer to the question which is asked most often on-screen. It simply refers to the fact that most people have no idea who The Doctor actually is. In a way, the question is a bit fourth-wall breaking, as to the viewer, it clearly refers to the title of the show, and to the fact that back in 1963 at the start of Doctor Who, we had no idea who he was, other than a time-travelling stranger.

The "oldest question" pretty much refers to the fact that the show's title question has never been fully answered.

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    A reminder, the viewers don't know who the Doctor is, but River does. She whispers his name to him the Library. – Travis Feb 12 '12 at 16:01
  • also during Sylvester McCoy's run, we got to see a storyline that implicated the doctor as a collaborator with Rassilon, Omega, the Master and others, but it never completely panned out – SteveED Apr 13 '12 at 4:22
  • You also might want to look at The Cartmel Masterplan. – K-H-W Apr 22 '13 at 2:36
8

I agree with Nellius, but want to expand a bit. "Doctor Who" isn't a term that exists inside the narrative universe, it's just the title of the show for us. So when Dorium yells out "Doctor Who", it's a fourth-wall wink at us, the viewers, but it's also, I think, a hint at the direction Moffat plans to take in the upcoming season.

As Nellius mentioned, the Doctor's origins have been left murky throughout the show. Even in the old series, when the Time Lords and Gallifrey were still around, it was never directly addressed. We know he stole the TARDIS, but not much else.

But in the last two seasons, it seems Moffat's got grandiose plans for his shift as showrunner. It's not enough to have grand finales with time being ripped apart and the universe threatened - that's just par the course for Doctor Who - but he has to go deeper.

He wants to be the showrunner under whom the Doctor (almost) dies. He wants to be the showrunner under whom the Doctor gets married. He wants to leave a permanent mark on the Doctor mythos. The first big step in that direction is in The Doctor's Wife, the episode Neil Gaiman wrote, which brings the TARDIS up as a character in her own right, and hints at new complications - the Doctor didn't steal her, she stole him.

I feel this predicts a focus, in the upcoming season, on the history of the Doctor, on how he came to leave Gallifrey and come to earth and fall in love with humanity. This will probably linked to some in-narrative "oldest question", perhaps related to the time vortex or something along those lines, that will serve as a narrative counterpoint to the extra-narrative question, "who's the Doctor".

  • Well, 8 episodes later, it seems I wasn't even close. – Avner Shahar-Kashtan Apr 22 '13 at 8:08
3

There have been hints that the Doctor may have an identity other than the semi-mysterious one that the second Doctor revealed. That he became bored with the Time Lord ethos of staying home on Gallifrey and semi vegetating - the fourth Doctor alludes to the Time Lords studying all of history, but not remembering which century they lived in.

However, there were hints in Sylvester McCoy's Doctor that he was someone/something other than just good old Theta Sigma, frat boy. When he faced the Gods of Ragnarok, they claimed that they knew his secret, seemingly they knew of him in the "old times" (implication that he was someone else and played a major role in a previous universe).

I am not sure if it was this episode, but in one of the seventh Doctor's final season, she asked the Doctor "Who" he really was. Of course, he doesn't answer.

That the Doctor had another, darker identity has been speculated about before... that he was involved with Omega/Rassilon in the earliest days of Gallifrey... or that he was the original foe that defeated & imprisoned Fenric.

1

There is a moment early in the series (I've never been able to find it when looking, but I have a clear memory of it; perhaps from an "alternate take") where the Doctor answers, "Caligari." But, since William Hartnell had a way of laughing even while he was serious, it's not entirely clear -- "in-universe" -- how much he was joking.

If one attempts to comprehend the series as a whole, the very insignificance of this extemporaneous muttered quip, forgotten in the selenium past, suggests (to my mind, at least) an eerie significance.

If the Doctor were a sleeper, lucid, avatar of his own larger self, all of his powers are explained. The recurrence of themes like dream-weaving, virtual reality, perception filters, charactes like Daleks, Cybermen, Dominators (Sontarans). Mathematically, all infinities are equal to each other. As Yoda says, "No difference; only different in your mind." Dimensions are relative, right? But relative to what? To the synthetic unity of apperception, subject to the receptual conditions of time and space (thus spake Kant). In a fiction, the apperception of the auditor is functionally projected upon the protagonist (one "identifies" with the hero). The quest of the dreamer is always to discover his or her "true name," upon recollection of which one instantly awakes.

Also, the relativity of time allows one to return to any point just after they last left (as Farscape tells us, "It's going backward that screws the pooch."). So just as soon as the Doctor remembers what he came for, what he's supposed to do, he may yet return home to the Time Lords (they existed then, right? and he remembers them. It has been shown to us that these are the necessary ingredients to "bring something back"), perhaps picking up Susan Foreman (named after the scrap-yard in Ep. 1) along the way; And then, of course, becoming the Valeyard.

So what I'd like to see as the crowning of the series is the real backstory. The Prequel, Prologue, Intro. What's he running from?

The Nothing?

  • I'm the first to admit I've thought too much about this. – luser droog Apr 13 '12 at 3:45
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    Poetry aside, mathematically, all infinites are not equal to each other. Cantor's Continuum Hypothesis (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuum_hypothesis) shows that there are infinities that are differently sized. – Bob Warwick Apr 13 '12 at 4:04
  • Well, if that's the only hole in the theory, ... :) [I forgot to work-in Metaphysician heal thyself.] – luser droog Apr 13 '12 at 4:09
  • Indeed, even in the realm of simple, graspable dimensions, a line is not equal to a square. But if a line may be a projection of a square, mayn't the square be considered an introjection of the line? – luser droog Apr 13 '12 at 4:14
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    “mathematically, all infinites are not equal to each other” — I think I read about that, and it sort of destroyed my mind. As I understand the idea: there are infinite numbers. Half of them are odd, because every other number is odd. Because there are infinite numbers, there are infinite odd numbers. But because only every other number is odd, the infinity of odd numbers is half the size of the infinity of all numbers. Both infinite, but one twice as big as the other. Infinity is weird. – Paul D. Waite Apr 22 '13 at 11:09

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