(WARNING: there will be some minor spoilers from Series 7, so if you still plan on catching up in the series, catch up and come back.)
So, I’ve already tackled how the Ninth Doctor was born into anger and depression stemming from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I also discussed how, while some progress had been made, the Tenth Doctor was still horribly depressed because of how the Last Great Time War went and how he lost Rose Tyler and Martha Jones and Donna Noble. I covered how Ten tried to be the Time Lord Victorious but ended up falling into a deeper depression which ultimately led to an immense hesitation when Ten begun his regeneration.
But we’ve moved past that. And here comes the Eleventh Doctor. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, actor Matt Smith is the youngest actor to ever play the Doctor (Smith was 27 when he took up the sonic screwdriver, second to David Tennant at 34). And his Doctor shows that young bravado. Heck, one of his first actions post-regeneration is to drive a big red fire truck. What a punk kid. Surely, the Doctor is finally recovering from all the bad things that have happened to him since the end of the Last Great Time War?
I will say this first; Eleven started off his incarnation with high spirits. He had gained two new companions in Amy and Rory Pond, and he seemed genuinely happy to go back to exploring the universe as opposed to dealing with the battles and wars that were following him around near the tail-end of his life cycle as Ten.
But things got bad. Really bad. And it really all started when cracks in time began to form all the way back in The Eleventh Hour, Eleven’s first episode.
Along that path, Eleven was imprisoned twice, saw River Song die, and blew up the universe. But the thing that tipped him over the edge was the loss of Amy and Rory to the Weeping Angels via a fixed point in time. The loss of the Ponds pushed the Doctor into temporary retirement, and that retirement was only lifted with the discovery of Clara Oswald and her multiple lives.
As this most recent series continues, a common theme keeps popping up: the idea of memories. Yes, the Doctor’s name keeps getting brought up, but everything comes back to the memories that keep haunting the Doctor and Clara.
And, really, the concept of memories is a great way to describe what is pushing Eleven closer to madness.
The best example of this came from a recent Doctor Who episode. In “The Rings of Akhaten,” the Doctor cranks out a speech about how much he has witnessed during his life. On the surface, the speech is aimed to push the Old God in the episode to dissipate after absorbing the Doctor’s memories. But if you go deeper, you can see that, as the Doctor is discussing his life, it’s physically hurting him to remember everything he’s done. Watch the scene to understand what I’m talking about.
The Doctor’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder never went away. He tried to cover it up by behaving like a kid, but in the end his memories of loss almost chased him into retirement. Even right now, in the middle of Series 7, the memories of what the Doctor has seen and felt is chasing Eleven into the possibility of madness.
This is one of those articles where the end doesn’t get written yet, because Matt Smith is still going strong. And personally, I’m glad for it. I get to watch Eleven grow into whatever is meant for him.
Whatever it is, one point remains. The Doctor, in whatever post Time War form he’ll be in, will be alone. Very alone. And as the madness delves deeper into the Doctor, I’ll get to watch it. I’m kind of sick like that.