I’ve already discussed how secrets are a key element of Doctor Who here and the Doctor discusses his own secrets in ‘The Rings of Akhaten’. It is a great speech and one worth analysing.
It gives us the perspective of the Doctor as a being who has seen incredible, unique things. We have been lucky enough to witness some of these events by his side but there is much more that we don’t know.
It can also be useful to consider if your own player characters are in such a privileged position. If they were to relate their own life and experiences to another would it be just as impressive?
“I walked away from the Last Great Time War. I marked the passing of the Time Lords.”
We now know that the Doctor doesn’t have an accurate memory of what occurred at the end of the Time War at this stage in his life. Does his statement here refer to his attempt as the 8th Doctor to avoid the conflict?
All evidence suggests that he thought he was responsible for destroying Gallifrey using the Moment. One could hardly consider that as walking away from the Time War. Is the Doctor lying here, when he otherwise should be telling the truth?
We might also consider in what way he marked the passing of his people. Did he take a moment before ‘Rose’ to remember their deaths. Is there some graveyard or memorial built by the Doctor?
“I saw the birth of the universe and I watched as time ran out, moment by moment, until nothing remained. No time. No space. Just me.”
This could refer to the reboot of the universe in ‘The Big Bang’, just in the reverse order. He might consider that the universe (the old version of it) did vanish around him and until Amy recalled him he was in limbo. As the universe was recreated he saw its birth.
This doesn’t quite fit but aside from some brushes with Event 1 the Doctor hasn’t been depicted at the start of the universe. He also didn’t stick around long enough in ‘Utopia’ to see it end.
There can be few who can say they’ve seen both the start and the end of the universe. Adventures depicting these events are by their nature epic. What would convince the Doctor to travel to these very dangerous regions of time.
At the beginning of the universe a time traveller might witness the arrival of ancient beings from the previous reality. At its end powerful beings from our universe could be trying to escape into the next.
If the PCs do find themselves at the end of the universe would they be tempted to escape as well? What might they discover on the other side?
“I walked in universes where the laws of physics were devised by the mind of a mad man.”
There have been instances in which the Doctor has found himself in an artificial reality, governed by a mad man. Candidates include the Land of Fiction from ‘The Mind Robbers’, the antimatter universe ruled by Omega in ‘The Three Doctors’, the pocket dimension conjured up by the Master in ‘Castrovalva’ or the Divergent Universe the 8th Doctor becomes trapped in from ‘Scherzo’ to ‘The Next Life’.
The way the Doctor phrases it suggests that the universes were created by the mind of the same mad man. Possibly he is referring to the two realities that the Dream Lord created but these were not true universes in which case we’ve not seen this depicted. Who is the mad man and how was he able to create multiple universes (as opposed to dimensions). How did the Doctor become trapped there and how did he escape?
“I’ve watched universes freeze and creations burn.”
Again we are given a hint that the Doctor has experienced things on an epic scale. Here he is depicting himself as someone who has seen various fates befall multiple universes, where as he has previously indicated that other universes are difficult to travel to (he spent a long time trying to escape E-Space). Now the Doctor claims to have encountered many.
What could he mean when he says that watched universes freeze? This could be the heat death of the universe or that it was being placed in stasis (perhaps for storage). Since he watched it happen we can assume the Doctor felt that this needed to occur.
Watching creations burn could cover a range of things, from small items to worlds to universes. Likely he saw much destruction in the Time War. By all accounts few worlds were spared.
“I have seen things you wouldn’t believe. I have lost things you’ll never understand.”
Both these statements relate to what a planet sized parasite might or might not believe or understand.
Certainly there have been things in Doctor Who that are unbelievable. Alien worlds and time travel are not within most peoples range of experiences.
We think we know what the Doctor has lost; his people, his family, his friends even his own life. It is also possible that there are other losses that we haven’t witnessed. One of the most enduring mysteries is the Doctor’s wife (Susan’s grandmother), although the books do tackle that.
Still there are plenty of material to be mined from other people and things the Doctor has lost. There may be things beyond our imagining. Things that only a Time Lord might understand such as alternative time lines or aspects of his nature that go beyond the physical.
“Knowledge That Must Never Be Spoken.”
This might be the biggest new piece of information. The Doctor knows things that he can’t talk about, presumably because it would be dangerous to do so. We’ve seen evidence that information can be spread amongst time and space. The location of the Doctor’s grave was one piece of information that was recently revealed and almost ended reality.
In all his adventures the Doctor has thwarted many dangerous plans and destroyed technology that has endangered whole worlds. If the Doctor has taken steps to conceal his own identity it stands to reason he might use time travel to prevent anyone from replicating these plans or technology.
The Doctor might be aware on a subliminal level that he knows that Gallifrey hasn’t been destroyed, which later has a huge impact on the universe in ‘Time Of The Doctor’. Even if he doesn’t he might know other things that would be equally shocking for others to learn.
How deep has the Doctor buried this knowledge? What might an enemy learn if they probed his mind? Could there be circumstances in which he would reveal secret knowledge and what would he do to prevent it being used?
PCs in your campaign could learn that the Doctor has dangerous information. They might not know what it is but understand that while the Doctor lives the whole of reality is in terrible danger. Would they help safeguard that knowledge or find a way to silence him (maybe even wipe his memory)?