Time Lords: Time Locked, and I’m loving it.

It’s over eight years since Russell T Davies bought back the show. In doing so he consigned the Time Lords to a Time Lock, and then started to tell the viewer how noble and great they were. Then he bought them back just to demonstrate how mad they’d become.

As we approach the 50th, I’m always intrigued when I see the very genuine desire from some on our forum (amongst others) for the Time Lords to return to the show. Also, the 12 regeneration rule seems to be raising its head with SM answering a question or two about it.

As we have lots of viewers who are not that familiar with the BG years I thought I’d give a quick run down on how the story of the Time Lords evolved, with some (hopefully) humorous references and explain how I saw them. Comments and additions are most welcome.

The ideal
The noble ideal of the Time Lords. Just how real is it?

Fan Factions

Keep the Doctor Asexual Society (KDAS)
Concerned fandom for the Preservation of Regenerations. (CFPR)

Time Lordy rating: A subjective PhaseShift rating upto 100% comparing the idealised view of the Time Lords to what was on the screen.

Story (Doctor)
What we learn Comments
The Unearthly Child(1)

A bonkers old man and his granddaughter kidnap a couple of teachers. They are wanderers in time and space, and he’s afraid they’ve learned too much.

The Doctor has a TARDIS. Susan claims she coined the name TARDIS from the initials Time and Relative Dimension in Space (one would think a pretty obvious acronym for a technologically sophisticated society to adopt). KDAS suggest that Susan isn’t his real family, it’s not confirmed she’s from Gallifrey and the suggestion that an elderly alien once “jumped off the good foot and did the bad thing” is horrible.
The Time Meddler(1)

The Doctor and team encounter another member of the Doctors race. One who prefers to Meddle in time.

Others of the Doctors people are abroad in their Time Machines. Not all of them are as well meaning as the kidnapper general.
The Tenth Planet(1)

The Doctor confronts the Cybermen for the first time. He collapses at the end. In the TARDIS he changes appearance, form and personality.

He calls this renewal in the next story, which launches a thousand tedious flame wars years later as people deny this is “Regeneration”. CFPR demand this isn’t the first regeneration.
The Tomb of the Cybermen(2)

The Doctor encounters a tomb. With Cybermen in it. The name is on the tin, people.

The Doctor is pretty adamant he has a family. Who “sleep in his mind” unless he wants to remember them. Awww. KDAS demand that “family” may mean parents, and dispute any suggestion that any family was the result of the Doctor doing the “S-E-X thing”.
The War Games(2)

The Doctor and team land in a war zone, that becomes lots of war zones as they cross them, and the Doctor realises someone is using his own peoples technology to create the ultimate army from humans. The Doctor confronts a renegade called the War Chief.

Information overload! The Doctor is a “Time Lord”. Some renegade Time Lords aren’t very nice, and abuse their technology. Interfering in events is Very Bad as far as Time Lords are concerned. They carry out a death penalty by dematerialisation, which means that the people concerned never existed. And then isolate the planet of the War Lords for eternity within a force shield. They force “a change of appearance” on the Doctor and exile him to earth with his disabled TARDIS. This is a light sentence, based on mitigation that he has acted with benevolent intent. CFPR launch more flamewars years later as people still demand that a “change of appearance” does not constitute a regeneration.Time Lordy Rating. High 98%. Aloof, imposing and in control. The trial sees them at their height. Remove percentage points for the entire dematerialisation thing. Amnesty would have complained about the death penalty but, you know, he never existed in the first place now/then. Probably.
Terror of the Autons(3)

After a year on Earth fruitlessly trying the get the TARDIS fixed, a Time Lord appears to tell the Doctor that a rival Time Lord, the Master, is likely around, but he can’t be bothered to help. Because interfering is Very Bad. Hilarity ensues as the Doctor tackles his old foe who has allied himself to the Nestenes..

What we learn. Some Timelords are very bad (again). The Time Lords really can’t put their back into this entire “hunting down renegade Time Lords” thing can they? They do have a natty taste in Savile Row gear though. The Master has a different type of TARDIS to the Doctor as their parts are not interchangeable. It may have a “go faster” stripe. Time Lordy Rating. Still High 90%. Aloof, imposing and in control. But shouldn’t such an advanced civilisation be willing to put a little more effort into hunting renegades?
The Three Doctors(3)

The Time Lords are under attack, the source of their power being drained. Only one man in three bodies can save them. The problem is legendary Gallifreyan Stellar Engineer Omega. After creating the source of thier power he was trapped alone in an antimatter universe and has gone completely mad.

Hartnell refers to himself as the “original” Doctor. The Time Lord President refers to him as the original. They grant a pardon and replace the knowledge taken from the Doctor. CFPR reserves to right to ignore these as badfacts, and we still don’t know if previous changes are regenerations.Time Lordy Rating. Takes a dent to 76% .Not so high and mighty now eh?
The Time Warrior(3)

The Doctor meets the Sontarans on medieval Earth.

The Sontarans know of the Time Lords. Gallifrey is named as their Planet. Protests from fandom erupt from three people in the Neasden area who decide we now know “too much” about the Doctor.
Planet of the Spiders(3)

The Doctor investigates giant spiders with powerful mental capabilities. He saves the Universe at the cost of his own life and meets another Time Lord.

Other Time Lords are renegades. Not all of them are evil! Regeneration is the term coined by the other who seems to be an old acquaintance of the Doctor. He appears to have other abilities, like maintaining a 3D projection of his own next incarnation. CFPR grudgingly accept that this is a regeneration. The first mind you!
Genesis of the Daleks(4)

The Time Lords send the Doctor back to the creation of his old enemies. They want him to either kill them off, of make them less aggressive.

Time Lords can see potential future time streams. One of them looks pretty dire with the Daleks attaining universal supremacy. Time Lords can travel without TARDIS, here using a Time Ring. Time Lordy Rating. Ouch – 60% .A bit of self preservation here as they decide to use the Doctor to interfere. A “hands off approach” for plausible deniability.
Brain of Morbius(4)

The Doctor seems to be sent to Karn by the Time Lords. Morbius, a rebel Time Lord they executed is being bought back. The Planet is the home of the Sisterhood of Karn who are a bit peeved with the Time Lords.

Karn is probably another planet in the Gallifrey system (a billion miles away). When Time Lord regeneration goes wrong, the Time Lords tap the Sisterhood for some of their Numismatron gas, which helps. Another Time Lord – another Genocidal maniac.
In a mental battle with Morbius the Doctor appears to have other forms prior to Hartnell who look suspiciously like members of the then production team.
A thousand tedious arguments about the Doctors potential regenerations prior to Hartnell are caused by a production joke.Time Lordy Rating. Gordon Bennet. They can’t stroll a mere billion miles away to sort out one of their own problems? 50%
The Hand of Fear(4)

The Doctor lends a hand to a fossilised hand. He receives a summons to Gallifrey at the end.

Sarah Jane has to be abandoned because Gallifreyans “Don’t allow strangers in these parts”. Bet they support UKIP.
The Deadly Assassin(4)

The Doctor returns to Gallifrey to find himself setup for murder by the Master and sentenced to execution. He avoids the fate by standing for President (which he wins as his opponent is revealed as a traitor.

