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What was life on Gallifrey like Pre-Time War?

Guest contributor James Taylor ponders how Gallifreyan society might have worked.

doctor-who---series-7b_final_gallifrey

With only limited knowledge of the Doctor’s home planet, which is prominently shown in New Who during the Time War, I have to wonder what life was like on Gallifrey pre-Time War, and even pre-Doctor. How would their society have worked, especially with regenerations and with them effectively being the owners of time? Could this be an element that is explored if Gallifrey is to return to the show? I will now look at some of the key issues and components that will need to be addressed if Gallifrey is to function as a planet for the Time Lords.

Note: this article does not include elements added in non-TV media.

Regeneration

time-regen-limitSo as we all know, when a Time Lord is fatally wounded, they have the ability to ‘cheat death’ and completely rewrite their biology, their face and personality. Obviously in a society this could cause a few issues. For example what if you was going to work one day, you fall down some stairs, regenerate, come back home to your wife looking completely different and having to say ‘yeah, it happened again, that’s my second time this week.’ Not only do you have a different face, but a different personality. What if you go from looking like a 20-year-old, fun-loving guy who wears bowties, to looking like a 50-odd-year-old Time Lord rebel with no neckwear? This would create a different relationship with your wife, friends and children. Or is this just what we are observing from the Doctor’s viewpoint? Could it be that on Gallifrey, you maintain a similar personality as a Time Lord law is to devote yourself to a life of duty? The Doctor can change completely because he’s just a madman with a box, this may not be the case on Gallifrey. Also, maybe regeneration isn’t just ‘exploding’ on Gallifrey, maybe there is a hospital like place where your regeneration will be smoother, unlike the Doctor’s in which he burst into a fantastic display of energy.

Individuality

gallifreyan-girl-dayOkay, so this point was touched upon earlier, but how do Gallifreyans separate themselves from one another. Like I commented on before, is Gallifrey a collective planet in which they will all honour traditions and duty to create a stable society, or can the population flourish in their own businesses making jazzy Time Lord head gear? In ‘The Day of the Doctor’ we see the adults and children on Gallifrey all wearing the red velvety type clothing. Are there any wanting to express themselves in blue or green, or do any teenage girls get yelled at for wearing their robes knee height? Maybe Gallifrey is split into sectors, for example, Arcadia and the Citadel are powerful cities, and maybe it is a sign of respect they wear red, whereas in other parts of Gallifrey, there are different Time Lord fashions. This is a point that could be developed very effectively in the show.

Crime and Punishment

troughton-regenWhat would constitute as a crime and how would different sentences be handed out? So, other than stealing a TARDIS or mass genocide, what other crimes could happen on Gallifrey? As seen in ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’, River Song was able to ‘gift’ regenerations to the Doctor, likewise in ‘The Time of the Doctor’ with the Time Lords. My question is (And if you have ever watched the film ‘In Time’ this could be easier to understand), is there a way to steal someone’s regenerations, as in, being able to grab hold and absorb them? And the more you take the longer your sentence. Maybe there could be some dodgy black market time travel like in the film ‘Looper.’ Furthermore, how would a sentence be carried out? As seen through Patrick Troughton’s 2nd incarnation of the Doctor, the Time Lords are able to force regeneration as a punishment. If you do something terrible, could you be sentenced to death flat out, or depending on the crime you get certain amounts of regenerations taken from you? For example theft is maybe 2 regenerations whereas complete genocide is your whole 13?

Jobs

tennant ten poundsNow we’re talking about how Time Lords make cash, or credits, as the universal currency in Doctor Who is known as. I mean there are billions on Gallifrey, so how similar are their jobs to humans? Many jobs can be transferred to Gallifrey. For instance, banking, farming, builders etc… But what jobs could be challenged? Okay so imagine now, a Gallifreyan support centre. I mean if a TARDIS breaks down, or any other form of technology, you may need help. Now imagine working there for over a 1000 years. And we thought we stay in our jobs for a long time! Jobs like these have to exist in order for a society to function smoothly. A cashier at a shop or cleaner at the Time Lord academy has to be there to make everything carry on. On a final note, at what regeneration do you think ‘Sod it, I’ve had enough, I’m retiring.’ I mean, Matt Smith was the final regeneration of the Doctor, but it didn’t stop him working in a shop!

