One of the most famous villains in Doctor Who mythology is the Valeyard, who first appeared in the era of Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor. Back then, the character was revealed to be a future, evil incarnation of the Doctor. Apparently, at some point after his twelfth regeneration, the Doctor would become evil and travel back in time to frame his past self for false crimes and steal his regenerations.
The Valeyard was also described as an amalgam of the Doctor’s darkness that finally succumbed to his worst instincts, and who now views the Time Lord he’d once been as the moral counterpart of his existence, who needs to be eliminated in order for the Valeyard to take control of the full set of powers and resources at the Doctor’s disposal.
When Steven Moffat took over the show in 2009 though, the Valeyard presented a problem, since the twelfth Doctor under Moffat’s reign would have to turn into him at some point. Instead of ignoring this problematic part of the show’s mythology, the writer decided to subtly change things instead.
In “The Name of the Doctor,” the Great Intelligence refers to the Doctor as the Valeyard for the first time. Instead of naming a specific incarnation who would become the Valeyard though, it’s merely stated that the transformation will occur at some point in the future.
As ScreenRant explains:
In “The Name of the Doctor,” Richard E. Grant’s Great Intelligence hijacks the Doctor’s time stream and, for the first time in the modern series, confirms that “the Valeyard” would be a future name the Doctor takes. However, instead of specifying that the character would appear from the Twelfth Doctor onward, the Intelligence merely claims that the villain’s creation would occur “before the end.” While this doesn’t necessarily contradict the Master’s words – “between the twelfth and final” and “before the end” can essentially mean the same thing, after all – the original explanation put emphasis on the Twelfth Doctor as the game-changing point, whereas Moffat’s updated reference puts the Doctor’s evil regeneration into the far future of the series, indicating to newer fans that the Valeyard isn’t arriving any time soon.
Furthermore, in the Christmas special “Twice Upon a Time,” the Doctor’s then referred to as the Shadow of the Valeyard. As ScreenRant points out:
This new title opens up several possibilities for Doctor Who’s future. Is “Shadow of the Valeyard” the full title of the villain seen facing off against the Sixth Doctor? Or does this name refer to the Doctor being the moral shadow to the Valeyard’s evil? In either case, Moffat is setting up the Valeyard for Doctor Who’s future but, unlike before, is being careful not to specify when fans can expect his appearance.
So, it seems that the Valeyard is very much an integral part of the modern take on Doctor Who, as he should be. After all, the Doctor’s often referred to as a God walking among mortals and what’s more fascinating or scary than imagining such a being turning evil?