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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > The Essential Doctor Who 15: Relative Dimensions > DOUBLE LIVES


On numerous occasions the Doctor we see on screen has been more – or sometimes less – than he, or she, appears. How has this been possible? And what are the implications of the Doctor’s split personalities?

W e’re in the unreal Oval Office of an unreal White House, where an unreal Doctor (Peter Capaldi) has just learned that his whole world is a holographic simulation – a “practice Earth” projected by a cadre of cadaverous alien Monks for the purposes of invasion planning.

“You are not the Doctor. You are not real,” says the very real Monk (voiced by Tim Bentinck) who’s just caused the Doctor’s really unreal companion, Bill (Pearl Mackie), to very really dissipate. But the unreal Doctor disagrees, telling the Monk: “Oh, you don’t have to be real to be the Doctor. Long as you never give up. Long as you always trick the bad guys into their own traps…”

You don’t have to be real to be the Doctor; there’s a hypothesis worth testing. This is the world of Extremis (2017) – and when the unreal Doctor subsequently emails a recording of his last few hours to the real Doctor, in the real world, he maybe even saves that Doctor, and that world, by alerting him to the oncoming storm. Can we really call that Doctor ‘unreal’, when he has such a real effect?

Excluding mechanical doubles (The Chase, 1965; The Android Invasion, 1975) and coincidental lookalikes (The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve, 1966; The Enemy of the World, 1967-68), the virtual Doctor of Extremis isn’t the only not-quite-actual Doctor we’ve encountered. Think back eight regenerations, to The Invisible Enemy (1977) – in which the Doctor (Tom Baker), his brain invaded by a vicious space virus, proposes using the so-called Kilbracken technique to create clones of both himself and his companion Leela (Louise Jameson). Consulting surgeon Professor Marius (Frederick Jaeger) describes how both “heredity and experience” are transferred when these “photocopy twins” are brought into being – but the transfer is unstable, giving them a maximum life of “ten or 11 minutes”. Reduced to microscopic size, the clones are then injected into the Doctor’s neck, so they might embark on a fantastic voyage to seek out the heart of the infection…

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Doctor Who’s creators envisaged a series that would go forwards, backwards and sideways in time. The Doctor’s trips to parallel universes and alternative dimensions have provided the show with some of its best-loved adventures – from its black-and-white beginnings to the latest episodes, starring Jodie Whittaker. Uncover the background to these memorable journeys and explore the greatest stories beyond the television series in this lavish publication, which is packed full of exclusive features and rare images.