Conclusion

Overall, I think if Gallifrey was to return to the show then eventually the Doctor would have to visit his planet, seeing his family, friends and the community, then elements like these (taken more seriously) have to be addressed. Obviously there will be a lot of rebuilding, but rebuilding back to their former glory, or starting a whole new society in the ideals of the Doctor? I think if Gallifrey is to return, it would be fantastic to delve into Time Lord society and really explore how these Time Lords lived, and more interestingly, why the Doctor wanted to run from them all them years ago.

Step back in time...

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65 comments
Kathrin Lily Franke
Kathrin Lily Franke

"You called the TARDIS your home. Is it your home, really?" 


"I suppose it is these days. Gallifrey, my home planet, will always have a hold on me, I imagine. But I never felt that I really belonged there. All the endless tradition and ceremony, the mind-numbing tedium of following a path that has been set for generations, and won't change for generations more." [...] 


"Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't stop my wanderings and settle down." 


"Could you do that, really?"




 "No, I don't think so. There is so much of the universe I've still to see, so many peoples and races I've yet to meet and so many wonders and new ideas just waiting to be found... and so much evil to be fought. [...] So many people can't protect themselves. Those of us who can must help do it. We must. Whatever it costs us. Sadly my people don't agree with me." From 'No Place like Home' a free Fifth Doctor Audio (with Erimem) 















I understand you had to draw the line somewhere, the spin-off/ tie-in canon (comics, audios, novels) is really quite overwhelming - but much of what just wouldn't work on screen has been explored there. But I think this little scene up there at least shows the Doctor's motivations for leaving in the first place... and not going back too much. Unless he's called back in one way or the other. 

teddybowties - the one on FFN not Tumblr
teddybowties - the one on FFN not Tumblr

the Master has tried to steal them before. and there is an 11th Docto rbook called 'Borrowed Time' which reveals something called the BLACK TIME MARKET.;) good stuffs.Plus, the different 'houses' of Gallifrey each have their own color. i find it plausible that each chapterhouse (not House, as that is the family line- pardon if I am confusing the capitalizations) has its own color and therefore any citizens associated with that chapter house would have as well. Prydon, the chapterhouse of Rassilon, the Doctor, adn probably the Master, is red. Patrex is purple, Cerulean is a blue, and so on. most of these chapterhouses are not mentioned in canon, but... with some of the 8th Doctor's story now canon, that may change. And we saw the Doctor in Red already sometime in the show, if I recall correctly. woot!









AaronMcGahon
AaronMcGahon

I disagree with your conclusion completely. While I did enjoy that you've looked into what it's like to be a Time Lord on Gallifrey that isn't the Doctor, I feel that you've ended up with a lot of the wrong answers because of one, simple reason. The Time Lords are not like Humans, their society is not like Human society. There is a very good reason the Doctor grew very tired with the way things were done on his home planet, When it comes to the subject of individuality in particular, Time Lord children are taken from the age of 8 to begin work at the academy, shown the whole of time itself and then put under the rules of, not only the current Lord President, but the ways of Time Lord ancients such as Rassilon. The Time Lords are very backwards in the way that they follow very old traditions and aren't likely to stray from them. The Doctor left this planet and found Earth, there's a reason he likes it so much, because it's not like Gallifrey. I enjoyed and agree with what you were saying about law, I do feel like forced regeneration would be their equivalent to a death sentence on Gallifrey and I find that very interesting. On the point of regeneration, yes there would have been accidents at work and such, but I would say that the average Time Lord would have held on to each regeneration a lot longer than the Doctor usually would have. I would say the most like the average time a Time Lord keeps a regeneration that the Doctor has gotten to would be most recently with the 11th Doctor, he kept his regeneration until it was totally worn out. Now, having said this, we do see Romana regenerating just because she felt like a change of wardrobe, but again, Romana was not your average Time Lady, though she might have been less rebellious than the Doctor, she was still different enough for the Doctor to want to travel with her.

