Doctor Who News The Eighth Doctor

Published on May 6th, 2014 | by Rebecca Crockett

Russell: “like it or not, the Doctor was half human”

Do Time Lords look like humans or do humans look like Time Lords?

The fandom debate about this has been on going since the show started.

The Doctor loves humans. He has saved the Earth from total destruction time and time again. One could argue he has an almost inordinate love for our species, so much so that there must be a reason other than just affinity for our kind.

Given that the Tenth Doctor’s “extra” regeneration energy was able to bond with Donna’s human DNA to create a half-human copy of Ten, the two species – human and Gallifreyan, must therefore be at least genetically compatible, otherwise such a thing wouldn’t have been possible.

So what then about the almost throw away line in the TV Movie, where the Eighth Doctor, albeit in a bit of a joking matter, says that he is “half-human…on my mother’s side”? Do we ignore that one line (and that Eric Robert’s Master also declares the Doctor is half-human) or do we just chalk it up to the movie having been made by others maybe not as familiar with the character or thinking it would be useful for the future television show they were hoping would happen as a result of the movie?

Russell T. Davies says we can’t ignore it.

While chatting on Toby Hadoke’s Who’s Round, Davies was asked about the line and its implications for the character of the Doctor and the show.

I don’t like the half-human thing. He certainly isn’t half-human, but it’s less interesting to say it simply doesn’t count.
I always wanted to put in a line where someone says to the Doctor ‘are you human?’ and the Doctor says ‘no, but I was once in 1999. It was a 24 hour bunk.’ Part of the reason I never put that in was it was a bit too self-referential but also I thought I’m spoiling the TV movie if I do that.
In that time, like it or not, the Doctor was half human. Everything in that story says he was half human, so you can’t not count it. I don’t think we can ignore it.

What say you, K readers? Do you agree with RTD or do you choose to ignore it?


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About the Author


Rebecca is new to the Who world, having only recently watched the entire new series in a span of 8 days. She is no stranger to sci-fi though, being a life long Trekkie and has vague memories of seeing the 4th Doctor on US television as a child. When not watching, reading, blogging, or talking about Doctor Who, she is a fan of pop culture and loves movies and books so much she has to keep a list of both so she doesn't forget any of them. She also likes to make attempts at various forms of art including photography and painting. Rebecca is currently working her way through as many classic serials and as many books related to the show that she can find and wishes she could have been with the Doctor and Amy when they met Van Gogh.

52 Responses to Russell: “like it or not, the Doctor was half human”

  1. avatar Harry M VanHoudnos says:

    I say IGNORE IT! In fact, take it out of Canon. Just because Earth is the Doctor’s favorite world, does not mean that he is part human. I could say that Germany is my favorite country, yet I am not German. Same with Doctor Who. The Doctor may find Earth his favorite planet, but that does not make him human.

    • avatar Dannie Madsen says:

      Liking a certain place has nothing to do with it. Read my own comment. And read the headline. It says, “like it or not, the Doctor is half human”. So… He is, whether you like it or not.

      • avatar Logan says:

        Technically during regeneration any form can occur. Why can’t that specific regeneration of the Doctor be part human?

        • avatar Rico says:

          In that same movie, the Doctor stated, that Time Lords could change species during regeneration. Well, the basic genom would be gallifreyan, but I guess there could be small alterations to their biology.
          So when the Doctor says he is “half human on his mothers side”, I always suspected, he referred to Grace as his mother (she caused this incarnation be triggering his regeneration, which makes her somehow the eighth Doctor’s mother). And he is half human, because his biology adepted to the humans around him.
          Just think of it: It is his first and so far only regeneration that happened on earth with only human beings around him and no TARDIS nearby. So it could very likely be, that he adepted to that.

    • avatar vortexter says:

      I wish I could ignore burping wheelie bins and farting aliens but I cant. It’s canon.

      • avatar TonyS says:

        The wonder of dvd: you can at least skip those bits :)

  2. avatar David says:

    Rule no 1: The Doctor lies.

    • avatar Dannie Madsen says:

      That’s only the Eleventh Doctor’s rule.

      • avatar Doug says:

        Unless the Doctor’s real name is John Smith, the Doctor has lied a lot throughout his lives. We can’t ignore that he said it, but the Doctor has said contradictory things throughout his lives depending on who the writers were. This is not a program blessed with great continuity, though the current writers attempt to have as much continuity as they can. We just have to live with the comment, though I think the Doctor said his mother was human, so that could mean a number of things. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the movie, though, so I could be wrong.