Information overload! The Matrix is a network of dead Time Lord brain patterns that controls Gallifrey. The Doctor is a Prydonian Order Time Lord. Other Orders are available. The Matrix can be used to transmit telepathic messages and visions of the future to living Time Lords. The Doctor got into a “bit of bother” before legging it from home. Time Lords can regenerate 12 times (13 lives), and the Master has gone beyond this point, requiring a lot of moisturiser. Rassilon is an ancient Time Lord who also helped found Time Lord society. It emerges later that virtually everything of importance on Gallifrey is named after him and Omega. The Doctors Pardon was at the behest of an organisation within Gallifrey called (70s Satire alert) the “Celestial Intervention Agency (CIA)”. An organisation that allows the non-intervention Time Lords to, er, interfere. Not all power mad Time Lords leave Gallifrey. A senior Time Lord cracks a joke about the “plebeian” classes to a Policeman. “PlebGate” does not occur in Gallifreyan media. Certain politicians in the UK start to dream wistful thoughts that they have been born on the wrong planet.CFPR is born to conserve the Doctors regenerations by spurious argument. See “Renewal” and “Change of appearance”.Time Lordy Rating. Oh dear. A lot of illusions are shattered. 32% and falling.
Image of the Fendahl(4)

The Doctor confronts an ancient evil from the mysterious fifth planet of the Earth Solar System.

In an attempt to view the Fendahl at home he discovers the Time Lords isolated the planet and have removed all record of it. He is very angry Oh dear, that “non-intervention” thingy looks evermore shaky.

The Doctor encounters a group of survivors from a race called the Minyans who are a bit peeved with Time Lords. He helps them find a race bank of other survivors.

The reason that the Time Lords don’t interfere (guffaw) is that in their early days they played God with a race they encountered, accelerating their development thousands of years from stone age to space age in a couple of centuries. They then had their ass handed to them on a plate by their worshippers before the race virtually annihilated itself. They even gave the race a form of mechanical regeneration which the Doctor is horrified to learn they have used thousands of times. I apologise if this makes this story sound far better than it actually is.
Invasion of time(4)

The Doctor assumes the Presidency of Gallifrey and appears to be a traitor willing to use his office to sell out his people.

Non conforming elements of Gallifreyan society are cast out to live in the suspiciously earth like wilderness. Time Lords seem to go to pieces when the artifice of power is taken away from them and the transduction barrier that surrounds Gallifrey is breached. Time Lords come in two flavours, as we meet the first woman (who’s a bit bored with Gallifreyan life). Time Lordy Rating. Really, oh dear. As soon as the transduction barrier is lowered it appears some Time Lords lack the spine of the average Target paperback. A meagre 15%
Ribos operation(4)

The Doctor gets a mission to assemble the Key to Time and a new companion.

Romana spends the next six stories reminding the Doctor just what an idiot he is compared to other Time Lords. Fandom erupts with labels of “Smug” applied to Romana. For the modern equivalent, see reaction to River Song.
The Armageddon Factor(4)

The Doctor completes his quest for the Key with help from another renegade Time Lord, Drax.

Some renegade Time Lords are not Good or Evil, but merely dodgy wheeler dealers with even dodgier accents. Drax picked up his marvellous cockney lingo in Earth prison. We learn the Doctors designation at the Academy was Theta Sigma.
Destiny of the Daleks(4)

The Doctor meets the Daleks again, although first we have to go through a fan troubling regeneration for Romana.

Roman treats regeneration far more casually than the Doctor and, as ever, is a bit better at it. Time Lords can take on more alien forms during Regeneration. Wails of “this doesn’t make sense” erupt as Script Editor Douglas Adams takes a jokey approach to a casting issue.
Arc of infinity(5)

The Doctor is drawn back to Gallifrey when Omega launches an attack and attempts to bond with him. Cue hilarity as he is shot by his next incarnation, and does a lot of running around Amsterdam.

The Time Lords decide the best way to end their problems is to terminate the Doctor without trial. Ungrateful gits. More treachery and another Time Lord traitor is revealed. Time Lordy Rating. Christ – both pififul and repetitive. 10%
Mawdryn undead(5)

The Doctor encounters some scientists who tried to recreate the regeneration technique. The are now immortal but in a continual state of cellular mutation. To end their suffering they need something from the Doctor.

Reinforcing the thirteen lives rule. To end the suffering the scientists want the Doctor to give them one each of his regenerations. To people with sense this places the fifth Doctor as the Fifth Doctor. “Eight of them, eight of me – they want to take my remaining regenerations”.
Five Doctors(5)

Someone on Gallifrey is collecting Doctors and sending them to an area on Gallifrey called “The Death Zone”. The Doctors have to navigate the hazards to find the Tomb of Rassilon to find out what’s going on.

Ancient Time Lords used to practice war games with captured aliens for their amusement. Rassilon seems to have gained immortality of a kind. He is either the hero who ended the abomination of the games, or the one who started them. Nobody seems to know. He thinks other people seeking immortality is a bad thing, and will give it to them in a way they don’t really expect. Reinforced the 13 lives thing as President Borusa is on his 13th and final life. Another visit to Gallifrey and another mad traitor unveiled.See note by @Wolfweed below for even more! Time Lordy Rating. Oh look. Another power mad corrupt Gallifreyan. How unexpected. 5%
Twin Dilemma(6)

An old Gallifreyan friend of the Doctor seems to be acting out of sorts, kidnapping kids and working for a power mad slug.

Reinforces the 13 life rule. The plot seems to resolve around Azmael, a product of a civilisisation who have conquered time travel, conveniently forgetting Newtonian level physics. D’oh! Words fail me on this one.
Mark of the Rani(6)

The Doctor and Peri meet George Stephenson and discover another renegade, The Rani, who has a habit of performing experiments on lower life forms like humans.

Let’s just think about this. The Time Lords hunted the Doctor and put him on trial for borrowing a TARDIS and interfering with benevolent intent. When the Rani got into trouble on Gallifrey, she was banished with a TARDIS to continue her evil experiments. And no one on Gallifrey saw any difficulties in this? Man, she must have had one hell of a lawyer. Time Lordy Rating. The Rani could be a fun enough character but what the hell were the writers actually on? 0%
Trial of a Time Lord(6)

The Doctor is put on trial again. He is accused of genocide amongst other things.

It’s a dastardly plot! The Time Lords caused the events the Doctor is accused of, and have bought back a dark future incarnation of the Doctor himself, The Valeyard, to prosecute him. Never once suspecting he’d turn on them. Time Lordy Rating. Absolutely bloody incompetent. Gone is the majesty and control, as the Time Lords lack the power to even mount a successful cover up of their crimes. Pathetic. -1,000,000%

There are many other casual references, but these are some of the “highlights” of the show.

I think Russell did the right thing in locking them away. It’s interesting to note that the real damage to the Time Lords reputation started after one truly good story (Deadly Assassin) and we got into some recurring tropes very quickly.

