A Brief History of a Time Lord

A few things in this past series made me wonder about the Doctor’s past. To my surprise there’s no concise biography. There are more comprehensive guides to the Doctor’s adventures, the most biographically comprehensive being Who’s Doctor Who? and the brand new (and extraordinarily detailed) Expanded Universe at Outpost Gallifrey. But I thought I’d have a go at writing a very condensed version just sketching out the most important events in the Time Lord’s life, like being born, having a family, or getting elected President of his people. Let’s see how short I can manage to make it.

The Doctor was born to a Human mother and a Time Lord father on Gallifrey, home planet of the Time Lords, a race who mastered time travel. Little is known of his parents or his early childhood. His education was at the Academy on Gallifrey, where he studied a variety of subjects. His contemporaries included Time Lords who would later call themselves The Master and The Rani.

The Doctor became a father, although again little is known about the child (or children) or their mother. All that is known is that a child of the Doctor had a daughter, who was known as Susan. The Doctor found it hard to tolerate the Time Lords’ class ridden society, and in particular their rule that they must never intervene in history. At the age of 236 he stole a type 40 Tardis, and, with Susan, left Gallifrey to travel time and space.

When Susan fell in love with a freedom fighter on 22nd Century Earth, the Doctor left her behind but continued to travel with companions, often Humans from Earth. During his travels he also encountered for the first time a genetically modified creatures called Daleks. In his mid 400s, having become increasingly frail, he regenerated for the first time.

The Doctor’s travels finally came to an end when the Doctor found himself forced to call upon the Time Lords for assistance in resolving a conflict. The Time Lords put the Doctor on trial, and unlimately, condemned him to a forced exile on 1970s Earth and a forced regeneration.

Whilst stranded on Earth, the Doctor worked with the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce helping them to investigate paranormal and extraterrestrial phenomona. During this time the Doctor struggled to repair his TARDIS but never succeeded, and it was not until the Time Lords requested his help that it was re-enabled as a reward. The Doctor was able to roam time and space again, although this lead to several traumatic regenerations following injury and poisoning.

As the Doctor’s standing with the Time Lords improved they sent him on a mission back in time to prevent the creation of the Daleks: a first strike in a Time War that would ultimately lead to the demise of both races.

When the President of the Time Lords was assassinated, the Doctor found himself implicated, and so ran for the vacancy to avoid execution. This lead to his being elected President by default, although, not actually wanting the responsibility he left Gallifrey, leaving the Presidency in a consitutional limbo. He later took up the role, and left again; and when the High Council’s nominated replacement died he was offered and accepted the role once more before again doing a runner. Over 250 years of consitutional turmoil was finally ended when, at the age of 900, the Doctor found himself once again on trial before the Time Lords for “conduct unbecoming”.

Not long after originally being elected President, the Doctor met the Time Lady Romana, who, although some 600 years younger him, was more than an equal. They would have a close companionship that would last until Romana was summoned to return to Gallifrey.

Following his pivotal role in the Time Lords’ attempt to prevent the creation of the Daleks, the Doctor found himself involved in the escalating conflict. Davros, the Daleks’ creator, used the Doctor in an attempt to infiltrate the high council; the Doctor in turn used Davros to destroy Skaro, the Daleks’ home planet. Finally, the Doctor found a way to destory the Daleks at the cost of destroying his own race and his home planet, making him the last of the Time Lords.

Following his 9th regeneration at the age of 1137, the Doctor met and fell in love with a Human, the accomplished Reinette, Madame de Pompadour. Tragically, however, they were separated by a faulty time window and death.

Well, that about brings us up to date, I think. Please use the comments to point out all my errors.

A few notes about gaps:

  • Many of the original TV serials (which I have regarded as the definitive documentary evidence on the Doctor’s history) follow on from one another, making it easy to follow the time line. But there are gaps (there had to be, considering the Doctor aged at least 300 years between his 1st and 4th regeneration).
  • Particularly big gaps occur before and after the TV Movie, and in the new series Russel T. Davies has deliberately given the impression there are unseen adventures between televised stories (or even during, in the case of Love & Monsters).
  • Into the gaps TV writers have inserted “back story”. I have accepted this, although since it is related by characters on screen, it is second hand subjective evidence. (Most notably, the conclusion of the Time War occurs in the gap between the TV Movie and Rose.)
  • Into the gaps, other writers have inserted novels and audio plays. These are not consistent with each other, and frequently stretch the gaps beyond credibility. I have ignored these.
  • All sorts of things may have happened in the gaps. In particular, in attempting to answer a previous question I’ve considered the Doctor’s romances: with Susan’s grandmother, with Romana, and with Madame de Pompadour. However, I find it unlikely that the Romantic Eighth Doctor didn’t get up to all sorts of hanky panky after kissing Grace and before destroying his own people.

Concerning the Doctor’s age, another question I raised in that previous post, it has been very difficult to establish, not just because of the time travel and the regenerations and the changes of personality, but because he lies about it. However, I’m satisfied that he is, in fact 1137 (if you really want to know: in The Ribos Operation, the first Romana said the Doctor was 759 years old and had been piloting the TARDIS for 523 years, and in The Empty Child the Doctor speaks of 900 years of Phone Box travel, see here and here). The next question is: at what age did he regenerate each time?

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

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