NOTE: This post contains SPOILERS for Doctor Who season 8.
From the addition of a new Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi, to the controversial gender change of the Master, aka Missy (Michelle Gomez), Doctor Who season 8 was divisive. On top of new actors, and a darker tone, standalone episodes of the series faced a wide spectrum of critical response – even the most well-received chapters also endured tongue-lashings from well-known Who commentators. However, in spite of the ups, downs, and disagreements over what worked and what didn’t, there’s no doubt that season 8 established a compelling foundation for the cast and writers to build on in season 9.
As usual, concrete story details remain under Steven Moffat’s tight-guard at BBC; yet, casting announcements, table read footage, leaked set photos, and the latest Doctor Who season 9 trailer have provided some tantalizing teases that fans are already attempting to unpack. The biggest question? The identity of Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) – who is confirmed for two episodes of the upcoming series and featured in a post-logo stinger at the end of the trailer. Given that The Doctor appears to recognize the girl, we’re breaking down five possibilities of who Maisie Williams could be playing.
Of course, our list is not all-inclusive, if you have your own ideas, we invite you to share them in the comments after reading our theories!
A Never Before Seen Character
When it was first announced that Williams was joining the cast for a pair of episodes, it wasn’t clear if the actress would portray an entirely new character – or be the new face of a returning Doctor Who cast member. Based on the season 9 trailer, The Doctor clearly recognizes Williams – indicating that the pair have a history; however, since Williams will appear in two episodes, fans cannot be sure that this reunion isn’t just the conclusion to a story beat that was introduced earlier in season 9.
If that were the case, and Williams is playing an completely new character, then almost anything is possible. Still, previous season 9 hints have suggested that “It’s almost like he’s running from something, something that, if it ever catches him, will turn his life upside-down,” while Capaldi himself has indicated that “she shifts in cosmic ways.” Considering the return of Missy, not to mention potential tampering with the fate of Gallifrey in the 50th Anniversary Special, it’s possible that the Doctor or Missy could have released the Could’ve Been King or The Nightmare Child from their imprisonment within the Last Great Time War.
Both abominations have been mentioned in the modern series but never shown on screen – creating an opportunity for Moffat to build a new Doctor Who hero (or villain) on the back of one-off lines of dialogue from the David Tennant years. Nevertheless, with Williams scheduled to appear in episodes titled “The Girl Who Died” and “The Woman Who Lived,” it’s equally possible that her character’s story is entirely self-contained – or merely a jumping off point for future appearances.
NEXT PAGE: The Master & The Misses
Despite appearances throughout season 8 and a full reveal in episodes “Dark Water” and “Death in Heaven,” viewers (and The Doctor) still don’t know the circumstances of The Master’s regeneration into Missy. The last time Doctor Who fans had seen the character, prior to her reappearance in season 8, was in “The End of Time” where the Master sacrificed himself to save the Doctor and was pulled into the Time-Locked Gallifrey.
Upon resurfacing, Missy is vague on exactly how she survived, and regenerated, leaving a significant amount of time and detail out of her recent backstory. As a result, it’s conceivable that Williams is playing a version of Missy from the past – before she grew into Michelle Gomez. Adult Time Lords don’t typically regenerate into children but, since fans still don’t know the conditions of Missy’s gender-swapping transformation either, it’s definitely possible the malevolent Time Lord’s latest regeneration resulted in a younger new self than normal.
After all, the regeneration process rewrites a Time Lord’s DNA entirely – resulting in mental and physical changes, as well as de-aging – so there’s no reason that a Time Lord couldn’t, technically, regenerate into a much younger body. Given that The Master made the jump from a man to a woman, her younger age would be, comparatively, easy to explain.
Fans were initially divided about Missy, especially those who do not want to see a female Doctor down the line; yet, exploring Missy’s twisted love for her fellow Time Lord, long before she resurfaces in “Dark Water,” could help flesh out the character, beyond the core twist of a female Master and a great performance from Gomez, with meaningful backstory (enough to win-over some skeptics).
The return of the Master as Missy proves that few characters are ever truly dead in Doctor Who – especially when it comes to characters with Time Lord DNA. River (Alex Kingston) “died” in the season 4 episode “Forest of the Dead” – part-2 of her introductory storyline. Regardless, viewers would see past versions of the character throughout the next three seasons of the show – until her final appearance, when River’s disembodied consciousness was summoned to aid the Time Lord in “The Name of the Doctor.” In the episode, the pair say their final goodbye and River presumably disappears for good.
While some viewers might feel that the Doctor and River’s story had been successfully closed off – especially after Matt Smith (River’s main love) passed the torch to Peter Capaldi – a different version of River, one that resurrects the character while establishing a different dynamic to explore with the Twelfth Doctor, could be a welcome mix of old and new.
Understandably, fans would have questions about how exactly River could have taken human form after being “saved” in the library data core but, as with every Doctor Who story, Moffat and his team could easily whip up a timey wimey techno-babble explanation. After all, when the Doctor and River saved the bodiless prisoners of the library (who had been uploaded to the data core), the pair also managed to “rematerialize” all of the inhabitants.
