He only appeared in one Doctor Who story on television, but the Valeyard has cast a long shadow over the Doctor. Is he an enemy that should return in Series Ten or Eleven?
Doctor Who: ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ isn’t my favourite serial from the Classic Series (as you can probably tell from my review last year). But if there was one brilliant idea that it contributed to the mythology, it was most definitely the Valeyard.
For those of you who don’t know, here’s a quick recap: the Valeyard is the Doctor. Or at least, the “amalgamation of the darker sides” of the Doctor, to quote the Master. The Master also said that he was supposed to take place between the Doctor’s twelfth and final incarnations.
Originally, with the thirteen lives rule, this was supposed to mean that he existed in-between incarnations somehow. But after the Doctor was given a brand new life cycle in ‘The Time of the Doctor,’ it’s unknown when or where the Valeyard takes place in the Doctor’s lifetime, or if he even exists anymore.
There is one problem in particular with the Valeyard: on television, he only ever appeared in one story, and that story barely gave an explanation other than “he’s somehow an evil version of the Doctor from the future.” It didn’t help that, as I explained in my review for the last two episodes for ‘Trial,’ there were completely different writers for those two key episodes.
Perhaps he was meant to return on television at some point, especially with the very strange final shot that ‘Trial’ had. Perhaps a better explanation was eventually going to be put on screen. Or perhaps he was simply forgotten, even before the series had been cancelled.the Sixth Doctor and the Valeyard (credit: BBC)
Whatever the reason, the Valeyard has remained a villain with a great deal of potential that has only ever been explored in other media, particularly the audios. (I strongly recommend ‘The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure.’ A year after its release, and it’s still a story I absolutely adore.) But while the writers at Big Finish have provided possible explanations for his origins, there hasn’t been anything truly definitive. It probably doesn’t help that writers for expanded media have no idea if the TV show will use him ever again.
More from Winter is Coming
- Emilia Clarke looks back on Game of Thrones season 1, forward to spin-offs
- Leigh Bardugo tells us how Shadow and Bone came to life at Netflix
- 10 best moments from the Game of Thrones series premiere
- It’s official: Alfred Molina returns as Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man: No Way Home
- Who is Criston Cole on House of the Dragon?
So should the Valeyard return in the next series, or perhaps the one after? On the one hand, the idea of the Doctor facing an evil version of himself is a highly effective one. A similar idea was even teased with the Dream Lord in Series 5’s ‘Amy’s Choice.’ — a version of the Doctor with his knowledge and intelligence, but with absolutely none of his morals or compassion.
On the other hand, he was technically only in one story, and as I’ve mentioned before, it’s not one of the greatest. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hardly one of the worst, but there’s less incentive to bring a character back from ‘Trial of a Time Lord’ than there is for something as arguably iconic as ‘Genesis of the Daleks.’
Also, since he’s very much his own distinct incarnation of the Doctor, and not just a rival Time Lord, there would need to be a really good explanation if he wasn’t played by Michael Jayston. Especially since Jayston played the character brilliantly, particularly in the final two episodes of ‘Trial,’ when his true evil was finally revealed.
In fact, it’s the need for an explanation for what the Valeyard is that remains the biggest reason for him to come back — something definitive and concrete that deals with him once and for all. My best suggestion is a regeneration story. Perhaps, for example, a story that begins with the regeneration of Capaldi, before it goes wrong and he’s torn in two, with the Twelfth Doctor facing his darker side. After an epic battle where the Valeyard escapes into the Doctor’s history, Twelve finally regenerates properly at the end. Or perhaps there’s a very different explanation altogether.