DouglasRayCurrie
DouglasRayCurrie

The billion dollar questions when we see Gallifrey again are:  a) Will the Doctor be welcomed back to visit whenever he likes, or will it be status as per usual, the High Council groans whenever he comes back/the Celestial Intervention Agency using him to do their dirty work? b) Will we see new/younger Rogue Timelords? c) What will happen to the Constellation of Kasterborus. Will Gallifrey relocate to another location so the Daleks, the Cybermen etc. don't attack them?

ahunter8056
ahunter8056

Although it's a fascinating idea, I don't think we'll ever delve into these possibilities. Yes, it would be nice to find out how Gallifreyan society works in terms of jobs, but obviously it would just be plain boring to have an episode centered around this. Gallifrey in the Classic Series just seemed to be above everyday, mundane, day to day life as we experience in real life. I don't see it being much different when Gallifrey returns in the New Series.

gunslinger19
gunslinger19

i think that Gallifrey and the time lords will be a far cry from their classic counterparts when they return. budget and effects mean that much more is possible and i wouldnt mind the series exploring this in detail. i think that particular emphasis must still be placed on political corruption and the events of End of Time must not be forgotten

Swozor
Swozor

Just pointing out that it is indeed possible to steal another Timelords regenerations, as show in the TV Movie with Paul McGann in 1996. The Master was taking the Doctors regenerations.

OncomingStorm in a Brownoat with a stake
OncomingStorm in a Brownoat with a stake

Nice article. There are a lot of questions that have gone unanswered. I guess that's ok if they don't need to be answered, but if Gallifrey comes back, someone (probably Moffat) will have to work out a way to make it all make sense. Personally, I hope Gallifrey doesn't come back, or doesn't come back in a big way.

NathanPaylor
NathanPaylor

Good article - although some of these things have been established in the expanded canon, as far as i'm aware. For example, the High Council of Gallifrey and the Celestial Intervention Agency dealt with matters of justice, doling out various punishments including exile, regeneration capping, time stream alteration and (in extreme cases) disintegration. See here for more: http://tardis.wikia.com/wiki/Time_Lord#Justice. Still... it's true to say that it would be worthwhile seeing more of Gallifreyan society. A society that for whom time and space are relative, finite and mouldable would live in a profoundly different way to ours. Everything would be affected. Why construct expansive structures (such as the skyscrapers depicted in the picture at the top of this page, for example), when a single space could be inhabited by myriads of people for a countless number of purposes using Dimensionally Transcendental technology? More to the point, every human society is founded on a sense of the passage of time and the passing on of a tradition established at some point in the past. What would Gallifreyan society look like, seeing as 'history' is *practically* a non-entity? When you think about it - Doctor Who has the potential to write some incredibly interesting reflections on the nature of society, tradition, culture, architecture, infrastructure, group membership, etc, all through the prism of Gallifrey... Interesting stuff :)




JamesMarston
JamesMarston

You might want to watch something pre-2005, good sir.

JFrance
JFrance

Interesting article. Learning more about the Time Lords society would be interesting but I also would't mind seeing more of the planet as well. For example forests, plant life, wildlife, more cites and different regions of gallifrey. I know some of these have been mentioned in the show and in the spin off media but I would't mind seeing them. 


Mercy Reborn2
Mercy Reborn2

I think maybe your right, it would be nice to know more about Timelord society it would be nice if the Doctor met someone from Gallifrey who mentions some of what goes on there

Grizzlybread
Grizzlybread

‘yeah, it happened again, that’s my second time this week.’ I laughed my ass off! Haha! Nice article. I enjoyed reading it.






floppy_who
floppy_who

A lot covered in the various classic series episodes where Gallifrey is actually the main location of the story appears to be overlooked here.

What about what is actually known from the series? Caste systems (ie Time Lords vs non-Time Lord Gallifreyans), the shobogans and outcasts? Best not to even think about the Big Finish Audio "Gallifrey Series" and what that adds to the canon (mainly because I haven't got past episode 1 yet!).

And on the subject of Time Lord executions- yes, they can be carried out. One was attempted (apparently at the time successfully) on the Fifth Doctor under the supervison of the Sixth Doct..er, I mean Commander Maxil in "Arc of Infinity" in the 20th Anniversary season.