It is possible that someone could eventually figure out a way to rematerialize River as well – even if the resurrection triggered a new regeneration for River.
NEXT PAGE: The Daughter & The Granddaughter
One of modern Doctor Who’s biggest loose threads, the fate of Jenny (Georgia Moffett) – the Doctor’s Daughter has never been resolved. The last time fans saw Jenny in “The Doctor’s Daughter,” she was piloting a ship away from Messaline – to forge her own adventure in space. Jenny may not have been conceived the old fashioned way, created near-instantaneously by a progenation machine but she is the Doctor’s biological daughter – complete with two hearts and Time Lord DNA (meaning that, technically, she should be capable of regeneration).
Jenny might seem like an obvious choice but she’s not a sure-thing – since she was stranded in the far future, separated by thousands of years from the past Williams’ character appears to reside in. There’s no guarantee that Williams’ interaction with Capaldi, teased in the trailer, actually occurs in the past but, nevertheless, a recent past setting seems likely. Jenny might be a Time Lord but she doesn’t have the TARDIS.
If Williams is playing a regenerated version of The Doctor’s daughter, she’ll have needed to procure a time vortex manipulator or other time-travel tech in order to resurface in the past. Given that Jenny was last seen in the future, where humans have access to advanced tech, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to explain.
The Doctor’s daughter is, without question, a storyline that many fans would like to see re-explored – especially considering the Doctor has now outlived his actual children by centuries. For that reason, it would be interesting to see the Time Lord finally reunited with his own flesh and blood – the GENetic anomalY he believed was dead? After all, since it was Steven Moffat who suggested that Jenny should survive events of “The Doctor’s Daughter” back in 2008, it’s reasonable to think the showrunner might still have ideas for the character.
One of Doctor Who‘s original cast members (played by Carole Ann Ford) Susan Foreman is the Doctor’s granddaughter. Audiences were first introduced to the time-traveling Doctor, when Susan’s school teachers follow her home after class – and discover the TARDIS (a name Susan bestowed upon the time machine). Susan traveled with the Doctor for 51 episodes, 10 stories total, before she fell in love with a human soldier, David, and settled down with him in 2164. The two marry and, aside from a few one-off cameos in anniversary specials, the Doctor never sees Susan again; though, it is implied that Susan lived a happy life with David, using age make-up to hide that she didn’t age as fast.
Episodes in the modern series assert the Doctor’s family members are all missing or presumed dead (further complicated by events of “The Day of the Doctor” which indicate Gallifrey wasn’t destroyed) but Susan’s fate was never confirmed on screen. Susan is a full Gallifreyan – meaning that she could easily have regenerated (into Williams) after David passed away.
Considering how much the Doctor broods about being the last of his kind, it’s hard to imagine the Time Lord wouldn’t have thought to track Susan down. Maybe he never searched Susan out for fear that he’d put her in danger but, whether or not he believes she is dead, it’d still be easy to bring the character back and explain where she’s been in the interim. Like Jenny, Susan is an unresolved thread – one that Moffat might enjoy revisiting.
- The TARDIS – In “The Doctor’s Wife,” the TARDIS took on human form when it’s consciousness (aka matrix) was absorbed by a human host, a woman named Idris. Depending on the circumstances, it’s possible that Williams could be playing a similar manifestation of the TARDIS matrix.
- Clara – While versions of The Impossible Girl were spread across space and time, in order to save the Doctor, there are also plenty of reasons why the Doctor might visit his companion at a younger age. Yet, since much of season 7 and 8 was about Clara (the Impossible Girl mystery and Danny Pink romance), viewers might be ready for the focus to shift elsewhere for bit. Not to mention, Williams and Capaldi’s exchange implies a history with the Doctor (and larger implications) that a younger Clara simply would not possess.
- The Rani – A malevolent lady Time Lord (Kate O’Mara) that values scientific research and the pursuit of knowledge above all life. Last seen in 1993 (“Dimensions in Time”), The Rani’s fate remains unknown but, given that The Master and The Doctor have both managed to cheat death, there’s no reason to think The Rani couldn’t have also survived – eventually regenerating into Williams’ character.
- Romanadvoratrelundar (aka Romana) – A fellow Time Lord, Romana falls into the same category as The Rani and Susan. If the Doctor and the Master truly are the last of the Time Lords in this universe, then the showrunners would need a clever explanation for how Romana survived (and hid) – not to mention why she’s resurfacing (as Williams) now.
- The Doctor – The ultimate twist. What if Steven Moffat cast the next Doctor years before she will take the starring spotlight – and introduces the Williams Doctor in her past (the Capaldi Doctor’s present)? Easily the most far-fetched honorable mention on the list but, given Moffat’s penchant for mind-bending time-travel stories, debuting a Williams Doctor long before (and possibly more than one regeneration before) she takes on the titular role, would be an incredibly ambitious idea.
Those are just a few of our explanations for who Maisie Williams could portray in Doctor Who season 9. Sound off in the comments section below with your own theories!
Doctor Who returns on BBC and BBC America September 19th 2015.