    • avatar Mugen Pharoah says:

      and the Master then when he states that the Doctor’s retinal pattern is human…and when he states that the Doctor is half human…

  3. avatar Catherine Jaramillo says:

    “half human… on my mother’s side”?? No one says that. Totally has to be a (poor) joke. Just trying to be funny, without hitting the mark. Not unlike #11′s “who da man?” line. Not funny, but nice try.

    • avatar Ardwen says:

      In the movie it was more than just a joke. The Master mentions it, and the Eye of Harmony only works for The Doctor because of his humanity… that’s why The Master had to use humans, because he, being full Time Lord, was unable to activate the Eye.

      It is, as Russel stated, “Everything in that story says he was half human.” So, at least for the 8th Doctor (at least for the stent of the Movie) he was half human. As much as we wish it was just a throw away line, its too engrained into the plot.

  4. avatar Dominick says:

    There was a line in the comics, the Forgotten story, I believe. He says: “I once convinced my most hated enemy that I was half-human with nothing more than a wide-eyed expression, a couple of words, and a half-broken chameleon arch.”

    It achieves the same effect as Davies’s line, and has a precedent in the EU. Personally, I’m happy keeping it as that.

    And he’s one to talk! He’s the one who didn’t want the show until they told him he could write over the canon where he saw fit.

  5. avatar Michael says:

    I’ve been hoping for a throw away line since the TV Movie aired to debunk the half human thing.

    A tie-in magazine revealed it before it aired. I assumed it was just a mistake in the mag. How could they just make him like Mr Spock?

    It’s worrying how annoyed we get about such things. I think I can move on now…..but I’d still like that throw away line

  6. avatar TonyS says:

    It would be …. convenient to be able to pretend the remark was never made. However, Chang Lee is able to open the Eye of Harmony because his retina print is human. As the Master says to the Doctor, “You are only half.”

    Whatever the answer, I have to agree with RTD on this one. (Never thought I’d write that!) We can’t just pretend it didn;t happen.

    We could, of course, consign it to the bin of things that don’t matter and never mention it agin, perhaps.

    • avatar Al says:

      The Big Finish audio drama The Apocalypse Element set up why a human retinal print had to be used. Something involving the Sixth Doctor’s companion Evelyn Smythe.

      • avatar Rick says:

        Good ‘ole Big Finish.

  7. Ignore it. America had a thing about romance with other species and threw that in so as not to gak Middle America. There may be an evolutionary connection with the TimeLords, who came first, but trust me when I say nobody can ruin that movie any further by moving on to better things with humanoids who do not procreate the way we do. We’ve seen manifestations when DNA and organic material meet with an energy source, and that supports LOOMS theories more than ever, as well as explains The Doctor’s lack of savvy and instinct normally driven by hormones, which are no longer necessary for his species. While there may be a pleasurable experience to sex, there’s no longer a drive for it for his species. That could certainly be eclipsed by revelations when traveling its far reaches…

  8. One of the things I most love about Doctor Who is that it doesn’t just ignore canon but at its best actively laughs and laughs and laughs in the face of it. So if you want to ignore this, ignore it. If you don’t want to, don’t. I’m going to ignore it, as I successfully managed to do with almost everything during RTD’s run… but if you like it, then I’m *more* than happy for you to go along with it…

    • avatar Rick says:

      My thoughts exactly. I ignore the fact that the Master’s had a drum beat in his head since he was a kid, but never mentioned it until 2007.

    • avatar mrjohnm says:

      And today at work I told a co-worker that BBC drama is very big on continuity, unless of course it gets in the way of good storytelling!

  9. avatar lozzer says:

    I must be one of the only people who was never bothered by this – so what if his mother is human – you all sound like the Timelord UKIP party.

    • avatar TonyS says:

      I am not saying that it bothers me. I am saying that we can’t just pretend it wasn;t said. We can ignore it. It really isn’t an issue.

      And at least no-one is (yet) trying to pretend that the Doctor didn’t spend time with a Salford accent!

      • avatar lozzer says:

        I loved Salford Doctor – The next one is Scottish… what difference does an accent make? After all, he is half human…

      • I wish we could ignore the gratuitous moment the Tenth Doctor decided he didn’t want to change mid-regeneration late in Series 4.

