Stop reading now if you’re not a fan. No, really.
What just happened?
John Hurt, that’s what.
As I see it, inside his own timeline Matt Smith knew about John Hurt’s Doctor. Watch the show again, and you don’t see the eighth Doctor in that timeline.
Matt told the delightful Clara that John Hurt did something Bad, something that betrayed the name ‘Doctor’. There’s only one preceding Doctor that did that: 8. He ended the Time War in the Pyrrhic victory that destroyed not only the Daleks but the Time Lords and Gallifrey, too.
Could John Hurt be an aged, battle worn 8, just before he regenerated into Christopher Ecclestone’s 9? Just before we (and Rose Tyler) met him? 9 was a fresh regeneration: he kept checking himself in the mirror in Rose’s flat as if he’d never seen himself.
The idea of running from your own shame would certainly instil a fear of 8 for the Doctors afterwards.
What happens next?
Apart from setting up the 50th Anniversary Special we know Matt Smith is leaving. We’re told he’ll regenerate into 12 at Christmas. (Although a surprise early change in that Special would seem more fitting). As every other fan has an opinion about who could replace him, here’s mine. Largely so that in the unlikely event that I’m right, I can crow about it later.
Requirements: Male, tall, recognisable to the American market but not typecast in any role. English.
My tip: Paul Bettany. Perfect.