8th Doctor John Hurt - The War Doctor 9th Doctor
The Name of The Doctor - The Day of The Doctor
John Hurt
The War Doctor
(2013)
Rose Tyler/Bad Wolf
Rose Tyler/Bad Wolf
 
 Although he declared that he was ‘Doctor no more’ immediately after regenerating, while the actions of this incarnation earned him the later denouncement of his future selves - to the point that they didn’t even consider this incarnation to be ‘The Doctor’ -, in the end the man known to us as the ‘War Doctor’was reaffirmed to have been The Doctor more than any of his other selves, having assumed the position on the day when there was no way to get it right.


The Night of The Doctor
The Night of The Doctor

Having specifically received this persona thanks to a potion provided to the badly-injured Eighth Doctor by the Sisterhood of Karn ("The Brain of Morbius") to ensure that he could serve as a warrior in the Time War ("The Night of The Doctor"), the 'War Doctor' - having abandoned his usual title to become the warrior the universe needed now - went on fight in the War between the Daleks and the Time Lords, abandoning his previous incarnation's attempt to avoid the war as he recognised the impossibility of doing so. (Although other combatants apparently still referred to him as The Doctor even if he believed he no longer deserved the name). Aging significantly during the war - much like the stress of his confrontation with The Players caused the Second Doctor's hair to turn grey ("World Game") -, the War Doctor even grew a beard on a long-term basis that no other incarnation had done so (The Eighth's temporary beard serving as a reflection on the importance of change rather than a permanent growth ("The Adventuress of Henrietta Street", "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" and "Hope"). His attire also reflected his grim resignation to the war, his various clothes appearing battered and worn from the conflict they had seen as opposed to the usual care the various Doctors took for their chosen outfits, such as his scarf fraying and his boots missing some buttons, although he retained the bombadier belt taken from the dead body of Cass, the last person his eighth self had tried to save, the belt reminding him of his need to end the war due to Cass's refusal to let him save her simply because he was a Time Lord reinforcing how far his people had fallen ("The Night of The Doctor").

As a person, the War Doctor demonstrated a more patient manner than his other selves, demonstrating the Seventh Doctor's inclination towards silent planning rather than the other Doctors' habits of talking as they thought through their plans. Although he felt that he no longer deserved his name, he accepted being referred to as 'Doctor' by other Time Lords and the various Daleks he confronted, simply avoiding introducing himself to anyone else unless they already knew that he was a Time Lord at the very least, such as informing his new companion Cinder that he was once known as The Doctor and leaving it up to her how she addressed him ("Engines of War"). Throughout his life, this incarnation demonstrated a more solemn, serious manner from the beginning, lacking the flippancy of The Doctor's other selves - expressing disdain for some of the more childish terms used by his later selves, such as 'timey-wimey' - in favour of a dry sense of humour, but retaining a strong sense of regret about what he had to do, serving as a warrior through necessity rather than taking any real joy in it, only showing the occasional moment of light-hearted humour when circumstances allowed. He was apparently a particularly ruthless combatant; when reflecting on his role in the War, the Eleventh Doctor grimly noted that the War Doctor had more blood on his hands than any other soldier involved in the last battle of Arcadia on the final day of the Time War.

As with the Sixth Doctor, he could be particularly short-tempered when provoked, once grabbing another Time Lord by the throat and hauling him off his feet in a rage ("Engines of War"), knocking out another Time Lord with a simple punch to divert a Time Lord weapon where other incarnations might have tried something more sophisticated. In a significant shift from his past selves, the War Doctor was far more willing to permit weapons inside the TARDIS, showing no serious objection to the armoury possessed by his new companion Cinder as opposed to his fourth incarnation's distaste for Leela's violent approach ("The Sun Makers"). Despite this, he never had weapons installed in his TARDIS; even when leading a platoon of Battle TARDISes, the War Doctor remained in his usual ship, simply using it against the Daleks as a blunt instrument by crashing through Dalek saucers ("Engines of War") or even regular walls, even if he demonstrated considerable accuracy with a weapon when he had to take up arms ("The Day of The Doctor"). Despite his long service in the Time War, the War Doctor never reached a point where he enjoyed the conflict, with his temporary companion Cinder quickly realising that the War Doctor was more himself when he was making small jokes and having fun than when he was fighting Daleks, even if he retained his lethal reputation among the Daleks.

