Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 706: Silver Nemesis, Episode Three
Right then, you might want to hold on to something, because I’m about to bang on about the Time War again. My friend Alex loves the Seventh Doctor. I mean, really loves him. His first exposure to the programme was through watching this era as a kid, and in the 1990s, it was picking up the spar odic McCoy-era video tapes that really kicked off his enthusiasm for the programme. Oddly enough, the last Seventh Doctor story that either of us saw is the one I’ll be starting tomorrow - The Happiness Patrol. He’d purposely put off watching it for years because he liked there being a little bit of the Seventh Doctor out there somewhere that he had yet to experience. Anyway, I’ve known Alex for years and years now. We used to work together, we even lived together for a while, and earlier this year I made the trek home from Cardiff to be at his wedding. In all that time, we’ve discussed a lot of things about Doctor Who, and one of my favourite things that we do is theorise. I don’t really do it as much with any of my other friends, but with Alex, we go over all the little details to build up our own head canon on any trivial point that we care to think of. The big one, and the one that’s relevant for today’s episode, is our theory on the Time War.
Back when we first met, we didn’t actually know an awful lot about the Time War. It was this vast and mythical event which took place at some point between the TV Movie and Rose. It had wiped out all but one Time Lord, and almost all of the Daleks. It had raged for millennia in various forms, and occasionally the Doctor would throw in a reference to some event that he witnessed in the war. As the seasons rolled by, we slowly got drip-fed more and more information about that time, and Alex built up a fairly intricate theory about the war, which I’ve always rather liked, and which largely fits with what we’ve seen on screen since - or, rather, it does with a bit of squinting.
The general gist of it for the purposes of this entry are that the Seventh Doctor knew the Time War was coming (he was the one who fired the first real blow in Remembrance of the Daleks, after all, having kicked things off way back in Genesis), and that what we see on screen between Seasons Twenty-Four and Twenty-Six is him preparing the battlefield. He wipes out Skaro - a seat of power which could easily be used to unify the scattered Dalek forces. He takes out the Cyberfleet here, so that they won’t be in the way while the battle is raging, and they’re one less destruction. I’m sure in the books there’s another similar incident which Alex had built in to his theory (and I’ve always loved one of Jamie Lenman's fab Doctor Whoa cartoons from Doctor Who Magazine, in which the Doctor is trying to offer the Ice Warriors an ancient Gallifreyan weapon). Then there’s the whole oft-stated plan that Season Twenty-Seven would have seen the Doctor pack Ace off to the Academy on Gallifrey. We theorised that he’d be doing this specifically to shake them up a bit, provide a kick up the arse, and get them out of their stuffy ‘observers’ role that many Time Lords have been stuck in for centuries.
Why would it be the Seventh Doctor doing this? Two reasons - firstly, the war could kick off at any point once he’d made that shot at Skaro, and secondly because he knew that his next incarnation wouldn’t be up to the job. When Night of the Doctor came along and the Eighth Doctor was presented as a conscientious objector to the war, it fitted the theory perfectly - and it meant that we felt even more sure about it being the Eighth incarnation who tried to save Davros from the ‘jaws of the Nightmare Child’*, because while the Seventh Doctor had gone around the universe wiping out all these old foes in an attempt to ‘clear the stage’ for the war, the Eighth Doctor was desperately trying to cling on to anything that made him still ‘the Doctor’, and knowing that Davros was out there somewhere plotting a new ridiculous scheme is part of that.
The bit that I most enjoyed about the theory is that it all works very nicely with the Doctor’s words in this episode - when he’s talking to the Nemisis statue about the future;
You might need me in the future, then?
I hope not.
That is what you said before.
In Alex’s theory, the Doctor hoped not to need the Validium any more, because he was hoping to find a way of averting the war.
Watching this story again now, there’s a few more ideas that crop up which I’m sure I’ll want to incorporate in to the theory, in light of the events of last year’s anniversary special. I’ve not quite got them worked out in my mind yet, but I love that Lady Peinforte knows who the Doctor is because the Nemesis told her - and in my head the Nemesis is such a complex construct that it can easily see all possible futures, but knows that the Doctor is the man who will one day use ‘the Moment’. Greater than the Hand of Omega, or the Validium, that’s the one weapon that should never be used. I love the thought that when Peinforte is saying that she knows who the Doctor truly is, it’s because she knows he’s the man who will destroy his own people and live to tell the tale.
I’m sure you don’t particularly care about all these Time War theories I keep throwing out there, trying to retroactively shoehorn modern continuity into the older stories, but it keeps me interested, and otherwise you’d have had a day of ‘there’s a lot to like again here, but also a fair bit of padding’…
*Incidentally, in Alex’s visions of the war, the ‘Nightmare Child’ is actually a Time Lord battleship made of pure Validium, and piloted by none other than Ace!