The Valeyard is the Doctor’s ultimate foe, and by far the most mysterious. But who is he, and how did he come to be?
The 1986 Doctor Who story featured one of the biggest plot twists of all time. The Doctor, on trial for his life on a Gallifreyan space station, was being prosecuted by a fierce court official known as the Valeyard who was baying for his blood. But in a shocking moment in episode thirteen, the Master invaded the court proceedings via TV link and revealed that he had discovered the Valeyard’s true identity. He was the Doctor.
But this wasn’t a version of the Doctor that anyone would recognise. The Master described him as an “amalgamation of the darker sides of [the Doctor’s] nature, [taken] somewhere between [his] twelfth and final incarnation.” This meant that the Valeyard was technically an ‘in between’ Doctor – with none of the niceness.
Of course, this wasn’t an entirely new concept in Doctor Who. Viewers had seen an ‘in between’ Doctor before in the shape of the Watcher from the 1981 story ‘Logopolis.’ And whilst this Doctor sat between the fourth and fifth incarnations, it was a more benign creature – and indeed it warned the Fourth Doctor of his impending death at the hands of the Master and a deadly wave of entropy.
The Valeyard, however, did not have an ounce of goodness in him. In fact, he was so committed to his villainy that he planned to kill his Sixth incarnation and take his remaining regenerations for himself – although quite how that would have worked in terms of the laws of time travel is still a mystery. (Wouldn’t the Valeyard cease to be if he killed his past self…?)
Anyway, his motive makes sense. The Doctor’s final regeneration of this particular life cycle came in ‘The End of Time – Part Two‘ when David Tennant transformed into Matt Smith. And this was the first regeneration (that we know of) that the Doctor actively resisted. His final words were “I don’t want to go,” and such was his indignance that the subsequent burst of regenerative energy almost destroyed the TARDIS completely. The Valeyard (if the Master is to be believed) came into existence at this precise moment, with the Tenth Doctor literally screaming with rage as he transformed into the Eleventh.
Notice we said Tenth and Eleventh, not Twelfth and Thirteenth? This numbering comes about because of the “forgotten” War Doctor (who doesn’t factor in the regeneration count, because the Doctor didn’t call himself “the Doctor” during the Time War) and the fact that the Tenth Doctor regenerated at the end of ‘The Stolen Earth’ but kept the same body. Keeping up? Basically, the Tenth Doctor in ‘The End of Time – Part Two’ was in fact the Twelfth, and the Eleventh was in fact the Thirteenth. Simple.
But is it conceivable that there could actually be enough evil in the Doctor to create a being as immoral as the Valeyard? Absolutely. As the Master said in ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ – “There is some evil in all of us, even you, Doctor.” And if you know your Doctor Who history, you will be aware of the moments when the Doctor’s behaviour has been morally ambiguous, at best.
The earliest example of this can be seen in ‘An Unearthly Child,’ when the Doctor prevents two humans – Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright – from leaving the TARDIS, and even goes so far as to electrocute Ian before effectively kidnapping them both by activating his machine and sending them all back in time. They arrive in the year 100,000 BC, and it is here that they encounter a wounded caveman – a caveman that the Doctor considers murdering so that he and his companions can escape more easily.
Then we have the Sixth Doctor’s somewhat traumatic regeneration in ‘The Twin Dilemma‘ where he tries to strangle his companion Peri (albeit in a disoriented state.) And later, when under threat of arrest, he tries to put all the blame on Peri so that he can escape.
Then there are the Seventh Doctor’s questionable actions, such as the slew of insults he levelled at Ace when he tried to make her lose her faith in him in ‘The Curse of Fenric’ (later claiming that he was acting) and ‘Ghost Light‘ when he deceitfully took her back to Gabriel Chase (one of her most painful memories) just because he was curious about what she discovered there.
The Twelfth Doctor also seemed to channel some of the Valeyard’s dark energy. There was a moment in ‘Deep Breath’ when he seemed to abandon his companion Clara entirely, leaving her to the mercy of the clockwork droids. And then there was the ambiguous moment when he was wrestling with one of the droids in an air ship as it sailed over London. The droid wound up impaled on Big Ben’s spire, and it’s not clear to this day whether it fell or whether it was pushed.
But even if the Doctor possessed enough evil to transform himself into the Valeyard, how did he achieve this? Well, the closest thing to a canonical explanation can probably be found in the Big Finish collection ‘The Last Adventure‘ – an anthology of stories that deal with the build-up to the Sixth Doctor’s death. In the final part, titled ‘The Brink of Death,’ it is revealed that the Valeyard was created by the Time Lords using black ops technology – although this may have been a lie on the Valeyard’s part.
That being said, this idea was expanded upon in another Big Finish story titled ‘Trial of the Valeyard,’ in which it was revealed that the Valeyard was created as a Time Tot (a child Time Lord) on an unnamed mud planet at a time when the Thirteenth Doctor was trying to find a way to break the regeneration limit. On his return to Gallifrey, the Time Lords discovered that the Valeyard’s biodata matched the Doctor’s, and they concluded that he was a temporal anomaly and sent him to a place called the Shadow House (a place where Gallifreyans were sent when something went wrong with their regenerations) and it was here that the Valeyard began to plot his revenge.
Whatever the truth, he is a character that continues to cast a long shadow over the Doctor’s life, and he was even mentioned in the 2013 episode ‘The Name of the Doctor’ when the Great Intelligence acknowledged that “The Valeyard” was one of the many titles that the Doctor was known by. But it remains to be seen if he will be making another appearance in the Whoniverse anytime soon.
What do you think is the truth about the Valeyard? Is he really a future incarnation of the Doctor? And was he created by the Time Lords? Let me know in the comments below.
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