Please Can We Stop Saying That Doctor Who is Old?

I’ve just watched the season finale of Doctor Who. No spoilers, I promise. But one thing niggles me, that I need to rant about slightly.

One of the recurring themes in Doctor Who is how immensely old the Doctor is. Every finale adds a bit to the myth. This season has added another iota. What’s bothering me is that it’s not true. The Doctor is not old. The Doctor is a young person who has lived a very, very long time.

Here’s the difference.

You’re old when you realise that there is not enough time left in your life for something that you want to do, or that your body isn’t strong enough any more. You get older year by year as the list of things that it’s too late to do gets bigger. Train as a ballerina. Train as an athlete. Change to a career that requires a decade of training. Have a child (or another child). And so on.

As you get older, choices are blocked off. Your possibilities become fewer. Your remaining time becomes less. You are faced with mortality, with the fact that you are getting closer to death and that there is a finite maximum amount of time left to you.

The Doctor has none of this. The Doctor, if he ever dies, will die of accident, murder, or noble self-sacrifice. (Or possibly a weird accident involving two TARDISes and a chicken. It’s hard to tell with him.) But until that point, he is a Time Lord. If he is gravely injured, he can regenerate. The mere passing of time will not kill him. He does not get old as humans get old.

The Doctor is not an old man, no matter how long he lives. He is a young man with an immense amount of experience who thinks that he knows everything and is invulnerable. He’s a twenty-something lad who is hundreds of years old. (Or more. Complicated discussion postponed for another time). When you see him this way, it explains a lot about him.