Ever since the casting of Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor was announced, speculation hit the message boards to ask questions of why and how; everyone has their own ‘Doctor Who theory.’ Why cast an actor as the Doctor that had been in a prior episode of Doctor Who before? How could the Doctor take on a familiar face? Furthermore, not only did Capaldi play a major role in season 4’s episode The Fires of Pompeii, he was a major character in season 3 of Torchwood (otherwise known as Children of Earth) as well. His face had been seen twice already in the Who universe. Would this coincidence be ignored or become part of the mystery of the 12th incarnation of the Doctor? Steven Moffat decided on the latter. That’s what this Doctor Who theory will discuss.
In an interview with Nerd3 Moffat stated,
SM: “I’ll let you in on this. I remember Russell told me he had a big old plan as to why there were two Peter Capaldis in the Who universe, one in Pompeii and one in Torchwood. When I cast Peter, [Russell] got in touch to say how pleased he was, I said ‘Okay, what was your theory and does it still work?’ and he said ‘Yes it does, here it is’. So I don’t know if we’ll get to it… we’ll play that one out over time. It’s actually quite neat.”
Did he get to it? Based on episode one of the 8th season, “Deep Breath,” the idea of the 12th Doctor having a familiar (or even different) face is definitely emphasized over and over again, so the answer must be yes. Even Clara ponders why ‘this’ particular face:
CLARA: Where did he get that face? Why’s it got lines on it? It’s brand new. How can his hair be all grey? He only just got it.
Yes, where and why are vital questions. Sure, Clara is merely bothered that the Doctor regenerated into an old looking man (why this is shocking to Clara who has seen every Doctor is beyond me and another question altogether), but I think the emphasis on his face is what we should be focused on in this scene. What is so important about this face? Later on in the episode, as this absentminded Doctor runs through Victorian London in his nightshirt and crosses paths with a man from the streets, his face is once again brought up in the most telling scene of the season thus far. Let’s take a look:
DOCTOR: Er, have you seen this face before?
DOCTOR: Are you sure?
BARNEY: Sir, I have never seen that face.
DOCTOR: It’s funny, because I’m sure that I have. You know, I never know where the faces come from. They just pop up. Zap. Faces like this one.
The Doctor can’t quite remember where he’s seen this face, the theme of forgetting beginning to take root in the episode. Deep down, the Doctor KNOWS his face, this particular face he’s seen before, is significant somehow. But why take on this face, the face from Fires of Pompeii? I’ll get to that later. Before then, another key line to pay attention to is about never knowing “where the faces come from.” Are we going to find out? Let’s continue this same scene as the Doctor tells Barney to look at the Doctor’s new face in the mirror:
DOCTOR: Look, it’s covered in lines [bringing up Clara’s point]. But I didn’t do the frowning. Who frowned me this face? Do you ever look in the mirror and think I’ve seen that face before?
DOCTOR: Really? When?
BARNEY: Well, every time I look in the mirror.
DOCTOR: Oh, yes, yes, yes. Fair enough. Good point. My face is fresh on, though.
DOCTOR: Why this one? Why did I choose this face? It’s like I’m trying to tell myself something. Like I’m trying to make a point. But what is so important that I can’t just tell myself what I’m thinking?
What is so important? What is the Doctor trying to tell himself in his choice of face? I think to try to theorize, one needs to go back to the beginning, back to Capaldi’s first appearance in Doctor Who.
Fires of Pompeii and Torchwood
In Fires of Pompeii, Capaldi played a character named Caecillius. Now Caecillius got caught up in Pompeii of course, and no one (including him and his family) were meant to live. However, Donna couldn’t stand just leaving this family behind and convinced the Doctor to go back and save just one family. He did. No big deal, right?