Although he apparently served as a respected leader in the war, various events pushed him to his limit, such as the anger and jealousy of Time Lord Karlax and Rassilon's own arrogance driving him to commit increasingly questionable actions in the name of their victory. His conflict with his fellow Time Lords came to a head when the War Doctor learned that the Daleks had established a massive fleet around the Tantalus Eye, a crucial temporal anomaly, and had developed a weapon that could allow the Daleks to erase the Time Lords from history. Working with Cinder, a native of a planet close to the Eye, the War Doctor learned that Rassilon intending to destroy the Eye and everything else in that part of the galaxy to stop the fleet using the Tear of Isha - a stellar manipulator similar to the Hand of Omega - leaving The Doctor and Cinder resolved to stop the plan. Forced to use Borusa - restored and retro-evolved by Rassilon to become a possibility engine to calculate the best path to victory - to destroy the Tantalus Eye, The Doctor was only able to watch as Borusa and Cinder both sacrificed themselves to ensure the success of The Doctor's plan, the Dalek fleet around the Tantalus Eye being destroyed as Borusa channelled its energy through himself while Cinder sacrificed herself to save The Doctor from Karlax.

The Name of The Doctor
The Name of The Doctor

Remembering Cinder's loss, the War Doctor was left resolved to find a way to end the War for good, particularly after the fall of Arcadia, Gallifrey's second city, and the Daleks' mass assault on Gallifrey, forced him to recognise that he had exhausted all other options. Seeing no other way to end the War, the War Doctor penetrated the Omega Vault - a vault holding the most dangerous weapons the Time Lords had ever encountered or created - and stealing the last weapon left; the Moment, a galaxy-destroying weapon so complex that it developed sentience and a conscience, requiring the user to morally justify his use of it ("The Day of The Doctor"). Faced with the continued war between his people and the Daleks, the War Doctor chose to use the Moment, taking it off Gallifrey to a desolate planet where he could activate it far away from even the TARDIS. Communicating with the Moment via a holographic interface in the form of his future companion Rose Tyler as the 'Bad Wolf' ("Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways"), the interface decreed that the War Doctor's punishment would be to survive the destruction so that he could live with what he had done. With the Moment triggered and Gallifrey and the Daleks lost, the War Doctor regenerated, resuming his original title and trying to forget about his role in the war.

Disgusted at the memory of what this incarnation had done, later Doctors avoided talking about him, merely discussing his actions during the War ("Army of Ghosts/Doomsday") and admitting what they had done to end the conflict ("Dalek") without discussing who they were at the time, to the point that they often acted as though this incarnation had never even existed. Even when the Tenth Doctor was trapped in his own mind by a psychic parasite trying to take over his body - only just defeating the parasite with the manifestations of his past selves - ("The Forgotten") or when the Eleventh Doctor was nearly converted into a Cyber-Planner ("Nightmare in Silver"), neither of them allowed the intruder to learn about the War Doctor's existence, the Tenth Doctor informing Sarah Jane Smith on another occasion that he had only regenerated six times rather than seven since they travelled together ("School Reunion"). Even the Daleks had no record of the War Doctor's face ("The Next Doctor") (Most likely because the War Doctor immediately killed any Daleks who saw him before they could record his image), even if they retained their awareness of his presence during the War ("The Day of The Doctor").

The War Doctor's existence was only revealed to another living being outside of the Time War when, trapped in his timeline to avert The Great Intelligence's attempt to attack his entire history ("The Name of The Doctor"), the Eleventh Doctor and companion Clara Oswald - who had already seen his past ten selves as she was fractured across his life to counter the Intelligence - witnessed the War Doctor standing off to the side. When Clara expressed confusion at the fact that she didn't recognise this Doctor, the Eleventh Doctor identified this incarnation as the one who broke the promise he made by choosing 'The Doctor' as his name, to the extent that he did not even consider this incarnation of himself to be The Doctor, shamefully admitting that this incarnation was his true secret rather than - as Clara and others had been led to believe during the Intelligence's attack - his real name. With the timeline destabilising around them due to The Doctor having entered it to save Clara, Clara collapsed into The Doctor's arms as the War Doctor, aware of their presence, stated that he did what he did in the name of peace and sanity. Despite this The Doctor still denounced this incarnation, as, while he accepted his other self's statement that he did what he did without choice, the choice had not been made in the name of The Doctor.

