We all know the men who have played the Doctor. If we’re being honest most of us could probably give you their names and the years during which they played most people’s Time Lord of choice. If pressed we could even enter the murky waters of Doctors of an uncertain canon; Peter Cushing, Richard E Grant (twice!), Rowan Atkinson, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant and even Joanna Lumley.
But there’s a canon Doctor that everyone seems to neglect; Michael Jayston.
And he did play the Doctor, whither you like it or not. Even if he did it under the guise of a Valeyard.
For those of you not versed in the Classic Series or Wikipedia the Valeyard appeared throughout Series 23, giving him more appearances as the Doctor than Paul McGann. His role as Valeyard saw him constantly at odds with the 6th Doctor throughout the Trial of a Time Lord. The end of the trial saw the Master reveal him as the Doctor, albeit a dark distillation. Not unlike a certain Dream Lord we encountered in 2010. Not that I’m saying the two are linked….
It should come as no surprise that I’m a Valeyard fan. Sylvester McCoy was my Doctor, so of course I like my Doctors dark. It’s a large part of what I’m enjoying about Matt Smith’s interpretation of the Doctor.
Michael Jayston has gone one step further than McCoy and Smith though. Rather than just hinting at the sinister side of the Doctor, he is in fact the Doctor embracing his dark side. Which in itself highlights the problem that most fans have with the idea of the Valeyard; no-one likes to accept that he has a dark side. The Doctor is meant to be the hero, the unerring moral compass, the man who steps up and proclaims “This is wrong!” I can understand how his less pure impulses growing arms and legs would unnerve fans that hold the Doctor in this light.
However it’s a pedestal with a very shakey leg that these fans are placing the Doctor on. This is, after all, the same man that was prepared to smash in the head of a caveman to secure his own safety (back in 1963’s 100,000 BC), gave scant regard to abandoning his friends in an attempt to escape exile and to a man who overlooked the moral dilemmas involved with genocide until he was seconds away from committing it. And if the Fourth Doctor had any qualms about the Genocide of the Daleks they weren’t shared by the Seventh Doctor and whichever regeneration finally pulled the plug on them during the Time War.
All the Doctors, with the possible exception of the Fifth Doctor, have had more than a hint of darkness about them. None more so than the Seventh and the Eleventh looks to be becoming more comfortable with this aspect of himself with every passing episode.
So then why does the Valeyard continue to be met with such little regard? Is it because no-one referred to him as the Doctor apart from the Master? Possibly and since when was he a trustworthy source of information anyway?
For anyone who’s unsure of just where they stand on this issue I’d strongly recommend listening to the Big Finish audio He Jests at Scars. Here Michael Jayston reprises the role and we get to hear him as the Doctor without having to share screen time with Colin Baker.
Anyway, I’ll leave you with one final thought before I depart: If the Valeyard is indeed a Doctor from the future (a debate I’ll refrain from for just now) and the Anthony Ainley recognised him as the Doctor does that mean the phrase should be ‘Time has been rewritten’ rather than ‘Time can be rewritten’?