Doctor Who

Doctor Who: A Crazy New Theory on Who Maisie Williams Is Playing

Whovians got a real treat with the release of the trailer for Series 9. To be completely fanboyish for a moment, it looks amazing. The monsters look amazing, Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman look amazing, The Master looks amazing, just every single second had me going “I am totally in the thrall of amazement right now”.

The big reveal that we get from the trailer was a brief appearance by Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) at the very end. Williams is set to star in the two-part story “The Girl Who Died / The Woman Who Lived”. In the trailer The Doctor apparently recognizes Williams, who responds to him with the line, “What took you so long old man?”

So theories are a-flying as to the identity of the character Williams is playing (Because apparently Steven Moffat will explode if a season doesn’t contain a mysterious woman who’s real identity we must discover). The most prominent theory right now is that William’s is playing a new incarnation of Jenny from “The Doctor’s Daughter”. Granted, nearly every season has a rumored return of Jenny so it’s not unexpected.

There’s also a theory that Williams is another incarnation of The Doctor’s granddaughter Susan. I like this one myself, but I doubt it. Capaldi has been very vocal about wanting Susan to return to the Tardis for another adventure, and actress Carol Ann Ford had no objections when she visited the set at Capaldi’s invitation. And as you can see from the screencap above it looks like Twelve has taken to adding a few dress flourishes from the First Doctor back into his style. I doubt that Susan would appear only to have her played by another actress.

Instead, Peter Svochak of the Tennessee Time Lords Society had another theory and this is the one I think is most likely. Williams isn’t The Doctor’s daughter or his granddaughter. She’s his great-grandson.

See, Susan has already made a return to Doctor Who in a big way as part of Season 4 of the Eighth Doctor Adventures series from Big Finish Audio, which is essentially the “current” series of Doctor Who in audio form (The Eighth Doctor is essentially the ongoing new Doctor in radio, with older Doctors generally representing past stories we just never saw on TV). She appears in the story “An Earthly Child” along with her half-human son Alex Campbell, who was born to Susan and David Campbell ten years after the events of “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” where The Doctor left Susan behind.


So if Alex is a boy, then how would he now be a girl? First, we know that gender swaps on regeneration are fully canon. The Master and The Corsair have been both male and female in various incarnations, and the Eighth Doctor also remarked in “Seasons of Fear” that he wasn’t a beautiful woman at the moment. He was also given the option of a female incarnation when he regenerated in “The Night of The Doctor”. However, aside from guided regeneration offered by the Sisterhood of Karn there is almost nothing written about why a Time Lord would change gender.

The only hint comes from another Big Finish story in their Unbound line. Unbound is basically Marvel’s What If… except for Doctor Who, and it explores alternate universe Doctors. In “Exile” we get the closest thing to a fully-canon female Doctor, Arabella Weir. In that story it’s explained that suicide often triggers a change of gender in TimeLords, something I’ve always thought was a heartbreaking reference to the appalling suicide rate of trans people but I digress.  

Alex dies in “To the Death”, exterminated by the Daleks. However, technically, he dared the Dalek to shoot him as he rushed to the controls of a Dalek saucer. It’s not impossible to read the scene as a suicide, and that would pave the way for Williams to be the second Alex.

There are admittedly problems with this theory. The first being that by interpreting the scene as a suicide you would pretty much have to rule the deaths of several Doctors as suicides, and they didn’t result in a gender-swap. On the other hand it might not be a guaranteed result, and it’s worth noting than in the case of the death of the Tenth Doctor – as much a suicide as Alex’s – the Eleventh Doctor does initially think he is a girl.

There’s also the fact that the Eighth Doctor analyzed Alex’s DNA and found only 7 percent of his genome was Time Lord, meaning he would not be able to regenerate. The Doctor is not an accurate judge of these things though as later adventures show. The Tenth Doctor was unaware of Jenny’s ability to regenerate and River Song has the ability despite being only slightly Time Lord. It’s possible that The Doctor is simply not qualified to ascertain regenerative ability.

As a side note regarding species; Gallifreyans and Time Lords are not interchangeable terms. Gallifreyans are two-hearted humanoids from Gallifrey while Time Lords have undergone fantastic genetic modifications through unknown means and exposure to the Time Vortex. Nearly all Time Lords are Gallifreyan, but River Song (and possibly Rose Tyler as the Bad Wolf at least temporarily) proves that ascension to Time Lordship is possible in other species. There is nothing inherently uncanonical about Alex, with his mixed heritage, being a Time Lord.

Williams as Alex would be a fantastic thing for televised Doctor Who. It would give Capaldi his dream of sharing the scream with Ford’s Susan as he wanted, as well as opening the doors to talk more about The Doctor’s mysterious family life. Jake McGann (Paul McGann’s son, appropriately), who played Alex in the audios is still young enough to play the character for a regeneration, and Williams actually resembles him slightly in looks in addition to being only a few years younger than McGann. “Night of the Doctor” proved that the Eighth Doctor can pretty much return to television whenever he likes to a captive audience, and the trailer hints at a Dalek story this season which could be a flashback.

There’s been a concerted effort to bring the expanded universe, as mostly created by Big Finish, out into the light of the show, and this seems like to perfect opportunity to unite the universes in an emotionally driven, plot-twisty way. That’s my pick; Masie Williams has been cast as The Doctor’s great-grandchild, Alex Campbell. I look forward to seeing if I’m right.

Doctor Who returns September 19.

Jef has a new story about robot sharks out now in Lurking in the Deep. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter
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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
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