The Day of The Doctor
The Day of The Doctor

Despite the later Doctors' distaste for this incarnation, when the War Doctor was sent to his future by the Moment's interface - the Moment offering to show him the men he would become if he made the choice to destroy Gallifrey by allowing him to meet his future selves - the Tenth Doctor and the Eleventh Doctor managed to get along with the War Doctor fairly well, the three working together to come up with a plan to escape a prison cell and defeat a Zygon invasion of Earth using stolen Time Lord technology. Witnessing his future selves helping the humans and the Zygons draw up a peace treaty, the War Doctor acknowledged that he had to end the War, willing to shoulder his regret to save the billions of worlds that would be preserved by his actions. When the Moment took him back to his starting point so that he could activate it, the War Doctor confirmed that he was still committed to his goal, solemnly stating that he was the flame that had to be ignited so that the future Doctors could be born, believing that the later Doctors' efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the Zygon invasion was inspired by his own memories of the guilt he would feel about his role in destroying Gallifrey.

As he prepared to trigger the Moment, the War Doctor was unexpectedly joined by the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors - penetrating the time-lock with the aid of the Moment – his future selves acknowledging him as The Doctor, recognising that none of them could have done anything differently if they had been in his position as it was impossible for the Time War to have ended any other way. With that epiphany in mind, the other two Doctors offered to active the Moment with the War Doctor so that he would not have to shoulder the responsibility alone, proclaiming that it would be done in the name of the lives they couldn't save because there was no other way. However, at the last moment, as the Eleventh Doctor's companion Clara expressed her disbelief at her Doctor having to do this, this disbelief being reinforced as the Moment showed them an illusion of Gallifrey torn apart by the War, as it was in the seconds before The Doctors would activate the Moment. Reflecting on the other Doctors present as they witnessed the people they would be about to kill, Clara informed the Eleventh Doctor that, while they had enough warriors (The War Doctor) and anyone could be a hero (The Tenth Doctor), the Eleventh had to use this moment to be a doctor and fulfil the promise he made when he chose his name.

The Day of The Doctor
The Day of The Doctor

With that thought, the Eleventh Doctor deactivated the Moment, dismissing the billion billion Daleks attacking Gallifrey as irrelevant in the face of three Doctors, inspiring the War Doctor to come up with a new plan; by removing Gallifrey from the battlefield, the Dalek ships would destroy each other as their original target ceased to be present while they ended up firing at the ships on the other side of the planet. Making contact with Gallifrey High Command, the War Doctor and his future selves were able to send the plan to their past selves, allowing The Doctors to subconsciously work out the necessary calculations to send Gallifrey into stasis and give it a chance at survival from the beginning of their lives, the War Doctor working with his past and future selves (Including the initially-absent Ninth Doctor and the still-unknown Twelfth Doctor) to shift Gallifrey into a pocket parallel universe, freezing it in time while the Dalek fleet destroyed itself. Although he would never remember this meeting due to the presence of his future selves, as he, the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors contemplated what they had achieved while sharing a cup of tea in the British Museum before parting ways, the War Doctor chose to accept his future guilt, proclaiming that he would consider himself The Doctor once more and thanking his future selves for giving him that chance before he entered his TARDIS and departed. On his own once again, his body worn thin by the strain of the War, the War Doctor began to regenerate, noting that his body had been 'wearing a bit thin ("The Tenth Planet") and expressed a hope that his new ears would be less conspicuous before he was overwhelmed by the regeneration (Although this wish would prove unfulfilled ("Rose")).

Although it would take until the Eleventh Doctor for The Doctor to remember this meeting with his past self, once he had parted ways with the War Doctor and his predecessor, the Eleventh Doctor's memory of the War Doctor was finally redeemed, to the point that the Eleventh Doctor, who once avoided even mentioning him, now jokingly referred to the War Doctor as 'Captain Grumpy' ("The Time of The Doctor") when discussing him with others. While he had lived his life focusing on nothing but the Time War, the War Doctor never lost sight of what it truly meant to be The Doctor, mourning the necessity of the warrior that he had become and grateful for the chance to return to his true nature when the conflict had ended.



John Hurt - The Actor
I, Claudius (1976
I, Claudius (1976
Born John Vincent Hurt on the 22nd January 1940 in Shirebrook near Chesterfield in Derbyshire, England. He was the youngest of three children and spent much of his childhood in solitude. When his family moved to Grimsby, when he was twelve, and despite an active early passion in acting, his parents instead enrolled him at the Grimsby Art School and St. Martin's School of Art. When he was unable to get another scholarship to art school, his focus turned to acting.