They became the equivalent of catnip to certain writers, and I’m sure a memo must have been circulated at one point which said:

“Does your story lack sparkle – then what you need is new and improved Time Lord RENEGADE! Make him good, make him evil! Maybe you’ll get lucky and create the new Master with guaranteed creator credits!! Need some mysterious artefact at the centre of your latest opus? Try inserting “of Rassilon” or “of Omega” after any object (“The vacuum cleaner of Omega” for example) to facilitate the creation of your latest plot macguffin”.

It became very lazy. The obvious point people make is that we have a new generation of writers who may not fall into those traps. The problem is though that Russell, Paul Cornell, Mark Gatiss and Gareth Roberts all wrote Virgin range books that dipped into Gallifreyan “continuity porn”. I think they all went into it thinking they could write a really good Time Lord story. They all fell into the traps of the old series. It hardly matters in books which had a print run of 20,000 dedicated followers, but for the wider audience I think it could be territory that you best keep out of. I think Russell showed admirable foresight (and restraint) in his setup for the new series.

I’m sure it may happen at some point in the future, but I have a sinking feeling that whatever good stories may arise from their immediate release, history will repeat itself. The Time Lords are a great concept when you don’t have to deal with them face to face.

Long live the Time Lock.


  1. @PhaseShift – wow, that was really informative, thank you.  And entertaining!  I have only one eensy teensy request – might it be possible to indicate which Doctor is in each of these adventures?

    And what do you have against Neasden?  🙂

    There was a comment that Steven Moffat made at Ad Lib in Edinburgh where he seemed to indicate a disinterest with bringing Time Lords back.  I’ve debated on other threads here that I personally wouldn’t mind one of them popping ’round every now and again post-50th.  I argued from the position that the Doctor is becoming too much of a ‘Lonely God’ and seeing ‘his people’ in a story or two might help alleviate that.  I agree wholeheartedly that it’s all about the writing, but do you think Moffat (and Gatiss, putatively the next show-runner) are not able to write in a Time Lord or two successfully?

    What are your ideas about creating new, previously-unseen TLs as opposed to bringing back ones we’ve already met in the programme?

  2. Excellent post @Phaseshift. I’m very glad I avoided being a fan all that time I was a fan. I fully agree, TimeLords are best NOT seen or heard from at all as BG Who managed to show us without really trying. Whilst I’m not at especially bothered if they come back in the anniversary show, I would be pleased if we saw and heard little of them if they did. Unfortunately, if they’re back then I’m sure that some future writer/show runner will have this great idea about a new renegade time lord which isn’t necessary. The Master (and Rani if you must) is enough I fear. I don’t think we can bank on future writers quite having as much sense as the current team.

    My main reason for “bringing them back” (if SM thinks its necessary) is too remove the Doctor = lonely God idea (I’m with @Shazzbot here) and the guilt/remorse/PTSD that the Time War seems to have given us in AG Who. Whilst this is not at all a bad idea, I think that this idea has past its sell by date now. I suppose, given some of my other posts on here, I could be accused of a lay member of KDAS (even if I have never heard of them !). I would refute that. I see no need for that at all, but I do have the preference that any [sexual] relationship that the Doctor enters into makes sense from a character stand point, which is not always something I’ve been able to convince myself so far in AG Who.

    Thanks for the entertaining read


  3. The Time Lord mental illness of choice appears to be meglomania. Feeling a bit down? Out of sorts? Take over Gallifrey! If kicked off Gallifrey, conquer the universe!

    Who was it who once referred to ‘the Clockwork Mouse of Rassilon’?

    Anyway, I do not want the Time Lords back, but I do want this Last Of His Kind schtick to end. I think the way through is to keep the Doctor as The Last of The Time Lords – but not the last of the Gallifreyans. After all, his daughter’s still around somewhere – so while he doesn’t know it, he hasn’t been the last of his kind for quite a bit.

    Is part of the 50th going to be about rescuing the children?

  4. Great post, @PhaseShift — I agree with the no more Time Lords call. I don’t particularly have a problem with the Lonely God angle as some seem to either. And if it’s proving to be a narrative problem, then surely it’s better just to quietly tone it down rather than bring back the twats in the silly collars.

  5. Can I just thank all for immediate responses. I’m afraid I managed to upload this just before our broadband went “wiggy”. I fear a lot of people are as bored as I am on a bank holiday. I’ll be back later with some answers and to correct some mistakes!

    I’m sharing an internet dongle at the mo, and MrsPhaseshift’s need is more immediate than mine.

  6. @PhaseShift  Lots of laugh out loud moments reading this!

    The Time Lords are worse than the Daleks because they’re a bunch of bloody hypocrites!

    Should they return , it might be hard to forgive them, as only the Dr’s Mum & Dad (probably), voted against the destruction of the entire Multiverse.

    Might I add…

    The Five Doctors: Although the 13 lives rule is reinforced, the Master is offered a new life cycle in exchange for doing the High Councils’ hard graft. Perhaps other renegades have been the TL’s agents too. Maybe the Rani went back in time & altered the Bandrils’ genetic history, so that they evolved into less aggressive glove-puppets…

    The Two Doctors: Another example of Time Lords not getting their own hands dirty. The Season 6B theory comes into play, as a post War Games 2nd Dr is the TLs’ bitch. He explains that although their policy is one of strict neutrality, they can always deny him being their tool, as he is officially an outlaw.

  7. Also,

    Image of the Fendahl: It transpires that the Time Lords destroyed a planet, & hid the fact in a time loop because they’re not really supposed to do that sort of thing…

  8. @wolfweed

    Might I add…

    You certainly may. Many thanks. Can’t believe I forgot to put in the offer of the Master to replenish his regenerations, but I can believe I forgot (or would like to) The Two Doctors. I’ve just added a reference in the table to your comment. I got the Image one though.

    I was losing the will to live in the Sixth Doctors run! Didn’t venture into Seven’s territory.

  9. @shazzbot @nick @bluesqueakpip @JimTheFish

    I just inserted numbers next to the episode titles @shazzbot.

    Yes, dwelling on the “last of the Time Lords” stuff is tired. To be fair, I think SM has stepped back from it a bit, but what I’m hoping for is that he comes out of the 50th anniversary fully reconciled (if we are dealing with that period) with what happened and his position.

    My only alternative I suggested a while ago. Take the Master out of the Time Lock potentially leading a group of Gallifreyans (not Time Lords) out with him as their “saviour”. Every reason to fear the Doctor, and perhaps envious of him. His TARDIS may be a target if they only have limited technologies like Time Rings (which seemed a bit temperamental). You could create a similar idea to the Paradox Faction in spin off media for an entertaining arc or two.

    Bringing them back “as was” though I think would be a huge mistake, and I’m relieved to see it’s not just me.

  10. The above post was both informative and entertaining, thank you @Phaseshift.  I can understand why RTD wanted to get rid of the TLs, and why SM is reluctant to bring them back.  Whilst renegade TLs  are easier on the eye than a man in rubbery monster costume, they do sound a bit repetitive and clutter up the story telling a bit.

