The 11th Doctor tells Amy that he is a mad man in a box. Let us think about that for a moment.
By his own definition he is saying that is actions aren’t rational, that his mind doesn’t work the same way as everyone else.
Even the Doctor has trouble understanding or anticipating what he’ll do as demonstrated in ‘The Beast Below’ and ‘The Doctor’s Wife’.
This is the man whose decisions affect the lives of everyone in space and time. A mad man in a box.
The 11th Doctor was never shy about using his reputation to terrify his enemies. In the ‘The 11th Hour’ he calls the Atraxi back to the world, having them scan the world to see what he has done to any who have tried harm Earth and telling them to run.
In ‘The Pandorica Opens’ he uses his history with assembled alien fleets above stonehenge to intimidate them. Instead of using reason or morality to motivate his enemies he uses fear.
By the end of that same episode this has back-fired against him. The fear he has generated has led to an alliance among his enemies, something that would otherwise be unthinkable. Daleks, cybermen and Sontarans all band together to stop the one thing that threatens them all, the Doctor. They even think they are saving the universe by trapping him.
Even after those events the Doctor still thinks that people should shudder at his name. Particularly in ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ he tells House that it should fear him because he killed all the Time Lords and tells Auntie and Uncle to flee because he doesn’t know what he’ll do when he becomes angry.
In ‘A Good Man Goes to War’, after taking control of the Demon’s Run the Doctor wants Colonel Manton to live a life of humiliation to serve as an example to anyone else who ever even thinks about attacking the Doctor through his companions.
It should come as no surprise to the 11th Doctor that his actions affect his title. In ‘The Beast Below’ the Doctor states that if he lobotomises the Star Whale he’ll need to change his name. It seems that there are some things he can’t do and still maintain the name Doctor.
At this point the 11th Doctor is still proactive, his very nature giving him the right to interfere in the affairs of others. In ‘The Beast Below’ he is gleeful in his attempts to bring down the government on the ship, even before he learns its secrets.
In ‘Vincent and the Doctor’ he spurred into action because he recognises the alien figure in Vincent Van Gogh’s picture as being ‘evil’. While it certainly is out of place the Doctor comes to the conclusion that this is something he must fight without ever encountering the beast or knowing what its actions are.
As it turns out the Krafayis is stranded, blind and probably very frightened. The Doctor expresses great regret when it dies. One would hope that this would teach the Doctor a lesson about being so judgemental.
Just as in ‘New Earth’ the Doctor is willing to make changes to how a society works if he disagrees with it, as seen in ‘The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People’ where he encourages the gangers and the surviving mining crew to speak out about the practice of using synthetic flesh.
In ‘Cold Blood’ the Doctor once again tries to forge peace between humans and the Silurians. He admits that he knows that time says it won’t work but he says he has to try. Much of this attitude can be attributed to his recent realisation that time can be rewritten.
This simple piece of knowledge opens up new possibilities for the Doctor and a greater freedom to how he uses time travel. In ‘The Big Bang’ he makes extensive use of time travel, including engineering his own release from the Pandorica and he goes even further in ‘A Christmas Carol’, rewriting the villains past to make him a nicer person.
It is little wonder then that the Doctor is seen as a threat. Once he questioned the power he had, hesitating to change history even if the change was ‘good’. The simple fact is that good and evil is defined by each alien culture. What is good to a Dalek or Sontaran isn’t the same as what is good for a human or Alpha Centurian.
The Doctor has long abandoned any pretence of respecting others cultures. If your morality does not line up with his then you are in danger from a foe who will rewrite history to eliminate you or change your very nature.
From the perspective of the writers the Doctor has to continue to fight evil. We expect the Doctor to be a hero and that he would stop what we would consider to be wrong. Similarly would the current audience accept a Doctor who didn’t have the mythical status that has been established since the return of the series?
With that in mind could we see the return to a simpler life for the Doctor? The first step would be to rid him of some of the crutches that have hampered him in recent years. At the top of that list is his status.
It is unavoidable that when the Doctor encounters old enemies he can intimidate them simply because of the number of times he has defeated them. There are two ways this can be avoided. Either he could encounter an old enemy at an earlier point in their history so he doesn’t yet have his feared reputation or new enemies are created to take their place, people who have no knowledge of him.
Secondly the Psychic Paper and Sonic Screwdriver should be removed or at least reduced in potency. Thankfully we’ve seen less of them during the 11th Doctor’s reign but they still serve as narrative shortcuts, rather than making the Doctor work for his victories.
Lastly the Doctor’s motivation could change. Rather than acting as judge, jury and executioner we could return to the earlier days where the Doctor was forced to act due to accident and circumstance, caught up in events that require him to act or die.
Granted that this would require a change in direction for the Doctor, possibly harming his appeal to the public, but the alternative is that his behaviour keeps escalating. Unless the Doctor becomes more vulnerable where is there to go?
When does the Doctor’s rise in power finally stop?