Moff: Capaldi The Doctor, Not The Twelfth

He’s already redefined the counting system for the Doctor’s incarnations, and now Steven Moffat tells us that actually, we’ve been wrong for 45 years. The Doctor IS the Doctor, not the Nth Doctor.

Yep, he’s either missing the point or trolling us again, and given that Steven Moffat’s time as a Doctor Who fan goes back many, many years (and he was active in online fandom in the 1990s) then one has to wonder why he wants to get us talking. After all, he even admits he’s stirring, in the recent SFX Magazine interview Moffat states:

“I’m just going to throw this continuity grenade back at Doctor Who fans and say, “You are all wrong!” He has never called himself the anything-th Doctor in the show.

“If the Doctor was a real person and walked in here, and you said, “Which incarnation are you?” he’d have to think, just as you’d have to think about how many houses you’ve lived in. He never thinks of himself as a numbered Doctor. The Twelfth Doctor means the twelfth actor to have played the lead in Doctor Who. That’s all it means. There is no such character as the Twelfth Doctor and never has been.”

Now, this is fine. Really, it is. Indeed, reading this through again, one wonders just who Steven Moffat is talking to. After all, who actually thinks the Doctor refers to the Tom Baker incarnation in the third person: “Fourth Doctor”? Naturally, Moffat goes on, explaining that “It’s a long time into the show before any such nonsense ever comes up. It’s purely us lot, us fans, wittering on about calling him the Third or the Fourth Doctor – which is actually quite an unpleasant thing to do. It doesn’t feel right at all when you type that. I had to do that for the [50th] special. It was the Tenth Doctor, the Eleventh Doctor, and it felt like a betrayal, in a way. But what else could you do?”

Unpleasant? That’s an odd way of putting it. Hey, Moff: he’s not real, you know? Noting that in The Five Doctors, the script notes “…didn’t number them at all. Do you know what they called them? ‘The Hartnell Doctor, the Pertwee Doctor…’” overlooks one thing.

Steven, it doesn’t really matter. We’ll always be calling the Doctor “nTH” and I suspect a few people will keep on doing it now just… because. Also, don’t expect BBC Books or Doctor Who Magazine to start changing the way they name their single incarnation publications anytime soon…

Christian Cawley


A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

'Moff: Capaldi The Doctor, Not The Twelfth' have 35 comments

  1. July 25, 2014 @ 3:24 pm Colin

    Of course the Doctor’s always “The Doctor” to the Doctor. There were a few occasions during the classic series where he referred to the number of his persona, but those aside, I think it’s understood that the number system is a convenience for fans. The only reason we get uptight about it is because we want consistency–a consensus so that when we talk to each other about “The Twelfth Doctor,” we all know who we’re talking about. Especially now he’s hit the reset button on his regeneration count. I guess for that finite number of regenerations (which Moffat insisted on maintaining) to work, though, *someone* needs to be counting… :)


  2. July 25, 2014 @ 3:33 pm microtoast

    But he DOES. Not to be too pedantic, but Moffat started it…in The Five Doctors, the first asks the fifth which one he is, and the latter immediately replies, “The fourth!” (meaning regeneration, rather than incarnation). He may not constantly refer to them, but he’s very much aware of having 12 regenerations, and which he is along the line. I’d think of it more as knowing what age you are than knowing how many houses you’ve lived in.


  3. July 25, 2014 @ 3:38 pm TonyS

    “Goodness me, so there are five of me now!”


    • July 25, 2014 @ 3:40 pm TonyS

      Oops! Sorry, microtoast. Your comment didn’t show on my page when i typed this :(


  4. July 25, 2014 @ 3:42 pm TonyS

    And also “Mawdryn Undead”….

    What I hope we will get away from is the countdown until the Doctor runs out of regenerations. The Time Lords gave the Doctor a new set of regenerations. I don’t recall anyone saying how many he now has. And I hope no-one ever does!


  5. July 25, 2014 @ 3:44 pm C Yang

    OMG really? Are we really so willingly playing into Moffat’s hands? Someone made a comment before on a different post about how people are writing about nothing on everything because we don’t have Who on TV! It’s true!! Look at this post!

    Personally I agree with the Moff. If one actually pay attention to what he said it makes sense. We fans and everyone else use numbers to help ourselves keep track of them. However anyone chooses to do so is really not that big of a deal. Seriously it isn’t. Moffat doesn’t think it is right to number the Doctors the way it is currently done and that’s fine. Some people don’t think it make sense and others do. End of story. Don’t forget the allowance of non-TV canons. So if we want to pick a fight about this think of the lack of possibilities if we want to limit aspects of Doctor Who.

    Moffat likes to stir things up and he has successfully done so. Every. Single. Time. If any of us is truly annoyed with him then stop posting something like this. But just like Moffat everyone has an opinion in everything.

    I think it’s just hilarious.


    • July 25, 2014 @ 4:06 pm TonyS

      Fair comment, except for one thing. Which of the posts shows any annoyance?


