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Who is the Doctor?

Guest contributor Nick Ferrazza explores what we actually know about the origins of our favourite Time Lord.

hartnell-matt-smith-psychic-paper

I think it’s fair to say that one of the underlying themes of Doctor Who from its very beginning is the fact that we know very little about that strange man who calls himself ‘the Doctor’. Sure, we know he’s a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. We know he stole an old Type 40 TARDIS that he now travels through time and space in. We know he enjoys sharing his travels with ordinary people, has a love for the planet Earth, and no matter what he will ultimately do what he believes is good, but when you really think about it we really know nothing about him. We don’t even know his name. The purpose of this article is to gather what little information there is about the Doctors past and see if we can piece together a rough image of what he’s all about.

Birth and Family

good-man-war-cot-crib-river-babyThe television stories alone give us very little information about the Doctor’s birth. We know of course that he was born on Gallifrey. According to ‘The Creature from the Pit’, he was born under the sign of the crossed computers, and ‘A Good Man Goes to War’ has shown us his first stars in the form of his cot. To get any further though, we will have to stretch outside the limits of the TV series and see what the book, audios and comics have to say about his past. It is worth noting that, as with all mediums of Doctor Who outside of the TV show, the canonicity of the stories is questionable, with some sources conflicting with others. All of this should be taken with a pinch of salt.

An unused plot thread of the TV movie presented the Doctor’s father as a Time Lord known as Ulysses. This idea would later extend into the Eighth Doctor Adventures novel range, particularly in the final story ‘The Gallifrey Chronicles’. In these stories, Ulysses is presented as a similar man to that which his son would grow up to be. He was a renegade, with a love for Earth and even had a human companion in the form of Penelope Gate.

It is this human Penelope Gate, a young woman from Victorian London and inventor of a time machine of her own, who would, according to ‘The Gallifrey Chronicles’, go on to give birth to Ulysses son, the baby who would grow up to be the Doctor. This of course supports the Doctor’s claims that he’s half-human, but as is the nature of Doctor Who, this may not be the true account of his origins, as the 10th Doctor makes clear in ‘Journey’s End’ that a half-human half-Time Lord is impossible. Whether or not this is the true history of the Doctor’s parents cannot be determined for sure, but it is certainly a strong contender.

There is also the issue as to whether or not the Doctor was actually ‘born’ in the traditional sense. The Virgin New Adventures, in particular ‘Cat’s Cradle: Time’s Crucible’ and ‘Lunburrow’, suggests that Time Lords are barren and that their young are created fully grown in a device known as a loom. These stories suggest that the Doctor was loomed into the House of Lungburrow, and was perhaps even a reincarnation of the mysterious Other, who alongside Rassilon and Omega founded Time Lord society. This theory of the Doctor being born a fully grown man voids the need for a cot in ‘A Good Man Goes to War’, and so may not be entirely canon.

One thing that is for certain however is that the Doctor had a brother known as Irving Braxiatel. Although the closest thing we get to an appearance of him on screen is a passing reference to the Braxiatel Collection in ‘City of Death’, he has become an important part of the franchises extended fiction, even going as far to become one of the most prolific characters never to have appeared in the show. Although only a handful of meetings with his younger brother have been depicted, he has become an important part of Big Finish’s spin-off audio ranges, namely ‘Gallifrey’ and ‘Bernice Summerfield’. According to the 1st Doctor novel ‘Empire of Glass’, the Doctor may also have had a sister.

Growing Up and Education

Untempered_schism‘The Gallifrey Chronicles’ suggest that, when his relationship with a human was threatened to be exposed, Ulysses wiped his wife and sons memories and left them on Earth where they would be free of whatever punishment the Time Lords would see fit to unleash on them, leaving the Doctor to be raised on Earth. However, most other sources tell us that the Doctor remained on Gallifrey for most of his early life.

‘The Time Monster’ tells us that the Doctor grew up in a house on the side of Mount Cadon. At the age of eight the Doctor was taken, as all Time Lords were at that age, to gaze into the untempered schism, a crack in the fabric of reality. He responded by running away and never looked back.

He was a close friends with fellow Time Lord Koschei, with whom he formed a brother like bond. The two would spend most of their time playing in Koschei’s father’s fields of red grass. In the academy, Koschei would often hypnotise his fellow classmates, leaving the Doctor to un-hypnotise them.

