Monday, 13 November 2017


We're all dying for that Christmas Special, aren't we? I know I am. Not because we have to say goodbye to Capaldi's Doctor. I'm not looking forward to that, at all! I'm dieing to see how that tease at the end of The Doctor Falls is going to pan out. I can't wait to see what sort of adventure the Twelfth and Original (well, sort of, Original) Doctor will have together.  

Multi-incarnation stories will, more than likely, always be some of my favorite stories. Often, the plots to some of these adventures are fairly threadbare or even somewhat bad. But there is just something about the sheer entertainment value of them that makes me adore them. In all honesty, every third Doctor Who story could involve multiple incarnations and I'd probably be okay with that.

In anticipation of Twice Upon A Time, I've been watching all the multi-incarnation stories that have been done over the years (including the all-too-brief Time Crash - one of the few mini-sodes that I consider canon). I've made a few observations about them that I thought I would share....


Before we can get into any kind of analysis, we should probably be certain we're all on the same page regarding what constitutes my definition of a multi-incarnation story. It's a tale involving two or more distinct incarnations actually interacting with each other.

We should be mindful of the exact wording of that definition. For instance: these need to be, properly, separate incarnations. Beings like Cho-Je from Planet of Spiders or the Watcher from Logopolis don't qualify. We know Cho-Je was a projection of some sort rather than the next incarnation crossing over his own timestream. We don't know what the Watcher is - but he was definitely not an incarnation of his own. He merges with the Doctor at the end of the story as he regenerates. Had he been a distinct incarnation, he would have watched the regeneration happen without joining into it. Because he would simply have been from the future witnessing the event.

The multiple incarnations need to interact with each other, too. This disqualifies a story like Deep Breath - where the Eleventh Doctor calls Clara at the end. Yes, we see two Doctors at once. But they aren't talking to each other. Name of the Doctor is disqualified for similar reasons. Clara travels down the Doctor's timeline and meets him in various versions - but they never meet each other.

With those limitations in mind, the following stories qualify as multi-incarnation adventures:

The Three Doctors
The Five Doctors
The Two Doctors
Time Crash
Day of the Doctor
World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls (it's multi-incarnational because Twelve and One meet at the end but there are also two versions of the Master)


The strangest thing that happens when multiple incarnations of the Doctor come together is, of course, all the bickering. Even the Doctor, himself, has remarked how weird it is. In truth, making the Doctor combative with himself was something they wrote into the script of the very first anniversary special and the fans responded well to it. So they decided to keep playing that gag in future scripts of this nature. 

But, just for fun, let's take it a little more seriously. Why does the Doctor fight with himself as much as he does during stories like this? Some might theorize that it's an ego issue. The only thing a genius in the room can't stand is another genius in the room. And, even though that genius is - technically - the same person, the Doctor despises being overshadowed. This does make sense and I do believe this is part of what causes the in-fights. But I also like to think it's a far more complicated situation than that. One that may even make the Doctor seem more humble.

While he is far from being a perfectionist (in most of his incarnations, he lacks the patience and attention to detail that such a neurosis requires) the Doctor is still very progressive in his philosophy of life. He is always trying to evolve and grow. To be a better person than he was the day before. It is a long-standing character trait that we have seen to a lesser or greater extent in every version of the role.

So when he runs into an earlier incarnation, he is reminded of the flaws he still had back then. It's difficult for him to see a rougher version of himself and he tends to become combative with the earlier incarnation. His desire to get a previous self to behave a bit more maturely come across as angry recriminations.

The earlier incarnation, of course, is interpreting this as a sort of high-handedness or arrogance and can't help but get defensive. Particularly since the later incarnation is coming across as a bit of an authority figure in the way he tries to discipline him. And the Doctor has never dealt well with authority figures. He's probably even a bit upset to see that he seems to be turning into something that he hates. So he can't help but rebel.

