DOCTOR WHO: a germ of an idea…

Apparently, it’s never too late for a major revelation about the Doctor’s Gallifreyan physiognomy on DOCTOR WHO.

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?

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5 thoughts on “DOCTOR WHO: a germ of an idea…

  1. Just getting around to reading this now. Since I am slowly working my way through the old Doctor Who series’ there is still a lot I do not know. I did not know about the Doctor’s mother !! How is this possible ??? And is this why he hangs with Earth girls ??
    This opens up a whole world of possibilities….
    What if River Song is the Doctor’s mother??
    Also, wondering who the woman is who talked to Wilf in End of Time…


    • You can thank the 1996 TV movie for the Doctor’s human mother — and Russell T Davies for making the events of the movie canon. One thing to consider: his line specifically said “half-human on my mother’s side” — does that suggest his mother may have been half-human/half Time Lord? Or was she an Earth woman, making the Doctor himself 50% human? I think the latter, or the Doctor would probably have said, “I’m one-quarter human.”

      The woman who talked to Wilf? Well, you’ve brought up a gray area. Though never identified onscreen, the character played by Claire Bloom remains officially a mystery. In his book, “Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale — the Final Chapter,” Davies admits that when he created the character, he intended her to be the Doctor’s mother, but backed off explicitly identifying her. He said “The Woman” (as she is officially known) could be his mother or someone else the Doctor trusted, like Romana or Susan. I prefer to think of her as Romana. I know others interpret the clues to point to Susan: she claims to have been “lost long ago,” and when Wilf asks about the Woman’s identity, the Doctor silently stares at Wilf’s granddaughter, Donna.

      At this point, technically, River could be his mother, but their relationship has always seemed way too flirty for that to be the case. Also, we really do not know much about River’s true identity: She looks human, but is? Under what circumstances did she first meet the Doctor? She has photos of all his incarnations for reference, but if she were his mother, surely she would have recognized his first persona (the one she presumably gave birth to) without a snapshot?

      There are seemingly endless possibilities for the Doctor’s mother.


  2. Very true, but in the good ol’ days of the classic series, the Doctor getting captured and trussed up was a staple. How else could they pad out all those six-part stories? There were only so many corridors to run down, LOL!


  3. Don’t forget The Doctor has also mentioned having peripheral vision, which never seemed to save him from being thumped on the back of the head several times. 😉


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