    However I see that there are a couple of multiple Doctor stories mentioned by yourself and @Wolfweed. Since we are expecting a multiple Doctor story for the 50th, is there perhaps an opportunity of having a look at one of the earlier ones for our BG retrospective?  I admit that this request is totally self serving as they were always my favourite as a kiddie.

  11. @Phaseshift

    Just musing at the list…aren’t Terrence Dicks and Robert Holmes essentially responsible for all the decent Time Lord stories (either as writer or script editor) and most of the mythology ?


  12. This was great, @PhaseShift.

    I wrote a longer post, but I just lost it. Darn the unfamiliar, temporary and cheap keyboard USB’d into my laptop as a temporary solution. Not even ctl-z could have brought it back. GRRRRRRRRRRR.

    The somewhat shorter version is that I liked seeing Timothy Dalton but not Rassilon and I definitely wouldn’t invite him and his crowd over for dinner. Dalton, maybe, but without the ostentatious head decoration and robe.

    Big props for Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor. I thought his portrayal was spot on for someone who’d just committed mass genocide of at least two races, maybe more. The last of the Time Lords bits were well-scripted and integral to establish the AG Doctor’s character. But almost four Doctors in, it’s getting a bit old. I don’t mind a reminder here or there when it’s necessary for that particular story: the Beast Below (TBB), for example. Or, if dwelling on it in an episode or two is necessary for the character of the Doctor to grow and evolve: The Waters of Mars, for example. I’m grateful that a modern, independent woman trumped the Time Lord Victorious. He was scary! Glad the Doctor didn’t stay “victorious.”

    In TBB Amy convinced the Doctor to not harm the star whale by making him realize that both he and the star whale were “kind, gentle, and the last of their kind.” (paraphrasing somewhat, perhaps.)

    I’m OK with that. It was necessary for the denouement, to establish Amy’s character and to lay a foundation for further development of the Amy-Doctor dynamic.

    But by the end of Matt’s run, a big part of me was saying “OK, OK, enough already. He’s the last of the time lords. So? We’ve got that part already.” Perhaps it was because I was put off by how Eleven, long-lived alien that he is, viewed Clara as a puzzle, not a person. Stalking her from birth to the present, consulting sensitives about her (Hide), and more. I’m actually surprised that he hasn’t — on screen, at least — sequenced her DNA!

    I hope that the Clara-Doctor dynamic changes and brings back a little warmth or empathy when Twelve enters the Tardis. Not everyone is as fascinated by puzzles as Moffat seems to be. I enjoy exercising my grey matter. But not at the expense becoming Sherlock instead of Watson. Recently, it’s like a Dementor has been hanging around the Tardis sucking out all the joy and optimism left by Rose. The clouds from the Doctor’s Victorian melancholy perch have obscured the mutual respect and trust shown during Ten’s travels with Martha and Donna.

    Yeah, I know. We’re headed to the fall of the Eleventh, and then that John Hurt guy — same Time Lord, apparently, but not “The Doctor.” But we’re in the 21st century, I’m a fan of literature but I don’t want season 8 to be set in Doseovsky’s Russia. Or in Rwanda in the 1980’s. Or Guantanamo Bay now. There’s probably a very good reason that Cormac McCarthy’s dystopian novel The Road is not being turned into a series to be shown during family, pre-watershed hours on BBC1.

    Hope you’re reading this, Moffat and Gattis. I, for one, would like season 8 to have just a little infusion of RTD. A little less of the all analytical (nearly) all of the time. Remember, the goal is to increase viewership, Rose was the perfect companion to introduce new viewers to Doctor Who. She stood in for the audience. We were introduced to the Whoniverse through her eyes. As Who becomes more popular world-wide, and as there are always children who’ve grown up enough to sit behind the sofa and start watching the show. I trust you and your writers to avoid recreating the worst of the PG POV characters. But season 8 will be a disappointment if it continues this pattern of remote Tardis inhabitants. How do you expect to retain and grow viewership without a POV character who’s not just a piece of a jigsaw?

    As an aside:

    I just had an AHA moment. I’d always been furious at Ten for interfering with a crucial fixed point in time towards the end of TTOM. His actions were so over the top. And don’t get me started on his hubris. Man! No wonder River told Eleven that he shouldn’t travel alone.

    My epiphany: We’d not seen anything in AG Who showing the danger of a Time Lord who believed he could overcome time itself. Part of the reason why Tennant became so unhinged and obsessed with his power was to prepare the viewing audience for “Rassilon (briefly) Victorious” at the end of Ten’s run.


  13. @PhaseShift – highly entertaining and very informative, thanks!  My recall is awful, so much in there that I’d forgotten or never knew.  I think you’ve demonstrated amply why The Time Lords shouldn’t be brought back but at the same time, I’m one of those who’s both called for their return so I aught to try and justify:

    No more Lonely God.  This is the single biggest thread I’m ready to move on from now.  The PTSD angle has been played down over the past few years to be fair, but the Pond/River arc has shown how he needs to belong but is too alien to ever truely do so.  It’s good to have somewhere to be from – My wife is very proud to be from Liverpool, but that doesn’t mean she ever wants to live there again.  Being the last of his kind elevates his position – more powerful, cleverer than all around.  It plays into the Time Lord victorious, most feared in all the universe character.  Having the Time Lords back grounds him.

    The Doctor is bored.  @Shazzbot has touched on this in her excellent immortality post.  He’s alleviated it by witnessing the universe for the first time again through the eyes of his companions but even that isn’t enough – he now needs mysteries to solve, companions packaged with a puzzle.  I suspect he’d appreciate being out in the wider universe for it’s own sake a bit more if it was a choice between that and being stuck at home with his mad uncles.

    Time Lords are good news for Dalek stories.  The TimeLock was meant to condemn the remains of two unhinged races away from the rest of the universe for all eternity.  Except that it’s only locked away one of them.  Possibly proof that the Daleks are more cunning than the Time Lords and were destined for eventual victory anyway but the net result is that there is only the Doctor left to put a stopper on Dalek supremacy.  Despite that cunning, and despite fighting all of the Time Lords into what was likely some kind of destructive stalemate, a single Time Lord is able to thwart the entire empire time and time again.  Essentially, it makes the Doctor’s greatest enemy appear incompetent or the stories increasingly hard to buy.  If other Time Lords were around, it’s easier to believe that the Daleks were fighting on multiple fronts and therefore possible for the Doctor to meet and confront smaller factions without the numbers necessary to overcome one Time Lord.

    The Doctor killed all of his own.  Makes me a bit uncomfortable this.  Locking two sets of psychopath’s away for their own good and for the good of the rest of the universe, fair enough.  But one of those sets isn’t locked away.  Essentially, the Doctor is keeping his entire race on the naughty step when the other boys and girls have been allowed back out to play.  It suggests a stubborn, dictatorial megalomania in the Doctor (he knows better than his ENTIRE race.  All of them.  I’ll grant you, on the evidence you’ve presented in this blog then maybe he does but he’s always fought against these qualities and I’d like to think it was through awareness of right and wrong, rather than trying to compensate for his own failings)

    Completely agree with your comment

    Bringing them back “as was” though I think would be a huge mistake

    but I do think bringing them back would be beneficial to the Doctor’s character.  As you suggested yourself, a group of Time Lords (led out of the TimeLock by the Master possibly) could be a way of doing it, or perhaps the uncovering of hidden conscientious objectors who’d chameleon arched themselves away would offer the chance to show a more rounded spectrum of their society from the decent scholars to those resentful of the Doctors role in the Time War (and his TARDIS?) to those who start demonstrating their race’s tendency to nutterdom.