This is, essentially,what we see playing out in The Three Doctors between Two and Three. But similar models are at play in other multi-incarnation adventures. Ten and Eleven re-create this quite closely in Day of the Doctor. Eleven particularly enjoys picking on himself for being such a womanizer in his previous life. It's not something he liked and wants to admonish himself for it now that he's back to not being so smooth with the ladies. We see the First, Second and Third Doctor all get back into nitpicking each other when they meet at Rassilon's Tomb during The Five Doctors. Two and Six take multi-incarnation bantering to its ultimate height during The Two Doctors. They just don't seem to get along at all in that story.

All of this arguing seems to derive from a similar motive. The Doctor doesn't, necessarily, hate who he once was. But he's not entirely happy with him, either.

The only variance to this dynamic that we've seen so far is the way in which the War Doctor deals with his future selves. He actually feels that he's been regressing as he gets older. He tends to berate his future selves for acting so childish.  But it does come from a very similar motive to other instances like this. The Doctor is always trying to grow. And when he's reminded of how immature he can be - he doesn't deal well with it.


There are, of course, instances where we don't see a whole lot of that combativeness between certain incarnations. The First and Fifth Doctor get along quite well in The Five Doctors. They have a brief argument regarding what strategy to take in The Death Zone that reaches a fairly swift conclusion. Otherwise, they're quite nice to each other. The First Doctor even defends Five when Two and Three start being critical of him during their farewells. "It's re-assuring to see my future is in safe hands." he proclaims before departing. Hardly the farewell Six and Two give each other!

This happens in a similar fashion during Time Crash. Ten is utterly delighted to see the fifth version of himself when he appears from nowhere. Five is a bit frustrated with his future self. But only because he believes him to be an annoying fan. Once he understands who the babbling fool in front of him really is, they start getting along.

Both of these instances involve the Fifth Doctor. Who is definitely one of the gentler more agreeable of incarnations. So that might be one factor that contributes to a smoother encounter.

But I also think it might have something to do with how far apart the incarnations are from each other. Bantering usually only happens with incarnations that are closer together. A separation of three or more incarnations tends to make things less volatile.

Again, if we use this Doctor not being happy with himself model, it makes a sort of sense. A person who is heavily into personal growth would have more trouble seeing their more recent past. If I ran into a version of Rob Tymec from only two or three years ago - I'd probably be frustrated to see that I was a much more immature person in my recent past than I had remembered myself to be. But if I met me when I was only ten years old - I would be far more detached and understanding. I was just a kid back then. I'm allowed to be childish at that age. So I probably won't be so harsh with me. Whereas I really wouldn't like to meet me from only a few years back. I'm pretty sure I'd just want to tell myself off for still being such a twit when I should've grown up, by now.

Perhaps it works in a similar way with the Doctor. To go back only an incarnation or two is like a human seeing himself from only two to five years ago. Depending on the human's personality - he's probably not going to like what he sees. But a Time Lord going back three or more incarnations is like a human encountering himself from twenty or so years ago. He's just too far-removed from who he once was and it's not so tough on him, anymore, to see himself behaving so poorly. Essentially, t's easier to forgive a considerably younger version of yourself. With the Doctor, of course, it takes a bigger set of years for him to feel this way. His longevity gives him a greater breadth of vision. So even if there might be a century or two between incarnations that are back-to-back - that's not long enough for him to not be awkward about what he's seeing. But there's probably closer to four centuries between One and Five. So it's easier for them to get along. An even greater number of years exist between Five and Ten.* So it's easy for the Tenth Doctor to just sit back and wax nostalgia with his fifth self. It's all ancient history so it doesn't really bother him.

* it's hard to determine an exact number of years between Five and Ten without a Doctor's Age debate developing. To understand this dilemma better, go to these posts:


This theory works well with most instances.  But there is one tale where the idea falls apart. The Two Doctors stars Two and Six. They're a good three incarnations apart. That should put a good span of years between them. And yet, they argue like cats and dogs throughout their entire time together.

