The Doctor Who curator is one of the most mysterious figures in the Whoniverse. Does anybody know his true identity?
The Doctor Who curator was first introduced in the show’s 50th anniversary special ‘The Day of the Doctor.’ Played by the Fourth Doctor actor Tom Baker, he was the man who looked after the National Gallery in London, and owner of the mysterious Gallifrey Falls painting that he acquired in “remarkable circumstances.”
And as you may already know, the Curator encountered the Eleventh Doctor in the closing moments of the 50th anniversary special. The Eleventh Doctor seemed to recognise him, claiming that he never forgot a face. The Curator agreed, saying that, in the years to come, the Doctor might find himself revisiting a few, but “just the old favourites.”
Moreover, when the Eleventh Doctor mooted the possibility of retiring and looking after the Under Gallery, the Curator confirmed that he really thought he might. This implied that the Curator was in fact a later incarnation of the eponymous Time Lord, who had chosen to readopt the face that he wore during his fourth incarnation.
And according to the writer Steven Moffat, this was much more than just an implication. The Doctor Who curator was indeed meant to be a later incarnation of the Doctor, as Moffat confirmed in an interview with Doctor Who Magazine. He said that the Curator could still be interpreted as the Moment choosing a familiar face from the Doctor’s past (the Moment being a sentient weapon from Gallifrey’s Omega Arsenal that had formerly taken the face of his companion Rose.) But according to Moffat, his intention had been for the Doctor Who curator to be very distant future incarnation, who chose a different incarnation to revisit each day.
Moffat was given the opportunity to expand on his vision for the Doctor Who curator when he produced his novelisation of ‘The Day of the Doctor.’ Some of this is even told from the Curator’s viewpoint, and details various moments that were never seen on TV. One of these concerns the Curator’s visits to the Brigadier, where they would play Risk together, and the Curator would hide under the Brigadier’s bed whenever his daughter Kate came to visit.
In addition, the Curator revealed to the Brigadier that he was planning to write a book about the last day of the Time War titled Doctor Papers, which he intended to classify as fiction in order to circumvent the material’s sensitive nature. Apparently, the Curator followed through with these plans and had the Doctor Papers published on psychic paper in the year 2003.
Since ‘The Day of the Doctor,’ the idea that the Curator could be one of the Time Lord’s future incarnations has been reinforced in spin-off media. One of these is the Big Finish production ‘Lost Property,’ which forms part of the ‘Stranded 1‘ box set and stars Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor. The Curator is one of the main characters in this adventure, and we discover that he still possesses the TARDIS in its police box form, which now stands as a library on Camden Road in London.
Naturally, the Curator falls short of confirming his true identity, but he does disclose that he is not Professor River Song (in case anyone was wondering) and he charges Helen Sinclair (the Eighth Doctor’s companion) with taking care of the Doctor.
Apparently, one of the first pieces of media to confirm the identity of the Doctor Who curator was the Eleventh Doctor comic ‘The Then and Now.’ There is a moment in the adventure when time is distorted around the Doctor and some of his other incarnations are revealed; at one point, a line of Doctors is depicted, with the Curator at the front, the Eleventh Doctor in the middle, and the First Doctor at the back.
Of course, the events of ‘The Timeless Children‘ now have to be factored into the saga of the Doctor Who curator. In this episode, the Master reveals that the Doctor has led countless lives prior to being the Thirteenth, many of which she has forgotten – and there is also a possibility that she can regenerate infinitely. In terms of the Curator’s identity, this doesn’t change very much, although it does raise the (albeit tenuous) possibility that the Curator could be an earlier, forgotten incarnation of the Time Lord. Indeed, over the course of Doctor Who: Flux, it is suggested that the Doctor could have had “thousands” of regenerations prior to her current one.
But so far, the only definitive link to ‘The Timeless Children’ is an obscure short story called Doctor Black. Originally published in Doctor Who Magazine, this adventure concerns Bill Nighy’s character from the 2010 episode ‘Vincent and the Doctor,’ who works at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Apparently, he is friends with the mysterious Curator, and in the story he shows Doctor Black the Gallifrey Falls painting and reveals its true, extended title – Gallifrey Falls No More (Until the Next Time), hinting at the planet’s destruction at the hands of the Master in Series Twelve.
Of course, some of the best parts about Doctor Who are its mysteries, and in some ways perhaps it’s better that the identity of the Doctor Who curator is still something of an enigma. That said, there can’t be many fans who wouldn’t be delighted to see Tom Baker return to the series in one form or another, be it as the National Gallery’s curator or as the Fourth Doctor himself.
Who do you think the Doctor Who curator really is? And would you like to see him return in the future? Let me know in the comments below.
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