      • July 28, 2014 @ 12:55 pm James Mclean

        Plus this is a Doctor Who magazine website, we’re going to post such stories as such stories, opinion pieces, and comment interest Doctor Who fans. Whether it annoys you or not, we leave down to your own discretion. :-)

        I don’t think Moffat is trolling, I think he’s a little senstive to the retcon he needed to create the War Doctor and move Smith to the twelfth incarnation. Whether it was a good call, it did feel an awkward one, particularly the latter twist. I think there’s a certain over-compensation to justify to fellow fans why numbers don’t really matter – because he had to fudge them a little to create the story he desired (and many fans enjoyed).


  6. July 25, 2014 @ 3:53 pm Rob Mammone

    He’s clearly trolling fans. In time, all things Moffatt shall pass…


  7. July 25, 2014 @ 4:19 pm lee moone

    He’s just stirring before S8. The Dr of course doesn’t number himself, never has, not in that way. Its just for us in real life to know who we are talking about.

    Don’t know why Moff keeps doing this. He’s an odd chap!


    • July 25, 2014 @ 4:35 pm TonyS

      On the other hand, it does keep us talking about the programme.


      • July 26, 2014 @ 8:38 am Robert Mammone

        We were going to talk about the programme regardless. It’s seems clear that Moffat is speaking to the fans, as such, because there’s no chance of a mainstream paper picking up the relevant quote and running with it because a half decent editor would knock it on the head quick smart. Moffat must be aware of the divisive nature of his ongoing tenure amongst fans and I would hazard that the sort of nonsense he occasionally spouts is his efforts to enrage us further…


    • July 25, 2014 @ 7:06 pm simon magellan

      Of course he’s odd, he’s a writer. Its in our genetic makeup. It’s what makes us writers!


  8. July 25, 2014 @ 4:51 pm Lucas W

    The Doctor may just be the Doctor to the Doctor, but we are not the Doctor so where’s the problem in us numbering the Doctors? Sorry Moffat, you’re getting no defence from me here: get off our backs!

    (Apologies for an indecipherable comment. I know what I meant.)


    • July 29, 2014 @ 7:35 pm Brandon P

      I know what you meant too and I was thinking the same thing!


  9. July 25, 2014 @ 5:41 pm rickjlundeen

    Yeah, this is the Moff just stirring the pot needlessly before S8. He’s literally making up a complaint. Or unnecessary correction, what have you.

    *Of course* the Doctor only thinks of himself as the Doctor and he doesn’t number himself, except when asked, say, which regeneration he is. He *of course* recognizes the number of his regens. And *of course* no one actually thinks he goes around thinking he’s the 12th Doctor. I’ve never heard anyone come close to saying that.

    And *of course* we fans love to/need to count them on our end. Easier than saying the actors last name sometimes!


  10. July 25, 2014 @ 7:49 pm dr v who

    who knows how many regenerations the dr has had in the brain of morbius we seen others that were not counted


  11. July 25, 2014 @ 8:08 pm Dominick Cericola (@DJCericola)

    I wish Moff would just do his job, and quit trying to “re-define” the WHO Mythos! He’s the Showrunner, I get it, but some of these ideas he’s put forth are just not in the show’s best interest, or in the best interest of anyone other than himself (and his ego). I will watch Peter Capaldi’s debut season, but I will confess that if he does anything else stupid or ill-founded, I will just pretend anything else from that season onward does not exist. Enough with the “I’m so bloody clever, look at my over-arching storylines…”. I expect many will find their noses out-of-joint (esp. the NuWho fans), but it’s opinion, just as I respect your opinion if you are a Moff supporter. Cheers..!


    • July 25, 2014 @ 8:30 pm lee moone

      I totally agree with you. Well said!

      We are supposed to be getting a no frills incarnation, I wish for a no thrills series. Forget ‘sexy’ titles, movie posters, constant reboots of the universe and rewritten history (that I’ve lost count of). Just give me six 2 parters with cracking ‘behind the sofa’ storyline and a Doctor that just gets on with it without any baggage.

      Oh how those two missing Troughton was like a breath of fresh air. That’s how you do it. Show a bit of fun, without comedy robots. I hate comedy robots!


  12. July 25, 2014 @ 9:06 pm It is the end.....

    Isn’t it obvious that Moffat is simply to trying to grab the headlines and promote Series 8, while giving away zero spoilers? Job done, I would say. I expect further ‘controversies’ between now and August 23rd.


    • July 26, 2014 @ 6:02 am simon magellan

      I was a bit surprised at how much there was in the SFX interview actually – including confirmation of … returning foes, shall we say. Given that DWM is the “official” mag, really it should have been there, but its a lot more vague and jokey in his comments on the new series in that.


      • July 26, 2014 @ 10:09 am It is the end.....

        Oh really? Yeah, there was nothing in DWM, which was disappointing. Maybe I will grab an SFX.


      • July 26, 2014 @ 7:04 pm DonnaM

        I would guess he doesn’t feel the need to tease DWM readers – he knows they’ll watch regardless, and many probably share his aversion to spoilers, whereas a more generic magazine’s readership might need a tad more encouraging!