Oodkind is foretold...
Oodkind is foretold...

Wasn't something about clothing mentioned in The Deadly Assassin? I vaguely remember someone asking the Doctor (disguised as a random Time Lord) why he was wearing a certain color robe. It's been a while.

Who is the Doctor
Who is the Doctor

I think you saw a hint of the regular behind the scene life at the beginning of TNOTD when the two repairmen wondered who wanted to steal an old TARDIS.

Polyphase
Polyphase

Actually I thought we saw lots of Galifrey in the classic series and it's understandable why the Doctor left as it's not a very nice place. However it would be nice to see Leela and K9 again :)

Xenon Unicorn
Xenon Unicorn

I think this is all very interesting speculation, however I think you are comparing it to human society far too much. This is an entirely different species with a completely different biology from a whole other planet, therefore it will probably have hardly anything in common with human society. I think, when looking at alien societies such as Gallifrey, you have to kind of abandon any ideas you previously had about how a society would function. I think an easier way to look at this would be to compare it to the "societies" of various social animals. Human society is very different from a bee hive which is very different from a horse herd which is very different from a hyena cackle. The reason for this of course, is that all these creatures have very different biology and their societies evolved to be different because of that.  For example, take a look at regeneration. Regeneration makes human gender roles pretty much impossible in Time Lord society. One minute you're a man, the next you're female. The sexes would have to be a lot more equal because of this. You also mention how regeneration could effect families. Who's to say Time Lord families function anything at all like human families? I wouldn't really be surprised if Time Lords didn't marry or "mate for life", so to put it. I mean, if you stay with the same person your entire life there is a chance they will become the same gender as you, which romantically there is nothing wrong with, however biologically you wouldn't be able to produce any children. No children, no passing down your genes. I wouldn't be surprised if Time Lords only took "mates" temporarily, like most animals do. No long term relationships or marriage. Another possibility is that both males and females take multiple mates. That way, if one changes sex upon regeneration, they can stay with him/her but have children with another of their lovers (all this speculation is ignoring the Looms mentioned in the EU, which is an interesting concept in it's own right) . But yeah, we really can't know anything about how an alien society without knowing anything about their biology, as this would greatly effect how the society would function. There are other aspects of Gallifreyan biology we don't know that would effect all this as well (diet, for example. We know they are omnivores, however if they lean towards more a plant-based diet like humans, or a more meat-based one like dogs is going to effect their society in many different ways. The means of their reproduction and life cycle are also gonna have a big impact.) But yeah, sorry for crazy long post, I just love to speculate on stuff like this xD 






Mattdream
Mattdream

A new branch of anthropology: Timeoanthropology.

TheGreatCompanion
TheGreatCompanion

I suppose we'll finally discover if that woman in the End of Time was the Doctor's mother when Gallifrey returns.

doctorwhomultiverse
doctorwhomultiverse

The Doctor never visited his family or neighbourhood while on Gallifrey in the classic series. I would recommend watching The Deadly Assasin, The Invasion of Time and the final part of The War Games for a deeper insight into life on Gallifrey. For one thing they remain inside their city or what they call the citadel. 'Time Lord' tribes (same species but do not call themselves time lords) live in the wild outside the citadel. Anyway more can be gained from watching the episodes mentioned.

mblue247c
mblue247c

I think that that would be a satisfying thing to explore after we are tortured for a few seasons of the Doctor searching for Gallifrey/making sure it's safe for Gallifrey to return. It could be another thing that unwinds over a good length of time instead of just a two part-er or something like that, with us learning a little each episode or season, depending on how it is worked out. But it's definitely something the fans want to explore, and something that will have to be explored when Gallifrey comes back and is rebuilding.

Liana21
Liana21

I would like to know little bit more about Gallifrey and the live there... I can imagine The Doctor taking Clara to his neighborhood, or his child house. But not immediately, I prefer a long arc for the search of Gallifrey...a couple of series at least.

