As we all saw (and if you didn’t, you’re a bad Whovian; consider yourself unceremoniously banished to E-Space) in the brilliant “The Night of the Doctor,” the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) regenerated into the character played by John Hurt — dubbed the War Doctor in the credits — during an in-continuity minisode that also saw the return of the Sisterhood of Karn.
My No. 1 fear — actually, my only fear, really — about DOCTOR WHO show-runner Steven Moffat inserting a previously unknown Doctor into continuity was that it would screw up the order of the Doctors, forcing us to retroactively renumber the Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith incarnations as the 10th, 11th and 12th Doctors, respectively. I found that prospect revolting and unnecessary.
Well, I needn’t have worried: Moffat never had any intention of gumming up the numbering of the Doctors, as he explained to Doctor Who Magazine:
“I’ve been really, really quite careful about the numbering of the Doctors. He’s very specific, the John Hurt Doctor, that he doesn’t take the name of the Doctor. He doesn’t call himself that. He’s the same Time Lord, the same being as the Doctors either side of him, but he’s the one who says, ‘I’m not the Doctor.’ So the Eleventh Doctor is still the Eleventh Doctor, the Tenth Doctor is still the Tenth… Technically, if you really counted it, the David Tennant Doctor is two Doctors, on account of the Meta-Crisis Doctor… It’s not a matter of counting the regenerations, but of counting the faces of the Time Lord that calls himself the Doctor. There’s an anomaly Doctor slotted in somewhere, that’s all. In the script to The Day of the Doctor, Matt’s Doctor was called the Eleventh, and David’s was called the Tenth, so the numbering stays exactly the same – and we call Peter Capaldi the Twelfth Doctor.”
So there was a method to Moffat’s madness when, in “The Name of the Doctor,” the Matt Smith version was careful to point out that the John Hurt version was not “named” Doctor — so, while he was an incarnation of the same Time Lord who calls himself the Doctor, this was not a persona named Doctor. Therefore, only 11 incarnations have been named Doctor, plus one face called something else.
It’s clearly a cheat, or at best a dodge, but I am willing to accept the sleight-of-hand with the naming convention. I still wish Hurt had turned out to be the Valeyard, but I’ll accept him not being a “Doctor” Doctor. I wonder, though, is the appellation “War Doctor” will stick for the 50th anniversary story, “The Day of the Doctor”?