Doctor Who dropped a major bombshell on us with last night’s season 12 finale. Titled “The Timeless Children,” the episode went deeper into the Doctor’s past than ever before, revealing both her true origins and the secret backstory of her people, the Time Lords. There are many facets to it, but essentially the deal is this: the Doctor was once a mystery child with the ability to regenerate who fell through a wormhole from another universe. Gallifreyans found her and copied her power. Eventually, the Doctor’s memories were wiped and they started their life again as who we know as the First Doctor.
Fans are having a hard time wrapping their heads around all this as it literally rewrites everything we thought we knew about the time-traveling hero. To be fair to showrunner Chris Chibnall, he’s clearly attempted to line the episode up with many mysteries from the series’ past and offer explanations for them. As previously discussed, he actually solves a 44-year-old plot hole in the process. But where one plot hole closes, another one opens as there’s actually one major fact about the Doctor that just doesn’t make sense anymore, given these revelations.
In 1996’s Doctor Who: The Movie, the Eighth Doctor tells companion Grace that he’s half-human “on my mother’s side.” The Master also scans the Doctor and discovers that he possesses the retinal structure of the human eye. “The Doctor’s half-human,” he realizes. “No wonder.” Now, Whovians have generally reacted negatively to this over the years, arguing that it’s an idea ripped off from Star Trek‘s Spock. Whatever your opinion on it, though, it’s an irrefutable fact in this story and, though the modern series never directly addressed it again, nothing since has contradicted it, either.
Until “The Timeless Child,” that is, whose retconning of the Doctor’s origins is pretty incomparable with the TV movie’s explanation. The season 12 finale does its best to rewrite the rulebook and impose some kind of coherent canon that fits everything together, but this dangling thread about the Doctor apparently being half-human just goes to show that Doctor Who‘s continuity is too enormous to add up completely.