The varying story archetypes of the Doctor Who universe

Father’s Day
Rise of the Cybermen
The age of Steel
Last of the Time Lords
Face the Raven
Hell Bent
Heaven Sent


This is a response to the article Archetypes and Variation Fiction by Andrea Lundgren. In that article, Lundgren outlines numerous archetypes in storytelling. I noticed that a lot of these could be applied to the Doctor Who universe.

Cinderella story. We’ve all seen these, good and bad, to the point where it has become a cliché, but a Cinderella story is one in which the hero goes from “rags to riches.” Thus, King Arthur (going from the orphan Wart to the recognized king of the realm), Joseph and Moses in Egypt (going from powerless to powerful), and The Little Princess all fit this mold. Even stories like Mansfield Park, where the heroine goes from being unwanted and unappreciated to being valued and loved have a Cinderella aspect. The archetype is there because we all long for things to improve, to get better, for the worst to be the turning point where things start getting better, where what looks like defeat turns into glorious success.

This is the most common archetype in the Doctor Who universe, particularly with the companions, and especially under Russell T. Davies.

Rose Tyler originally (in Rose) lived in a flat with her single, unemployed mother, Jacqueline. In Father’s Day, we learn that Rose’s Father, Peter, was killed when Rose was a child. When travelling to a parallel world in Rise of the Cybermen, Rose discovers a version of her life in-which her parents stayed together, Peter’s enterprise was successful, making him a millionaire, but Rose herself never existed. In The age of Steel, parallel world Jacqueline is also killed, making parallel world Peter without a wife. Finally, in Doomsday, Rose and Jacqueline settle-down with Peter in his mansion. The family that Rose never had has suddenly been given to her, and Rose becomes literally a richer person for it.

Savior story. This doesn’t have to be Christian, though Christian fiction often uses this archetype. It occurs where a world (or person) is in trouble and a hero must come, sacrificing greatly to save what is otherwise lost. In this vein, we have stories like Captain AmericaThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Casablanca, and Gweneviere and Lancelot and their sacrifice of their love for the good of Camelot (which didn’t entirely work, probably because the sacrifice was too little, too late). I’d even say that, in some ways, Pride and Prejudice fits this mold because Darcy rescues the Bennett family from complete social ruin and gives up his family pride for the sake of Elizabeth.

The Saviour Story was another of Davies’ preferred archetypes in his version of Doctor Who.

In Last of the Time Lords, the Savoir story is used to its highest degree. The Master has taken over the world, but the Doctor has restored himself to the ability to release Earth from the Master’s captivity. In doing so, the Master chooses to die rather than be the Doctor’s prisoner. While losing the Master was a small sacrifice for Earth’s freedom, the Master’s death makes the Doctor the Last of the Time Lords; thus, saving Earth meant sacrificing the Doctor’s own race, making the Doctor a savior figure.

Revenge story. While this isn’t always the happiest of plots, revenge has a long-standing tradition and links with the archetypal longing for justice, for wrongs to be righted. In this respect, many westerns with vigilante justice as part of their plot belongs to this category, as does The Count of Monte Cristo, Hamlet (up until Hamlet returns to Denmark, in my opinion; at that point, he has given justice into the hands of Providence), and one of the plots in The Princess Bride (“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”) To some degree, I suppose even the Harry Potter series has a touch of this, where Harry is trying to stop the villain who killed his parents.

While the Doctor doesn’t normally take revenge, there have been occasions in-which this has been the case.


In Face the Raven, Clara Oswald is killed as part of an alien conspiracy. The Doctor is powerless to save Clara, having been captured and teleported away to the mastermind behind the plot. In Heaven Sent, the Doctor spends four-and-a-half billion years fighting to escape from his prison in order to take his revenge against Clara’s killers. And in Hell Bent, the Doctor becomes Hell Bent upon doing so, as he returns to Gallifrey, threatens to kill Lord President Rassilon and assassinates Rassilon’s guard, the General. The Doctor then steals a TARDIS in order to return to Clara’s death and save her.

Original article

Author: alexsigsworth

Basically... run.

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