It would that DOCTOR WHO head writer and executive producer Steven Moffat really does have big plans for the 50th anniversary of the series next year. Specifically, he wants to answer the biggest, longest-running and most important question in the history of the show: Doctor Who?
Just what is the Doctor’s name? We know the title/moniker he regularly goes by (The Doctor); we know several of his aliases (Dr. John Smith, Doktor von Wer, and plenty more); we know his nickname at university (Theta Sigma, or Thete); we know the Second Doctor once signed a note “Doctor W”; we know the 11th Doctor claimed his middle name was “Bad Penny” (in “The God Complex”), but he was almost certainly joking. We’ve even seen his name written down — in his native language. However, we do not know his birth name.
At last weekend’s Comic-Con International: San Diego 2012, Moffat was asked about the mystery at the core of the Doctor, and responded:
“He never gives his name. Other Time Lords do, but he doesn’t. Clearly the question is tremendously important… And only I know why!”
Which is all well and good, but what is Moffat going to do about it? “We actually find out the truth,” he replied. So is he going to reveal the Doctor’s true name? “Yes… You’ll see.”
The Doctor’s name is not a new puzzle to Moffat. He touched on the topic in “Forest of the Dead,” when River Song whispered the Doctor’s true name into his ear. The shocked Time Lord replied, “There is only one reason I would ever tell anyone my name; only one time I could.”
At the time, Moffat the scriptwriter said he figured the Doctor’s name was never revealed because it was “a terrible secret.” But what did that mean? Well, now that the Grand Moff is running the show, he can tell us all what he meant by that.
To wit: Could the “terrible secret” of his name be related to the reason he left Gallifrey? If it is, it’s not so terrible that he would not be elected Lord President of the High Council of Time Lords. So how terrible is it?
Dorium Maldovar said, in “The Wedding of River Song,” that if the Doctor lives long enough:
“On the fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the Eleventh, when no creature could speak falsely or fail to answer, a question that must never be answered would be asked: the First Question, hidden in plain sight. The question is, “Doctor Who?
I figure Moff will spend this upcoming seventh season dropping cryptic (and misleading) hints about the Doctor’s name, but hold the Big Reveal for the anniversary year — perhaps the official 50th anniversary story itself.
Now, I’ve heard some rumblings that uncovering the mystery of the Doctor’s name will essentially ruin the entire series. Just because that implied question, Doctor Who?, is in the title doesn’t mean that it’s the lynchpin of the entire show. The ever-changing powers-that-be have spent just about 50 years spinning tales about everything but the Time Lord’s name, and they can continue to do so for another 50. Just because his name becomes known to viewers does not invalidate the entire series. So what if it’s a “terrible secret”? Whatever the secret is, it’s surely not as bad as all that. Or, if it is, the Doctor can put it right, or make up for it, or something. Then he can move on, like he always does. Hell, an entirely new direction for the series could be the Doctor’s attempts to redeem his “terrible secret.” The reveal could reinvigorate the series once again. DOCTOR WHO is all about adapting and moving on. There is no more flexible show premise in world, and there is no reason it should stop anytime soon.
After all, the Doctor has a lot of living left to do, whether he gets only 12 regenerations or 507. Just think: We still have yet to meet the Doctor’s offspring who parented Susan! That’s been a mystery since episode one, as well. And his rationale for leaving Gallifrey could be something else entirely.
And then there’s that one, tiny, annoying truth that could undercut and sink all this speculation: Moffat lies.