Part of the reason this happens is that we are looking at Two at the latest period in his life (he's actually in Season 6b - probably somewhere near its end). Which means he's had, at least, two other multi-incarnation adventures before him. Given that he's doing regular missions for the Time Lords, they may want him to have all his wits about him and have allowed him to recall anything that may have been blotted out in his past. So he may actually even remember both incidents. When he meets Six, he recalls how fun it was to take the piss out of himself in previous adventures and decides to be intentionally rude during this latest encounter with a future self.

At the same time, Six is probably the Doctor at his most arrogant (part of the reason why he's my fave). So, even though there's a healthy amount of years between him and Two, he's not going to be happy with who he once was. This latest version of him, as far as he's concerned, is the only one that's good. So he can't help but pick on an inferior model. 


Regardless of all the bantering, there does come a point where the incarnations will start getting along with each other. Once more, The Three Doctors sets this template. While imprisoned in a doorless cell in the Singularity Point during Part Three, Jo Grant gets Doctors Two and Three to finally get along with each other. They even apologize for their rude behavior and go about concentrating on summoning a door so that they may escape. For the rest of the story, they cooperate fairly well.

Such trends continue in most adventures of this nature. The farewell scene during The Five Doctors takes on a more cozy atmosphere after One talks about his sense of re-assurance. Five and Ten also have a very kind farewell in Time Crash. And there is much kinship going as we reach the end of Day of the Doctor. The War Doctor starts developing some real respect for the men he will become. Ten and Eleven then break into the Time War to help the War Doctor make the most difficult decision of his lives. Then, finally, there is a heartfelt farewell in the Undergallery.

Once more, The Two Doctors is the exception to the rule. At best, the Second Doctor pays Sixie the slightest of compliments for his trick with the briode nebulizer. Otherwise, it's pretty much banter all the way between these two.

But, again, if we try to look at this from a psychological standpoint: these "warm fuzzy moments" could represent something deeper. Could this be a sense of closure for the Doctor? By finally becoming friendly with past incarnations, is this him coming to terms with his own past? Yes, he's happy he's not the man he was, but he is still proud of him. No matter what era he hails from, he was a man who was trying his best to do the right thing. In the end, the Doctor can be satisfied with that. And he shows his approval by dropping the arguments and being kind to himself. Frequently, in doing that, he starts operating far more efficiently. He comes up with plans for defeating Omega or even figures out a way of saving Gallifrey in the Time Wars. Only when he's at peace with the man he was is he able to find victory.


Admittedly, I've been ignoring an Elephant in the Room. So far, I've only been discussing the psychology behind multi-incarnational stories as they relate to the Doctor. Part of what prompted me to write on the subject was the tremendously enjoyable multi-incarnation tale that just happened with his arch rival. Why have I been staying away from it?

I felt that, only after a full examination of the Doctor's multi-incarnation adventures, could we properly look at what happens with the Master and Missy. When these two unite, they clearly demonstrate just how much of a polar opposite they are to the Doctor.

Psychopath that he is, the Master is completely in love with himself. We see little or no banter between these two incarnations. In fact, they seem to want to get it on with each other. You don't get much more narcissistic than that!

True to form, though, this self-adoration spirals out of control. Rather than having a warm moment with themselves' like the Doctor does at the end of most of his multi-incarnational exploits, it goes in a complete different direction. The Master becomes so upset with himself/herself that the morphic snake ends up eating its own tail. Both attempt to kill each other.

Because the Master/Missy lack that little bit of humbleness - that ability to be just a bit unhappy with who he/she was - it leads to self-destruction. Truthfully, the conclusion of World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls rounds out the psychological model I'm trying to create quite nicely. The Doctor views his own past in a healthy manner and deals with it properly. Which gives him a happy and fulfilling life. The Master, on the other hand, deals with his past in the most sickly of manners and this creates horrific consequences for him.

Right then, that's all of my over-analytical observations expressed on this matter. The big question is: will Twice Upon A Time adhere to all these ideas? By my estimation, for instance, there's a big enough gap between One and Twelve that there shouldn't be much actual bantering going on. Because of the amount of time between them, they should actually get along quite nicely. 

Will we see this and other patterns like it that I have described in this entry? 

