In the latest episode to air in the USA, “Cold Blood,” the Doctor (Matt Smith) was subjected to a decontamination process by the Silurian scientist Dr. Malokeh. The Time Lord writhed in pain as the procedure was explained to him. “Removal of human germs will remove half the things keeping me alive!” the Doctor cried.
Really? Since when? Well…since now.
I am not suggesting that it is impossible for the Doctor to require “germs” to keep him alive. We humans use lots of helpful bacteria in our bodies. And I assume that the Time Lord needs human germs in particular because he is, as the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) revealed in the 1996 TV movie, “I’m half-human on my mother’s side.” Further, the Master (Eric Roberts) echoes the assertion, stating, “The Doctor is half-human.” (The fact that he is a hybrid must account for why those germs are “half” the things keeping him alive.) The Doctor has undergone decontamination procedures before, but perhaps not processes designed to so specifically wipe out all “ape-based” germs. Indeed, the very word “germs” is often colloquial for “microscopic organisms” in general, though I would hardly expect a medical specialist like Dr. Malokeh to be so imprecise with scientific terminology.
Bringing up the Doctor’s mother highlights how basic facts of DOCTOR WHO continue to grow and evolve, even as the series draws near the end of its 31st season, some 46 years since it first hit the airwaves. The Doctor mentioned his mother in the 1996 TV movie; prior to that moment, the Doctor had never even hinted at his ancestors’ places of origin. The Doctor’s retina was shown to be sufficiently “human” to operate the Eye of Harmony aboard the TARDIS.
But that’s just how the Doctor rolls. Viewers did not know he has a second heart until the Third Doctor’s (Jon Pertwee) first story, “Spearhead From Space.” His third persona also implied (in “The Mind of Evil”) that an aspirin could kill him. And the Time Lord’s “respiratory bypass system” was first mentioned by the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) in Season 13, after he avoided suffocation in “Pyramids of Mars.” “The Deadly Assassin,” in 1976, introduced the concept that Time Lords can only regenerate 12 times, as Chancellor Goth mentions finding the Master near death after regenerating 12 times.
The 11th Doctor also asked for celery to help him recover, a neat reference to his Fifth persona (Peter Davison), who wore a stalk of celery on his lapel, and was the first to cite the “restorative” power of celery. And was the disappointed Doctor suggesting that tomatoes could have served the same purpose?