The 5th Doctor book ‘Divided Loyalties’ perhaps gives us the most in depth look into the Doctor’s time at the academy. It states that in the academy he made many other friends and that together they formed a group of ten known as the Deca. Most members of the group would go on to become renegades like the Doctor. Of particular note was Ushas (the Rani), Mortimus (the Monk), Magnus (the War Chief) and Koschei (I think you can make an educated guess as to the name he eventually took).

He was later expelled from the academy after spending five centuries there when he and fellow Deca members Rallon and Millennia stole a TARDIS and encountered the Celestial Toymaker. This resulted in Rallon being possessed by the Celestial Toymaker and becoming his new body and Millennia being turned into a doll.

Later Life

Susan-Foreman-Carole-Ann-FordThe Doctor would eventually go on to father a family of his own. ‘The Eleventh Tiger’ suggests that he had both sons and daughters. His only confirmed descendant however is his granddaughter Susan. Although it has been suggested that Susan wasn’t actually the Doctor’s biological granddaughter (‘Birth of a Renegade’), most sources deny this and fans today generally consider her to be the Doctor’s blood relative.

He may also have had two more grandchildren, John and Gillian. According to the TV Comics, these two children were raised on Earth and had no idea of their Time Lord origins until the Doctor came into their lives. It is worth noting that their existence along with the entire run of TV comics is a bit of a continuity nightmare, and several attempts have been made to explain away any relationship the two might have to the Doctor.

Running Away

doctor-who---series-7b_final_gallifreyNow it’d be one thing for me to tell you the circumstances under which the Doctor left his home planet, but I’m sure most of you would prefer me to answer the big question first: why? Why did the Doctor leave Gallifrey? As you’ve probably guessed, there is no one answer to this question. Each account of the Doctor’s departure gives us a slightly different motivation behind his actions. I will go with, as far as I’m aware, the only one that fits within the continuity of the brief scene from ‘The Name of the Doctor’, Big Finish’s account.

According to ‘Disassembled’, the sixteenth chapter of the Gallifrey spin-off audio series, the Doctor had in some way broken the Time Lord’s non-intervention policy, something he would go on to do many more times in his life. As a result, his brother Braxiatel, who at the time held the position of Lord Burner, was ordered to ‘burn’ the Doctor. This meant killing the Doctor and erasing any mention of him from the planet’s history, making it look as though he had never existed. Braxiatel however was reluctant to do this and allowed the Doctor time to escape.

‘The Beginning’, an audio story that I would highly recommend if you want to go into any more depth in this area, and ‘The Name of the Doctor’ tell us that the Doctor then took his granddaughter Susan and the Hand of Omega (‘Remembrance of the Daleks’) and, with a bit of help from an impossible girl, stole an old Type 40 TARDIS. The fact that the TARDIS was faulty, and at the time ready for vaporisation, meant that it was deregistered and able to slip past Gallifrey’s transduction barriers with ease.

Unbeknown to either the Doctor or Susan however, their TARDIS wasn’t completely unoccupied when stolen. Upon arriving on the moon (their first destination according to this account) they were confronted by Quadrigger Stoyn, who had been preparing the TARDIS for its vaporisation. Stoyn held an immediate dislike for the Doctor and would grow to become a powerful enemy of the renegade Time Lord in hopes of becoming a nobody who could easily leave the planet undetected.

Eventually, after several adventures with his granddaughter, the Doctor arrived in 1960s London where the TARDIS broke down. Realising that they may be there for a while, the Doctor enrolled his granddaughter in a nearby school. Eventually he got the TARDIS working again and planned to leave. However, not before two of Susan’s teachers, Ian and Barbara, decided to investigate their new pupil’s strange origins. The rest, as they say, his history…

Wrapping Up

So there you have it. A mix-mashed, timey-wimey continuity nightmare that makes up one possibility of the Doctor’s history.  As this is only a rough outline of a few possible back stories for our favourite Time Lord, I would urge you to go and look into this in more depth if you are interested. Bear in mind though that with the nature of Doctor Who’s canon, this entire story could be dismissed in mere seconds as soon as something new comes up. For now at least, this in the closest we may get to knowing who the Doctor really is.