    Anyway, rather rabbited on (who? me?), but thank you for a highly enjoyable read.

  14. @OsakaHatter

    I suspect he’d appreciate being out in the wider universe for it’s own sake a bit more if it was a choice between that and being stuck at home with his mad uncles.

    Very good point. Yes, there’s a big difference between choosing to travel the universe and having to wander the universe because there’s nowhere else to go. The Doctor’s lost his home; and as long as he’s the only Time Lord/Gallfreyan in the wider universe, he’s going to keep losing it. Death is always going to take away any home he manages to make.

  15. @chickenelly @nick

    @chickenelly, everything is up for grabs as far as future episodes are concerned, with the possible exception of Two Doctors ;-).

    Three Doctors is a great way to see 1, 2 and 3 together, but your sensitivity to rubber monsters may be tested by Omegas Gel Guards. Five Doctors is a romp, but was actually presented in the UK as a 90 minute special (although I’m sure a couple of territories cut it into episodes).


    Yes, you’re correct really. It’s interesting that Robert Holmes in particular gave us two bits of mythology that have stood the test of time more than most. He introduced the 13 lives rule, and was largely responsible for the Valeyard concept.

  16. @TardisBlue

    Don’t worry about it, the more the merrier on the blog. I’m not sure if I fully agree with you, as I think the angst has been pulled back (certainly in 2010 &11) , but as I’ve said I think the after effects of the Time War will have to end to a certain extent. I think in series 5 and 6, there was very little actually referenced beyond him being “the last of his kind” in Beast Below, and the Time Lord heavy references in Doctors Wife, but even in that one his comment to House “Fear me, I killed all of them” sounds more reconciled.

    In think the injection of the HurtDoctor into the pantheon may be to accelerate the development of a 13 lives story, which may wrap up that entire Time Lord baggage in a way. Probably not out of the woods yet, but I think you can see beginnings of a plan.

  17. @OsakaHatter @bluesqueakpip

    I suspect he’d appreciate being out in the wider universe for it’s own sake a bit more if it was a choice between that and being stuck at home with his mad uncles.

    I think it’s an interesting point regarding that interaction with Gallifrey and whether he actually considers it “home”. In a lot of the old episodes, it’s as if he is never seen as quite so alien as when he returns “home”, because no one understands his underlying wonderlust or why he wanted to leave in the first place! I think first and foremost he responds in Deadly Assassin because he feels he has certain obligations as a Time Lord, but beyond that it’s very muddled.

    You can see the underlying problem with Gallifrey though. Being so isolationist, if you are going to set a story there, by necessity the problem has to be initiated or facilitated by an enemy within, and so you had the parade of power mad / traitors.

    Making a bunch of wanderers out of necessity all at once from some breakout of the Time Lock (maybe even a couple of hundred) could be a way to do it because you have different aspects of how each would react to the experience. Some may be evil, some not so, and some may just be bewildered to encounter the universe for the first time in their lives. The urge for survival and regaining a comfortable lifestyle could open up some interesting storytelling avenues though, with very mixed motivations.

  18. Many thanks for the responses so far. Apologies for being out of the loop.

    I’m actually planning another of these on the tricky subject of how Daleks have been portrayed over the years (there are about 4 different eras as far as I’m concerned). It may take a while, because I’m still wondering how to format the information.

    The reason I’m interested in that one is largely down to this question of how you resolve these issues with the TimeWar (which was designed to remove baggage, did it, and then became baggage itself it seems).

  19. haha, thoroughly enjoyed that – might even call it masterful, Mr Shift. (Particularly liked the “Time Lordy Rating. Christ – both pififul and repetitive.”  I think Pififul should be adopted into the next edition of the OED )

    Mere humans tend to have a problem when writing beings supposedly much more intelligent and far-seeing than themselves. TLs as they evolved reminded me too much of the traditional UK upper classes for comfort  – esp from a bolshie northern UK perspective – traditionally looked up to, then eventually the clay feet become soddden, lumpy and exposed. (bit of a 60s trope that – posh bloke with too much time and money goes round high-handedly solving people’s problems for them; then runs into how to develop the character (cos we’ve run out of new story ideas) problems around series 3)

    They did do a nice line in iconic collars tho – a design which has stood the test of time, if not the rules of comfort or taste.

    re Robert Holmes writing the best of the TL stories – not surprising since he also wrote many of the best DW stories full stop .

    Bring them back? Not in a hurry to see it, tho never say never.  Major plot problems arise with too many almost-omnipotent beings around though. Like @Phaseshift (and others) I reckon the 50th will see a clearing out of a lot of old baggage. (To be replaced with sparkly light new baggage which will need to be cleared out again in a few years time).

    Looking forward to reading the dalek instalment.


  20. @ScaryB — the Time Lords are definitely an extension of the class system and as a bolshy Scot they’ve always bloody irritated me. And for this reason more than any other I don’t want to see them back.

    There’s been a lot of chat recently about whether or not Who is racist or sexist which it isn’t really. But I’d argue that you could make a good case for it being classist. The Academy is basically a galactic Oxbridge with the Doctor as the precocious undergraduate who is given the leeway to travel to universe on the indulgence of his patrician ‘tutors’.

    And although it’s clearly done for laughs, you’ve got things like Pertwee’s Doc burbling on about chatting to ministers ‘down at his club’…

    And where revolution and the changing of the social order are key themes in Who there’s never any possibility of that on Gallifrey — no, no, the Shobogans know their place…

    JimTheFish’s call for a Gallifrey run along socialist principles starts here!!

  21. @ScaryB and @JimTheFish – I thought the Time Lords certainly developed into having ‘British Empire’ feel about them. While Doctor Who itself isn’t racist, classist, sexist or even ageist – the Time Lords themselves tick most of those boxes.

    They are definitely racist; apparently it’s OK to wipe your memory, not allow you onto Gallifrey, conduct experiments on you or completely change your history as long as you’re not a Time Lord.

    Classist, check. Sexist – well, while it appears that female Time Lords can become President, there’s always noticeably more Time ‘Lords’ around. Given that Gallifreyans can change genders, one suspects a number of the women have said ‘sod this for a game of soldiers’ – and regenerated as male.

    Ageist – the one thing they aren’t. They also seem to have a bit of a ‘care in the community’ approach to mental health problems; of course, they’re likely to shove these utter nutters out into your community, not theirs.

  22. @ScaryB @JimTheFish @bluesqueakpip

    I’d definitely agree with the “classist” tag, but I think in the seventies with Robert Holmes you were talking about some elements of the “Superpower” complex as well.