Hmm. Maybe it was, because a couple of thousand years later Caecillius’ descendant John Frobisher came into play. Near the end of Children of Earth, Frobisher ends up killing his entire family and himself to prevent handing his children over to an alien race that demanded ten percent of the world’s child population. The gravity of Frobisher’s ending is more than tragic, however, it is telling. In an episode of Torchwood Declassified, Russell T. Davies explains the importance of the scene:
RTD: “We were so lucky to get Peter Capaldi. We hesitated for a second because he’d been in Doctor Who recently. He’d been Caecillius in The Fires of Pompeii. I like to think that he’s a long lost descendant over 2,000 years of the man the Doctor saved from Pompeii, and actually it’s just time catching up ‘cause actually the whole family line gets killed. It took 2,000 years, but Caecillius’ relatives died in the end.”
Could this be part of the idea Moffat was alluding to? One particular aspect of this quote stands out in that regard: “it’s just time catching up ‘cause actually the whole family line gets killed.” Why is this idea of “time catching up” so significant to Capaldi as the 12th Doctor? What could it all mean?
Time Catching Up
In my two part theory of why Bad Wolf was actually the Moment, my analyses really lead nicely into this particular theory (Read HERE. and HERE). Before continuing, I HIGHLY recommend reading both parts because I really go into detail on why the Doctor saving Gallifrey implied time had been rewritten (as in the first time around Gallifrey and the Time Lords were destroyed), as well as the importance of the woman in the shop. Basically, from this point on, my theory only works if indeed time had been rewritten and I write as if it had.
Rewriting time in the 50th anniversary special and the regeneration into a familiar face, what does all that have to do with the 12th Doctor? In short…EVERYTHING. In Torchwood, time had to be righted after the Doctor rescued a family that wasn’t supposed to be saved. In turn, his descendant killed his own family…Everything came full circle. Peter Capaldi could play Frobisher because it made sense of his past episode. Time made right on its own.
Moreover, soon after the Doctor(s) saved the Time Lords (and in the process changed history); he regenerated into Peter Capaldi’s face. But why the familiar face? The Doctor never met Frobisher (as far as we know), so it has to be connected to The Fires of Pompeii and Caecillius, a man he met and saved. Why choose this random face he met only once? I believe it is because this face reminds the Doctor of his choice in Pompeii, to rescue a family not meant to be rescued. What if the Time Lords were not meant to be saved? Will time have to be righted like in Torchwood? If so, does that mean that something else will have to be destroyed? Could this mean that Gallifrey will eventually be destroyed again, and that the Doctor only delayed the inevitable about rewriting time, OR does it mean that time will have to be set right in some other way? Will some other planet have to take Gallifrey’s place to return order to the universe? What is the importance of Capaldi’s face returning for the third time? Perhaps, it is that nagging part of the Doctor’s unconscious mind reminding him that his decision to rewrite time has consequences. Consequences connected to “heaven” and “Missy” perhaps?
Briefly mentioned earlier, I hinted towards the theme of forgetting and memory. Right from the 12th Doctor’s start, it seems as if he had problems with memory (though moments before the 11th Doctor went off about never forgetting a thing). He couldn’t recall how to fly the Tardis, and in Victorian London wandered around with a scatterbrained mind. In Deep Breath, his failure to remember details didn’t stop there, with a throwaway line about Madame De Pompadour. As the Doctor tried to piece together the puzzles:
DOCTOR: SS Marie Antoinette. Out of control repair droids cannibalising human beings. I know that this is familiar, but I just can’t seem to place it.
HALF-FACE MAN: How would you kill me?
DOCTOR: Sister ship of the Madame De Pompadour. No, not getting it.
He didn’t even remember Madame De Pompadour. Meant to be funny (not that forgetting a woman who spent her entire life waiting for this same man is all that amusing), or something else? Something sinister, or perhaps just an essential clue? The idea of changing faces and remembering faces comes up again in this same episode when the Doctor and the Droid (Half-Face Man) battle with their wits:
DOCTOR: You are a broom. Question. You take a broom, you replace the handle, and then later you replace the brush, and you do that over and over again. Is it still the same broom? Answer? No, of course it isn’t. But you can still sweep the floor. Which is not strictly relevant, skip that last part. You have replaced every piece of yourself, mechanical and organic, time and time again. There’s not a trace of the original you left. You probably can’t even remember where you got that face from.
