What was life on Gallifrey like Pre-Time War?
Guest contributor James Taylor ponders how Gallifreyan society might have worked.
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.
So 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.
Okay, 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
What 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?
Now 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!
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.