    During that time it was clear that the US CIA was really out of control and had little effective political oversight. It’s funny that when Spandrell in Deadly Assassin is informed that the Celestial Intervention Agency arranged the Doctors pardon, he asks Hildred to ensure the troops shoot to kill, thinking he’s a very dangerous maverick. The idea of the non-interventionist Time Lords had a secret organisation who the population of Gallifrey mistrusted is very funny in that regard. See also Iain M Banks Culture novels and Special Circumstances.

  23. @scaryB, @bluesqueakpip and @phaseshift,

    yes, the CIA was an interesting concept. If Gallifrey was still around now, I wonder if we’d see much more playing around with that concept, especially in the light of current news stories about Miranda, Snowden et al. (Certainly I’ve been starting to think of ‘my’ Doc and Susan as whistleblowers on the run from the Time Lords.)

    I remember that scene in Assassin and thought it brilliantly brought home that despite being all cute and grandad on the outside, the Time Lords are actually incredibly ruthless. Again, I think of them kind of like academics. For all the collegiate attitude, they essentially hate and mistrust each other, much more inclined to stick the knife in than help you up.

    This very interesting discussion has really brought home something that I’ve brooded on for years, ever since I first read Invasion of Time. And that’s the Shobogans. I kept expecting them to be enfranchised by the end, for the Doctor have helped to find them in a place in Time Lord society, especially with Leela staying there. (If any companion would empathise with the Shobogans, it would have been Leela I would have thought. ) But no, it’s back to being turfed out of the Capitol by the end, it seems.

    I think a story with a renegade Time Lord trying to incite a Shobogan revolt would be an interesting one, if only to see where the Doctor stood on the issue. (I realise that there’s a stronger element of hegemony to Gallifreyan society than in some of Who’s other worlds but I’d still argue that there’s still an element of totalitarianism there.)

    It does make me wonder, actually, if Who is actually a much more conservative show than it often appears. It uses the tropes and often the language of revolution and radicalism but often is only using them to buttress or reinstate status quos.

    ‘I can hear the sound of empires toppling’ my arse….

  24. “Certainly I’ve been starting to think of ‘my’ Doc and Susan as whistleblowers on the run from the Time Lords.”

    Lawks! You’re not going to do a version of ‘Timeflight’, are you? The Doctor and Susan are unable to leave the physical environs of Heathrow airport without being arrested by the Celestial Intervention Agency. Desperate to escape, they travel 140 million years into the past, only to find the mysterious Citadel…

    I always thought that the Doctor had been a revolutionary in his youth (hence fleeing Gallifrey) but by Invasion of Time he’d figured out that no rebellion was going to work. Just been watching ‘Rings of Akhaten’ again, and that speech about ‘when you’re holding something precious, you run as far and as fast as you can’ does seem placed to hint to the long term fan why he ran rather than staying to fight. He wasn’t running, he was running-with-Susan.

  25. @bluesqueakpip

    Lawks! You’re not going to do a version of ‘Timeflight’, are you? The Doctor and Susan are unable to leave the physical environs of Heathrow airport without being arrested by the Celestial Intervention Agency

    That’s excellent. Yep, that’ll work….

    I think that line in Ahkaten was definitely a clue. Think we will probably at least be given some insight into the original flight from Gallifrey in November. Although probably nothing so specific that it will kill the mystery, I suspect…

  26. @JimTheFish @Bluesqueakpip

    I think it’s been helpful to me as well, especially this last part. I really didn’t like the ultimate end of the Cartmel Masterplan (“The Other” business) because I just felt that making the Doctor this “God Like” being was both overwrought and robbed him of something.

    Ultimately, I like the idea that the Doctor was born into a position of power and influence, but “normal” for his society. He was a natural troublemaker from the start though from odd kid onwards. Ultimately, he rebelled and left with Susan precipitated by some troubling event. Looking at your “Socialist Ideal” plea, made me think of Tony Benn. I agree with some of the stuff he says, disagree with others. I think what he says is worth considering more than other politicians because he resigned his Lordship to be an MP. He could easily have been one of the Lords today, on Corporate payroll and having an easy life. Baffling, and more than a little eccentric. Reminds me of the Doctor.

    I think that idea has more intrinsic power compared to Cartmel. You can aspire to live your life contrary to the ideals of an unjust society, but you can’t aspire to be the reincarnation of a God (with apologies to any minor deities reading).

  27. @Phaseshift @JimtheFish @Bluesqueakpip

    I think that idea has more intrinsic power compared to Cartmel. You can aspire to live your life contrary to the ideals of an unjust society, but you can’t aspire to be the reincarnation of a God (with apologies to any minor deities reading).

    Agree with that v much, which is why I’ve never been comfortable with the Cartmel masterplan concept. Also with the idea of the Dr and the Time Lords having a parallel in the 60s radicals who grew up demonstrating.  Not all of them remained radical, some were absorbed into the system they’d criticised, some became locked into thought-patterns of revolution, some adapted to changing times and continued working for change, some took time out and went travelling.*

    But I suppose I’d admit you could also draw parallels between the Dr’s character and the well-to-do Victorian travellers – the “gentlemen explorers” of Rider Haggard and John Buchan for example –  the intrepid variety, who explored the far-flung reaches of the empire (and beyond) – mainly because they could, but who generally carried with them a sense of (we’ve got an empire) superiority over the “natives”.

    That duality of possible interpretations of the character is part of the reason for its longevity and the Dr’s appeal.

    *Apologies for the massive simplification going on here, but you hopefully get my drift!


  28. The Time War is an intriguing concept, tho I suspect it would be difficult to convey on screen, beyond what we’ve already seen eg in Genesis when T Baker is sent back to meddle with the Daleks’ origins, and the beginning of TWoRS when “everything is happening at once”

    The Time Lock as infinite Groundhog Day – if they weren’t mad before they were caught in it, they’ll be more bonkers than Omega if they ever get released (as we’ve seen).

    I rather like @JimtheFish‘s extreme paranoia/backstabbing/24-style intrigue/Wikileaks plot suggestion for a TimeLords story, but the ones in the Time Lock are way beyond that stage!  Unless it was treated as an origin story, going back to a much earlier time in their history… but without giving away the mystery.

    On the whole, I think we’re done with them, there’s nowhere else to go with them really. Unless you really limit the number of  timetravelling, regenerating TLs you very quickly run into mega plotting problems. And indeed, the Shobogans (are they mentioned by name in the series btw or just the books?) And as Phaseshift clearly demonstrates above, they don’t deserve it!

  29. @ScaryB

    I think they did/do often try and make the Doctor into a ‘gentleman adventurer’ – and that was certainly how the Pertwee Doctor presented himself.

    You can’t get round it – he’s a Time ‘Lord’, he’s highly educated, he’s independently wealthy . That ‘independent’ wealth may be a TARDIS instead of an estate, but he’s still the ancient definition of ‘gentleman’. He has no need to work. His point of view is almost invariably going to be ‘officer’, not ‘squaddie’.

    Tony Benn’s a good example; even though I’m considerably more cynical about his giving up his peerage than @Phaseshift.

