Some Time Lords have names -- like Rassilon and Romana. And some have descriptions -- like the Doctor and the Master. And, presumably, the Rani; I don't know what the fuck a Rani is but she's a the.
And then there's Omega. Omega's important and I expect we'll be seeing more of him very soon. But his name is sort of an interesting exception in that it's not a the but it's still more description than name.
Of course, Doctor Who's mythology is patchwork. Time Lord society is built across decades of retcons -- hell, nobody uttered the words "Time Lord" for the first six years of the show, or "Gallifrey" for the next five. Time Lord social customs aren't mysterious and inconsistent by design, they're mysterious and inconsistent because they're making it up as they go along. Present tense; they're still making it up.
So I'm sure there's a reason some Time Lords have names and some have descriptions. Maybe it's out there in the books or audioplays somewhere. Or maybe nobody's come up with one yet and it'll be up to some writer to handwave a reason at some point. Hell, maybe both; books and audioplays aren't canon and the show is free to contradict them.
And of course the names operate on another level besides the in-universe one. I'm sure that, in-universe, the Master didn't choose his name because of a double-meaning implying he's second-best after the Doctor; I'm sure that, in-universe, he chose it solely on its primary definition and not its academic one. But even if Letts and Dicks didn't have that double-meaning in mind when they named him -- and Wikipedia says they did, though there's no citation -- then certainly later writers made the connection.
So while I was looking over that Wikipedia entry, I clicked on over to the page for Terror of the Autons, the Master's first appearance. And it's got this bit about the novelization of the episode:
The Master and Doctor are revealed herein to have names that are mathematical formulae
Again, the books aren't canon -- but if the Doctor's name is a mathematical formula, that could certainly be pertinent to the current storyline, now couldn't it?
Spoilers for Doctor Who episodes new and old follow.
So Steven Moffat's been teasing the revelation of the Doctor's real name since 2008's Silence in the Library, and built it up as his major arc last year. I figured this year was a break from that plotline and we'd probably get an answer next season -- but the BBC's just announced this season's finale will be titled The Name of the Doctor. So while there may be fallout next season, it looks like the big answer is coming in just three weeks.
So I've got some thoughts. What could the Doctor's name be? Some possibilities:
It's a fakeout. We never hear his name. Even if it's spoken, it's spoken offscreen, or whispered so we can't hear it, like in Silence.
This strikes me as unlikely. Moffat's been building to this for five years. He's big on misdirection and on things not meaning exactly what you think they do -- but when he teases something big, he eventually delivers on it. Even if it is exactly what it appears, like last season when we found out that yes in fact River Song is the Doctor's wife, which we'd pretty much all assumed since Silence in the Library anyway.
It's an homage. To somebody real. Like in Human Nature when he says his parents are named Sydney and Verity.
Of course, if his name is a reference to a real-life person, then the name itself won't have any in-universe significance -- see #4, below.
It's a name we've already heard.
It's a name we've heard before, either on the new series or the original, either a famous Time Lord, some other august personage, or hell, maybe he was faking it that very first time he said "Doctor Who?" and his name really is Foreman.
It's a name that's been referenced that we don't even know is somebody's name -- like when we heard "Silence will fall" and only later learned that "Silence" was the name of an evil alien religious cult. The Doctor's name could be hidden in any of the catchphrases we've been hearing -- The Fields of Trenzalore, The Circle Must Be Broken, etc.
It's just some random name. It's not the Doctor's name that's actually important, it's his identity.
This is a possibility -- a little Moffat-y misdirection -- but I doubt his name will be selected completely at random. If he goes this route I expect it'll be a combination of this and #2.
#3 seems the likeliest option to me.
There have been hints that Moffat intends to revive what's been called the Cartmel Masterplan:
The overall plan for Cartmel was to reveal that the Doctor was some form of a reincarnation of The Other, a mysterious figure from Gallifrey's past who helped form the Time Lords' society and perfect the time travel technology of the Time Lords.
Of course, "the Other" is no more a name than "the Doctor". It might tell us his significance, but it's not his name.
There's another problem: Moffat's view of the Doctor as a wanderer who stole a TARDIS when he was young seems incompatible with the idea that he's one of the three founding Time Lords. That is, short of some wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey paradox where the Doctor is born in an already-established Time Lord society, steals a TARDIS, and at some point travels back in time to become one of the three founding Time Lords.
