The "War Doctor", also known as "the Renegade", was a warrior-like incarnation of the renegade Time Lord who referred to himself as the Doctor throughout most of his different lives. However, the War Doctor stood apart as the sole exception; he was the incarnation who fought in the Last Great Time War. To endure the psychological climate of the massive conflict, he was deliberately cultivated to be a warrior, not a healer.
Originally young and robust, this incarnation disavowed the name of "the Doctor," setting upon the warrior path for which he had been created (TV: The Night of the Doctor) although Rassilon and other Time Lords continued to refer to him by that name. (TV: The End of Time) After becoming old and tired of battle and faced with the end of reality, this incarnation considered activating the Moment, to end the Time War by committing genocide against both the Daleks and his own people. After viewing his own future, this incarnation helped to save Gallifrey from destruction, although he was not able to retain these memories. Because of this, his later incarnations disowned him, believing him to have destroyed Gallifrey. The Eleventh Doctor would retain the memories, and eventually remembered him as the man who saved Gallifrey. (TV: The Day of the Doctor)
This incarnation eventually regenerated due to advanced old age, shortly after he had saved Gallifrey. He remarked before regeneration that he was "wearing a bit thin," similar to the regeneration of the First Doctor. (TV: The Day of the Doctor)
Born for battle
When the Last Great Time War erupted, the Doctor was still in his eighth incarnation. He managed to avoid becoming a major player in the conflict, helping out its victims wherever he could. Unfortunately, the war only grew in scope and violence. He discovered a woman named Cass trapped aboard an out of control starship, inbound for the planet Karn. He attempted to rescue her from the vessel, but Cass adamantly rejected his offer, declaring that death was a preferable alternative to accepting help from a Time Lord.
The Doctor refused to abandon Cass on the starship, letting himself die with her as the ship smashed into Karn's surface. However, he was revived temporarily by the Sisterhood of Karn, who offered him the ability to control his next regeneration and become the person he needed to be in order to end the Time War. Initially he refused, but after witnessing the death of Cass on top of the many other tragedies of the Time War, his spirit finally broke. He decided there was no longer a need for the Doctor in the universe and accepted their help, asking them to make him a warrior. After drinking the Elixir of Life, he regenerated into his new incarnation, who promptly rejected the name of "the Doctor", declaring as he picked up and donned Cass' bandolier, "Doctor no more". (TV: The Night of the Doctor)
The War Doctor at the start of his life was much younger than when the Tenth and Eleventh Doctor encountered him, indicating he had been fighting in the Last Great Time War for a very long time. (TV: The Night of the Doctor, The Day of the Doctor)
Last day of the WarThe War Doctor was present at the fall of Arcadia, where he used a Gallifreyan soldier's gun to inscribe the words "no more" onto a wall as a message to the Time Lords and the Daleks. He then destroyed a group of Daleks with his TARDIS, before fleeing the planet. He was able to enter the Omega Arsenal and stole the final weapon, "The Moment," a weapon of ultimate destruction.
The Doctor then fled to a desolate wasteland, where he intended to trigger the Moment, which would have completely wiped out the Time Lords and the Daleks. The Moment, however was sentient, and possessed a conscience, hence the reason it hadn't already been used. Its interface manifested into the form of his future companion Rose Tyler (in her role as Bad Wolf) to challenge his use of the weapon. (TV: The Day of the Doctor)
Meeting with the future Doctors
Upon realising that the the War Doctor was planning on using it, the Moment appeared to him, creating a time fissure that would send him into his own personal future where he met with the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors in 1562 England, in order to witness the effects that making such a choice would have. Intially disliking his future incarnations (finding them very childish), he ended up thrown in the Tower of London by Queen Elizabeth I. Unbeknownst to the three Doctors, she left the door open to see what sort of plan they would make. The War Doctor placed the calculation to disintegrate the structure of the prison door as a permanent subroutine in the sonic screwdriver. 400 years later, by his eleventh incarnation, the sonic, in a different case but using the same software, completed the calculation. Before they could do anything, Clara Oswald opened the unlocked door, freeing them.
Elizabeth I showed the Doctors that the Zygons were placing themselves inside stasis cubes so that they would awaken when Earth became a more interesting place to invade. Realising the Black Archive, which the Zygons had taken over in Earth's future, was impenetrable from the TARDIS, the Eleventh Doctor, at the suggestion of the War Doctor, told McGillop to place the stasis cube, Gallifrey Falls No More, inside the Archive before the Zygon attack. The three Doctors put themselves inside the cube, where in the 21st century they would awaken and stop the Zygons.
The Doctors wiped the minds of Kate Stewart, Osgood and McGillop as well as the Zygons impersonating them, forcing them to cancel the detonation of a nuclear weapon beneath the Archive and begin peace talks between the humans and Zygons, as neither side knew which was the fake and which was real. The War Doctor felt that the regret the Eleventh Doctor felt following his decision at the end of the Time War would have led to the saving of many more worlds and decided to activate the Moment. The Tenth and Eleventh Doctor joined him to press the button, but before they did, Clara insisted that they think of something else, which they did. The War Doctor realised the Moment didn't show him "any old future", but exactly the future he needed to see in order to prevent the destruction of Gallifrey.
