Alright, I’m just going to say a thing. I’ve got a LOT of problems with the Moffat era, alright? A lot. One of my BIGGEST problems though is the whole “the oldest question in the universe…Doctor Who?” crap. Let me just tell you why. One of the main components of Doctor Who is that you take this alien…this special, out of this world - literally - crazy alien who travels around through time and space, that whether he likes it or not, interferes in the lives of others and does, in fact, change history. What he and the audience are reminded of during the show though, is that the Doctor is not the be-all, end-all of the universe. He’s just not. Even Eleven tells Amy, “I really am just a madman with a box.” It is quite literally impossible for the oldest question in the universe to be “Doctor Who?” because the Doctor is not the oldest creature in the universe…he’s not even the oldest Time Lord. Gallifrey was around long before the Doctor.
Let’s also go back to “The Impossible Planet”/”The Satan Pit.” The second the TARDIS lands on the ship on Krop Tor, the Doctor and Rose spot some writing on the wall…funny thing about this writing…they can’t read it. Why not? Because the TARDIS can’t translate it. Why can’t the TARDIS translate it? Because as the Doctor explains, the writing is old- older than the TARDIS, older than the Doctor himself. Throughout the episode, the Doctor calls into question his own beliefs…beliefs and rules that he has made for himself based on what he knows. What a wake-up call to realize even he doesn’t know everything. This episode is brilliant in that it shows the very human quality of the Doctor’s arrogance. He assumes that he is completely right in what he knows about the universe but then the Doctor realizes, or rather, is reminded that’s why he travels…to learn - to challenge what he already knows because as he says, “‘Day I know everything…might as well stop!”
The Doctor doesn’t know all. He can’t know all. He can’t have all the answers and not everything begins and ends with him, which is the sort of feeling one gets when watching episodes from the Moffat era. So really, with the Doctor being finite, flawed, and at times extremely human, it is absurd to suggest that the Doctor is tied up with the “oldest question in the universe” because that’s an extremely big statement. There were people and civilizations and beliefs BEFORE the universe and BEFORE the Doctor and obviously even after the universe came into being so the idea that “Doctor Who?” is the oldest question in the universe is frankly ridiculous and makes him out to be some sort of god-like figure and though I love the Doctor, I agree with him, he’d make an extremely bad god.
The Doctor has to be reminded, whether it be by companions or events in his life, that in the grand scheme of things, he is small. He is one person in the entire universe in the whole expanse of time itself. The Doctor is this larger than life figure…this ridiculous, adventurous, loving, completely mad person but at the same time, he’s just one person. He is the last of his kind (in theory) and thus feels a responsibility to protect the universe, driven in large part by a guilty conscience and obviously he’s not human so there are things that he will be able to do that are extraordinary and completely unique to a Time Lord. However, there are limits to what he can do and what he is entitled to do. By making the oldest question in the universe revolve around him….one man in the entire universe in the whole of time itself….gives a certain importance to him that I think rather misses the point of the lonely traveler trying, and unfortunately but inevitably failing to save everyone. Like the Doctor says, the universe is vast and magnificent and as his fascination with humanity proves, so much bigger and so completely full of more surprises and mysteries than he will ever understand.