Looks Familiar – Spatial Genetic Multiplicity

The phrases ‘Genetic Multiplicity’ and ‘Spatial Genetics’ exist in the real world. Perform a poetic combination (a la ‘Gallifrey Falls – No More’) and you get ‘Spatial Genetic Multiplicity’, a technobabble term for the different people throughout time and space who share looks in common.

The phrase came to our attention in ‘Journey’s End’, where the remark was used to point out the similarity between Gwen Cooper of 21st c. Torchwood and Gwyneth the Maid from the 19thc., both from Cardiff (Where there happens to be a Time Rift).

Gwen states her family roots in Cardiff date back to the 19th century. Russell T Davies explained the concept thus: “It’s not familial as we understand it. There’s no blood tie. Spatial genetic multiplicity means an echo and repetition of physical traits across a Time Rift.” This means that although Gwen may be a physical ‘copy’ of Gwyneth, she isn’t the same person.

In retrospect it cleverly solves the fact that the Doctor wasn’t surprised to see Terry Walsh as a different person every few weeks.



So, given that Clara and her ‘Claricles’ turned out to be ‘living ghosts’ – shards of a person splintered across time (Like Scaroth the Jagaroth), can the term apply to her?

If so, can most or all SGM cases be similar (-ie. Fragments of an original person fractured through time)?
Is this in direct conflict with RTD’s definintion?

Also, fans will be aware that The 12th Doctor (Capaldi) looks an awful lot like Caecilius and John Frobisher. RTD semi-joked on the Torchwood ‘Children of Earth’ commentary that Caecilius’ bloodline was finally ended (as fate intended) after a 2000 year postponement.

Many of us are speculating why No.12 looks like these other 2 men. Will the SGM term apply in this case? If so, will we learn more about  this phenomenon?

Dr Who already incorporated the change of lead actor into the stories of the show with the genius maguffin that is Regeneration.

Is Moffat about to make SGM another integral part of the legend by expanding on it’s significance?

Has ‘The Crack’ that was the arc of the 11th Doctor caused many more SGM cases?

Will series 8 see the Doctor searching the Universe’s time cracks, time faults, time flaws, time splits, time breaks, time breaches, time fissures, time fractures, time clefts, time crevices, time gaps, time crannies, time slits, time chinks, time interstices, time cavities, time openings, time rifts, time spaces, time holes, time ruptures and time apertures for his lost home?

Wouldn’t it be ironic if Gallifrey had been hidden right behind The Rift in Cardiff all along?


AG candidates for SGM

Gwyneth and Gwen
Adeola Oshodi and Martha Jones
The Soothsayer and Amy Pond
Caecilius, John Frobisher and the 12th Doctor
Clara and her (numerous) Claricles; Oswin Oswald, Clara Oswin, etc. (shards of the same character)



(Mostly) BG candidates for SGM

Barabara Wright and Lexa
Za and Greg Sutton
Old Mother and Karela
Kala and Lady Peinforte
Tlotoxl, Blake and Ashe
Carl Tyler, Saladin, Crossland and Caldwell
Ascaris, Garvey and Drax
Delos and Davis
Tor and Hal
Morton Dill and Steven Taylor
Bret Vyon and Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart
Mavic Chen and Tobias Vaughn
Joanna of England, Sara Kingdom and Morgaine
Richard The Lionheart and Scaroth (Human disguise and his splintered incarnations)
Thatcher, Morgan and Jackson
Rhos, Dr Roland Summers, Laurence Scarman, Lowe, Mergrave and Coal Hill Headmaster
The Abbot of Amboise and the 1st Doctor
The Celestial Toymaker and Hedin
Anne and Dodo Chaplet
Jano and Sorenson
Squire Edwards and The Marshal of Solos
Bragen and Marcus Scarman
Pilot and Count Grendel of Gracht
Controller, Price and Time Lord
Jean Rock and Ransome

