Confession #105: I Don't Believe in Looming

Recently I stumbled across some old episodes of the TV show "Who Do You Think You Are?" Here in the US, the show has been running for eight seasons; the UK original is going on thirteen. Among the celebrities who have traced their roots on the UK version are David Tennant and several other actors associated with the program in one way or another (e.g., John Hurt, Mark Gatiss).

When I got to the US episode on actress Ashley Judd, I was startled to discover that she and I share a 10-great grandfather (making us 11th cousins). That triggered my genealogy bug again, and for the last few days I've been poking around to see if there are any new records to be found online since last I looked.

This was all in the back of my head, then, when I sat down to think about what to blog about next. Was there a way to bring genealogy into a discussion of the Whoniverse (spoiler: there's always a way)? Having discarded ideas about discussing characters like Kate Stewart (daughter of Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart) or our favorite UNIT scientist Osgood (some relation to the UNIT sergeant of the same surname?), I decided to focus on the Doctor himself.

Enter looming. For those of you who may not have read (or possibly even heard of) the Virgin New Adventures (NA) series of novels, these books continued the Seventh Doctor's story after the final televised adventure Survival. Two of these novels (Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible and Lungbarrow) included revelations about Time Lord history and how their biology was altered so that they could not reproduce sexually. Instead, new Time Lords are "loomed," or reproduced on special bio-engineering machines from extant genetic material, and "born" as adults.

Now the invention of the Looms in the NA books allowed for some interesting backstory that more firmly linked the Doctor with the legendary figure from Time Lord history known as the Other, who with Rassilon and Omega was responsible for turning Gallifreyans into Time Lords in the first place. The story supposedly goes that in early now-we're-Time-Lords history, the Other threw himself into the Looms (a final act of defiance against Rassilon, who was becoming ever more dictatorial), thus mixing his genetic material into the DNA banks.

A vast span of time—eons—later, an individual (who would become the Doctor) was born from the Loom of the House of Lungbarrow. Somehow, this individual had been born out of some large portion of the Other's genetic material (so the implication goes), making it possible for some (e.g., the Hand of Omega and Susan) to recognize the Other in him.

While this looming concept makes for intriguing possibilities for combining an unimaginably ancient entity (the Other) with a much younger, if still old, one (the Doctor), I find it all rather handwave-y. Granted, I like the idea that somehow the Doctor was also the Other at one point in time (which may have something to do with my inordinate fondness for Remembrance of the Daleks), but the idea that Time Lords can't procreate without technological intervention doesn't sit right with me.

Even setting aside all the more recent television references to the Doctor as a child (and as regular readers probably know, the content of televised stories trumps others for the sake of "canon" in my book), I always felt that his identity as Susan's grandfather was literal, rather than symbolic (despite the fact that the appellation "grandfather" is used that way in plenty of cultures). And while I've come to prefer the Doctor as an asexual character rather than one interested in boning his friends (eww, with the Eleven lusting after Clara stuff), I won't take it as far as assuming it's because his biology dictates it.

While the First Doctor's relationship with Susan is at the root of my reluctance to accept looming into my personal headcanon, I find I can't ignore the Ninth Doctor's time on screen, either. For example, in The Empty Child, Dr. Constantine expresses his weariness, saying "Before this war began I was a father and a grandfather. Now I am neither. But still a doctor." Nine replies, "Yeah. I know the feeling." From this, we can infer that not only was Susan the Doctor's granddaughter in the traditional sense (rather than simply recognizing in him the essence of her grandfather the Other), but that one of her parents was the Doctor's offspring.

If we want to, we can always find ways to make something from alternative media fit with televised canon (or televised canon fit with itself), but there would have to be an awful lot of retconning at this point to fit the Looms into the TV narrative. Even so, I don't think it's worth the effort; after all, the Time Lords strike me as far too temperamental to be tied to something so impersonal for propagating their species. There are just some things people won't sacrifice, even to manipulate time itself.




I haven't read those books and have never heard of looming before.

I think it was hinted pretty broadly last season that Missy/The Master was the mother of The Doctor's child (a daughter though apparently with Time Lords that's subject to change). That child was the parent of Susan. Though since it wasn't actually stated some future episode could totally invalidate that.

Though I also got from the episodes that Time Lords are made rather than born. Regular Gallifreyans don't have regenerations. After a child completes training something is done to them to give them regenerations and make them Time Lords. Thus it's possible that neither The Doctor's child nor Susan was actually a Time Lord, just a Gallifreyan.

It's all rather confusing and could do with clarification. And none of that covers how River Song, of human stock, became a Time Lord with regenerations because she was conceived in a TARDIS in flight.

By Kara S (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

Oh, wow—I totally didn't get that reading of Missy/the Master's relationship with the Doctor. I'll have to think on that.

I think I agree with you on Time Lords being a special subset of Gallifreyans, though again that's not how the NA books paint it (from what I understand—I've read Lungbarrow, but none of the others). And we know that the Time Lords can grant more regenerations, both from the Classic era (The Five Doctors) and the modern (Time of the Doctor).

Don't even get me started on River, though...

By mrfranklin

Watch The Magician's Apprentice and The Witch's Familliar (or whatever it was called) again. There were several places in conversations where Missy and The Doctor dance around their relationship. And at one point Missy and Clara were menaced by Daleks in the tunnels and Missy damaged one with the pin from her brooch and told Clara it had been a present from The Doctor right after... well, we won't go there. But I could hear the end of the sentence in my head. It was a present from The Doctor right after the birth of our child.

And in the last episode of the season The Doctor talks about seducing the President's daughter and I thought it was implied that he was talking about Missy. He said he had told the President's daughter (and only the President's daughter) something, something that Missy had told Clara in the Dalek tunnels.

So I'm pretty sure that's what they were implying. But we have a new showrunner taking over and who knows what direction he'll want to take the show. Perhaps one that does not include romance between Missy and The Doctor.

By Kara S (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

Even if there was a romance between the Doctor and his friend (Missy/the Master), I didn't read those lines like that at all. The comment about the gift of the brooch could have referred to practically anything; not once did it cross my mind that there was an offspring involved. Similarly, the bit about seducing the President's daughter had zero relation to Missy/the Master in my head (among other things, I've always assumed Missy is the first female-presenting incarnation the Master has had, and that the Doctor has never yet had one).

So I can see how it could be read that way, but to my mind, it's quite a stretch. :)

By mrfranklin
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