        There again, this is Moffat. He may just as possibly simply be being contrary!


  13. July 25, 2014 @ 9:49 pm Hannahb

    I really don’t think the new series needs these kinds of provocative pokings from the show runner. Given that this was in a niche publication, the comments are aimed squarely at existing fans, not trying to gen up interest in the show or getting new viewers up to date. I can see this picture of an ant hill and a kid with a stick laughing and giving it a good old poke.

    Sigh – I thought after the 50th and Time of the Doctor when the current production team got a lot of big stuff out of their system we would be going back to basics after complex arcs (sorry I am one of those stupid people who couldn’t follow most of series 6), blockbuster of the week and the greatest peril/the darkest timer/the worst hour/someone will die promotion (Capaldi had a great quote about his reading of the Doctor being basic, kick ass rebel timelord).

    I really lost interest in the last year or so with all of this new mythos and history and who is what number and timelords who can’t be named shenanigans. I know someone will kindly draw me a diagram explaining this all and demonstrate that Steven Moffat has an awesome grand integrated masterplan which he set in motion in The Eleventh Hour, but frankly, less W*** and more effort on strong plotting, good characterisation (double that plea for women characters please) and just trust Peter C and Jenna to deliver the goods.


    • July 26, 2014 @ 4:16 pm It is the end.....

      Well, I guess we don’t know exactly what Moffat’s motivation is. But it’s not unusual for the tabloids (and indeed broadsheets) to take snippets from Moff’s ‘niche’ interviews, which all adds to the publicity mix. There is absolutely no way the production team will be taking viewing figures for granted, and this is all part of the strategy, I assume.

      Out of interest (rather than provocation), what is objectionable about suggesting that the Doctor doesn’t count his own regenerations? Is it that totemic? Surely this is something to generate a bit fun and discussion?


      • July 26, 2014 @ 4:28 pm lee moone

        Nothing objectionable at all, just a silly thing for Moff to say as the Dr doesn’t really do the number check.


        • July 26, 2014 @ 5:21 pm It is the end.....

          You say that, Ian, but Hannah suggested Moffatt was indulging in ‘provocative pokings’, and I sense that a number of people feel this. So I remain intrigued!

          For me I find, Moffatt’s comments provoke interesting ideas, rather than being silly or annoying. For example, how does the Doctor view himself? Maintaining a consistent self-identity would be quite hard with so many incarnations, and this was something the Eleventh Doctor talked about before he regenerated. I just think this might be more interesting to discuss.


          • July 26, 2014 @ 5:49 pm lee moone

            To be honest I don’t think about what the Dr thinks of himself. Its just a TV series that I’ve liked for 45yrs. Some of its great, some OK and some shit. That goes for some of the incarnations too!

  14. July 25, 2014 @ 10:06 pm DonnaM

    He says these things, I reckon, for one reason only: to get a rise out of fandom. And it works!

    Numbering the incarnations is a convenient shorthand, nothing more. If Moffat is saying anything here, it’s that people don’t need to get hung up on it. Frankly I have more important things to concern myself with anyway, but it’s always entertaining to see the response to his prodding of the hornet’s nest!


  15. July 26, 2014 @ 5:43 am Caryn

    I think Moffat should check his scripts again. In ‘The Lodger’ the Doctor identifies himself as “Eleventh” when he is giving Craig his history. So soon he forgets…


    • July 26, 2014 @ 4:21 pm TimeChaser

      I was about to mention that. :) But since you beat me to the punch, I will give you a thumbs up.


      • July 28, 2014 @ 1:00 pm James Mclean

        In fairness, he still remains the eleventh ‘Doctor’ up until Day of the Doctor where he embraces his war self.

        That being said, I don’t have a single doubt that your point is a perfect example of the retcon. Moffat hadn’t decided this at that point about Hurt (in fact latest stuff I’ve heard indicate – contrary to what I initially believed – that Eccleston was the “War” Doctor before the disagreements between showrunner and actor). As soon as you get Hurt, you bump the numbers up which makes it easy to get to thirteen incarnations, which again is another retcon in evidence.

        If this had all been planned (which it wasn’t), I think there would have been more clues and less obvious moments where the decision wasn’t evident. So yes, we can reconcile the comment, but yes, it’s also an indicator how number fudging is an issue with Mr M, more than perhaps the fans. :)


  16. July 26, 2014 @ 3:52 pm SMBComix

    The Eighth Doctor did refer to the Seventh as “My seventh life” during the opening narration of the TV movie.


  17. July 26, 2014 @ 4:24 pm TimeChaser

    I would argue that the Doctor more frequently refers to previous incarnations by funny nicknames rather than the numbering system: “Fancy pants”, “scarecrow”, “the little fellow”, “boggled or bland”, etc.


  18. July 27, 2014 @ 6:30 am joesiegler

    The Doctor himself doesn’t refer to himself as numbers, eh? What about the dialogue in Time of the Doctor when 11 says “10 once regenerated and kept the same face”.

    He’s definitely aware of it if he says stuff like that.


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