(The Doctor then grasps a silver plate, holding it between himself and the Half-Face Man as a mirror, the camera direction implying they are similar.)
The importance of changing appearances emphasizes the Doctor’s own recent change and past regenerations. Is he even the same man? According to this analogy, the answer is no. In fact, he said “There’s not a trace of the original you left. You probably can’t even remember where you got that face from.” Just like the Doctor can’t remember where he got this familiar face.
I like to believe that this face is at least partially going to help the Doctor find his way back to his original self or past self anyway, to the old faces and personas he once was, to the man who doesn’t murder entire races, or at least the man who tried to be better, like the Doctor who rescued a family because Donna asked him to. Just one more reminder of the man he had forgotten, to the people it seems he’s forgotten.
Aside from Pompadour and Pompeii, the Doctor doesn’t mention past people or adventures anymore when EXTREMELY relevant. Why not once in “Into the Dalek,” did he ever mention Rose or that altered Dalek? Why in “The Caretaker,” did he never mention his own granddaughter attending the school Clara works at? Could this possibly be connected to a bigger picture, clueing us to the idea of the Doctor’s memories being messed with?
Also, it should be noted that “Time Heist” directly dealt with memory loss as well. The Doctor and Clara took memory worms of their own free will, something the Doctor himself orchestrated. Perhaps the whole episode served to foreshadow the Doctor’s forgetting… And as for the ending, I think the dialogue (with Moffat co-writing the episode, one has to wonder which parts) may be a huge clue to the season’s arc and Gallifrey:
DOCTOR: Did you see why we came? Why we’re here? We had to delete our own memories, otherwise you’d have known, and then she’d have known, because you were mentally linked. But she’s gone now. They’ve all gone. They have no power over you now. You can do exactly what you want to do now. Exactly what you’ve always wanted to do.
The scene goes on to reveal two of this telepathic creature, the last two of a species ready to go home. The obvious (and terrible) double meaning to this scene could simply imply that there are two Time Lords alive outside the pocket universe; that together they can go home. I find this terrible mainly because I can imagine Missy (calling the Doctor “boyfriend”) suddenly playing this part like in season 3’s YANA (you are not alone) with the Master (eerily close to Mistress or Missy) and “Utopia” instead of Paradise. As if Heaven was the only way to Gallifrey or something, Heaven really another pocket universe, stuck in time. Or it is even Gallifrey itself, those we see dying not really dying because the Time Lords go back and mess with time just one second before their deaths to alter what the Doctor saw.
While I think that theory is probable and my other theory is much less likely, wouldn’t it be more interesting if the plan to go back to Gallifrey was more elaborate, that actually the Doctor was in on it much like in “Time Heist?” Think about it. If the Doctor had a plan, what if the plan only worked if he didn’t know about the plan? He had to be in the dark. Furthermore, if the Doctor helped create this plan of memory loss, how did he do it? When did he do it? In “The Time of the Doctor,” there is a short window of time (before he regenerates) when the 11th Doctor could have begun to set this plan in motion. He had enough time to reset his ‘young’ face, change clothes, eat some custard, and also call Clara. What if even more happened in that window of time, right before he regenerated into this forgetful Doctor?
Then there are the puppet masters behind the plan. Everyone needs a master manipulator. I theorize that it is a future Doctor and Bad Wolf, the Bad Wolf of my prior theories working together. Re-writing time, saving Gallifrey all happened because the Moment (who I believe was also Bad Wolf) manipulated it into happening. Because these parts are so relevant to ‘this theory,’ I want to return to some of my thoughts from both posts. It’s definitely vital to note Bad Wolf’s hand in the 50th special:
DOCTOR 10: These events should be time-locked. We shouldn’t even be here.
