This November, the Sorcerer Supreme will be revealed to the world as Doctor Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts! In Marvel's fourteenth movie to date, we're going to see an origin story, in which renowned neurosurgeon Stephen Strange falls from grace, before rising higher than he's ever done before. Much of the film is shrouded in mystery - we only recently learned the name of the main villain! - so every detail is being pored over by fans. One of the greatest mysteries has been the role of Rachel McAdams's character - but I might just have unravelled it...
WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF DOCTOR STRANGE?
A talented but vain neurosurgeon, Stephen Strange was an expert within his field. The death of his mother left Strange distanced from the world, and he become cold and aloof, confident only of his own abilities. He was obsessed with monetary wealth, charging astronomical fees - but his skills were so great that he was paid them.
Then came the turning point; Strange was injured in a car accident, and his hands were terribly damaged, and he soon realized that he would never be able to conduct surgery again. He spent his fortune trying to find a cure, and was reduced to an impoverished derelict, bereft of hope. After hearing rumors of the Ancient One, Strange pawned his last possessions to book a ticket to Tibet, where he became the Ancient One's apprentice. There, he learned the mystic arts, and - although his hands were not healed - he gradually regained the humanity that he had long since lost.
We don't yet know how the #MCU version of this story will run, but we do know that the script diverges from it in one distinct way; Rachel McAdams is playing the character of Christine Palmer, a nurse who works alongside Stephen Strange and will play a key role. But who is she, and why has she been added to the film?
MEET MARVEL'S NIGHT NURSES!
In the early 1970s, Marvel published a series known as Night Nurse. #NightNurse explored the medical adventures of three female leads, Linda Carter, Georgia Jenkins, and Christine Palmer. It was a short lived but remarkable series, and each of the three girls were characterised strongly. Their commitment to their careers was remarkable; In the first issue alone, one of the girls chose her career over marriage and wealth.
Marvel has never forgotten the Night Nurses. Linda Carter returned in the 2000s as a nurse who embraced an unusual vocation, treating the wounds of superheroes. She's occasionally teamed up with Doctor Strange, and the two have shared a few romantic moments; at one point she moved into the Sanctum Sanctorum, and practised from there. The character already acted as the inspiration for Rosario Dawson's Claire Temple, a key fixture in Marvel Netflix; appropriately enough, since Linda was originally re-introduced over in the pages of Daredevil.
Christine Palmer is a far more unusual choice, though. She's only popped up once since Night Nurse - in a brief Nightcrawler series, where she was still a practising nurse, and worked with the X-Man Nightcrawler to confront supernatural terrors. The series showed the first tentative hints of romance between the two, but these were forgotten when that short-lived (but excellent) series ended.
WHY HAS MARVEL STUDIOS CHOSEN TO USE CHRISTINE PALMER?
The decision to cast Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer is an unusual one. Although she shares Doctor Strange's medical background, over in the comics she's never been connected to him in any way. This is in marked contrast to Linda Carter, whose identity would have seemed far more appropriate for use in the film.
Unless, that is, you take a look back at the original Night Nurse comics. Night Nurse #2 showed Christine Palmer working alongside the brilliant William Sutton, a gifted surgeon whose skill was threatened by a terrible shaking in his hands. Sutton used his genius to cover up his weakness, depending on Christine's position as his Special Assistant to cover for him. Gradually she discovered that Sutton wasn't the great man she thought he was; that he was faking hospital records to procure and sell expensive drugs, and that - terrified of the worsening of his medical condition - he was turning to drink.
It's not hard to compare the stories of Dr. William Sutton to Dr. Stephen Strange. Both are brilliant surgeons, both become unable to perform their role due to the shaking of their hands and now, through the MCU, both will be tied to Christine Palmer. Is it possible that Doctor Strange will combine the two characters, showing us a Stephen Strange who falls even farther than in the comics before he finally heads to the Ancient One?
We already know that the character's going to return later in the film. Kevin Feige described Rachel McAdams's character like this:
"A fellow surgeon that has a history with Strange and is his sort of lynchpin to his old life, once he steps into he role of a sorcerer. She is someone he connects with at the beginning, and reconnects with, and helps anchor his humanity."
There are some fascinating possibilities, making Rachel McAdams's Christine Palmer far more than just a love-interest in this story. Now, I'm not saying for certain that Doctor Strange will show the Sorcerer Supreme's fall so far; but this kind of story definitely sounds like writer / director Scott Derickson's speciality. Doctor Strange may well have the potential to be one of the most intriguing Marvel movies to date!