Doctor Who season 12 is about to head into its finale, which fans are hoping will manage to go even bigger than the midseason shockfest that was “Fugitive of the Judoon.” That episode dropped the massive bombshell that the Doctor has had a whole other life that she doesn’t remember, as actress Jo Martin debuted that week as an all-new regeneration that fits in somewhere in the Time Lord’s past.
While many were blown away by the reveal, and by Martin’s casting as the first black actor to play the Doctor, some were upset about the flagrant retconning of established canon. Stepping forward to defend showrunner Chris Chibnall’s decision, though, is Steven Moffat, his predecessor in the job. While speaking to Radio Times, Moffat put forward his argument that Doctor Who canon should be re-modeled now and again.
“I think there’s two things about canon. You don’t want to break really important rules. Really important rules include the Doctor picking up a gun and shooting innocent people. Or forgetting that he or she is a Time Lord and deciding he or she is human. That would be wrong. That’s just blowing apart the show. But if you can make it fit – and you can make anything fit in Doctor Who – that’s exciting.”
As for this specific case, Moffat seems to be a supporter of the theory that Martin’s incarnation comes from before William Hartnell’s First Doctor somehow.
“I don’t know what [Chris’s] plan with the Jo Doctor is – but the first time you see William Hartnell, he’s very confused… you know? Who knows?”
The conversation then turned to the topic of 1976’s “The Brain of Morbius,” which teased that the Doctor had lived many lives before Hartnell. Moffat recalled that as a kid he was irritated that the following year’s “The Deadly Assassin” then retconned this by inventing the rule that Time Lords only have 13 lives.
“I hated the fact that the next year they said the Doctor could only regenerate 12 times, I thought, it had subtracted from me all the joy of imagining those other Doctors. By this bloody rule that came in, that for some reason we all decided was true! Despite the fact that there are many contradictions.”
Moffat’s frequent collaborator Mark Gatiss was also part of this interview and he offered another example of the weird way Who canon works by referencing 1996’s TV movie. That revealed that the Doctor was half-human, something that fans often tend to dismiss as incorrect.
“Some rules have to be obeyed, others can be flatly ignored. [“The Doctor’s] half human, it’s definitely there, it’s not a joke. And there’s not a single thing in Doctor Who to contradict the fact that he’s half-human, not one single thing contradicts it.”
We should have a better understanding of how Jo Martin fits into the Doctor’s life within a couple of weeks, as the upcoming two-part season 12 finale should answer the Timeless Child mystery that she’s tied up in. Speaking of which, be sure to catch Doctor Who 12×09 “Ascension of the Cybermen” this Sunday, February 23rd.