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Have you ever watched a TV show or read a book and found yourself wondering, as one of the wiser and more eccentric characters seems to have suddenly worked out the correct route out of a tight spot without any visible clues, quite how they managed it? Could it be that all is not as it seems, and these talented, irrepressible and well resourced characters are secretly biffing backwards and forwards in time to work out what to do?
And are there other characteristics that strip back the costume of the harmless eccentric, or wise elder, revealing them to be actual Time Lords instead?
Well let’s see, shall we?
Evidence for: He often appears to have entirely changed in appearance, but still generally follows the same behavioural patterns. Never seems to get much older, and is apparently capable of bringing an entire army to its knees, single-handedly, using a few super-high-tech devices, while in the company of one woman. Let’s face it, apart from the guns and shooting and drinking and sex, James Bond practically is the Doctor.
Evidence against: The guns and shooting and drinking and sex. Plus no TARDIS.
Evidence for: She arrives in the midst of turmoil from somewhere unknown. She has a bag that appears to be bigger on the inside. She consorts with all manner of creatures, some of which look like they don’t really exist in the natural world. She has unorthodox – but somehow inspiring – views on everything from housework to chimneysweeps.
Evidence against: She can fly. Unless that umbrella is some kind of Gallifreyan anti-gravity device.
The Time Traveller – The Time Machine by HG Wells
Evidence for: Another character that may as well be the Doctor, from the frock coat to the eternally inquisitive air and ability to entirely rewire cultures, just by telling everyone off. In fact, it’s tempting to conclude that the Time Traveller might be the exact inverse of someone like Jackson Lake from “The Next Doctor,” a Gallifreyan whose memory has been fiddled with so that he believes he is human. Nevertheless, he still has the mental agility to work out how to build a time machine and make it work properly.
Evidence against: His time machine isn’t capable of travelling in space and isn’t bigger on the inside. There again it must be hellish getting the parts in Victorian London.
Evidence for: Even now, it’s hard to credit just how very correct Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was in his deductions about the future of police work. And by putting his scientific interests into the character of Sherlock Holmes, he created an eccentric, obsessive being that is utterly out of step with contemporary society. And he has a penchant for unorthodox headgear, which is pretty familiar too.
Evidence against: It would detract from Sherlock’s beloved scientific method to ascribe to him superhuman characteristics or a box that can help him nip into the future and find out whodunnit. Above all else, Sherlock Holmes is not an advanced or superior intellect thanks to his alien background, he is a human man who can focus on details and use them to make deductions.
The Queen – Snow White
Evidence for: Not all Time Lords are good, and some of them can be terribly vain. The Queen has a talking mirror, to whom she directs questions about her own beauty. We know that certain Time Lords can trap people (in the broadest sense of the world) in mirrors, so it’s possible the Queen is doing something similar. And she changes her appearance in order to trick Snow White into taking a bite of her poisoned apple, something the Master would definitely do. Also: the Doctor, the Master, the Queen – see a pattern there?
Evidence against: It would have been easier to trap Snow White in another mirror, surely?
Evidence for: He exists in a pre-electrical era, in which scientific knowledge is treated with a certain amount of suspicion. Clearly it’s going to be impossibly to explain even the most mundane aspects of the technology at his disposal, so it’s easier to suggest that he’s a wizard with magical powers, that he ends up locked in time by the breath of a dragon, and that he was something to do with a sword and a big rock. No one will have been listening for the tell-tale squeal of a sonic screwdriver helping Arthur lift Excalibur from its stony scabbard.
Evidence against: If Merlin is a Time Lord, what does that make Morgan le Fay? The Mistress?
Note: According to the Seventh Doctor story “Battlefield,” Merlin is either a future incarnation of the Doctor or a version of himself from a parallel dimension where magic works and technology doesn’t.
Nessa – Gavin & Stacey
Evidence for: She appears to have lived many lives and met many interesting people before her time at the Barry Island slot machines. She displays many eccentric habits, and is particular about things that other people are not that bothered about. Also, her travelling companion is a younger girl.
Evidence against: One of Nessa’s catchphrases is “I won’t lie to you,” and as we know, Time Lords are terrible fibbers. Unless she’s lying about lying, of course.
Moss – The IT Crowd
Evidence for: Socially bizarre, technologically gifted, a man with a curious wardrobe and preposterous hair? He just seems the type.
Evidence against: The Time Lords are a proud race, fond of self-aggrandising speeches and bluster. The Doctor does it, the Master does it, even Romana did it. So if Moss is a Time Lord, he’s probably the one that is hiding inside his own pocket-watch, because he has yet to display the temperament that appears to come with two fully functioning hearts.
Evidence for: Jeeves always seems to know what is about to happen, and the best possible course of action he should take to ensure a near-miss for his employer, Bertie Wooster. The only feasible explanation for this is that Jeeves’s kitchen is in fact a TARDIS, and rather than saving the universe, he has decided to spend his time saving one slightly pompous ninny from social disaster, over and over again.
Evidence against: Well, he’s not called the Jeeves, is he?
Evidence for: He’s always in the company of young girls, he speaks righteous truth to people in positions of pernicious power, and he’s extraordinarily charismatic. Y’know that bit in Groundhog Day when Bill Murray keeps repeating his chat-up lines on women, day after repeated day, until he gets lucky? Russell has clearly used this as his personal blueprint for romantic success.
Evidence against: There is a chance, albeit slim, that Russell Brand is not a fictitious character.
And the exception that fails to prove the rule:
Deckard - Blade Runner
Evidence for: Actually very little within the movie itself, however his story is constantly being rewritten, with minor variations each time, almost as if someone keeps going back and changing it, using some kind of machine. And there is some debate as to what he actually is? Replicant hunter? Replicant? And does he live to tell the tale or does something darker happen? So, I’m calling it, he’s a Time Lord. He gets the girl, she’s his new companion and they go off into space and time on an adventure cruise. Let that be an end to all the mucking about. *folds arms*
Evidence against: Lots and lots and lots of things but you know what? La la la I can’t hear you.
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Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic