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The Cartmel Masterplan was a term invented by fans and popularised by Doctor Who Magazine[1] that very roughly described the overall "vision" script editor Andrew Cartmel and his cadre of writers, including Marc Platt and Ben Aaronovitch, had for re-introducing mystery and general darkness into the character of the Seventh Doctor in the waning seasons of the 1963 version of Doctor Who.

The "plan" — although Marc Platt has called it "more of a mood and direction" than a detailed plan[2] — would have dropped hints of the Doctor's actual origins throughout the later part of Sylvester McCoy's tenure as the Doctor. Due to the show's cancellation and John Nathan-Turner's occasional tinkering with scripts, however, very little of the "masterplan" was ever seen on screen. The "plan" was largely left to play out in other media and was an especially profound part of the Virgin New Adventures range in general and the novel Lungbarrow in particular.

According to Ben Aaronovitch in DWM 147, Platt, Cartmel and himself "all [had] similar, but slightly different, views of who [the Doctor] really is".


Purpose and origins[]

The "masterplan" was an attempt to restore some of the mystery of the Doctor and the Time Lords after years of overexposure and overfamiliarity.[1]

The Cartmel Masterplan is generally considered a fan-conceived term and came about around the same time that the discussion of canon first came to the attention of Doctor Who fandom.[1]

Though some groups in fandom readily use the term, others are critical of it - feeling that the term downplays the contributions of Platt and Aaronovitch, or that the term misrepresents the level of preplanning and scale involved in Cartmel's direction for the show. Notable to this discussion is that Cartmel has himself noted that a large part of the precise execution was down to the other two writers.[3] and recently made of a point of stating that his intention was to create a mystery but not necessarily give it any answer.[4]

The plan[]

The overall plan 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. An early draft of Ghost Light, set, at this stage, not in Gabriel Chase on Earth but the Doctor's ancestral home on Gallifrey, was planned as the lead-in to this reveal but the script was shot down by series producer John Nathan-Turner.[source needed] Cartmel's plans were later incorporated into the Virgin New Adventures series, to which Cartmel and other writers from the late McCoy era contributed, paying off in the final New Adventure novel to feature the Seventh Doctor, Lungbarrow. Lungbarrow had as its origins a proposed early draft of "Ghost Light". The earlier version of "Ghost Light" in turn evolved into a new story and the new story into the novel.

A direct reference to the Other appears in Ben Aaronovitch's novelisation of Remembrance of the Daleks in a flashback sequence with him, Rassilon and Omega.

At some point before 1992, Cartmel, Aaronovitch and Platt sat down and gathered their ideas about Gallifrey. These were passed onto then-New Adventures editor Peter Darvill-Evans, who incorporated them into a Doctor Who writer's guide.[5]


Seasons 25 and 26[]

Seasons 25 and 26 included hints toward this new direction. Some were included in the broadcasts and some were not:

  • The Doctor appears to make a slip of the tongue discussing the Hand of Omega with Ace, saying, "... and didn't we have trouble with the prototype", then sheepishly amending this to they when pressed. (TV: Remembrance of the Daleks)
  • The Doctor explicitly says to Davros that he is "far more than just another Time Lord". (TV: Remembrance of the Daleks) The scene was deleted from the original BBC broadcast reportedly because John Nathan-Turner objected to portraying the Doctor as a god in case it caused offence[6]. Some regions, including Canada, broadcast the episode with this scene intact.
  • Lady Peinforte claimed knowledge of the Doctor's actions during the Dark Times of early Gallifrey, well before his assumed birth date as gathered from the Nemesis statue. (TV: Silver Nemesis)
  • When Peinforte is told that the Doctor is a Time Lord, she is seen to shake her head, no, before replying. (TV: Silver Nemesis)
  • Control says of the Doctor that he does not fit any description of any alien species. Given that Light's mission was to catalogue all life, Time Lords would presumably be catalogued. (TV: Ghost Light)
  • Morgaine identifies the Doctor as Merlin, the wise sage and mentor to King Arthur, suggesting that the Doctor would become Merlin in a future story. (TV: Battlefield)
  • Fenric says that the Doctor once "pulled bones from the desert sand and carved them into chess pieces". The Doctor managed to beat Fenric at a Chess game and then banished him into the Shadow Dimensions for 17 centuries. This implies that the Doctor is capable of extraordinary powers and the ability to banish what is essentially a god. How much of this was exaggerated is unknown. (TV: The Curse of Fenric)

As well as these, it seems the Doctor also gains new powers previously unseen in the show.

  • In Battlefield, at the end he defeats Mordred by seemingly putting his hand on his head and giving him a sharp mental shock which knocks him out. He simply states that "time and Time Lords wait for no man". (TV: Battlefield)
  • The Doctor is visibly capable of incapacitating Sergeant Paterson by simply pressing his index finger against the latter's forehead. The Doctor comments on the matter by echoing Paterson's earlier statement, "one finger can be a deadly weapon" (TV: Survival)

An unfilmed scene from Survival was to feature the Tremas Master challenging the Doctor's identity and true nature. The Doctor would argue that we must all "evolve" in some way. This scene was cut when it appeared that the series had come to an end. Rather than finishing the series on such an inconclusive note, the production team decided to go with a different ending scene.[source needed]

Planned season 27[]

Had a twenty-seventh season been developed, Marc Platt's Ice Time would have revealed that Ace had been trained by the Doctor to become a Time Lord, her rebellious attitude helping to reshape Gallifrey's policies and role in the safeguarding of time and space. This is mentioned by the Doctor to Ace in the novels Set Piece and Lungbarrow. Something roughly similar happens in the online original story Death Comes to Time.

Ice Time would also have introduced a petty criminal from the 1960s whom the Doctor would help. Following Ace's departure, a subsequent story, set in the 1980s, would have this character's daughter, an aristocratic cat burglar, join the Doctor as his new companion. The intended finale of this twenty-seventh season was to have been Alixion, a story which may or may not have seen the Doctor regenerate into his eighth incarnation and the departure of McCoy.

These story concepts were much later developed into full audio scripts as part of Big Finish Productions' The Lost Stories range.

Other media[]

Andrew Cartmel added further aspects of his ideas when he started writing comic strips for Doctor Who Magazine, beginning with his debut story, Fellow Travellers, in which it is revealed that the Doctor has maintained contacts with humans on Earth for years and has purchased a house there. The more sophisticated and mature Virgin New Adventures line made the Doctor a more morally ambiguous, unreadable character who had extensive powers and an unknown history. Fans nicknamed the Doctor in his period as "the dark Doctor" or the "arch-manipulator". The novel Lungbarrow, the final Seventh Doctor novel, written by Marc Platt, revealed the Masterplan in detail.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 DWM 341, Revenge of the Accidental Tourist, pp 26-31
  2. Marc Platt interviewed by outpostskaro.com 1 October 2009
  3. https://twitter.com/andrewcartmel/status/1240716979633192960
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YyEj_AAgTdI [16:06]
  5. Season 27 - What Might Have Been by Felicity Scoones & Jon Preddle
  6. Interview with Andrew Cartmel in the 'Endgame' documentary included on the (TV: Survival) DVD release