DOCTOR 11: So something let us through.
Did they almost figure it out that this was actually Bad Wolf that let them through the time lock? It is particularly interesting that the Moment chose to not reveal herself to Ten and Eleven, the two Doctors that actually know her. Would they have discovered the truth, that Bad Wolf was actually the one bringing everyone together and helping them rewrite time?”
It’s also important to note that the Doctor and Clara time traveled (without his knowledge mind you) back in time to Gallifrey in the episode “Listen.” This is another place and time that should be time-locked. So now that the Time Lords are hidden away in a pocket universe, can he go back to Gallifrey? Many times he mentioned in earlier seasons how he couldn’t go back to Gallfirey’s past. Now he can, which is very interesting. Is something or someone unlocking places and moments in time that were once time-locked?
So going back, why did the Moment want to guide the Doctor into re-writing time? The 10th Doctor does almost put the pieces together:
DOCTOR 10: Why are we all together? Why are we all here? Well, me and Chinny, we were surprised, but you came looking for us. You knew it was going to happen. Who told you? (Moment Rose is holding a finger to her lips.)
“Again, the idea of ‘who’ plays a part once more. This remains ambiguous and even mysterious. The Moment can’t allow the other Doctors to discover the truth for some reason, for the part he plays in HER plans. More than bringing everyone together, however, she also tells the Doctor how to do things including the sonic screwdriver: “same software, different case” foreshadowing the use of all the Doctors needed to save Gallifrey, frozen for one moment in time. Her plan is rather simple: show the Doctor the one thing the three of them needed to see in order to change his mind.
She continues to manipulate the situation by showing Clara the horrors of the war, influencing her too into giving a speech. Revealing to Clara all those people they were going to kill convinced Clara to stand up to the Doctor. Bringing the children up earlier just ties it all together in one nice little bow. Her plan is a success for Gallifrey does indeed fall “no more.”’
I assume most of us left the special thinking that was the end of the Moment and Bad Wolf, but what if we were wrong? What if that story was just the beginning? Let me return once more to my old thoughts:
“While I don’t think Bad Wolf will return again for the foreseeable future, there is something I noticed, something eerie regarding The Moment’s plan. What did it accomplish in bringing the Time Lords back besides their return? Is there more than meets the eye than just that very thing? Like, for instance, what was the point of Tom Baker’s return as some kind of future Doctor (or simple curator with an older version of the 4th Doctor’s face) revisiting old faces? Does it have anything to do with Peter Capaldi playing the next Doctor, an actor we have already seen before in Torchwood and the Pompeii episode back in series 4? …It is interesting to note that both The Moment and The Curator/Future Doctor (?) put their finger on their lips to shush first Hurt’s Doctor and then to hint to the 11th Doctor of Gallifrey being lost. The Curator, like The Moment shared just the specific details needed for the Doctor to move forward as if they had both planned it. Who knows? Maybe they even planned it together…”
Considering all of that, also consider what the Curator had to actually say in “The Day of the Doctor,” especially regarding faces, a theme so important to the 8th season:
DOCTOR: I never forget a face.
CURATOR: I know you don’t. And in years to come, you might find yourself revisiting a few. But just the old favourites, eh? (The Doctor winks.)
What if he more than revisits old Doctor faces but other faces as well? Favorite companions like Donna or Rose? Let’s go on:
CURATOR: You were curious about this painting, I think. I acquired it in remarkable circumstances. What do you make of the title?
DOCTOR: Which title? There’s two. No More or Gallifrey Falls.
CURATOR: Oh, you see, that’s where everybody’s wrong. It’s all one title. Gallifrey Falls No More. Now, what would you think that means, eh?
