FAQ: Doctor Who

Posted: July 4, 2006 in Doctor Who, Other good sites, Television

The following are the questions asked and answered about the TV series Doctor Who from this thread on the Comic Book Resources Forums. The contents are posted here for general reference purposes, specially to help spread information casual TV viewers might get confused about.

Recently I’ve been asked various questions about the Doctor Who franchise, therefore I am starting this thread which will seek to answer all the questions you may have so that you too can understand the Who-verse.

I’ll plan on editing this post as more questions are asked, eventually building a comprehensive beginners guide to Doctor Who.

What is ‘Doctor Who’?
Doctor Who is the longest running science fiction franchise, with it commencing on air in 1963 and running until 1989. There was an American co-produced movie in 1996 and then the new series started in 2005 and continues to this day. During the gap between series, a large number of novels and audio plays/books were steadily released. The series was initially designed to be a children’s educational show but quickly moved into a different genre.
The official Doctor Who website can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/


Who is The Doctor?
The Doctor is a renegade member of the Time Lord people, who live on the planet Gallifrey. He travels through space and time, saving the day and meddling where ever he goes. According to several novels, the Doctor is the reloomed incarnation of ‘The Other’ – a peer of Rassilon’s who helped build Time Lord society, including time travel technology and the Hand of Omega.

How old is The Doctor?
The Doctor tends to not be accurate when describing his own age and thus no completely accurate age can be determined. However, from comments given throughout the series and further adventures detailed in audio plays and novels then it can be deduced that the Doctor is somewhere around 1,200 years old. He certainly turned 1,000 during his 7th incarnation.

Regarding his age, didn’t the Eccleston Doctor say that he’s 900 years old?
Yes, in the episode ‘Aliens of London’. However, from the context the line was said in it has to be assumed that he was talking how long he had in travelling in Time/Space for rather than his actual age since he could not possibly be only 900 years old and still have had all his known adventures.

What is the Doctor’s real name?
His exact real name has never been revealed and probably never will. He has gone by various earth style names as alias’ in the past, most frequently ‘John Smith’. During his time at the Time Lord Academy he gained the nickname ‘Theta Sigma’, while his cousins in the House of Lungburrow called him ‘Snail’ because he was the only Gallifreyan who has a belly button.
The only fact we know about the Doctor’s true name is that it has 38 syllables.

How many Doctors have there been?
The Doctor is currently in his tenth body, having regenerated nine times.
The following actors have portrayed The Doctor in an official capacity:

  1. William Hartnell
  2. Patrick Troughton
  3. Jon Pertwee
  4. Tom Baker
  5. Peter Davison
  6. Colin Baker
  7. Sylvester McCoy
  8. Paul McGann
  9. Christopher Eccleston
  10. David Tennant

How did the various Doctors ‘die’?

  • william_hartnell_10.jpg 1st – In an elderly body, the Doctor was unable to continue after being exposed to many physical hardships during his recent travels. These hardships included exhaustion, physical abuse, torture, radiation poisoning, time weapon exposure, life force theft.
  • 2nd – Placed on trial by the Time Lords, the Doctor was found guilty of interferring with other races. As punishment the Doctor was forced to do several secret missions for the Celestial Intervention Agency before being forcibly regenerated and exiled to 20th century Earth with the memory of time travel removed.
  • 3rd – On the planet Metabelis III, the Doctor was exposed to a massive amount of radiation. Escaping the planet of the spiders, the Doctor arrived back on Earth where he collapsed in UNIT HQ and regenerated.
  • 4th – Fell off a maintainance ramp at the Pharos Radio Observatory, saving the Universe from the schemes of The Master in the process.
  • 5th – The Doctor and his companions, Peri, had been fatally poisoned. Having only enough antitode for one of them, the Doctor administered to Peri before collapsing and regenerating.
  • 6th – Seemingly fell off an exercise bike in the control room and hitting his head on the Console. It was later revealed that the 6th Doctor had been ‘removed’ by the waiting 7th Doctor who regarded his previous self as a clownish failure. This ‘murder’ drove the 6th Doctor insane, who is now locked up in the Doctor’s mind and guarded by the Doctor’s previous selves.
  • mccoys19.jpg 7th – After making an emergency landing in 1999 San Francisco, the Doctor stepped out of the TARDIS and was immediately shot several times by accident. Taken to a Hospital, anesthetic and other medical procedures were applied which his alien body reacted badly to, forcing a regeneration. This was the price the always scheming and planning Doctor paid for a deal he had made earlier with Death, who said he would die in a meaningless accident.
  • 8th – No details revealed though it is assumed it happened during or immediately after the destruction of the Time Lords.
  • 9th – The Doctor had absorbed temporal energy straight from the Time Vortex which threatened to destroy every cell in his body. To stop this process, the Doctor regenerated.


