The mystery deepens as Series Nine of Doctor Who approaches! For when we first saw the Twelfth Doctor, he was wearing a familiar face. One we had in fact last seen on Lobus Caecilius, the marble merchant from The Fires of Pompeii. Of course, that was two selves ago from the Doctor’s perspective.
But consider the newest incarnation’s conversation with Barney the tramp in Deep Breath and it becomes apparent that he’s seen his new features before somewhere. It’s that somewhere that we’ll be examining here, so hold on tight as we dive head-first into ‘ volcano day’...
BARNEY: Oh, it’s cold. DOCTOR: That’s right. It’s cold. It’s cold, I knew it was a thing. I need um, I need clothes. I need clothes, that’s what I need. And a big, long scarf. No, no, move on from that. Looked stupid. Err, have you seen this face before? BARNEY: No. DOCTOR: Are you sure? BARNEY: Sir, I have never seen that face. DOCTOR: It’s funny, because I’m sure that I have. You know, I never know where the faces come from. They just pop up. Zap. Faces like this one. Come on, look at it, have a look, come on, look, look, look. Look, it’s covered in lines. But I didn’t do the frowning. Who frowned me this face? Do you ever look in the mirror and think ‘I’ve seen that face before’? BARNEY: Yes. DOCTOR: Really? When? BARNEY: Well, every time I look in the mirror. DOCTOR: Oh, yes, yes, yes. Fair enough. Good point. My face is fresh on, though. BARNEY: Err... DOCTOR: Why this one? Why did I choose this face? It’s like I’m trying to tell myself something. Like I’m trying to make a point. But what is so important that I can’t just tell myself what I’m thinking?
Our next logical question might be exactly what the point he’s trying so hard to make to himself is.
Early on, he had seemed concerned with a rather big question of morality - is he a good man? His actions while wearing an earlier, younger-looking sideburn-sporting face in Pompeii would seem to suggest that he at least tries to be, even if it took a rather big tearful nudge from then-companion Donna Noble to stop him condemning everyone to fiery death as Mount Vesuvius erupted.
CAECILIUS: God save us, Doctor! DONNA: No! Doctor, you can’t! Doctor! You can’t just leave them! DOCTOR: Don’t you think I’ve done enough? History’s back in place and everyone dies. DONNA: You’ve got to go back! Doctor, I’m telling you, take this thing back! It’s not fair. DOCTOR: No, it’s not.
And who were the beneficiaries of that change of tack? Caecilius and his family! Which earned the younger Doctor a spot as the god of his household, the TARDIS his temple, following a messianic rescue from the flames. “Come with me.”
Echoes of that abound in Kill The Moon as he does the unthinkable and seemingly abandons humanity to make a decision regarding that odd egg-moon – though perhaps seeing that familiar set of features eventually reminds him of a responsibility to step up and at least try to be the good man he aspires to. Indeed, perhaps that’s the whole heart of the mystery, a stark visual reminder of the good he’s done through all his lives even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
CLARA: So what do we do? Doctor? Huh? Doctor, what do we do? DOCTOR: Nothing. CLARA: What? DOCTOR: We don’t do anything. I’m sorry, Clara. I can’t help you. CLARA: Of course you can help. DOCTOR: The Earth isn’t my home. The Moon’s not my moon. Sorry. CLARA: Come on. Hey! DOCTOR: Listen, there are moments in every civilisation’s history in which the whole path of that civilisation is decided. The whole future path. Whatever future humanity might have depends upon the choice that is made right here and right now. Now, you’ve got the tools to kill it. You made them. You brought them up here all on your own, with your own ingenuity. You don’t need a Time Lord. Kill it. Or let it live. I can’t make this decision for you.
Of course he knew what he was doing in the grand scheme of things. Much as he thought he did a lot earlier in his personal timeline...
DONNA: But if it’s aliens setting off the volcano, doesn’t that make it all right, for you to stop it? DOCTOR: Still part of history. DONNA: But I’m history to you. You saved me, in 2008, you saved us all. Why’s that different? DOCTOR: Some things are fixed, some things are in flux. Pompeii is fixed. DONNA: How do you know which is which? DOCTOR: Because that’s how I see the universe. Every waking second, I can see what is, what was, what could be, what must not. That’s the burden of the Time Lord, Donna. And I’m the only one left. DONNA: How many people died? DOCTOR: Stop it. DONNA: Doctor, how many people died? DOCTOR: 20,000. DONNA: Is that what you can see, Doctor? All 20,000? And you think that’s all right, do you?
And now the man who once bought a certain ‘ box, big blue box, big blue wooden box’ to display as ‘ Modern art’ ahead of a visit from Lucius Petrus Dextrus, Chief Augur of Pompeii and also a leader of sorts to the Cult of Vulcan, is in charge of its controls.
Vulcan, not inconsequently, is the Roman god of fire. And what did we see lots of in that first trailer for the Twelfth Doctor’s maiden series? Great big walls of flame...
“The blue box - a temple made of wood. And yet, the Sybil foretold that the box would appear at the time of storms, and fire, and betrayal.”
Which it did, and if rumour is to be believed, could again. Giving truth to some of the last words spoken by the Doctor to the man whose face he’d later pinch!
“It’s never forgotten, Caecilius. Oh, time will pass, men will move on, and stories will fade. But one day, Pompeii will be found again. In thousands of years. And everyone will remember you.”
Much time has indeed passed from when he left, having since regenerated into someone who looks familiar and first creased those ‘attack eyebrows’ in anger. But will the lessons learned two selves ago stick? Should he return at a point before or after the ash cloud blankets the place?
“I don’t know. Isn’t that brilliant? I love not knowing. Keeps me on my toes. It must be awful being a prophet, waking up every morning, ‘Is it raining? Yes it is, I said so.’ Takes all the fun out of life.”
Never was a truer word spoken. Luckily for us, we know nothing of the mystery of the new/old face yet. Though time will tell. It always does!