Our best kept secret: The Doctor is a Glasgow graduate
The season finale of Doctor Who confirmed that the much-loved TV time lord is a graduate of Glasgow.
Known for his adventures travelling through time and space, keeping us safe from evil monsters, the Doctor is one of the world’s best loved aliens. Over the years, he has told various stories about studying at Glasgow. Stories which have been filled with inconsistencies. Is he really our most famous fictional alumnus?
Death in Heaven, the season finale which aired on Saturday 8 November 2014, seemed to answer that question when the Doctor’s companion Clara Oswald referred to his Glasgow degree. While pretending to be the Doctor in an effort to save herself from an army of Cybermen, one of the planet’s deadliest enemies, she said: ‘I don’t even really have a doctorate. Well Glasgow University, but then I accidentally graduated in the wrong century.’
The current writer and producer behind the series, Steven Moffat (MA 1983), is a Glasgow graduate. An enthusiastic fan of the show since childhood, Steven became head writer and executive producer in 2010 after several years writing for the show. It's Steven who has been attributed to the recent rise in success of Doctor Who.
But it was long before Steven was a writer on the show that the Doctor claimed he studied at the University. In 1967, the Second Doctor (played by Patrick Troughton), in the Moonbase series of Doctor Who, said he had graduated in medicine at Glasgow in "1888, I think...Lister".
Professor of Surgery Joseph Lister developed a revolutionary system of antiseptic surgery while at the University from 1860 to 1869. But this was over 15 years before the Doctor claims to have been here.
The Fourth Doctor (played by Tom Baker) included Lister in his CV but dated the degree to 1880.
And the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davidson) told American college student Peri Brown that he could be a medic in the American Civil War because he had a degree from Glasgow.
Statements filled with inconsistencies on the Doctor’s qualifications have had Whovian’s (Doctor Who enthusiasts) debating his doctor status for years. He renounced claims to a degree, except a ‘purely honorary’ one, in the 1974/75 episode Robot, and contradictorily showed advanced medical knowledge in the 'The Trial of a Time Lord' in 1986.
On several occasions the Doctor has called himself a scientist as well as displaying great knowledge of the law. It seems he could simply be a "Doctor of many things" as he stated in Revenge of the Cybermen in 1975.
But did he study at Glasgow? While Saturday's revelations don’t tell us exactly what he studied, it does suggest that the Doctor took a flexible approach to his studies at Glasgow. Being over two thousand years old, spending his life jumping between civilisations to save the world, this makes sense. He says he got a medical degree at Glasgow, perhaps we have to just take him at his word.
In the archives
Is there evidence of the Doctor's time on campus lurking in our University archives? Our archives have uncovered an intriguing matriculation record.
University archivist and Doctor Who fan, Lesley Richmond, has a theory.
"There are a few problems with the Doctor's Glasgow claims," says Lesley. "Lister wasn’t here in the 1880s. And, when you look at the different dates the Doctor says he was here, it doesn’t add up.
"One of my theories is that he came to consult with some of the greatest scientific minds of the time, because he was developing the sonic screwdriver," suggests Lesley. "Now, who better to assist than Lord Kelvin?"
The sonic screwdriver is one of the Doctor’s sophisticated gadgets. It allows him to unlock anything and remotely control other devices. Lord Kelvin was Professor of Natural Philosophy from 1846–1899, which means the Doctor could have taken his classes in advanced mathematical physics as well as used his electrical engineering laboratory to develop the screwdriver.