Can't wait to find out....


Once more, I was rambling on far too much before getting to my real point. I thought I should take some time analyzing some trends in the story structure of multi-incarnation adventures before discussing the psychology of it all. But it just seemed to get in the way of things so I've cut and pasted it down here as an appendix. If you think such observations might interest you, read on: 


Most of your multi-incarnation stories are done to a certain formula. Here are a few recurring elements you will see in most or all of them:


Occasionally, we get a story like The Two Doctors where incarnations just happen to cross paths as they're making their own separate journeys in the TARDIS. But, more times than others, things play out differently. Usually, an external force pulls one or more incarnation from their proper timelines and plops them down in the timestream of the most current incarnation. The Five Doctors exemplifies this best. Borussa uses an old Time Scoop to accomplish this. So I like to call these incidents "scoop-up sequences".

Another Lord President does something similar in The Three Doctors. He orders a technician to scoop up Doctors One and Two and drops them into Three's timeline. The Moment puts a little twist on the device. She re-unites three incarnations by scooping up Eleven and the War Doctor and placing them in Ten's era (the only example of a scoop from the future and the past). Even Time Crash feels more like a scoop. Yes, the story takes place entirely in the TARDIS but it's a technical fault that brings Ten and Five together. They don't just happen to travel in their respective TARDIS to the same point in Time and Space. Five is transported to the future because of a technical problem.

For the most part, multi-incarnation encounters are engineered in some way rather than just happening naturally through TARDIS travel.

Following threads:

Of the stories I've listed, only two stories transpire where we watch the adventure from the perspective of just one incarnation's timeline. Those two stories are The Three Doctors and Time Crash. In Time Crash, the Fifth Doctor appears in Ten's timeline for a bit. They interact for a while and then Five fades away, again. We don't actually see where Five came from, though. Or where he returns to, for that matter. It's all about witnessing things from the context of Ten's timestream. The Three Doctors flows in a very similar fashion. We do have the briefest of Scoop-up Sequences with One and Two. But, otherwise, everything happens within the context of Three's timestream. When the adventure is over, the two previous Doctors disappear back into their own past. Again, we don't really witness where they came from or went to.

Most of the time, however, we spend considerable time watching different incarnations travelling in their own threads before they start encountering each other. The best example of this occurs in The Two Doctors. Six and Two don't finally meet til two-thirds of the story is over. But we watch both of them adventuring separately from each other for quite some time. Essentially, we are witnessing the story from two distinct perspectives until the two Doctors meet near the beginning of Part Three. This is how it works in most stories of this nature. The previous incarnations are still allowed to have backstories. Even in The Five Doctors - where previous incarnations have Scoop-up Moments early on in the plot, we still follow them on their own journeys in the Death Zone before they properly unite and start bantering in Rassilon's Tomb. Day of the Doctor works on a similar premise. We watch War, Ten and Eleven all journey separately from each other for quite some time before the Moment puts them together in one location in Time and Space.

Technical Glitches:

Getting various incarnations into the same timestream is a complicated process that seems to have side-effects. In both The Three and Five Doctors, certain incarnations become stranded in the time vortex rather than properly joining with other versions of themselves'. There can be memory issues, too. The timelines become so tangled that earlier incarnations can't retain what happened.

These technicalities really occur, of course, to make the story-telling more easy and to compensate for casting problems. But it also does make the whole idea of a Time Lord crossing their own timestream seem like something very difficult.

It does seem like if it's only two incarnations interacting that the side effects are less likely. The whole crux of Time Crash is that Ten remembers what Five experienced when they met. Six only forgets what happened to him in his second incarnation because a drug was administered to Two that affects the memory. Otherwise, he would've probably recalled everything, too. And we're pretty sure Missy lied to her previous incarnation in World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls. She actually remembered everything. However, as we get to the stories where three or more incarnations converge, these problems start to occur.  Certain incarnations get trapped in the Time Vortex and memory lapses start affecting everyone.

Okay, now I'm truly done. Thanks if you actually read this far!!!

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