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168 comments
PrerogativeOfATimeLord
PrerogativeOfATimeLord

I've never listened to anything with Braxiatel, and he's already one of my favorite characters.


As to why the Doctor ran - I doubt, at this point, even he remembers.

PaddyB
PaddyB

I find it odd that when a Time Lord regenerates, they are no (probably) no longer their parents' children since their genetic makeup has changed entirely.

Balatsoukas Pavlos
Balatsoukas Pavlos

Yes... That's the Doctor you have to love! Amazing storyline, even if there are alternative ones lying around to choose from, but this is it! Great article Nick! 


And that should be an item in the agenta of Mr. Moffat - try and clear things a bit up with this whole mess of canon/non-canon media.

Jamesss
Jamesss

I was pretty annoyed when A Good Man Goes To War retconned the House of Lungbarrow thing. Yes, it wasn't an on-screen established thing but to me it was canon, and it was a lot better than him just being a standard typical baby at some point.

Chronos the Fannibal
Chronos the Fannibal

Wouldn't it just be so confusing being a Time Lord or part of a family on Gallifrey? it's like they can regenerate at any given moment when critically injured. Just imagine a Gallifreyan parent or school or something: 

"I'm here to pick up my son"

"Hello mummy" 

"Nooo, I'm not your mother. I'm here to pick my son up and you're a little girl" 

"I regenerated when I tripped over during break today"

"Oh"








Venawesomeo
Venawesomeo

Now this is an article that truly deserves to be on a Doctor Who fansite. Well done, sir. Personally, I think some things should never be explained because then the mystery goes. Or they're explained as other curiosities are introduced. I suppose it goes to show how important the showrunner role is... they could destroy the show if they wanted to.



Mati C
Mati C




''The limits of the TV series''? Doctor Who is a TV series, my favorite ever, the ''book, audios and comics'' are just extras IMO. I like the way the show handles the character, i like all the mistery, and if we ever get to know more  about the Doctor i'd like it to be introduced litlle by little. I don't mean to sound rude but the ''extras'' don't matter to me because i just like the series... again, this is just my opinion :)







Bojurie
Bojurie

great  article! show how amazing this show is it has unending potential and i love how the audience is always left in the dark. actuallly thinking about it the doctor himself might be as in the dark as we are when it comes to his origins

Jamesssss1
Jamesssss1

Time of the Doctor proved that you must never promise to viewers that you will really reveal his name.

Diana van der Pluijm
Diana van der Pluijm

On the hand it's interesting to know that we know so little. On the other hand it gives writers/showrunners almost a 'carte blanche' to insert their own ideas into the show, no matter whether or not they fit the already established 'canon' that the show has. Is that a bad thing? Not per se. If done correctly, it's a very powerful instrument. But judging from the very mixed receptions of some of the recent choices it can also sort of backfire. I've even heard people say they will not accept certain things, 'cause they feel 'it doesn't fit the show/the Doctor'. Of course you can't cater to everyone when making a show, but I think a bit of caution every now and then is advisable.

I'd love to know more about the Doctor, though. I'd love to see the Time War (not the watered-down, expostion-dialogued version we got) and I'd love to know why exactly the Doctor left or why the Master and he are 'enemies'. But, that could take away the mystery of this enigmatic character, which would be a shame. I'm not sure if I'd really be happy with seeing such things explained, 'cause when it's said, it's said and cannot be unsaid. It becomes part of Doctor Who, whether I like it or not.

cyberbrayde
cyberbrayde

Who is the Doctor? 50 years later and we're still trying to figure out if it's Dr Who, Doctor Who, or The Doctor. 

lukashcartoon
lukashcartoon

Honestly, I think only the TV shows should be considered Cannon. The exception I would say, Paul Mcguan - since he was cheated out of a run himself.

Let the doctors past remain in there, shrouded in mystery. A few glimpses, here and there is nice.

Warpstar
Warpstar

One remark on leaving gallifrey:

When we met the first doctor he was far away from being a hero, he just grew with the help of Ian and Barbara. And in Name/Day/Time of the Doctor it was stated several times that the promise of his name Doctor is more important then his birth name (= his past on gallifrey!).

So I guess much more happened on his home planet then we can imagine, one of his dark secrets he is not proud of. It was far more then boredom, I am quite sure!

