Who Mysteries: Lifespan of the Doctors

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How long does the Doctor spend per incarnation? Guest contributor Gustaff investigates…

Recently contributor Thomas Capon examined the Doctor’s age. He disclosed several theories, each holding their own merit for someone, but one theory: That the Doctor, prior to the destruction of his home world, used to calculate his age in terms Gallifreyan measurements before adopting Earth’s, stuck out at me. If you haven’t read Thomas’ article, you might want to before you read this one as I’m not going to re-state everything he said. (Plagiarism) Using his measurement of a year on Gallifrey and a year on Earth, I’m going to summarize how long the Doctor’s spent in each of his lives. For some elements, I included references to comics and audiobooks because they can now serve as a sort of bookmark in the Doctor’s life. I will be using Thomas’ Gallifrey to Earth converter and show the Doctor’s age in Earth terms and in his home planets’ within brackets.

The First Doctor was born and at the age of 8, stared into the Untempered Schism where he wanted to run away and escape Gallifrey someday. (TV: The Sound of Drums) I use 8, but because the Doctor might have already adopted Earth’s measurement, we cannot be sure if he was calculating his age in Earth or Gallifreyan terms, although the Master later also spoke about being 8 too, so the likelihood of him also adopting this measurement seems very unlikely. (TV: End of Time)

The Doctor stole the TARDIS at the age of 209 (237), according to the TARDIS (TV: The Doctor’s Wife) and presumably left with Susan. They travelled together until settling on Earth for six months (TV: The Unearthly Child) and met Ian and Barbara. The Doctor claimed to have travelled in the TARDIS for 60 years prior to arriving in The Unearthly Child (Prose: Byzantium), but since the Doctor stated that he was a kid at 90 (TV: The Stolen Earth), Susan’s apparent agelessness during this time doesn’t raise an issue since she’s a Time Lord too. (Audio: The Earthly Child)

The 1st Doctor must’ve regenerated somewhere around 396-397 (450) since the 2nd Doctor told Victoria something along those lines. Secondly, the fact that the Doctor hadn’t been travelling on and off yet, without companions during this time seems to indicate that Tomb of the Cybermen occurred maybe a year or 2 after The Tenth Planet. (TV: Tomb of the Cybermen)

The 2nd Doctor’s regeneration gets harder to determine thanks to season 6b, but I’ll try. But first, let’s time travel into the future and come back to it.

The 4th Doctor told Sarah he was 661 (750) or something while travelling with her. (TV: Pyramids of Mars) Judging by Sarah’s age, they hadn’t been travelling together very long, so…let’s time travel back to the 2nd and 3rd Doctors.

The 3rd Doctor’s time on Earth was more or less relative to the stories and season at the time, so it is highly probable that this incarnation lived for about 5 years. I think he was just showing off when he claimed to be thousands of years old. (TV: Doctor Who and the Silurians) The 7th Doctor recounted to Ace that he’d been trapped in the vortex for ten years before travelling back to UNIT. (Prose: Love and War) Taking this into account, the 3rd Doctor lived for 15 years, therefore, the 2nd Doctor regenerated at 646 (732) and the 3rd Doctor regenerated at 660 (749). This age corresponds to what the 4th Doctor told Sarah above. Also, the 2nd Doctor was employed by the CIA to work for them, so he might have spent quite some time working for them. This would explain the grey hairs. (TV: The Deadly Assassin, The Two Doctors)

The Doctor met Romana at 670 (759). (TV: The Ribos Operation) We will assume Romana was correct about his age for two reasons:

1) The Doctor scrapped past his exams (maybe that included a module in mathematics) with 51% on the 2nd attempt and 2) Romana is Romana. Only the Doctor lies remember.

