What is a fobwatch to a Time Lord? A device that holds his memories safely tucked away, hidden from danger, even from himself? We see the Gallifreyan time piece throughout the Classic Who series, but we really get concrete information about the device in series 3, starting with “Human Nature” S03E07.
According to the story, Time Lord science developed the Chameleon Arch, which allowed the user to change the biology of himself, with the help of a perception filter, a headset that scrambled one’s brain and a fob watch, to keep the memories tucked safely away. The user will not remember any part of himself while the Chameleon Arch is in place, and that in itself can be problematic, as we see with Ten and, later, the Master. Audiences first see the fob watch outside of Classic Who in “Human nature/The Family of Blood” S03E08&09, when the Doctor uses the Chameleon Arch to become a fully human John Smith, with Martha as his maid. In 1914. Yeah, I’ve got issues with the turn-of-the-century racism, but that’s not the point of this post…
We next see the fob watch when the Doctor, Martha and Captain Jack Harkness are mysteriously whisked away to the end of time in “Utopia” S03E11, where they meet Professor Yana, a human regeneration of the Doctor’s oldest enemy, the Master. The Master also hides away his essence in the fob watch, becoming human and forgetting how horrible he is and how much he hates humanity and the Doctor. When the Master finally does open the watch and regain his former self, he alienates his companion and she shoots him. We then get Professor Yana regenerating into Harold Saxon, who is the formidable lifelong enemy of the Doctor, the apparent Prime Minister of Great Britain, and a young man with some serious mental health issues.
Finally, we see the fob watch is in the 2009 David Tennant Specials at the end of Series 4. In “The Next Doctor” S04E15, the Doctor is in Victorian England on Christmas and meets a mysterious man only known as, “The Doctor,” and his companion, Rosita. Ten introduces himself as John Smith, and is almost sure that he is interacting with a future version of himself that must have lost his memory to the Chameleon Arch. We see the next Doctor’s fob watch, and anticipate a flow of timey-wimey energy when Ten goes to open it. Alas, the next Doctor is only a human who has legitimately lost his memory due to trauma and our dear Time Lord is left to contemplate his mortality, as he knows regeneration is imminent and inevitable.
Audiences haven’t seen the fob watch since Tennant’s reign as the Doctor, but that doesn’t mean the technology isn’t still in the TARDIS. Will Peter Capaldi’s Doctor have some sort of use for the device? Was it just a piece of the RTD Whoniverse that has since become irrelevant? Regardless, the image of the Gallifreyan time piece has forever been etched into the hearts of Whovians, perfecting cosplay outfits across all of time and space.
The Collectiva Diva
**These images and videos are not mine. If they are yours, let me know so I can give you credit.**
- The Sky is Empty: What is Faith to a Time Lord? (acollectivemind.wordpress.com)
- A Fantastic Leather Coat: A Ninth Doctor Appreciation Post (acollectivemind.wordpress.com)