DOCTOR WHO: “The Cartmel Master Plan”

Kevin Long
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Away far back in 1989, Sylvester McCoy (Real name: Festus Ohegbulam) was playing ‘The Doctor,’ and Andrew Cartmel (Real name: Sylvester McCoy, oddly enough), was the story editor for the show.

Cartmel – and many others – felt that the show had sort of been there, done that a few too many times in its first 25 years, and that they really needed to do something that would add some mystery and interest to the series mythos. This is not an unreasonable assumption, really. Granted, the short-sighted BBC had been attempting to bleed Who to death for nearly a decade, but the fact remains: people were simply losing interest.

Cartmel intended to fix this by exploring the Doctor’s own backstory, which had always been somewhat off limits.
The fundamental question was: Who or what is The Doctor? Why is he so ‘Doctorish’ while the rest of his species are so indolently ‘Galifreyan?’ What makes him different? This was a new question that had never really been asked in the show itself, or even really touched upon, though obviously fan speculation has run rampant for half a century now. (For instance: Why are the Doctor’s regenerations always so haphazard and incapacitating? This seems abnormal.) The concept, then, was to show that the Doctor was more (And possibly also less) than he was, and that much of what we knew about his past were misconceptions and/or flagrant lies.

I’m dealing with some hearsay on this: the McCoy/Ohegbulam doctor is the one I’m least familiar with. However there are (Depending on who you talk to) between three and a dozen clues pointing to a mystery which, alas, was never resolved owing to the cancellation of the show. (Some of these clues were retcons from previous production teams appropriated by Cartmel et al)

So what was the plan?

Basically this: We’ve always assumed Rassilon and Omega founded Galifreyan society. However: there was another. A shadowy figure called “The Other,” who was very much like The Doctor, and was one of the three pillars upon which the next billion years of Time Lord civilization would rest.

Up until the time of Rassilon, Omega, and Other, Galifrey had been run by “The Cult of Pythia,” As I understand it, this cult was replaced and disbanded, however the final high priestess of the cult placed an eternal curse on the Galifreyans: they could no longer reproduce. Of course, The Other had already had a family by this point, and Susan was his granddaughter.

In order to keep the species going, the Time Lords created “The Looms” which evidently randomly recombined Galifreyan DNA to make new people.

In any event, for whatever reason the Triumverate had a falling out. Not particularly surprising as Rassilon has always been depicted as mad, bad, and dangerous to know, and Omega had enough hate in him to continue to exist, even after he was dead and his body deteriorated. Great kids The Other was running around with. A really good influence. So anyway, for whatever reason, The Other goes on the run from these mooks, and ends up jumping into “The Looms,” whereupon he’s not just killed, but killed to death. I point that out because he’s a Time Lord, and there’s always the possibility of a flag on the play.

And indeed, flag there was: like a billion years later The Looms are still running. As they run through every combination of Galifreyan DNA, and as there’s a finite – but huge – number of possible connections, eventually the same sequence will turn up again. Thus: “The Other” is reconstituted/resurrected by more-or-less random chance. He’s got all his old abilities, his old memories, and his core values n’stuff.

He promptly steals a TARDIS (Real name: “Sexy”) and heads back in time to kidnap/rescue his granddaughter, Susan. Then they head to earth and the rest you know.


R2 hates this story, and I myself admit I don’t know how to feel about it. It makes many huge, and slightly disturbing, assertions about Galifreyan society. I will say this: it does at least explain why The Doctor is always Large and In Charge, and it explains those Tom Baker-Era “Previous Lives” that can’t be accounted for elsewhere.

And now you know.

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