Chronos the Fannibal
Chronos the Fannibal

I expect a lot of corruption to go on, after all power of time travel and all that would probably get to a lot of Time Lords heads


RevDoc
RevDoc

I could be waay off, but I don't think everyone on Gallifrey is a Time Lord.  I don't know where I got that from, if it was from one of the episodes or something I just dreamed up one day, so, as I said, I could be waay off.  Nice thought exercise, nonetheless.

Polyphase
Polyphase

I'm hoping the Galifrey arc is over for a while, It's been going on for a long time now

Dalekium
Dalekium

I was interested by the perception of jobs and a monetary system. My thought would be that the Gallifreyans would be advanced enough to not need an economy in a conventional, capitalist sense. I really get the impression that Time Lord life is very much one dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge as the Doctor frequently mentions/complains about. They are also presumably self-sufficient considering their isolationism so they have no real need for the exchange of some form of credit and if they did, they could probably offer equipment or technology. In terms of corruption, we've never seen within the TV series of corruption stemming from financial gains but from very personal ideas, mainly immortality.



DaftDalek is Ceter Papaldi: Moon Lives!
DaftDalek is Ceter Papaldi: Moon Lives!

Seriously, I have always imagined an episode in a Gallifreyan hospital where something goes wrong, Vashta Nerada or something or an assassin or something like House. It would be awesome and probably scary, too.

Baker Street is on the Orient Express
Baker Street is on the Orient Express

Great article, really fascinating stuff. It's odd to think of Gallifrey in this way, but why not? It makes perfect sense. When it does return (which I hope won't be for many years yet) it'd be nice to explore Gallifreyan society a little more, as opposed to seeing just those oddly-dressed guys in funny hats. I still want one of their robes though. I can imagine the looks I'd get walking round the supermarket.

Deus_Ex_Machina
Deus_Ex_Machina

I'm sorry, but I don't think you can write about an topic like this without referring to the extended fiction, especially the Gallifrey audio series. Still, you did the best with what you had and it was still an interesting read.

Americanwhovian
Americanwhovian

We know virtually nothing about time lord life or culture at all. We can't even tell from what we've seen from the classic series because it would be unfair to judge their society on that because like I've said before it would be like walking into congress or parliament and judging all of human society on that. I can't wait for the return of gallifrey so we can learn more about the complex and ancient time lords

DW_girl
DW_girl

@TheOncomingStorm I think there is  no doubt that it will come back, judging by the 50th anniversary episode.

margitan
margitan

@floppy_who  Yeah, though the Doctor wasn't being executed for a crime so much as that they were trying to stop a fatal chain reaction to the universe. There was more conspiracy going on than that, but I won't get into all of those plot details. ;)  Also, there is Shada, the prison that Time Lords built to hold the universe's most dangerous criminals. Considering that a few certain high-profile criminals escaped, it doesn't seem all that secure, hehe. So maybe execution is more effective.

margitan
margitan

@Oodkind   Different colors signified different chapterhouses of the political affiliations of Gallifrey.: Prydonians, Arcalians, Patrexes, Dromeians, Ceruleans, and Scendles.  Prydonians used scarlet and orange. Arcalians used green. Patrexes used heliotrope.  Dromeians used silver-grey and Ceruleans, as the name would indicate, used blue. The Scendles ceremonial robes change from a light pink to a darker shade of red.  The Doctor and the Master were both Prydonians. 



Who is the Doctor
Who is the Doctor

And another thing that I heard on the Big Finish audios was that only the time lords could regenerate. The rest of the Gallifrey society only lived a standard life span to prevent planet overpopulation.

margitan
margitan

@Xenon Unicorn  From what I know in both the TV series and outside references, love and marriage definitely exists with Time Lords.  But again, it's not explored too deeply. Time Lords have cyclical life cycle, so perhaps it's normal in their society to just sort of accept that relationships are cyclical as well, and maybe some persist through multiple regenerations.  While we can't rule out the Looming entirely, the TV show has definitely already contradicted some aspects of it, so who knows how they'll deal with the rest of it. Maybe it's best that they keep some of this stuff a mystery.  As for changing gender, that concept is fairly new in the Whoverse.  Accepting that it is possible doesn't necessarily mean that it happens normally, all the time. It certainly doesn't seem that way.