The Eleventh Doctor cancelled the Moment's detonation, and all thirteen of the Doctor's incarnations, using calculations starting from the beginning of his life, safely placed Gallifrey in stasis in a pocket universe with their TARDISes as the Daleks focused their gunfire, using the same principle as that of the stasis cube. The disappearance of Gallifrey caused the Daleks to be caught in the crossfire. The War Doctor realised that it would have appeared to the rest of the universe that they annihilated one another, as Gallifrey was gone and the Daleks were destroyed. Because the Doctors' time streams were out of sync, the War Doctor didn't remember their effort to save Gallifrey, rather than burn it, and realised he would have to live with that. (TV: The Day of the Doctor)
After growing remarkably old and grizzled, the War Doctor had not discovered how frail his body had turned, focusing nearly all his attention on the Time War. By the time he had parted ways with the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors and entered his TARDIS, his regeneration was triggered automatically. He chuckled at the sight of his old body renewing itself, happy that the tribulation of the Time War was coming to an end. Much like his first life, he commented that this body had worn thin. Perfectly content, he joked, "I'd hope the ears are a bit less conspicuous this time". He gladly allowed his regeneration to pass and changed into his next incarnation. This new incarnation lost the crucial memories of how the Time War truly ended, believing he burned Gallifrey, and the Time Lords were dead. (TV: The Day of the Doctor)
The Sontarans told legends of the Doctor leading Time Lords into battle. (TV: The Sontaran Stratagem) Likewise, opposing Daleks were frightened of his presence in the Time War and called him "The Oncoming Storm". (TV: The Parting of the Ways)
Despite his attempts to forget, the Doctor occasionally thought about this incarnation in addition to his other eleven lives, even though he did not like to think about it. (PROSE: Nothing O'Clock) The Tenth Doctor told the Cult of Skaro that he had survived the Time War "by fighting, on the front line", mentioning the fall of Arcadia as one of the battles at which he was present. (TV: Doomsday)
The Eleventh Doctor, upon coming into contact with this incarnation, spurned the very memory of him. He went so far as to suggest this incarnation did not even hold the moniker of "the Doctor" due to his actions in life. He explained to Clara that his real name was not the point; he chose the name "the Doctor" and explained that the name a person chose was like a promise. This unknown incarnation was "the one who broke the promise". He described him as "my secret". This ninth incarnation responded by defending those actions, stating that what he did, he did "without choice" and "in the name of peace and sanity". The Eleventh Doctor acknowledged that as true, but rebutted that it had not been "in the name of the Doctor". As he carried Clara away, the War Doctor turned around and watched them with a sombre stare. (TV: The Name of the Doctor)
When the Eleventh Doctor entered into the T'keyn Nexus (similar to the Matrix on Gallifrey) in order to defend himself, all 12 of his incarnations appeared inside it to defend himself. Although the War Doctor was there with the others, he was the only one not to defend his name. Instead, the Eighth Doctor had to defend what the War Doctor had (supposedly) done in the Time War and all he did to avoid it. (COMIC: Dead Man's Hand)
Ultimately, the Doctor remembered the true result of the Time War, and after reassessing the War Doctor, declared that this incarnation "had been the Doctor more than anyone else", the Eleventh noting that the War Doctor was "the Doctor on the day that it was impossible to get it right". The Eleventh Doctor thus forgave the past actions of his previous life and moved on, proudly remembering the valiant actions the War Doctor took instead, and used them as an example to live by once again as he began the search for Gallifrey, wherever the Doctors had sent it. (TV: The Day of the Doctor)
The Time War caused the War Doctor to be addled with much regret, sadness, and weighted guilt, but he also managed to be cheerful and compassionate with a few hints of witty humour and sarcasm, indicating he was not inherently evil like the other incarnations were led to believe. He was also something of a gentleman, judging by his reaction to Clara Oswald and despite a bumpy start he ended up getting on rather well with the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. (TV: The Day of the Doctor)
The War Doctor was also stern, as indicated by his dislike for childlike vocabulary like "timey-wimey", saying, "Oh for God's sakes!" when he heard the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors' favourite lines, choosing to go with a simple "Gallifrey Stands" for himself. He considered the fact that the Eleventh Doctor used such words as a proof that he was ashamed of being a grown-up. (TV: The Day of the Doctor)
Similar at his second and seventh incarnations, the War Doctor was also painfully aware of the need to see the "bigger picture". He knew that it was entirely proper to sacrifice his people if it would save the universe. (TV: The Day of the Doctor) When questioned by his future incarnation on the actions that he had to make during the war, the War Doctor responded by defending those actions, stating he had "no choice" and that he did what he did "in the name of peace and sanity." (TV: The Name of the Doctor) Upon learning that he had a chance to right the wrongs of his life, he became quite elated and took solace in restoring his right to be called the Doctor. Once the Time War had come to a close, he had lived a full life and held no qualms about regenerating into another body, facing the end with an immense grin in his last moments. (TV: The Day of the Doctor)
