For the record I’m not here to join the hate New Who bandwagon. I pretty much gave up on it a long time ago. It doesn’t have the same charm of the original series, and while we could go over why my reason for posting the following two videos and my own commentary on the latest retcon of the Doctor’s lore is more to discuss storytelling and the dangers of the retcon bomb.
Retroactive continuity, or “retcon” for short, is when a writer doesn’t just change current events but when they do so in a way that retroactively alters not only the past but the way we go back and watch those old stories. I’m not talking about plot twists like Magic Knights Rayearth, Terra’s heel turn in Teen Titans, or (insert almost every M. Night Shyamalan movie here) that were intentional from the start. This is something never intended by the previous creator that was shoved into it later on. Think Donna Troy’s origin, that Picard clone from Star Trek: Nemesis, or The Timeless Child.
The Timeless Child comes from the most recent season finale of Doctor Who, “The Timeless Children”. It gives a brand new origin for the Doctor, which if you haven’t seen it yet I’ll let the first video handle the spoilers. It’s a change that fundamentally alters the Doctor as a character by giving an origin to the Time Lords’ ability to regenerate versus the regular Galifreyans. However, the story appears to have gone too far and this very much affects the Doctor as a character and as we’ll see in the second video the already scattered lore of the Time Lords.
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The Doctor being the one who tortured the Timeless Child, the second improved scenario, is something I wouldn’t go along with either. While the Doctor originally wasn’t the savor of the universe but an explorer of questionable morality (kidnapping people, tricking them into a dangerous situation because he was curious, that sort of thing) I don’t think torturing kids would have been up his alley. Plus the Time Lords regenerating seemed to be an ability that pre-dated the Doctor. I also don’t think the Doctor has ever needed a new history. We know little of the Doctor’s early years outside of the occasional anecdote, or why he took his granddaughter and left Gallifrey in a stolen TARDIS that was already pretty old when he swiped it. Knowing where he came from was an inevitability after enough seasons of the classic series but knowing someone is from Topeka, Kansas doesn’t make him or her any less of an enigma.
While this video kind of bypassed the lore issues due to not being his point, the second video goes more into why the Doctor being the Timeless Child does a number on the character’s history as much as it does his/her character…and may even unintentionally damage William Hartnell’s Doctor as a side effect.
I think what this is boils down to is the power of origin control. It’s something I’ve seen a lot of lately, he/she who controls the origin has the power. Rather than create something new or leave a mark on the character going forward from when you took over, writers and showrunners want to retroactively rework a character so that every story going forth as well as what came behind is influenced by their alteration of the lore. Sometimes this can’t be helped, sometimes the retcon bomb is dropped without thinking of how it ruins prior stories from previous writers in that franchise, and the rare occasion can actually make something interesting. The revelation of the Timeless Child just seems more like ego stroking from a writer and showrunner who really doesn’t care about the franchise but just wanted to leave his mark on something that’s the height of popular culture (at least in the UK but also have plenty of international fans) for his own self interest. This certainly makes me less inclined to ever return to a franchise that used to be one of my three favorites. I guess there’s always the older shows and there are a number of classic Who episodes I still haven’t seen, but that means there are new episodes in the same continuity that I just don’t have any interest in and that makes me sad.