AlessandroArsuffi
AlessandroArsuffi

@Xenon Unicorn Look at what the Eleventh Doctor states about Ten's engagement to a Zygon in "The Day of the Doctor" - he clearly said that that choice was something regarding that regeneration and as such Eleven didn't dispute it or take it as if Elizabeth I was still his wife. My understanding is that the formula "Until regeneration doesn't separate us" could be a good understanding of Time Lord marriage. Of course, a couple may decide to reiterate their lifelong promises even after one or both have regenerated, but I think the changes would often be so relevant that many marriages just end and everybody goes his own way.


I also believe that Time Lords don't probably farm. Never saw a Gallifreyan cultivated field and Time Lord posses machinery to replicate food (as the one in the First Doctor's TARDIS). I believe most activities on Gallifrey may concentrate on other aspects, such as building houses, repairing technology, analyzing the time flux etc.

The_Eternal_Dalek
The_Eternal_Dalek

@Liana21 Certainly the suggestion is this a very long term storyline, not something that will be resolved any time soon. It was intended to give the show momentum to carry on for 50 more years (of course it would surely have done so already, but it certainly gives you an idea this is a long term story, covering a few showrunners at least).

floppy_who
floppy_who

@RevDoc You're not way of at all. I think it's generally accepted by viewers of the classic series that not all Gallifreyans are Time Lords. And not all Gallifreyans were happy with Gallifreyan society, so lived outside the citidels. To get a better view on how things on Gallifrey were a little but dull on the surface, but downright corrupt at its heart, it's worth watching The Deadly Assassin (which contains the most complained about violent cliffhanger in the show's history...it's pretty mild by today's standards), The Invasion of Time (if you ignore the Vardan costumes and the Sontaran cockney accents), Arc of Infinity (but try not to laugh at the Ergon or Colin Baker's head gear) and the last couple of episodes of Trial of a Time Lord (and have a dictionary handy to keep up with Pip and Jane Baker's dialogue).

The_Eternal_Dalek
The_Eternal_Dalek

@Polyphase It was abandoned for several years when Moffat took over and then picked up again in The Day of the Doctor. After The End of Time there wasn't really much more to do, other than bring Gallifrey back.

Doctor What
Doctor What

@FMOB11Extracted from Wikipedia: "Free citizens were also divided by class. The broadest, and earliest, division was between the Patricians, who could trace their ancestry to one of the 100 Patriarchs at the founding of the city, and the Plebeians, who could not."

I think Ancient Rome society is a good match of Gallifreyan society, with Time Lords (or Patricians) being the descendants of Omega and his tribe, and the rest of Gallifreyans being like the roman Plebeians. The difference of course is that both "castes" differ not only in born rights but in their "superpowers" (regeneration, telepathy, sense of time...).

The_Eternal_Dalek
The_Eternal_Dalek

@AlessandroArsuffi @Xenon Unicorn Remember though, they could potentially end up swapping genders or even species in a regeneration so obviously it would not be sensible to carry on past a certain point. Different regeneration, different personality and different tastes.


That's assuming Time Lords even have marriage, many of the novels suggest the Doctor was the first naturally born Gallifreyan in millions of years.

RevDoc
RevDoc

@floppy_who @RevDoc  Yeah, I thought so.  I didn't remember much of it from when I was younger, mostly just some of Tom's stuff.  I watched them all last summer, and all of Baker's and Baker's again this winter, but I went through them so fast a lot of it was a blur.  I just started watching again from the beginning, "An Unearthly Child", a few days ago, but I'm going much slower this time, paying closer attention, and watching all of the bonus material and extras, as well. Last summer my goal was to catch up completely before the 50th.  This summer, I want to be able to really enjoy all of it.

AlessandroArsuffi
AlessandroArsuffi

@The_Eternal_Dalek @AlessandroArsuffi@Xenon UnicornThe TV Series admits the Doctor was married and had children and grandchildren, remember. Also, even the VNAs (where the Loom theory is stated for the first time) it is hinted that the Doctor was married with a Time Lady called Patience. In "The Wedding of River Song" the Doctor clearly uses what may be a Time Lord wedding rite.