Due to their long lives, the Doctor and Romana must’ve travelled together for a quite some time because the 5th Doctor indicated that he had regenerated at around 717 (813). (Prose: Cold Fusion)

The next time the Doctor’s age came up was when the Doctor told that mook on Ravalox that he was 794 (900). (TV: The Mysterious Planet) By this time, the Doctor and Peri had been travelling together for years (AUDIO: The Reaping) It’s virtually impossible to determine when the 5th Doctor regenerated exactly since he’d have had numerous adventures with Peri before arriving at Androzani Minor, so we’ll pick a number that relates to how old they made Peri look in The Mysterious Planet. I think 4 years is just about right. That means that the 5th Doctor regenerated into the 6th Doctor somewhere at 790 (895). The 6th Doctor claimed that he’d been around for at least 10 years (Audio: 100 Days of the Doctor) and had already celebrated his 794th (900th) birthday. (Audio: The One Doctor)

When the 6th Doctor regenerated into the 7th, he gave his age as 953, which we now assume was Gallifreyan time. So now we can adopt that he was 840 in Earth time by that encounter. (TV: Time and the Rani) Ace claimed to have spent years with the Doctor (Audio: A Death in the Family) and the Doctor visibly aged by the end of his life. Also, the 7th Doctor spent millions of years trapped in ice, but according to his later age declarations, he doesn’t count those since he was in a coma and therefore, not living his life (Audio: Frozen Time)

The regeneration into the 8th Doctor is actually quite easy. In Vampire Science, the 8th Doctor mentioned he was 1012 years old, but wasn’t sure any more. He also relayed that he counted the years he spent in his 8th body as 3 up until then, so we can measure that the 7th Doctor could’ve regenerated at 890 (1009).

Now it gets tricky. Since we know the 8th Doctor must’ve regenerated between 899 and 900 (1019-1020) as he told us so in the modern series, the highly complex life of the 8th Doctor that involved parallel universes, amnesia and paradoxes, makes this difficult. It seems unlikely that he lived for only 10 years in total given the above evidence, since he spent 6 of those years a prisoner. (Audio: Prisoner of the Sun) On Orbis, he said he had lived for 600 years, but since we’re applying the different planetary lengths, that could be like 1 week relative time. (Audio: Orbis) The best guess is that he really did forget how old he was during this incarnation, but knew he was close to 900 the last time he counted and adopted that age as a reboot. This theory might also be distorted by how many years the Time War went on as it is unlikely it lasted for one year since the 10th Doctor claimed Davros died in the first year of the Time War, implying there were more. It could also be true that he doesn’t count those years for more or less the same reasons he didn’t in Frozen Time. (TV: The Stolen Earth)

As mentioned, this is just clever guess work. This mess is partly thanks to writers who feel the need to ignore what’s been done before or negate to explain some of the continuity errors.


Now for the big question: Why do certain incarnations physically age faster than others? Why did it take the 2nd Doctor 200 years to age to grey hairs where it took the 7th Doctor 50 years to get there? Sorry, I don’t have an answer, but here’s an assumed summary of how long each Doctor has lived:

  • 1st Doctor – lived for 396-397 years before regenerating.
  • 2nd Doctor – lived for 249 years.
    (Now we know why he looked so old in The Two Doctors. The CIA had employed him for a long time: Working for the Time lords for 200 years. Wasn’t that enough of a punishment? Talk about cruel and unusual.)
  • 3rd Doctor – lived for roughly 5 years plus 10 years trapped in limbo = 15 years.
  • 4th Doctor – lived for 58 years before regenerating.
  • 5th Doctor – lived for 71 years give or take. He did have solo adventures on his own too in other media.
  • 6th Doctor – lived for about 42 years give or take 4 or more of Peri’s years.
  • 7th Doctor – lived for millions of years in a coma, didn’t count those, so he lived for about 50 years.
  • 8th Doctor – Counting those he counted = 10 years.
    (I mentioned the 8th Doctor forgetting things and the parallel universes and paradoxes and Time War right…just checking)
  • 9th Doctor – lived for 1 year given references to Rose’s age throughout the season.
  • 10th Doctor – Stated his age as 906, therefore he must have lived for 5 years.
  • 11th Doctor – 293 years and still going strong!!!