  10. avatar Al says:

    I thought IDW Comics settled this. In the miniseries The Forgotten the Eighth Doctor says he was under the influence if the Chameleon Arch.

  11. avatar Kristen Black says:

    I have just always considered it part of Rule 1: The Doctor Lies. While I LOVE the Eighth Doctor and he is MY Doctor, that little line I think of as a lie, nothing to worry about.

    • avatar Dannie Madsen says:

      “The Doctor lies” is the Eleventh Doctor’s rule. There are different rules per Doctor, and some of the Doctors don’t even have rules.

  12. avatar The Doctor says:

    Funny, He doesn’t look human. :P

  13. avatar Rick says:

    I honestly don’t care if he said it or not. I can choose to ignore anything a fictional character did or said, and just concentrate on the bits I like.

  14. avatar Dannie Madsen says:

    I have read the various comments in here and I’m going to repeat the headline “like it or not, the Doctor was half-human”. He certainly is. He jokingly said it, but he definitely meant what he said. I agree with Russell T. Davies, it also makes sense as to the Meta-Crisis, which was said that there has never been one before because there can’t be one. This is because no other Gallifreyan is half-human. The Doctor certainly is because that makes Meta-Crisis canon. Being half-human is completely canon. You cannot ignore it, it’s a canon fact that is to be taken serious. The Doctor is half-human, like it or not. Just face it. And this has nothing to do with liking a certain place.

    • avatar Rick says:

      But it’s the canon of fictional character, so I can ignore it all I want. Let’s face it, none of it ever happened, that’s why I can’t see the point of canon arguments. Just accept what you enjoy.

  15. avatar Dannie Madsen says:

    And just so you know it. The RTD era was GREAT! They were awesome and great stories.

    • avatar Geoff says:

      I share your enthusiasm for the show but in my view it wasn’t all great and RTD anymore than any other era. Some stuff was amazing and stand out, and some was….well let’s say a bit less so but it’s all Doctor Who and there’s always something good in it. What no one can argue with is RTD took a show he knew and loved inside out and knee just how to mould it for success with a modern largely young audience. For my money the best of Matt/Moff era easily holds it’s own against the best of dream double of RTD & Tennant which is (understandably) beloved by many people. Not to mention the Baker/Hinchcliffe/Holmes years which in my view are the best if the whole lot.

      • avatar Dannie Madsen says:

        Of course. I’m just talking against the hate of the era. Everywhere I look, when it’s Doctor Who, everybody always say “it was the worst era”, “none of it was good”. EVERYONE seems to hate it, and that’s what I’m talking against.

  16. avatar Geoff says:

    Both options are right. It is true because it was said, but we can ignore or change it! Of course we can! Loads of things have been subject to change later on over the years and it doesn’t matter! We don’t need to go back over every little nuance of the show and “correct” it. The show isn’t one big consistent tapestry, it’s a sprawling sometimes contradictory chain of stories and it’s all the richer for it. I think there are 2 or 3 key things in the show that are the genuine foundations of its success and shouldn’t really be messed about with, everything else within reason is fair game in my view. I mean if we’re going to rationalise everything where do we stop? I mean we need to explain why the Doctor regenerated into Maxill for starters and how the Tardis survived the Bandril missile attack, or we could just ignore all this ancient stuff that doesn’t matter anyway and just get on with the story telling!

    • avatar Craigt68 says:

      Geoff is the Voice of Reason (though in no way do I compare Geoff to the late, frankly nuts, former News of the Screws columnist Woodrow Wyatt who was also billed as the VOR in the deceased Murdoch tabloid). One either gets obsessed with every single continuity reference [so leading to madness], brush it under the cosmic carpet or go “so what, there have been dozens of different writers, script editors and producers on this fifty year old series which means by its longevity, no series in TV history has had to cope with such problems of continuity and sometimes inevitably views will diverge so I really need to have a lie down now and get some perspective”. Or something like that. I always thought that 8th’s line was a throwaway joke until The Master’s comment which got me thinking…Oh no, best not go there again!

      • avatar Geoff says:

        Thanks Craig! I’m going to have your first sentence embossed in brass and stuck on my kitchen wall where I will silently tap it with a smug look on my face every time my wife disagrees with something I say!

  17. avatar Eric says:

    Rule #1 can’t just be an 11th Doctor’s rule… Every time the Doctor is asked what his name is and he responds with “John Smith” that is a lie… unless ironically his name IS actually John Smith… which would be a hilarious twist!