DOCTOR: That Gallifrey didn’t fall. It worked. It’s still out there.
CURATOR: I’m only a humble curator. I’m sure I wouldn’t know.
DOCTOR: Then where is it?
CURATOR: Where is it indeed? Lost. Shush. Perhaps. Things do get lost, you know. And now you must excuse me. Oh, you have a lot to do.
DOCTOR: Do I?
DOCTOR: Is that what I’m supposed to do now? Go looking for Gallifrey?
CURATOR: Oh, it’s entirely up to you. Your choice, eh? I can only tell you what I would do if I were you. Oh, if I were you. Oh, perhaps I was you, of course. Or perhaps you are me. Congratulations.
DOCTOR: Thank you very much.
CURATOR: Or perhaps it doesn’t matter either way. Who knows, eh? Who knows?
Clearly, the Curator knows a lot, and brings up several interesting hints to the Doctor’s future. For instance, how did he acquire the painting? How does he know about familiar faces? Finally, he leaves the Doctor with one important question: “Who Knows?” Who does know? A play on words because there is a character (or two such as The Doctor) who knows. I believe that person is the woman in the shop.
The Woman in the Shop
I won’t go into every point and reference about this mysterious woman because I did that Here. Like I said, it helps to read that first. Nevertheless, I want to continue the train of thought that Bad Wolf is the Woman in the Shop. In “Time Heist,” this woman was brought up again because it is important:
DOCTOR: Hardly anyone in the universe has that number.
CLARA: Well, I’ve got it.
DOCTOR: Yes, from some woman in a shop. We still don’t know who that was.
CLARA: Is that her now?
DOCTOR: There are very few people that it could be.
Very few people it could be. Well, who? The choices are limited. Since Moffat loves being “timey wimey,” the woman could just end up being the obvious answer: Clara. But, that’s not very interesting and overdone at this point. There is the even duller and predictable answer of the woman being Missy and again everything is out of sequence. Then there are two greater choices I think: Rose Tyler or Bad Wolf (who actually was an unimportant woman in a shop when she met the Doctor) and Donna (who also has memory problems). While this theory focuses on Bad Wolf because I think it all comes together in a neat little bow, I don’t think we can rule out Donna at this point.
Why that face? Well, Donna knows that face, doesn’t she? Oh, if only she could remember. And indeed, what would happen if finally she was allowed to remember? What then?
Putting It All Together: The Familiar Face Doctor Who Theory
Overall, I think that since the Doctor re-wrote time to save Gallifrey, there will be The Doctor’s consequences for saving them, similar to the consequences of saving the family in Pompeii. What those consequences are remain to be seen, however I do think it is connected to Missy’s Paradise. More than just consequences, however, are master plans, plans to bring the Time Lords back. I theorize that Bad Wolf (and the Doctor himself, though the 12th Doctor can’t remember) put the plan together for a greater purpose, to return to Gallifrey, to return “home.”
Of course, there is another possibility regarding Bad Wolf. What if (on a crazy, impossible thought), she created this plan to return the Time Lords to their rightful position BECAUSE doing so would bring back travel between parallel universes. Let’ not forget season 2’s “Rise of the Cybermen:”
MICKEY: But I’ve seen it in comics. People go hopping from one alternative world to another. It’s easy.
DOCTOR: Not in the real world. It used to be easy. When the Time Lords kept their eye on everything, you could hop between realities, home in time for tea. Then they died, and took it all with them. The walls of reality closed, the worlds were sealed. Everything became that bit less kind.
Except now the Time Lords are returning, means the parallel universes will be returning as well… Do I think Moffat will bring back Rose? No. Still, I thought I would throw the idea out there. Most importantly, regarding the Doctor’s familiar face, I believe the Doctor is just trying to remember two important things: 1) the consequences of time and 2) his past selves, or even as far back as the original Doctor.
Why do you think the 12th Doctor’s face is so important? Sound off in the comments…
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