Which means it's time to create a new category: the UNADULTERATED BOORISH OPINION essay. This category makes its first appearance, here. If the readers enjoy it - I might write other entries of this nature from time-to-time.
WHY WE NEEDED THE WAR DOCTOR
As unfortunate as it was that Christopher Eccleston chose not to be in Day of the Doctor, Steven Moffat found a most ingenious way of overcoming the obstacle. He created a secret incarnation that the Doctor never speaks of. That he almost seems to hide from even himself (which explains why this particular face never seems to appear in the "past incarnation flashback" sequences that we've been seeing in the New Series). This special version of the Doctor even refuses to be called by the name he has carried throughout his other lives. He is, however, given the title of the War Doctor (or Doctor of War). Which, as you can see, still has the word Doctor in it. So, in many ways, he is still very much the Doctor - but he is an incarnation the Time Lord wants to bury away.
This invention Moff came up with to work around the problem of Eccleston's unavailability certainly adds a new dimension to the Doctor's past. But does it actually do anything for the story he was trying to tell in the 50th anniversary celebration? Or is this more like the imprisonment in freak time eddies that the First and Fourth Doctors suffered during past anniversary specials? Just a necessary plot contrivance to compensate for a behind-the-scenes complication?
I say the War Doctor was absolutely necessary to the telling of this tale. That, in fact, the story would not have worked half as well if Doctor Nine had starred in the anniversary special instead of him. And I have three principal reasons to support my ridiculous theory:
1: It Suits the Character
The Doctor is, ultimately, a man of peace. He chooses only to resort to violence in extreme circumstances. We really only see him using brute force if it's in self-defense or the need to protect others from a harm he cannot defeat through non-violent means. These "extreme circumstances" are always short-lived. The Doctor will do something aggressive very quickly. He'll plant the Dominators' seeding device aboard their ship to blow them up. Or send Solomon's ship into space with a beacon for the Earth missiles to home in on. Such actions take mere moments. Then he's back to being the Doctor. We see only brief flashes of his more ruthless side. It's never something that endures for long.
The Doctor participating in the Time Wars is a feat that is beyond him. He is simply not capable of unleashing his bloodthirsty side for such a protracted period of time without completely losing himself in the process. This is especially true of his Eighth Incarnation. While we witnessed very little onscreen evidence of his behavior, we can see that his value for life is higher than it is in a lot of other incarnations. The best proof of this is seen as the Master is getting sucked into the Eye of Harmony. Regardless of the personal risk involved, this Doctor extends his hand to save his arch enemy from his horrid fate. Other incarnations might have been more prone to pronounce something to the nature of: "Your just desserts" and let him perish.
The Doctor's behavior in Night of the Doctor makes perfect sense - particularly for his extra-compassionate Eighth Incarnation. Knowing it's not in him to fight in an ongoing war, he chooses to stay at its fringes and deal where he can with the fall-out. But when he must, at last, give in to the persuasion of the Sisterhood on Karn - he knows he cannot do it as himself. He must make special compensations that will, somehow, allow him to commit the atrocities that lay ahead for him.
The creation of the War Doctor very much supports how human psychology works (which, it seems, is not that different from Time Lord psychology). The War Doctor is a great example of compartmentalization. The idea of how we sometimes almost "become someone else" for a brief time to do things we wouldn't normally do. The War Doctor is an extension of that idea. A special incarnation that allows the Doctor to be someone he isn't for as long as he needs to be. It's even fitting that he almost seems to forget about this incarnation once he regenerates. Oftentimes, when people compartmentalize, the memory of what they did as this "other person" becomes blurry. It's almost like regenerating into the War Doctor is a sort of dissociative schizophrenia that enables him to keep being the man of peace in his other incarnations.
To have Doctor Nine be the one who used the Moment would've made things too complicated for the, overall, character of the Doctor. It's much more in keeping with the Doctor's personality to have created a separate incarnation to commit his darkest deeds and then turn into a new man when it was time to stop being a warrior and go back to being a traveler. From a character standpoint, this just seems to work better.
2: It Works For An Anniversary Special
A good anniversary special - whether it be Doctor Who or some other show - should shake up the format of the series. A Major Change of some sort needs to happen. In the Tenth Anniversary, the Doctor is liberated from his exile on Earth. In the Twentieth, he accidentally becomes Lord President of the Time Lords and restores his status as a "man on the run from Gallifrey". In the Fiftieth, he ends up saving his homeworld from destruction.
Moff restoring Gallifrey definitely suits the storyline for Day of the Doctor. But this is the 50th anniversary: an event this gigantic needs to pack a bigger punch. To suddenly claim there's a whole part of continuity that we didn't know about is just the sort of thing the Special needed to really deliver that impact. An incarnation that has been kept secret shook canon to its very foundations. This is the sort of thing you write into an episode that is paying tribute to a show that has survived for an entire half-century.
The numbering of the Doctor's lives has been altered and we now have to look at the whole of the show in a very different way. You can only rock the boat like this on just such an occasion. Moff took advantage of the fact and made the 50th anniversary all-the-more memorable for it.
3. Just Plain Pedantic
In the story Rose, the Doctor stops in front of a mirror for a moment and seems to be noticing his new face for the first time. Which insinuates that the Ninth Doctor has just sprung into existence.
Had it been the Ninth Doctor who had done all the fighting in the Time Wars, getting this moment to work would've been difficult. The Time Wars seemed to have lasted several years. Did Doctor Nine never look at himself in a mirror during all that time? It seems pretty unlikely. With the inclusion of the War Doctor, we can now assume that Rose takes place only moments after he departed from the Under-Gallery in Day of the Doctor. The Ninth Doctor switched the desktop theme setting of the console room (perhaps the effect of a memory he didn't totally lose when returning to his proper timestream? He saw the Tenth Doctor's console room and altered his own console room accordingly), changed his outfit a bit and then went off to deal with the Nestene Consciousness that he noticed had just warp-shunted onto 21st Century Earth. This works better than living for quite some time and never bothering to look at yourself. Although, in Doctor Who, this isn't entirely unheard of. We did see someone wear an eye patch for years and never bother to look under it!
Again, it is still sad that Chris Eccleston chose not to be in Day of the Doctor. It would have been great for him to reprise the character. But it is difficult to see how well his inclusion in the Special would've worked. I really do feel that the War Doctor serves the story better. So, even if Eccleston had chosen to come back, it would've probably still been better to have the War Doctor dealing with the Time War - not him. The Ninth Doctor would have fit in best by just running around with Ten and Eleven and dealing with Zygons. Which, ultimately, may have made the story too cluttered.
It is great that the need to compensate for a casting problem gave us something better. The War Doctor, in so many ways, just makes more sense. And now we have a whole new period in the show's past for us to speculate about, too. What was the Doctor like in that particular incarnation? Did he become so dark it would even make the Valeyard blush?! Already, we see spin-off fiction coming out that is exploring this era more deeply. May this new secret aspect of the Doctor's life continue to intrigue us throughout the years...
Well, there you are: the very first UNADULTERATED BOORISH OPINION essay. Did you enjoy it? Feel free to give me some feedback - negative or positive. I do find there are too many blogs out there already that are merely opinion pieces so I never want to go here too often (particularly since my BOOK OF LISTS essays are also, largely, opinion-based). But if you do like hearing me bark at the moon like this - I may re-visit this category now and again.
Of course, if you check the date that this entry is being posted, you'll know that something very sad just recently happened to our War Doctor. This is my own little way of paying tribute.