    • avatar Rick says:

      I think I kind of love it if someone had the guts to do that twist.

  18. avatar rickjlundeen says:

    It doesn’t matter. Maybe the Doctor did the thing with the fob watch years earlier and there was some human DNA remaining. So the 8th Doctor had some leftover human DNA in there. And then it was gone when he regenerated. Problem solved. We REALLY don’t have to make a big deal out of this stuff. Have fun with it and come up with an interesting answer for it. Make it work for us.

  19. avatar DonnaM says:

    Personally I’ve not had any more difficulty ignoring it than the series has since 2005 – it’s never been mentioned since the TV Movie and, in my opinion, never needs to be again.

    If it really bothers anyone, there are plenty of creative ways around it already suggested by others above. To me, it’s just another example of why it’s wrong to get all wound up about “canon” in a show that’s been around since 1963. If a writer sat down to check his script didn’t clash with “established lore” in a single minute detail, he’d probably never get an episode finished!

    I’m going to continue to ignore that line and hope the producers, now and in the future, do the same. If they insist on tackling the matter, I’ll find a way of reasoning it out in my own mind that will satisfy me whether it’s canonical or not.

  20. avatar Ivriniel says:

    Back in the day, RTD said he was a big believer in letting fans come up with their own personal canon “completely free of the production team’s hot and heavy hands”.

    So why is he suddenly being insistent on the half-human issue? Seems to me that RTD has a history of honking off fans for the fun of it. The only way to deal with this IMHO is to ignore him.

    It’s not like he’s in an position to directly influence the show these days anyways.

  21. avatar Daniel says:

    Doesn’t Amy ask the Doctor in ‘The Beast below’ if he is human – and he replies ‘No’? In that case, hasn’t the throwaway line already been thrown?

  22. avatar iankiddy says:

    Everything past Survival is just televised fanboy wet dreams anyway, so I could care less. ;)

    • avatar Geoff says:

      Then,and I ask this genuinely because I think you’re perfectly entitled to think that BTW: why are you even here on this particular (largely modern era) news page?

    • avatar CosmicDebris says:

      All of Doctor Who is a televised fanboy wet dream, that’s why we all love it. ;)

  23. avatar Mugen Pharoah says:

    Spock being half Vulcan never lessened the appeal of Spock.However….

    In my own personal take on it, I took it as being related to that weird Time Lords changing species when they die thing line…this was said in relation to the Master but if you think about it would apply to the Doctor too…who ‘died’ in the operating theatre as No. 7. In an unseen adventure the Doctor may have recovered his full DNA or even just completed his regeneration when he took off in the TARDIS at the end and ‘stabilised’ himself as full Gallifreyan, similar to 10′s regrowing a hand. Works for me!

  24. avatar Barb says:

    As with Torchwood’s horrible last season, the half-human bit should be ignored. As mentioned about, it was only brought up in the movie and never better or after.

  25. avatar CosmicDebris says:

    You don’t have to ignore it, but we can explain around it. There’s a lot of things like that in the history of the show. Like how the 3rd Doctor always says he’s thousands of years old, or the mystery pre-1st doctor regenerations in the Brain of Morbius. I think we can all agree that The Doctor is no genetically half-human. Maybe just spiritually. ;)

  26. avatar nobodytrue says:

    its quite simple. the doctor at this time had used to chameleon arch to make himself half human. the time war was starting of and it was his way to make himself less of a target so he could stay out of it. the master, had been sent back to a time long before the creation of the daleks and been executed.

  27. avatar John Miller says:

    Every showrunner wants to put their stamp on Doctor Who. And then the next showrunner’s ideas may conflict with the previous ones’. Personally I destested(and still do for that matter) the whole ‘Time’s Champion woven from a Loom blowing up planets’ crap that was the Mccoy Era. Eight saying he was half-human was easily acceptable if it meant the end of AAAAAACE, Benny and The Cosmic Game Of Chess. Of course, there was nothing that really contradicted it at the time.

    Davies added his own stupid ideas to Doctor Who, some of which had to literally be written out by his successor as part of the storyline, saying “That never happened”. And Moffat himself has put his own stupid stamp on the show, sweetie. The next showrunner will have their own ideas about what the Doctor should be, and what the show should be, and it will appeal to some fans, and annoy and aggravate others. Half-human on his mother’s side? Not that clever, but there have been far far worse “revelations” about the Doctor over the years.

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