Though not as quicksilver as his future, more able-bodied selves, his older age allowed him to pace his thinking and not jump to conclusions that the flighty Tenth Doctor would, sometimes seeing a hidden solution after much contemplation. Such an instance happened when his future self was convinced the Doctors would have to land the TARDIS in the Tower of London, which Kate Stewart had TARDIS-proofed, whilst she prepared to initiate a nuclear disaster to prevent the Zygons from compromising the Black Archive. The War Doctor suggested the trio could use the Zygon's stasis cubes to insert themselves in the painting Gallifrey Falls No More and reenter the London Gallery through it, like the Zygons did with other paintings. When the War Doctor appeared to simply be slow on the uptake, the Tenth Doctor wrote his elderly incarnation off as senile, annoyed after dealing with his quips and complaints, and consequentially, was proven quite wrong. (TV: The Day of the Doctor)
Being a warrior, the War Doctor had no problems killing a large number of Dalek during the war, which earned him the title of "the Oncoming Storm". Unlike his other incarnations, the War Doctor also seems to endorse the use of weapons, wielding a gun during the Fall of Arcadia; however, on this occasion he used the gun to carve an inscription on a wall and not to fight. (TV: The Day of the Doctor)
Despite being more concerned with the Time War than defending Earth and the rest of the universe as all of his other incarnations were, the War Doctor did still care and was willing to help out when necessary. He aided the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors in defeating the Zygon plan, coming up with the idea that let them get into the TARDIS-proof Tower of London and helping them wipe everyone but Clara's memories. He was also shown to be pleased that the outcome of the situation was peace rather than war and destruction showing that despite being a warrior, he still did desire peace. (TV: The Day of the Doctor)
This incarnation originally had a stern, shaven and determined face with a head of dusty brown hair. (TV: The Night of the Doctor) However, after spending an inordinately long period fighting in the Time War, he became jaded and tired, with pronounced wrinkles and weary eyes. However, Clara noticed these eyes were younger than those of his future lives in that they were more hopeful. (TV: The Day of the Doctor) His hair colour turned entirely to a deep silver, which he slicked up in peaks at the top of his head. The elderly War Doctor also allowed himself to grow a full beard; he was the only incarnation to normally sport facial hair, rather than go clean-shaven, further distancing him from the other lives of the Time Lord. (TV: The Name of the Doctor)
The War Doctor appeared old and bedraggled, wearing a distressed leather overcoat, a frayed scarf knitted in a zigzag pattern, and his previous incarnation's Victorian-style waistcoat. (TV: The Name of the Doctor) He also wore also aged trousers, a box-frame belt with several fastener pins and studded pinholes, and combat boots adorned with weathered gaiters, which had a few buttons missing. (TV: The Day of the Doctor) His oldest article of dress was a bandolier across his left shoulder, taken off the body of Cass and equipped as an instrument for battle by him mere seconds after his regeneration was finished. (TV: The Night of the Doctor)
Behind the scenes
- John Hurt, aged 73 when he first appeared on screen, is the oldest actor to portray the Doctor upon their debut appearance. The second oldest are William Hartnell and Peter Capaldi, who were both 55 years old when they made their debut appearances in 1963 and 2013 respectively.
- Strax describes this incarnation of the Doctor as having "the look of a battle hardened warrior" in WC: Strax Field Report: The Doctor's Greatest Secret.
- This incarnation of the Doctor is never named during The Night of the Doctor itself, but is described as the War Doctor in the end credits and on the official BBC website. John Hurt is listed as one of the actors playing 'The Doctor' in the end credits of The Day of the Doctor, and is billed as 'The Other Doctor' in Radio Times.
- Though John Hurt was 73 years old when he debuted as this incarnation of the Doctor, special effects were used to blend archive material of the actor from earlier in his life to depict the War Doctor as looking younger immediately after the Eighth Doctor's regeneration.
- The War Doctor also shares certain characteristics with the Valeyard: he is a darker version of the Doctor who rejected the name of "the Doctor" and the expectations that go with it.
- The merchandising refers to this Doctor as "the Other Doctor" on its packaging. This is presumably done to promote sales by not projecting a possible family-unfriendly impression with the word "War".
- He is the only incarnation whom not even River Song has met, or even knows about. Clara Oswald is the Doctor's only companion to have met this one.
- Prior to the introduction of the War Doctor, it was believed that the incarnations of the Doctor were numbered to match the advancement of his regeneration cycle. However, despite Christopher Eccleston's portrayal being labeled as the "Ninth Doctor", this version of the Doctor is the true ninth incarnation. He does not contribute to the numbering of Doctors because of his decision to rarely call himself by the name "Doctor" and hold the title for his incarnation's lifetime, Narratively, he is still considered an honourary Doctor for reclaiming the title at the end of his life and proving that he held true to his promise behind that name. Thus, the Doctor's incarnations are one number higher than their enumerated titles suggest, and as such, should be treated as separate information.