    The suspicion that he may have been a ‘sixties-style radical’ is that the information we’ve been given fits that pattern. Upper class, educated – and a refugee for some unspecified reason. A refugee who doesn’t seem to have been fleeing from a society at war.

    And deeply, deeply mistrusted by the ruling classes of his society. Their attitude to the Doctor seems to be ‘if in doubt, shoot him’. It’s almost as if everyone his age or older knows something that they’re not saying…


  30. @Bluesqueakpip

    Agree – Pertwee, and possibly Davison, embodied the Dr as “traveller of independent means”, but this persona isn’t fixed. As has been articulately dealt with elsewhere, particularly in @HTPBDET‘s blogs, he didn’t start off that way. Hartnell’s Dr is more of a mad scientist and Troughton’s is the wandering hippie/cosmic hobo with the TARDIS more like an old VW van, acquired along the way.

    @PhaseShift‘s post made me start to wonder how long it is between our first encounter with the Time Lords and End of Time.  The first enounter is with another independent traveller (the Monk) and then with the more controlling figures in the War Games. The Dr later refers to people with whom he was at the Academy (Deadly Assassin etc), but we don’t know how long ago that was.  I’ve always just assumed it was about 30/40 years, but that’s going solely on how old they look.

    My point is that the TLs could well have started off few in number and high-minded, if a bit authoritarian, but that entropy and paranoia sets in over possible millenia. War Games could be very early in their existance for all we know. So while the Dr is off proving that travel broadens the mind and becomes an increasing force for good, the ones left back on Gallifrey become more and more set in their Gormenghast-type ways and increasingly isolated from the rest of the universe.

    One characteristic of the Dr that’s consistent throughout the show is his enthusiasm for the wonders of the universe – even after 1100+years – embodied by Matt’s brilliant “I’m not running away, I’m running to… ” speech in Power of Three. That’s something all(?) the other Time Lords, we’ve met so far, with possible exception of Romana 2, have lacked.  I like to think the Corsair has some of it. No wonder the Dr ran away!

    I’m also wondering if all the meddling they make the Dr do could be seen (in retrospect) as different parts of the Time War.

    (Thanks @Wolfweed for Shobogans link)

  31. btw – Really enjoying this discussion!

    and agree – Doctor Who (as a series), easily moulds to reflect the social concerns of the day/ decade. Class has become a less prevalent concern in the media over the decades, and the stories and characters reflect this.

    The re-imagined TLs might now be less Dons/ upper class, and more cabalistic (pun not intended though its so hard to throw off The Things to Come influence).

    and I’m so happy I can now just think of the Time Lock as Groundhog day – I should have thought of this as it was a major end point to a Strontium Dog story (I won’t spoiler which one on the wild off-chance anyone is reading the collected comics!).

    (pity I can’t find an image of the appropriate panel after so much googling!)

  32. @Whisht

    Ah, thanks for the reminder about Strotium Dog, one of my fav strips – memories of Middenface McNulty, Wulf Sternhammer, the Gronk (oh my heartses), King Clarkie, the Milton Keynes Ghetto come flooding back… but sadly not of the story you mention! Writer John Wagner in top form (and Ezquerra).

    Going back to Dr Who, the thing with class is that the 60s/70s was the time when the Brits started to fall out of love with it, when it didn’t merit automatic approval and forelock tugging (see rise of working class heroes in cinema, theatre, music, student demos etc) vs last remnants of it in fictional heroes like Batman, the Saint, Avengers etc; when regional accents slowly started to creep into BBC newsrooms.  Institutions like the (christian) chuch (all flavours) still had massive influence on every-day lives at the time of The War Games in 1969. By the time of Five Doctors in 1983, there had been a social seismic shift in UK. Not to mention changes in the BBC itself re what was allowed and what had to be sneaked in under a cloaking device.

    Interesting to speculate how they would be envisaged if they were created today. Hard to imagine they would be any darker/more self-serving than they’ve ended up (see orig blog post above).

  33. I wanted to mention a theory for the added faces, seen when the Doctor battles Morbius.

    Maybe they were Morbius’ faces?

    It looked to me like The Doctor and Morbius were both hooked up to the machine, and it was like an arm-wrestling contest (brain-wrestling contest). I think it showed the Doctor’s faces first because he was losing, but then the Doctor started winning, so it started showing Morbius’ faces.

    My big picture view of Gallifreyan history is:
    1. Rassilon and Omega discover the power over Time Travel. Rassilon uses it to attain absolute power over Gallifrey. Rassilon controlled the use/knowledge of Time Travel until he lost power or died.
    2. The High Counsel/President/TL’s get control of the knowledge of Time Travel after Rassilon and take charge of who gets to use the power and how it is used. They believe in a non-interference policy, but not all TL’s agree with that policy.

    Thinking about what to do with Time Travel is like winning the lottery (getting filthy rich over night). It is fun to think of what you would do with all that money, but most people disagree on what they would do. Rogue TL’s don’t agree with the non-inference policy and have different ideas about how to use the power of Time Travel.

    Rogue Time Lords:
    I don’t see the entire ‘rogue TL’s’ as just the same megalomaniacs set on world domination. They are very different from each other if you look at their nuances.

    The Master probably wants to use the power just like Rassilon did. He thinks the universe would be better off if he had absolute power over everything.

    The Meddling Monk wants to use the power to rule a little town in England (or was it takeover Earth?). He didn’t seem as power hungry as the Master or as evil. His plan seemed like he wanted to live the easy life, instead of rule people (kinda like buying a big house in the Riviera if you win the lottery).

    The Rani is more of a scientist. She seems more interested in completing her research, instead of ruling the universe. However, the point that the TL’s let her lose with a Tardis, knowing that her research requires using humans as Guiney pigs, is a problem and makes me wonder if she wasn’t working for the CIA still. Maybe they wanted her research but needed plausible deniability if she gets caught. Or maybe the Rani had valuable secret information about their interferences to arrange a deal.

    The Doctor is a rogue TL too. He doesn’t agree with the non-interference policies just like the other Rogue TL’s. But he uses time travel to help people or learn or travel without interfering too much. But maybe sometimes he is still a secret agent working for the CIA.

    The Doctor leaving Gallifrey:
    I really like the CIA connection for the Doctor, especially the Doctor running away to protect Susan. The TL’s could’ve planned on expelling Susan out of the Citadel, out to the Outsiders, so the Doctor stole the TARDIS to rescue her. I like the idea of Susan being the revolutionary instead of the Doctor. Under this theory, the Doctor is like James Bond because he is a rogue agent (a slacker type) that would rather have fun, but the agency won’t let him go and calls him in emergency cases. We know the Doctor left, but is he really out of the CIA? He still does/did missions for them (involuntarily most of the time, but the jobs still get done). 😉
    Rassilon, Omega, Time Lord Council, etc:
    The writers might be keeping Gallifrey stories and TL’s simple on purpose, trying to avoid information overload which could be boring by slowing the stories down with TMI.