Which would be a workable plot, but might also tell us too much about the Doctor. Moffat, like most of the Who showrunners, thinks that a little bit of the origin story goes a long way. (For example, Neil Gaiman tells us that Moffat asked him to pare down his description of the Corsair in The Doctor's Wife because the original pitch implied that the Doctor patterend himself after the Corsair -- Moffat's response: "Answers too many question that should be left alone. He's the Doctor, he does what he does for reasons too vast and terrible to relate.") Obviously whatever the Doctor's name is must work toward some big reveal that leaves its mark on his origin story -- but it also needs to walk a fine line that doesn't tell us too much about where he came from and why he does what he does.
Indeed, in some ways it's better that the original series was canceled before Cartmel could spell everything out -- this way we got hints, in serials like Remembrance of the Daleks, that the Doctor was more than he seemed, but he still got to maintain his mystery.
If all goes according to plan, I'll have some future posts coming up dealing with Time Lord names and what we actually know about the Doctor's origins.
Welp, missed a Zappa post last night, for the second time since, what, last June?
And yeah it was because somebody was in the ER. I'm not saying your default assumption the next time I miss one should be that someone's in the hospital, but that's what it was this time.
It was a busy and stressful day. And it is kinda funny -- not laughable funny but, y'know, a bit of an odd little coincidence -- that it started with taking my car in to the shop and ended with me taking my wife in to the ER.
The good news is my wife's all right. (My car's all right too, which is a relief but not that damn important compared to my wife.) The bad news is they're not really sure what the hell was wrong with her; it was one of those nights where you spend 6 hours in the ER and they run a bunch of tests and tell you everything looks normal and they don't really know what the problem is. Which describes every trip to the ER I've made (as patient or accompanying a patient) in my adult life, really.
Still, the good news is she was better by the time we left the hospital than when we got there. She got the help she needed, and we ruled out anything serious. That's the thing to keep in mind when we get the bill. But it'd sure be nice if people were as easy to diagnose and fix as cars -- yup, the tread came off your tire; you'll be wanting a couple new tires.
Stayed home from work today to make sure she (and we're back to talking about my wife again now, not my car) was all right. Should be able to get back in tomorrow. Meantime, while she's lying down I'm seeing what I can't get done on one of my freelance projects -- hopefully that'll make up the money I'm losing from missing a day of work.
...somebody gets an E-Mail -- "probably spam" -- and it allows Angela to decrypt every encrypted E-Mail she's ever gotten.
This somehow manages to be the stupidest thing in an episode about a mutant virus injected into a blogger with a microneedle that, still attached to her skeleton, then manages to jab one of the interns and infect him too.
Well maybe next week's episode will be less stupid.
...wait. Season finale? Fuck. That means another Pelant episode.
Well, maybe they'll finally just fucking shoot him and next season's premiere will be less stupid.
Same situation as yesterday -- sick wife, freelance deadline, plus tomorrow morning I've got to get up early so I can get my car to the tire shop as soon as they open and then get a ride to work. So here's another Zappa article from afka.net that I haven't actually taken the time to read: Understanding The Underground, by Frank himself, published in Record Mirror, January 17, 1970.
I don't think I've ever told the story of how this site got its name. Bits and pieces, maybe.
I think it must have been my freshman year of college. I was chatting online with a friend from high school -- she'd graduated a year before I did, we'd gone to different schools and pursued different majors.
I was studying computer science and engineering; I wanted to be a programmer. She was studying English; she wanted to be a writer. And I was telling her why I thought that was a mistake.
It's not that I don't like English or writing -- you read this blog, you know I like them quite a lot. But it's tough as hell to make a living at them. I loved college but I also saw it as a means to an end -- and I thought she was wasting her time and money on something that wasn't going to get her any kind of work.
I explained that, rather more rudely than was necessary. I had it all figured out, as only a college freshman can. She called me an asshole. I retorted that I was going to be doing work I loved and earning six figures at it.
She said, "It sounds to me like I'm studying to be an artist and you're studying to be a corporate sellout."
It's been a dozen years. We're older, mellower, wiser, and things haven't turned out quite as either of us expected.
So was either of us right? Did my degree open up opportunities that hers closed off to her?
I don't know. Maybe I'll ask her if I see her at work on Monday.