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A Theory on the 13th Doctor

Whovians around the globe have been given some fantastic news! Doctor Who is finally diversifying its casting choice for the role of the Doctor.  The 13th doctor will be played by Jodie Whittaker who will be taking over the role from Peter Capaldi in the upcoming Christmas special.

13th doctor
Jodie Whittaker, the 13th Doctor

This is the first time that the Doctor will be played by someone other than a white male but this isn’t the first time the show has been progressive in its long run.  The Master and the Corsair were the first Time Lords to change their gender through regeneration.  We even see a same sex and inter-species relationship between Madame Vastra, a Silurian and Jenny Flint, a human.  Really, it was only a matter of time before everyone’s favorite Gallifreyan protagonist caught up with times.  Perhaps the show is only now realizing that the fans of Doctor Who love the character no matter who plays the role, but I have a possible in-canon theory that may account for the lack of change in the Doctor over the years.

I suppose “lack of change” is the wrong way to describe the Doctor over the years.  There has been 13 male actors (in canon) that have donned the role of the rogue Time Lord over the years.  They have had both subtle and extreme personality changes as well as wardrobe changes and preferences. The Doctor isn’t the only character that has changed both inside and outside over the years but retaining an overall theme.  I am talking, of course, about the T.A.R.D.I.S. (which will now be referred to as the Tardis since acronyms are extremely annoying to type in repetition). Yes, the Tardis has remained a police box for the entire run of the show but has changed radically on the inside and has even changed its appearance on the outside.

inside tardis
The interior of the Tardis over the years.
The exterior of the Tardis over the years

The explanation that is given to us in the show as to why the Tardis (an extremely advanced time and space machine) looks like an early 20th century police box, is that it was originally a cloaking mechanism to blend into it’s surroundings.  In fact, the whole idea of a Tardis changing its appearance is to continue blending into its surroundings no matter what time and place it ends up.  According to the Doctor, the reason why it never transforms into anything else is that the Tardis’ “chameleon circuit” is broken and he doesn’t know how to fix it.

This seems to be a perfectly logical and reasonable explanation.  At least, it would be if the Tardis wasn’t sentient. There is a reason that I referred to the Tardis as another character earlier.  The Tardis has been proven to be a living entity, choosing destinations on its own and inexplicably not working for the Doctor. It is generally accepted that the Tardis and the Doctor have a symbiotic relationship and this is why the Doctor can unlock his beloved time and space machine with a snap of his fingers.


This symbiotic relationship connects the Doctor to the Tardis on a very personal level.  We even see glimpses of how deep this partnership extends when the Tardis takes over the body of Idris in the episode “The Doctor’s Wife.” In fact, it is stated that the “soul” of the Tardis is inhabiting Idris.

Idris, AKA the Tardis and the Doctor

Okay, so now to the theory.  what we have established so far is that the Tardis has a soul that is connected to the Doctor’s soul, the Tardis doesn’t change appearance due to a broken chameleon circuit, and the Doctor hasn’t had a drastic appearance change even though we know the show is not afraid to diversify with gender, race and sexuality. My theory is that the Tardis is actually preventing the Doctor from radically changing his identity.  In my mind there could be two reasons for this. Either the broken chameleon circuit affects the Doctor’s regeneration through the symbiotic link with the Tardis, or the malfunctioning chameleon circuit is a farce created by the Tardis entity who refuses to let the Doctor change from the form that she desires.

Of course, this speculation seems moot now that we have definitive confirmation that the 13th doctor will be female.  Or is it?  If this theory about the chameleon circuit is true, could it now be a possibility that we will see the Tardis change as well?  I am guessing that having a major change in the casting of the doctor as well as a different Tardis would be too much all at once.  But imagine the idea that we will always have our beloved blue police box, and at the same time, the Doctor’s ship now has the ability to really blend in to its environment in a pinch.  Personally, I would love for them to experiment with a shape shifting Tardis, as long as it would always return to everyone’s preferred form.

tardis space
Hard to argue with the original.

We can only hope that series 11 will hold many surprises for us.  For now, we can all return to our usual state of worry and concern over the new casting of the Doctor and inevitably fall back in love with the character once we realize that we fretted for nothing.  Will we get a different Tardis to match our new Doctor? Only time will tell, and until then, keep theorizing.

Author: Erik Montgomery

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