The multimedia event that’s taken this Autumn by storm features an incredible five Doctors. Blogtor Who takes a look at how the unique structure allows Time Lord Victorious to tell five different versions of itself, depending on what you read and in what order.
Time Lord Victorious. It’s the epic that’s conquered fandom’s attention of the past few months as successfully as it’s taken over every medium possible. It’s been billed by BBC Studios as a massive crossover for three Doctors – the Eighth, Ninth and Tenth. The conflict between those incarnations may be at the heart of the drama. But there are, in fact, five Doctors who show up in major roles at various points. But how do the five interact? And without spoiling anything, how big, ultimately, is each of their roles?
The first thing to be aware of is that Time Lord Victorious can essentially be broken into three main phases. There are entries which feature various characters first realizing something has gone wrong in time, and perhaps beginning to suspect the Time Lord Victorious’ involvement in them. There’s the central battle against the Kotturuh and the confrontation between the Doctors about their fate. And finally there’s a sequence of stories set in the aftermath as the different players pick up the pieces. Some of our five featured Doctors take part in conflict itself, while others are strictly on clean up duty…
The Tenth Doctor
As the title of the whole multimedia juggernaut suggests, the Tenth Doctor plays a very pivotal role. As such, he’s also the incarnation that’s spread by BBC Studios across the most media – appearing in novels, comics, audios and more; even in figurine form. His story begins as he’s warned by the Dalek Emperor that something is wrong with history in the Defender of the Daleks comics. From there it continues through a Time Fracture to the Dark Times (the Time Fracture live experience). He immediately sets out to save the universe from the Kotturuh in novel The Knight, The Fool and the Dead. Which soon puts him at odd with his younger selves in sequel book All Flesh is Grass. (And the Comic Creator app!) And afterward he has to face the consequences of his actions in the audios The Minds of Magnox and Echoes of Extinction.
Big Finish’s Echoes of Extinction is set to be a particular highlight. It features David Tennant himself returning to explore this very specific time in the Doctor’s life.
The Eighth Doctor
Despite the Tenth Doctor’s ‘name above the title’ status in Time Lord Victorious, the Eighth Doctor is also very much a main character. If anything, the arc could be best described as the collision course between these two versions of the Time Lord. If anything, the Eighth Doctor is its hero! Fittingly, the Eighth’s entry into the storyline is the Tenth’s departure, as the audio drama Echoes of Extinction gives him his first hint that something is wrong in the past.
His suspicions confirmed in audio He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not, he forms an uneasy alliance with the Daleks. Together they travel back to put right his own future self’s mistakes in audio The Enemy of My Enemy. This brings matters to a head in novel All Flesh is Grass, before he and the Daleks deal with their unfinished business in Mutually Assured Destruction from Big Finish.
In one way the Eighth Doctor’s path might prove the most satisfying to follow. Because it consists of four audio releases plus one novel. Not only does this make his the most straightforward journey to follow, it also means his story is told almost entirely via Paul McGann’s performance as the Doctor.
The Ninth Doctor
Although he’s given a strong placement in the Time Lord Victorious poster, the Ninth Doctor is arguably on its supporting Doctors. His part is restricted to the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip and that pivotal All Flesh is Grass novel. His takeover of the DWM strip for the three part Monsterous Beauty, in which he and Rose find themselves in the Dark Times, is very pleasing in some ways. After all, of all the Doctors since DWM launched in 1979, his reign in the comic strip is the shortest. Although it’s undeniably a shame in another way. Of all the TLV Doctors, he’s the only one not to be brought to life by the original actor. Something only underscored by the near miss of the timing – with Christopher Eccleston signing up to return to the role for Big Finish not long after Time Lord Victorious was announced.
The Fourth Doctor
While the Ninth appears only in the build up and climax of the crossover, the Fourth Doctor takes part only in the extended coda. One of the last pieces of the puzzle to be announced by BBC Studios, his sole Time Lord Victorious outing will be Genetics of the Daleks from Big Finish. A number of the later entries follow a lone Dalek attempting to return home from the Dark Times. And this journey brings it up against Tom Baker’s Doctor, presumably blissfully unaware of everything else that’s gone on. As such, the Fourth Doctor’s part in the overall arc is likely to be entirely inessential, but also magnificent fun.
The Thirteenth Doctor
Another Doctor that appears only in this tail end of the arc is the Thirteenth. Often overlooked is that our current Doctor actually does play a small part in the framework of Time Lord Victorious. Because it’s Jodie Whittaker who appears as the Doctor in the elements created by Escape Hunt. In both the play-at-home game The Hollow Planet and the A Dalek Awakens escape room, the Thirteenth Doctor recruits the players to defeat a lone Dalek. And yes, it’s that lone Dalek – who after facing the Fourth, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth and Thirteenth Doctors is, it’s safe to say, having the worst 2020 of all of us.
Whittaker also pops up to conduct a last minute save, or congratulate you on your win, depending on how your game goes. And as the star of the Doctor Who: The Edge of Time VR game, it seems highly likely Whittaker will also have a presence in the upcoming Time Lord Victorious extension for the game.
It might be the thinnest slice of the TLV pie, but it’s still gratifying to see her not totally left out. Though it’s maybe easy to forget with the year we’ve all had, that Series 12 was actually earlier this year! And that TLV would have been originally conceived as something to fill the lull between the Thirteenth Doctor’s television series. Not, as it turned out, to be launched into a pandemic world where March feels an eternity ago. And where uncertainty reigns on when television production, and the Thirteenth Doctor, can return to normal.
And the rest…
The free Time Lord Victorious short story Canaries adds even more Doctors to the mix in brief cameos. For that tale’s main character Anke is beset by phone calls from various Doctors. Some are easier to recognize by their descriptions (the couple of them that sound Scottish for instance) but it’s fitting that the biggest cameo is given to the Curator. He, naturally enough, takes the long view of the whole saga…
Time Lord Victorious may not be a full blooded multi-Doctor meet up between five different actors to have played the role. But then, even The Five Doctors itself had to make do with three Doctors, a substitute, and some archive footage. But it is a unique opportunity to tell five different stories in one.