Friday, April 18, 2014

The Doctor's Scottish Medical Credentials

So I was watching one of the surviving episodes of the Second Doctor adventure THE MOONBASE (1967) the other day, and I was struck by the fact that Polly is surprised when the Doctor commits to curing the mysterious virus afflicting the staff of the moonbase.  She didn't know he had any actual training as, well, a doctor. He reassures her by oh-so-casually mentioning that he studied in Glasgow with Lister.

He means Joseph Lister, of course, the guy who had the radical idea that surgeons ought to wash their dad-blamed hands before they operated on people, and that in general being dirty was bad for you.  Since Lister's breakthrough was in  1865 and he left Glasgow in 1869, that's probably the period when the doctor was studying with him in Scotland.

But as we know, the Doctor lies.  Why would he have studied with Lister?  Would a centuries-old Time Lord need to learn about how germs are spread?  Perhaps it's more likely that the Doctor was there giving Lister hints...

And that's an intriguing possibility, especially since it might tie in with the story the Tenth Doctor gives Queen Victoria in TOOTH AND CLAW (2006). He tells Her Majesty that he's a Scottish doctor who studied with Joseph Bell. If he's lying, he chose a clever false credential, because Bell was one of Her Majesty's personal physicians. (He was also the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes, but that's beside the point.)

But could he be telling the truth?  Bell and Lister were contemporaries, and the ever-curious Second Doctor could have been drawn to hanging around with both of them. And given the trouble he had controlling the TARDIS in his first and second lives, he might easily have been stuck in Scotland for a few years.

So if he really did study with (or mentor) Lister and Bell at some point during his second incarnation, that may be why as the Tenth Doctor he chose to tell Queen Victoria his name was James McCrimmon.  Perhaps when thinking back to that time, hundreds of years in his own past, when he studied medicine in Scotland -- and was reminded of the young man who was his friend and companion up to the very end of that regeneration.

Just a theory.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, anytime the Doctor mentions he studied with some historical figure from Earth's history, I always take it to mean that he was probably there offering some kind of advice to that historical figure and never that the Doctor himself was studying under that person.

    According to the TARDIS Wikia website, the 4th Doctor also mentioned Lister in the 'Missing Adventures' novel, 'System Shock' (no relation to Podshock). It states that he "mentioned Lister on his CV, but claimed the degree dated to 1880." It also states that the 5th Doctor "told Peri that he was more than qualified to offer medical services in the American Civil War, because he'd gotten a degree from Glasgow," in the novella 'Blood and Hope.'

    As for that being the reason he used the name 'James McCrimmon' -- Sure, it could be, but you might be giving the show more credit than it's due. Who knows though.