Jodie Whitaker’s time as the Thirteenth Doctor in Doctor Whowill come to an end in October 2022, which is when Ncuti Gatwa will take the reign as the Fourteenth Doctor. With Whitaker’s tenure adding more layers to the character first introduced nearly six decades ago, there’s enough to know what makes the protagonist tick.

The Doctor’s fears have a multifaceted quality, ranging from rational ones like dying, to more personal ones such as their fear of crossing moral horizons. Whether it was someone generally lighthearted like the Eleventh Doctor or a darker incarnation like the War Doctor, these underlining fears have dominated the character’s psyche.


To Not Be In Control Of Every Situation

This happens to be one of the flaws in every Doctor Who protagonist, in that they get scared when others are calling the shots. The Doctor is most confident when they believe they can conjure a great escape no matter how deadly a situation, but losing control reverts them to a terrified state.

For example, the Thirteenth Doctor lost her composure upon O’s reveal as the new Master, which got her to forget her plan at the time because the latter had the upper hand in the situation. Similarly, the First Doctor escaped Gallifrey due to his fear of being controlled by the Time Lords.

To Be Forced Into A Life Of Inaction

The Doctor is constantly traveling due to their fear of feeling trapped in one place, which is why the TARDIS serves as the perfect place for them to be in. Being scared of inaction was best shown when the Eleventh Doctor had to stay with Amy and Rory without using the TARDIS, while spending a normal life felt like torture for him.

The Doctor craves adventure as part of their lifestyle, without which they retreat into a shell of their real personality. The Eleventh Doctor had given into this fear after losing Amy and Rory, spending a century in isolation as a way of hurting himself for letting the pair be lost to the past.

To Be Forced Into Taking Lives

No matter which version of the Doctor it is in Doctor Who, they never want to be in a situation where they decide what happens to someone’s life. The best example of this scenario was when the Fourth Doctor was terrified of potentially destroying all the Daleks, not wanting to be responsible for the death of a sentient civilization.

The Doctor wants to be seen as a healer than a destroyer, so the prospect of taking lives rather than saving them is a scary thought for the protagonist. It’s the reason why he was adamantly against the Time War, as the Doctor knew he would have to cross his moral horizon.

To Be Reminded Of The Time War

The Time War was the most traumatic experience in the Doctor’s life, which they continue to be tortured by centuries later. The Ninth Doctor’s tortured mentality best exemplified the fear of resurfacing memories of the Time War, as he would lose all composure and take to shouting.

The Time War reminds the Doctor of all moral boundaries they had to cross, along with remembering the screams of the people who had died. The Twelfth Doctor considered his experience in the war to be so troubling that he considered any war on Earth to be something of a child’s tantrum in comparison.

The Potential Collapse Of The Universe

This fear was the undertone of all the Doctor Who episodes in the Steven Moffat era, as the Doctor even saw it as part of his greatest fear when he was confronted with it. The cracks in the universe were signs of a potential collapse of everything that had ever been, which terrified the protagonist.

The Doctor saw the vastness of the universe to be everything that ever was and ever will be, so losing it all meant complete destruction no matter where they tried to take the TARDIS. While fallout from war can be healed over time, the universe’s collapse would be permanent.

To Say Goodbye To Loved Ones

A lot of the worst things the Doctor has done in Doctor Who have to do with abandoning companions or not caring about the fallout from their actions. But this stems from the fear of letting go, as the Doctor generally can’t cope with having to say goodbye.

To this end, the Doctor effectively delays anything that might come to an end – it’s the reason why they never went back to meet their granddaughter one more time. River Song figured this out by noting that the Doctor doesn’t like endings. The few times the Doctor has grappled with farewells have shown them make a great effort to push through the fear.

To Face Their Own Death

The Tenth Doctor’s time was dominated by his fear of death, with this incarnation scouring the universe for some way to avoid his fate. Similarly, the Eleventh Doctor spent the entirety of the sixth series looking for a way to avert his death, which seemed to be a fixed point in time.

The Doctor is afraid of death because they don’t know what comes next. While they have made sacrifices numerous times, it’s always been during times of crisis rather than due to prior knowledge. The prospect of knowing when they will die is torturous to the Doctor’s psyche.

To Be Unsuccessful In Saving Everyone

The Doctor never lets themselves consider the possibility someone might perish, always hoping they can save everyone. The Ninth Doctor was ecstatic the one time he thought everyone had lived, which was one of the few times the Doctor openly spoke of his fear.

The protagonist’s fear of losing lives primarily came from Adric’s demise, which was the first time he had completely failed at his duty of care. Losing his companion magnified the Doctor’s need to save people, as they became scared of feeling the same pain once more.

To Fail To Live Up To The Ideals Of The Doctor Title

The Doctor doesn’t inherently consider themselves a good person and has come up with rules to prevent their “real self” from stirring up. The Eleventh Doctor outright said he wasn’t a good man and threatened his enemies with the side of him that doesn’t follow rules as the one they didn’t want to see.

The Doctor remains in fear of the possibility of breaking this rules, mainly because they think something monstrous can come out of it. The Sixth Doctor was terrified of seeing the Valeyard, who was supposedly an evil version of his future self. Meanwhile, the Eighth Doctor chose to regenerate rather than cross the boundaries he had set – the War Doctor was considered a warrior who wasn’t worthy of being the Doctor.

To Be Perpetually Alone

The Doctor might be able to deal with death, war, and destruction, but it’s isolation that they fear above all else. The protagonist’s relationship with the TARDIS has been so codependent because the Doctor sees it as the one thing that prevents them from being completely alone.

The fear of loneliness is also what’s driven other fears such as losing companions, being inactive, and breaking rules, as the Doctor is afraid of who they might become if they don’t have someone keeping them company. It’s another reason why the Doctor was so attached to the likes of Rose, Clara, and Sarah Jane, among others because they kept them grounded and without the fear of isolation.

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