Temporal_Tomato
Temporal_Tomato

I prefer to say that it's all canon. Just not the full truth, or the results of Time being changed so often. In fact, the looming, birth, human mother and "The Other" theory all fit together. Ulysses could have fathered the Other, a half human Gallifreyan (Time Lord is a more of a title, seeing as it was implied for it to be possible for Ace to become one) who used the cot, grew up to be the other, then threw himself into a loom (as the NAs claim) to be reborn as the Doctor, loomed a full Time Lord.

Amy is Hannibal
Amy is Hannibal

I generally only go by what the TV series (and now the Eight Doctor audios, I suppose) says, so to me, the Doctor was born, not loomed, on Gallifrey, grew up with the Master, the Rani, and his brother, had kids who had Susan, and stole the TARDIS (I like to assume that he just did it because he was bored with his life).

Good article though. :) I really enjoy article like this that explore the Who universe's many facets.

The Finn
The Finn

An interesting article indeed!

BJAMES
BJAMES

I think the day (and I don't believe the day will ever come) when we find out all of the Doctor's mysteries is the day Doctor Who will cease to exist. The reason this show is still with us, in all of its various media, is that the path it has travelled is unconventional, outside any box (except the blue one), and completely unbound by anything predictable. He really has no limits, at least none he can't traverse and transcend, none that he can't find a way to move beyond. Doctor Who's coherence is in its eccentricity. Whoever runs the show, Moffat now, and whoever in the future knows that the Doctor is going to keep us in the dark. We know who he is, and we don't. What other character in the history of television can that be said of?

kasterborousnc
kasterborousnc

I like the idea that the doctor has a multiple choice past and we will never know the full extent of the doctors backstory as it would remove the mystery that surrounds the doctors origin and his depart from Galifrey.. I truly think its up to their individual fans interpretation of canon and I like the idea of future time lords revealing unknown aspects of his early life and even what we do know about the doctors early life if the source is the doctor he's known not to b the most reliable source

Deus_Ex_Machina
Deus_Ex_Machina

I like all of these divided opinions this article of mine is getting. It makes me feel like Steven Moffat.

Deus_Ex_Machina
Deus_Ex_Machina

A lot of people seem to be interpreting that the purpose of this article is to say that the Doctor needs a backstory. I wasn't trying to say that at all. I like the Doctor's past being a mystery. I just wanted to try and compile a (mostly) complete list of what we do know.

Amy is Hannibal
Amy is Hannibal

Considering that their society is billions of years old, they are probably well-accustomed to things like that. Coming to pick up your kid and finding that they had a different look and personality alone would achieve essentially the same effect as them being a different gender.

Deus_Ex_Machina
Deus_Ex_Machina

I'm glad someone understood what I was trying to get across with this article.

Amy is Hannibal
Amy is Hannibal

Maybe we've been getting it wrong. Maybe it is really meant to be Dock Torhoo.

cyberbrayde
cyberbrayde

@Warpstar  I'd like to imagine that The Doctor (before the promise) and The Master end up creating this huge war on Gallifrey. Not a big war, but just some conflict. Doesn't even have to be Gallifrey. But after all this trouble, The Doctor (before the promise) sees all the people that were affected by his choices. So he changes his past and ends up being a Doctor, helping them, healing them. The Master and The Doctor go their separate ways as he makes that promise. Never cowardly, Never Give Up, Always a Doctor. Hence why he has to run away from his own people, because they know who he is and what he did before the promise.

AlessandroArsuffi
AlessandroArsuffi

@Temporal_Tomato I wrote in a previous article that, in my opinion, most of the situations in the VNAs and EDAs have been created by Grandfather Paradox, so that neither is fully true. The Doctor was probably never loomed (there are children on Gallifrey!) but he probably wasn't the son of an Earthling. History was retconned after "The Gallifrey Chronicles" and before the Eighth Doctor's life restarted in the BF continuity. That's my current headcanon leaving room for the VNAs and EDAs as currently aborted timelines - some of their events may have been changed, some others cleared completely from history, but in general I consider TV as primary canon and BF as secondary canon.

lukashcartoon
lukashcartoon

Never liked the idea of looming. Sounds like the stupidest concept ever created.