Roger Colbert, Steven Jenkins and Andred

Queen Victoria and Samantha Briggs
Jean Rock and Thea Ransome

John Viner, Dr. Lennox, Prof. Herbert Clegg and The Archimandrite
Khrisong, Baker and Hieronymous
Salamander and the 2nd Doctor
Alexander Denes, Jaeger and Spandrell
Van Lutyens, General Carrington, Richard Railton and Ranquin
Benik, Guy Crayford and Kelner
Jimmy, Vaber, Salamar and The Shrieve Captain
Cully and Mr Henderson
Osgood and Harry Towb
Eelek, The War Lord, Solon and Fenner
Lemuel Gulliver, Tribunal Time Lord, Taron and Chancellor Goth
Mullins and Dave
Hawkins and Tekker
Dr. Charles Lawrence , Professor Whitaker and Nyder
Road works overseer, Bors, Trask and James Quinlan
George Hibbert and The Duke of Forgill
John Wakefield, Rex Farrel and Morelli
Sir Keith Gold, Henry Gordon Jago and Colonel Hugh
Johnson and The Traken Master
George Patrick Barnham and Thawn
Moor, King Peladon and Professor Hobbes
Galleia and Solow
David Mitchell and UNIT Soldiers
Irongron and Captain Rigg
Andrews and Harry Sullivan
Poul and Mawdryn
Clara the Clown/Mrs. Wiggs/ The Queen of Hearts and Ruth
Edward Masters, The Administrator and Captain Hardaker
Norton and James
Lady Eleanor and Dot Cotton(!) (=Kiston and Dirty Den Watts? Leela & Rosa di Marco?! etc.)
Butler and The Governor of Varos
Sevrin and Arak
Professor Watson and Ben Wolsey
Dr Fendelman and Sir George Hutchinson
Princess Strella and Romana 1
Kara and Parisian Art Lover
Duggan and Merdeen
Professor Chronotis, The Keeper of Traken and Old Man (public face of The Borad)
Nyssa and Ann Talbot
Todd and Brenda Williams (Rhys’ mum)
Captain Wrack and Val
Morgus and Trevor Sigma
Maxil and the 6th Doctor

Jobel and Mr Copper
Kiv and General Staal (?!)
Chief Caretaker and Henry Parker
Helen A and Clara’s Gran
Joan Redfern and Verity Newman
Tony Mack and Jonah Bevan
Dr Kent and Cass


And that’s not too mention the roles played by:

Pat Gorman
Derek Ware
Terry Walsh
Stewart Fell
Max Faulkner


  1. Nice post. And very comprehensive and learned.

    But I’ve got to admit that the fact that areas of fandom are getting so exercised over this kind of bemuses me. I just don’t really see a need to explain it away.

  2. @wolfweed.  This is great. I knew that there were repeats, or as we can now call them, SGM’s, all over the history of both BG and AG Who, but I could never have identified most of them; that is one heck of a list! I completely agree with @JimTheFish, I frankly don’t understand the big deal. If Peter Capaldi had not been so well-known a face, how many people would remember or care that he showed up as a minor character back in series four? Were watchers of Torchwood in any way concerned about the re-use of DW actors in that show? It doesn’t seem to me that this has ever bothered people before now, so I’m not sure why it suddenly matters (unless it is that people unhappy with the choice of Capaldi thought that his previous appearances should have kept him out of the running?).

    What I can’t remember, though, is this: Was the phrase actually used in the episode itself, or did it only come up from RTD afterward? Because I will admit that, as with the “Doctor’s Mum” situation, it gets me a bit cranky when something suddenly becomes a commonly accepted truth based not on in-story evidence, but on an explanation given after the fact by a story runner. I am inclined to feel that if they want to explain something, the writing should cover it, and if they didn’t bother to write it in, then they should keep quiet about it afterward! Although, as I say, I’m not sure if that applies here or not, because I can’t remember exactly what was said in the episode, only that the Doctor and Rose noticed the resemblance and asked Gwen about her family. I do remember that, at the time, I understood (or misunderstood) it as referring to a family resemblance.

