The “Other” Theory and the Cartmel Masterplan

Previously in my review for The Name of the Doctor, regarding speculation over who John Hurt’s Doctor is. I described the first reveal of Mr. Hurt like this:

“And there is an Other. I phrase it this way for a very specific reason that I will explain in a later post. This review has gone on too long already. Trust me though, it’s important.”

Speculation is a waste of time. If you’re right, then the big reveal of the mystery is boring. When you’re wrong (and with Moffat, chances are you’re probably wrong), the answer doesn’t always match your expectation. That’s why I avoid message boards devoted to Doctor Who theories. Moffat is smart enough to know our expectations and how to get us thinking down one track, while he’s working on the path we ignored. So you won’t see many articles like this from me.

This isn’t so much a speculative article as it is an excuse to talk about Doctor Who’s greatest missed opportunity.

Well, they didn’t miss it. More like they were canceled just as the show was about to get better than ever.


For three years (1986 -1989) a guy named Andrew Cartmel was the script editor on Doctor Who. This was during the dreaded JNT era I’ve written about before. In a lot of ways, Cartmel is responsible for Sylvester McCoy being one of my favorite Doctors.

When he joined the show, the Doctor came off as a chump that things happened to. Cartmel wanted to make the character more proactive, turn him into the hero again. He also felt that we knew too much about the Doctor, he was no longer a mystery. So he, and writers Ben Aaronovitch and Marc Platt, devised a long-term goal to get the Doctor back to his mysterious roots.

Fans call it The Cartmel Masterplan.


To be fair, I haven’t done any extensive research on this. All I know comes from watching documentaries on Classic Who DVDs and the occasional article on the web. Essentially what it boils down to is this, they wanted the Doctor to be like a mountain in the distance. This huge, important thing that you can never get a full grasp of.

In order to do this, they developed a secret origin to the Doctor, something that they would slowly reveal over time. There are hints of it throughout the three years he was script editing. The most obvious of which came in the serial Remembrance of the Daleks.

The Doctor and Ace go looking for The Hand of Omega, a mythological Time Lord artifact responsible for discovering the supernova which would power their experiments, resulting in Omega, co-founder of the Time Lord race, being sent to the antimatter universe, and giving Rassilon, the first Time Lord, the technology for The Eye of Harmony, making time travel possible.

The scene where the Doctor explains all this to Ace goes like this:

DOCTOR: The Hand of Omega is a mythical name for Omega’s remote stellar manipulator, a device used to customise stars with. And didn’t we have trouble with the prototype.
ACE: We?

That little moment was meant to suggest that the Doctor may have been there at the start of the Time Lords.

There is a sort of call back to this when at the end of the serial that was cut because of its implications. When the Doctor has confronted his enemy, the villain exclaims that he will destroy the Doctor because he is just another Time Lord.

To which the Doctor replies:

I guess for you to understand the “implications” I should go into exactly what the end goal of the Cartmel Masterplan was. He had to reinvent the Time Lord mythology a little, add a new element to it. So he created the origin of the Time Lords. Up front, this was copied directly from Wikipedia.

“…Omega and Rassilon were the founding fathers of Gallifrey. They towered above the Time Lords who followed. They were demigods. [Dialogue in Silver Nemesis was] a subtle attempt to say that there was a third presence there in the shadowy days of Gallifrey’s creation. In other words, the Doctor was also there. So he’s more than a Time Lord. He’s one of these half-glimpsed demigods.”

There was a founding Triumvirate of Time Lord society. Rassilon and Omega, and the shadowy presence whose name no one can recall. He is simply referred to as the “Other.” In this way the Doctor would be a kind of God figure to the Time Lords. Not in an all powerful creator sense, but a mighty figure of mythology.

As Cartmel tells it on the DVD documentary, John Nathan Turner hated the idea of connecting the Doctor with anything God related. Andrew tried to explain that the term was a metaphor, but JNT wouldn’t listen. He heard God and saw visions of religious groups coming after them. This is why the proclamation of being far more than just another Time Lord was cut.


After the show was canceled in 1989, came the Virgin New Adventures from Virgin Publishing. These were a long series of novels that carried on the story from where the show left off. The books were meant for adults and never shied from explicit sex, profanity, violence and drug use. Russel T Davies and Mark Gatiss wrote their first ever Doctor Who stories during this time. From what I’ve heard, RTD’s book, Damaged Goods, is nothing at all like his time as showrunner. It’s been described as one of the more explicit entries in the series. That novel deals frankly with drug use, AIDS, and intense violence. I even heard him mentioned that one of the male companions stopped to get a blowjob in a cab. I’ve long been meaning to get back into reading those books and writing about them here. There’s a lot of them.

The final book in the New Adventures was called Lunbarrow, by Marc Platt. This was their last chance to go into The “Other” story full force, as the TV movie was about to air and all incarnations of the Doctor would be Paul Mcgann for the next 9 years.

As Marc was one of the architects of the Cartmel Masterplan, it was up to him to tie up all the loose ends and give us all the answers we were waiting for. I have yet to sit down and read through the book, even though it is available for free online. Part of me feels that I should start at the beginning and work my way there.

What the hell does all this have to do with William Hurt?

Well, my secret hope is that Hurt is the “Other”. As awesome it would be to see the origins of the Valeyard or finally get the truth about The Time War, deep down, I want him to be the shadowy figure of Time Lord myth. The one they celebrate yearly with Otherstide.

If anyone would go that deeply into the character’s past and fulfill the Cartmel Maserplan, it had to be Moffat. His entire run has been about all of time and space conspiring against the Doctor. At every turn he has seen fit to explore deeply into his origins, even teasing to answer the first question.


From the moment Dorium started chanting “Doctor Who. Doc-Tor WHO?”, the Cartmel fan in me started doing back flips. In The Silver Nemesis, the question Doctor Who? was asked in a completely serious manner. This was meant to be the start of the Masterplan, to answer that very question. People asked it all the time as a joke, and oh how it made us laugh, but this was a legit question.

So could John Hurt be the “other’? Is that why Clara didn’t see him before?

Perhaps it was from a time when he didn’t carry the name of the Doctor.


3 thoughts on “The “Other” Theory and the Cartmel Masterplan

  1. Two very, very big BUTS here…. first, the BBC has yet to allow any new episodes based on old stories lines (books, TV, audio, etc.). They re-introduce monsters and will make a nod to old plot-lines, but there has yet to be a new episode concurrent with a classic story.

    Second, what Moffat said himself about the 50th, “It is important you don’t turn it into a fanfest…We can’t make this all about looking backwards. It’s actually got to be the start of a new story.”

    As much as tying to the two eras together would be awesome, it’s highly unlikely. So, if John Hurt isn’t 8.5 or the Other, where will Moffat go? Like you said, only he knows.

  2. Human Nature and The Family of Blood were both based on the Virgin New Adventures novel, Human Nature, with The Seventh Doctor. So they’ve pulled from that archive before. This would be even more appropriate to canonize because it was, at one time, intended as such.

  3. These were my thoughts exactly when I saw that cliffhanger. I am very dissapointed that it was just some side-incarnation. It could’ve done so much more to the story, but probably too much to handle for the audience.

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