MowTheFrontLawn
MowTheFrontLawn

@WiblyWoblyTimyWimyMOFFAT  She was not in the script as the Doctors mother, but Russel T Davies told others behind the scenes that he intended the Doctor's mother to be an interpretation.

AlessandroArsuffi
AlessandroArsuffi

@Deus_Ex_Machina I'm just sorry you didn't mention "Master", a really interesting BF audio play about the strange triangle between the Doctor, the Master and Death. That's an event essentially taking place in the Doctor's first persona, during his childhood.
 For the rest, good article, my friend!

Polyphase
Polyphase

@Deus_Ex_Machina The show is called Doctor Who. The whole idea is that we will never know who he is so I just find the article a strange concept.

It really has got the discussion going though :)

Seaborn W Deadman
Seaborn W Deadman

I wouldn't worry about it too much. You did an excellent job at what you were trying to accomplish, and some people just need to learn the difference between constructive criticism and complaining :)


lukashcartoon
lukashcartoon

Actually, he's James Bond. They are both are 50. They have different faces yet everyone treated them as same person. They have cool gadgets. And they both travel in an awesome vehicles.

Seaborn W Deadman
Seaborn W Deadman

Hidden in plain sight! DO NOT SPEAK HIS TRUE NAME!!! The universe will asplode!!

troughton who?
troughton who?

@cyberbrayde @Warpstar  Dark Eyes, Gallifrey VI (and by extension, Genesis of the Daleks) are all "precursors" to the Time War - basically, the initial shots being fired.

Temporal_Tomato
Temporal_Tomato

@AlessandroArsuffi @Temporal_Tomato  Ah, I like that theory, it works perfectly, as thats the sort of thing old GP and Faction Paradox's meddling would have caused. As long as the Doctor remembers these events, of course. Doctor Who is a show/novel range/comic strip/audio series about one man, not the same man in a multitude of universes.

Wulvaine
Wulvaine

@AlessandroArsuffi @Deus_Ex_Machina  I just listened to Master a few days ago, and I loved it. It recontextualizes the Doctor and the Master's entire relationship in some very interesting ways. The fact that Death is involved brings in questions of the validity of the VNAs (since Death's presence in the Who universe is originally pretty much a VNA thing), which I have slightly mixed feelings about, but I love the central concepts of the story and the history the Doctor and Master share. I generally consider the TV show and the audios to be first in the line of canon (and when the show contradicts the audios, I don't worry about it too much. Let's face it, the show contradicts ITSELF at almost every opportunity), insomuch as I think there can be any such thing as 'canon' in a setting as constantly in timey-wimey flux as this one. I think Who's producers and writers generally advocate a sort of 'build-your-own canon' approach anyway.




Deus_Ex_Machina
Deus_Ex_Machina

I was sort of hoping for this kind of response, I never expected it on this scale. I completely understand where you're coming from though.

Seaborn W Deadman
Seaborn W Deadman

James Bond is a Timelord. You know who else is totally a Timelord? Mary Poppins! Bigger on the inside bag, sonic robotic umbrella, odd dress sense with scarves, bow ties, and funny hats, and she travels through time and space helping the children of the universe. XD



cyberbrayde
cyberbrayde

Yes, but I stated very clearly BEFORE the promise. We're talking pre-Doctor era.

EDIT: sorry iPads are terrible at times. Not sure if that was a reply to mine. My bad if not.

Amy is Hannibal
Amy is Hannibal

I waffle on it, mostly because of how I feel about the Other. It's a cool idea on paper, and looming is crucial to the Doctor being the Other. It does add another layer of mystery around him, but on the other (had to) hand (punstorm imminent), I think that it's kind of too big. The Doctor is really an ancient Gallifreyan demigod? It's sort of hard for me to swallow, and I kind of prefer the idea that the Doctor is just some average Time Lord slacker who goes around and does stuff for the hell of it.

troughton who?
troughton who?

@lukashcartoon  Ever heard of adoption? I don't but into "The Other" rubbish because it seems like TOO big an implication to go largely unmentioned.



lukashcartoon
lukashcartoon

I think the reason I rebel against it because from the first episode, the Doctor had a granddaughter. That implies natural births and family structure.

Looming seems to be a way of allowing the doctor to be "the other" and put a more alien feel to the Doctor. I think the temptation is too strong to add more to The doctor than is neccisary.