    I think we only see pieces of the Time Lord society at one point in Gallifreyan history. It’s like looking at a much bigger picture using only a microscope. In Trial of a TL we see (the judicial system), Deadly Assassin (the political system), Invasion of Time (the social/class system); but these systems probably change depending on when they happened on Gallifrey. I believe Rassilon probably ruled with more absolute power during his time (more like Henry VIII compared to the way England works now). So imo, there could be many more stories told on Gallifrey without getting boring, but they might get too confusing very fast. It’s probably much better to keep Gallifreyan history simple (like DW has been doing by using a microscope approach).

    @PhaseShift – Amazing Blog. The way you formatted the information makes it very easy to read and as always your brilliant witty humor makes it much fun. No doubt your Daleks blog would be just as great.

    Try inserting “of Rassilon” or “of Omega” after any object (“The vacuum cleaner of Omega” for example) to facilitate the creation of your latest plot macguffin”.


    Yes, I agree too many of those things could be really stupid, future writers should be required to attend “PhaseShift’s school of handwavium naming” to fix the problem.
    But in general the “of Rassilon” or “of Omega” things are a good things if used right, because I think they add magic into the Gallifreyan story. Magic can make CIA or political stories, or history more exciting. It’s kind of like Excalibur for King Arthur (I know that’s just a legend but it is sort-of-history at the same time).

    I’m with the TL’s returning crowd, because like you said the Doctor is “normal” for his society. Without other TL’s around the Doctor develops Superman syndrome, he is normal on his planet but the last of his kind. He becomes invincible and pretty boring after a while.

    But I’m with you on Time Lock for Rassilon (maybe Omega too). They seem like the ultimate ‘Big Bads’. So I think their stories should only be completed for the ultimate battle, and grand finale for DW the TV show. I don’t want DW to end for a very long time so…

    Long live the Time Lock
    This blog and discussion has so many new interesting ideas. I borrowed ideas from almost every post, apologies for not tagging them all. Thank you @Craig for bringing this blog back to the top: only to be found at the DWF.

  34. Right, I’ve reinstated this fine old blog, partially because it contains good discussion in itself, and partly because it seems a good place to park the Time Lords discussion that’s currently ongoing.

    Replies, in no particular order:

    @Nick (but also others on the AG role of the TLs):

    I suggest that this one decision is the most important foundation stone upon which AG Who Universe has been built. We could debate the pros/cons of this decision, but it has been made. By placing the Time Lords/Time War at the heart of AG Who mythology, it became inevitable that the Time Lords had to be very different from the initial BG conception of passive technocrats.

    I agree that the Time War concept completely changed the idea of the Time Lords from the BG one. Although I think the seeds of this confusion started with the McGann movie, which I think we have to assume is canon, with the TLs executing the Master (a. not very enlightened approach and b. using the Daleks to do it, what’s that about?) But, yes, by having a whole civilisation going to war, we’re going to see very different Time Lords.

    I still think that RTD’s primary reason for the Time War was to get the TLs out of the picture, to not have to deal with that strata of Who mythology, at least not at first. It was clear that expectations of TV drama had moved on and it wouldn’t have been possible to return to a Doctor as a pastless exile. To have a Doctor who is essentially a war refugee with survivior guilt is a neat way out of that impasse. RTD is very much a writer rooted in family, in human connection anyway, with all of his companions having extended and significant relationships with family. To have a Doctor with none of that himself, and no interest in it, would have perhaps been discordant, and not really RTD’s style. These are the sorts of questions which drive him as a writer, I think.

    I don’t agree that the AG foregrounded the TL’s too much. RTD might have banged on about the Time War a bit too much but the TLs themselves really only featured for the climax of The End of Time. That Oncoming Storm nonsense did get a bit too much and is one of the primary reasons while I find the 10th Doctor well nigh unwatchable at the moment.

    No, I think the BG series is far more culpable in screwing up the concept of the TLs. And to be fair, it’s not the Pertwee/Baker era TLs, which were more or less OK (although with definite issues, which are handily covered above). As with most things BG, the blame lies with the JNT era. First of all you have the reheated Deadly Assassin nonsense of Arc of Infinity (with TL’s being not massively enlightened or even logical. Here’s this problem so we must execute you immediately). Then there’s The Five Doctors with Time Lords as technological sadists (which is an interesting idea but is just thrown in there) and a complete reversal of a known character (Borusa turns evil because he’s getting old and yet is willing to give the Master new regenerations. Why not just give himself some?)

    But leaving that aside, it’s the constant centralising comments of the JNT era. Cyberleaders calling the Doctor ‘Time Lord’ every five minutes. Davros threatening to invade Gallifrey. Nor did The Trial of a Time Lord help either. And I guess the Cartmel Masterplan has to take some blame too, with all those Time Lord artefacts and the constant suggestions of the Doctor as ‘more than just another Time Lord’. The Time Lords and Gallifrey became an overused concept that shrank the universe to four or five ‘big races’ who all knew each other and in competition with each other and a host of bit player races to fill in the occasional gaps.

    If we had kept a Pertwee/Baker concept then I think that would have worked, although I wouldn’t have even named the planet. That would have at least kept some mystery to it. The TLs to my mind have been diminished with each successive appearance (BG anyway) and the fact that people keep wanting to see more is as good a reason as any to keep them off screen. (Harry Lime is a far more potent and evocative character in the first half of The Third Man before he even makes an appearance.)

    On class, I think the issue of privilege is one that SM is acutely aware of and I suspect that was his primary reason for bringing the TLs back, as well as wanting to draw a line under the Time War concept and remove that source of the Doctor’s angst. He wanted to emphasise that the Doctor does not come from a privileged background, or at least feels that he doesn’t belong to it, that he’s always been an outsider who slept in a barn. I’m always interested that the creation of this little piece of Who lore didn’t attract more fury from the traditionalists.

  35. @jimthefish

    I’ll have to reread the blog (as I’ve either forgotten it or never read it !). I don’t know what the traditionalist view of Who is, although I guess I might be classified in that group ! (but not by myself).

    I’d have to go back and watch a number of Who episodes (or read @phaseshift ‘s table above), but I recall several Pertwee Doctor speeches which quite clearly mark the Doctor as an outsider or at least very different from the “normal” time lord mentality. Wasn’t it the Baker Story Invasion of Time, which invented the Shoboggans (wrong spelling I’m sure), a class of timelords who had turned their back on time lord society and gone back to nature. I think the story made it clear that the Doctor had affinity with them and had lived amongst them for a while (although that may be me mis-remembering as that is a story I have no wish to watch again. 30+ years ago is not long enough).

    I pretty much agree with your take on the JNT era’s. He certainly seems to have believed that he was giving the fans what they wanted (although its now clear that it was a small clique he was listening too) by building up the Time Lord mythology. I don’t share your opinion that it shrank the Who universe, but it certainly did provide the back drop to a few rather poor stories (Silver Nemesis being the worst ?). It was certainly over done and overused.



  36. One thing that tweaked my imagination as I reread the original blog, is just how much in common the initial conception of the Time Lords (say up to Deadly Assassin) have with Iain Bank’s conception of the Culture with its various specialist agencies (Contact, Special Circumstances).

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