  3. @Arbutus

    The extent of SGM  as mentioned in the show are these few lines:


    DOCTOR: Tell me, Gwen Cooper, are you from an old Cardiff family?

    GWEN: Yes, all the way back to the eighteen hundreds.

    DOCTOR: Ah, thought so. Spatial genetic multiplicity.
    ROSE: Oh, yeah.
    DOCTOR: Yeah, it’s a funny old world.


    Maybe the phenomenon will never be expanded on in future but I ponder on it as it’s my own bonkers theory that it might be.

    There’s no need to explain why the same actors appeared in different roles in the show. It’s a bit of an in joke. But with RTD explaining that SGM is caused by a Time Wound and Moffat reusing the idea with Clara, I wonder if it’s becoming integral to the show, like Perception Filters and Wibbly-Wobbliness…

    Some  have suggested that No. 12 looks like Caecilius because it’s someone he mercifully saved (just as the Time Lords have just done with him – Totally selflessly of course!) If this turns out to be sort of correct, obsessive fans may wish to guess just why No. 6 looks like Maxil. Or why Salamander looks like No. 2…

    A more challenging question might be: Why is the 1st Doctor nothing like William Hartnell in ‘The Five Doctors’?

    (Robert Holmes’ unused script wanted No.1 to be a robot double – A ‘The Chase’ in joke?)

    And if it doesn’t really matter, why can’t other actors play the roles of different Doctors in the future?


    (Tongue slightly in cheek!)

  4. That’s a great post @Wolfweed. (And well researched – I was sure I could catch you out on a few, but they’re all in there 😉 )

    Yes the subject does get the ARSE fans somewhat heated under the collar. It’s fun to play with the possibilities though. I didn’t know that about a robot double for the Five Doctors – that would have been fun.

  5. @Wolfweed, thanks for clarifying that for me. It’s pretty much what I thought.

    And if it doesn’t really matter, why can’t other actors play the roles of different Doctors in the future?  Ah, now you’re just winding people up!  🙂

    (Although, I suppose that things like that might actually be why people do get so worked up about this. It’s like a slippery slope issue for them.) Myself, I just watch the show and don’t worry (much).

  6. @Whyhow

    No. Firstly, as I say in my blog:

    There is…no problem in Doctor Who with the solution to the problem being a Time Lord (especially if they’re called The Doctor and their Machine is a TARDIS that looks like a police box).

    Secondly, it fails another part of the D.E.M. test in that it’s not a problem with no other means of solution. Varying solutions are: identical cousins; (later on) Claricles; ignore it; ignore it because the actor was wearing so much make up in their first part, most members of the audience won’t notice anyway.

    Thirdly, it’s not a solution plucked out of thin air, just one previously unrevealed. It makes sense that the Doctor might have noticed that Lemuel Gulliver, say, bore a remarkably close resemblance to one of Chancellor Goth’s regenerations. It makes sense he’d know the reason this happens (he’s a Time Lord). But it also makes sense that he probably wouldn’t bother to mention it until one of his Companions comes across the same thing (Rose with Gynneth and Gwen).

    Finally, it fails the D.E.M. test on a very basic level. It’s not a plot problem. It’s just an audience problem; some members of the audience have a tendency to complain loudly when actors play different parts in the same series. 😈

    And this tendency is a fine example of ARSE – actors play different parts all the time (otherwise, they starve). Actors have even played different, unrelated parts in the same episode (otherwise known as a play) for thousands of years.

    An (adult) audience member complaining because they personally lack the imagination to accept that the same actor can play two different characters is more than a bit entitled (unless the actor isn’t very good, of course). Insisting that the producer should follow their rules and not ‘promote’ an actor whose work they liked – often to a more important role – shows A Raging Sense of Entitlement.

    Joking about it is different, of course. As is coming up with a ‘just for fun’ explanation of why this actor looks like that actor – especially when a large section of the audience is simply too young to know the convention that one actor may play many different roles. 😀

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