Doctor Who fan theories are curious things. Some are just ideas that fill in some gaps in a character’s backstory, others attempt to explain away plot holes while more still try to predict what we can expect from the series future (and sometimes get it right). Hell, some fan theories actually end up being written into the TV series.


But one new theory that’s recently cropped up online takes a slightly different tack, suggesting that the series as we know it – or since its revival in 2005, at least – is representative of the human grieving process, portrayed in its traditional “five stages of grief”: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

As redditor masauka suggests:

So after the horrors of the Time War and the loss of the Time Lords prior to the 2005 series, the theory suggests, Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor was in denial, David Tennant’s incarnation represented anger and Matt Smith’s Doctor was the embodiment of bargaining. Which sort of makes sense, when you think about it…

But of course, that leaves a couple of stages of grief left to go through, which earmarks Peter Capaldi’s Time Lord as depression. And once again, the arguments are pretty convincing…

Again, pretty convincing – but what, we hear you ask, does that mean for the next Doctor? What would it mean to have a Doctor who embodied the “acceptance” stage of grief? Well, masauka has some ideas.

In other words, an “acceptance”-themed Thirteenth Doctor could be a return to a more classic idea of Doctor Who, with the Time Lords back in place and all the Time War business left largely in the past (accepted and moved on from in both the plot and the overall series, which can now progress to other storylines). Arguably, this has already started to happen in Doctor Who with the return of Gallifrey last series, so it’s not too far-fetched to imagine we could see this going into the future.

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And more generally, following this theory it could be that the Thirteenth Doctor will be a lighter sort of character, contrasting the darkness of Peter Capaldi and emotion of his predecessors with a less damaged incanration whose adventures would focus less on the mental scars inflicted on the Doctor by the Time War. It would certainly be a nice change after a dark couple of years.

But of course this “five stages of grief” theory isn’t perfect. While it fits reasonably well with the themes of the revived series and certain interpretations of the Doctor, it seems a little simplistic and the characters don’t line up perfectly. The Ninth Doctor could be seen as a denial figure, sure, but so could the Eleventh, who forgets about the Time Lords for the most part, while calling the Tenth Doctor the “angry” incarnation seems to forget the righteous rage of Christopher Eccleston’s earlier incarnation.

And suggesting that a future Doctor could be more “fun” ignores the fact that, for the most part, the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors were fairly carefree characters (at least in their early years), with only Peter Capaldi’s current incarnation cutting a less playful figure.

Still, while this theory may not be entirely true it’s certainly a fairly unique and interesting idea. Doctor Who analysis that goes more into the state of the human condition and the vagaries of emotional turmoil and less into how The Valeyard fits into canon will always be welcome, so we doff our fez to this particular effort.

Now, if someone could just work out the Freudian implications of The Sarah-Jane Adventures and have it on our desk by Monday, that'd be super.


Doctor Who will return to BBC1 this Christmas before a full series in 2017