He was accepted into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and John Hurt made his stage debut in 1962. He was however, not seen as leading man material but his earlier focus as a painter triggered a keen skill in the art of observation. His movie debut occurred that same year with a supporting role in the ill-received British drama The Wild and the Willing.

Alien (1979)
Alien (1979)
John Hurt slowly increased his profile (and respect) appearing in such theatre plays as Inadmissible Evidence (1965), Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs (1966), "Macbeth" (1967) and Man and Superman (1969). He also found prime parts in films including A Man for All Seasons (1966).

It was on television however, that he was able to display the full magnitude and fearless range of his acting abilities. In the mid-seventies he gained widespread acclaim for his embodiment of the tormented gay writer and raconteur Quentin Crisp in the landmark television play The Naked Civil Servant (1975) in which he was rewarded with an Emmy and a British Television Award.

This resulted in him being offered the best parts film and television had to offer including the cruel and crazed Roman emperor Caligula in the epic television series I, Claudius (1976) and then in 1980 the title role in The Elephant Man. It was not until 1978 that John Hurt was recognised as one of cinema's best character actors, gaining an Oscar nomination for his performance as a heroin addict in Alan Parker's Midnight Express. Other mainstream box-office films were also offered to him and he made the most of his role as crew member Kane whose body becomes host to an unearthly predator in Alien (1979). His death scene in this film remains one of the most iconic in movie history.

More recently he played the part of Mr. Ollivander in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001) and again in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 & 2 (2010/2011), Chief Investigator Porfiry in Crime and Punishment (2002), Adam Sutler in V for Vendetta (2005), Professor Oxley in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) and as Voice of The Dragon in the television series Merlin (2008 - 2012).

He was knighted in 2015 for his services to drama.

Unfortunately, Sir John Hurt died at the age of 77 on the 25th January 2017 at his home in Norfolk. On the announcement of his death Sir John Hurt's wife said in a statement 'John was the most sublime of actors and the most gentlemanly of gentlemen with the greatest of hearts and the most generosity of spirit. He touched all our lives with joy and magic and it will be a strange world without him'.


The Elephant Man (1980)
The Elephant Man (1980)
V for Vendetta (2005)
V for Vendetta (2005)
Harry Potter (2001 & 2010/2011)
Harry Potter (2001 & 2010/2011)
Merlin (2008 - 2012)
Merlin (2008 - 2012)

Monsters & Villains
Having been 'created' for the sole purpose of fighting in the Time War between the Time Lords and the Daleks, the War Doctor's primary villains in this incarnation were naturally the Daleks. Although he initially fought alongside the Time Lords to defeat his old enemies, when the resurrected Rassilon proposed a plan to destroy a Dalek fleet that would sacrifice billions of innocent lives as well, the War Doctor turned against Rassilon, destroying the Dalek fleet using his own plan even as Rassilon declared him an enemy of the Time Lords ("Engines of War"), the War Doctor and Rassilon's divergent desires coming to a peak when Rassilon sought to end the War by initiating the Final Sanction ("The End of Time"), destroying all of reality to save the Time Lords, where the War Doctor sought to save the universe even if it required him to sacrifice his own people. At the end of his life, the War Doctor also confronted the Zygons during their attempt to conquer Earth by infiltrating UNIT and the Black Archive, but this was an independent adventure with no direct connection to his role in the War ("The Day of The Doctor").

Memorable Moments
The Day of The Doctor
The Day of The Doctor
 While his appearances were brief, it is hard to imagine that any moment for this Doctor could be better than his final moment, as he prepared to trigger the Moment and destroy Gallifrey and the Daleks in order to save the universe, the War Doctor accepting the burden of his guilt at destroying his people so that billions more across the universe could be saved. Although his role in ending the Time War initially earned him the disdain of his later selves, after having a chance to work with him, the Tenth Doctor and the Eleventh Doctor re-evaluated their opinion of him, regarding him as 'The Doctor on the day it was impossible to get it right'


Television Stories
Format Story Doctor Season Episodes
Television The Name of The Doctor The 11th Doctor Season 33 (New Series 7) 1
Television The Day of The Doctor The 10th Doctor and The 11th Doctor Season 33 (New Series 7) Specials 1
Total Stories:   2 Total Episodes:   2
 
Parts of this article were compiled with the assistance of David Spence who can be contacted by e-mail at djfs@blueyonder.co.uk
 
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