What is a TARDIS?
A TARDIS is a type of time machine created and used by the Time Lords. For a more detailed explanation, please refer to this URL:

Where did the Doctor get his TARDIS from?
Bored with stagnant Time Lord society, the Doctor decided to leave Gallifrey to see the Universe. Gaining access to a TARDIS maintainence bay, the Doctor entered the sole TARDIS present (a broken down Type 40) wherein he immediately travelled into Gallifrey’s past and encountered Susan (see below). The Doctor’s Type 40 had previously belonged to a Time Lord Chancellor known as Marnel Gates who the Doctor later encountered in his 8th incarnation (‘The Gallifrey Chronicles’).


Who are the Time Lords?
The Time Lords are the inhabitants of the planet Gallifrey and are one of the most powerful races in the Who-verse. Their technology allowed them to harness continuity and time to their home world thanks to a device called ‘The Eye of Harmony’ which also powers all known TARDISes.
During the gap between the classic series and the new one, the Time Lords entered a Time War with the Daleks and were apparently destroyed along with Gallifrey itself.
The Time Lords are the ruling class of society on Gallifrey, those who are able to regenerate. All Time Lords are Gallifreyan but not all Gallifreyans are Time Lords. Non-Time Lord Gallifreyans tend to get jobs in roles such as guards in the Citadel which are deemed beneath or too dangerous for Time Lords to bother with.

If Time Lords are alien, do they have any special abilities?
Yes. A Time Lord is able to regenerate into a new body if his present one becomes too badly damaged – they can do this twelve times, each time a complete cellular renewal occurs which can result in shifts of personality. They also have a minor telepathic ability, two hearts, the ability to separate functions between brain hemispheres, a respiratory bypass system, increased healing rates as well as above human reflexes.

Who was Rassilon?
Ancient Gallifrey, before time travel was discovered, was ruled by an almost mystical woman known as The Pythia, who had the ability to see parts of the future. Her abilities started to fade and an ambitious scientist Rassilon seized on this chance to take control of Gallifrey, heralding in an Age of Science and Reason. The Pythia died, cursing all Gallifreyans to be barren until the end of the Time Lords, and her followers went to the planet Karn (‘The Brain of Morbius’). Rassilon went on to make massive changes to Gallifrey society, relentlessly crushing all those who might temper the huge advances and changes he wanted to make. Together with The Other and Omega, Rassilon gave Gallifrey time travel through the creation of the Eye of Harmony. Rassilon also declared Time War on several races who might challenge the power of the infant Time Lord society – resulting in such races having never existed at all. Eventually the Time Lords had enough of Rassilon’s tyrannical style of Presidency and sealed in him a tower, forever in stasis, in the Death Zone on Gallifrey where he remains to this day. A common rumour states that Rassilon had actually managed to give himself true immortality, not requiring even the ability to regenerate to sustain his life.

Who is ‘The Valeyard’?
Encountered during the 6th Doctor adventure ‘Trial of a Time Lord’, the Valeyard is a possible 13th incarnation of the Doctor who had turned to evil. The actions of the 7th Doctor (specifically the ‘murder’ of the 6th Doctor) later resulted in the Valeyard’s future never being possible, erasing him from existence.

Who is ‘The Master’?
The Master is another renegade Time Lord, though one who is quite evil and twisted. His real name is Koschei and he and the Doctor attended the Time Lord Academy together. After an incident wherein he felt utterly betrayed by the Time Lords (and the Doctor), he left Gallifrey and sought to gain power over the Universe on his own terms. His schemes were dangerous and by the time he appeared in the classic series he was already in his final incarnation. The last he was heard from, he was trapped within the Eye of Harmony aboard the Doctor’s TARDIS.

fordc06.jpgWas Susan really the Doctor’s Grand Daughter?
Yes and no. Susan was the biological Grand Daughter of the ancient Gallifreyan figure known as The Other, who lived when Rassilon was rising to power and helped create Time Lord society. Gallifrey was a dangerous place at the time and The Other ordered Susan to get off world, while he’d go off and argue with Rassilon (who was something of a tyrant). Susan failed to get away and was forced to sell her books to survive on the streets. Meanwhile, the Other threw himself into Gallifrey’s master genetic loom, sick of Rassilon’s policies.
Later, the 1st Doctor arrived in (by his standards) Gallifrey’s past and found Susan. She recognised him as her Grand Father and he came to love her like his real grand daughter. The blue ring the 1st Doctor wore was the same that The Other wore during his life.

Has the Doctor ever met a non-Timelord Gallifreyan, off Gallifrey?
While the Doctor has encountered a few on Gallifrey, there has never been a record of him meeting on off Gallifrey. This is most likely due to non-Time Lord Gallifreyans having little to no access to the Time Lords time travel technology and the normal Gallifreyan attitude of not getting involved with the rest of the Universe.

What’s a Dalek?
Dalek’s are a mutated form of life which originated on the planet Skaro – genetically engineered from the native Kaled race to win a war against the Thal race. The creator of the Dalek’s was a crippled scientist known as Davros, who the Daleks soon rebelled against. Dalek’s are small blob like creatures, mostly brain material, which transport themselves around in a tank like battle casing. The Daleks are regarded as one of the most evil and powerful groups in the Who-verse and were resposible for the destruction of the Time Lords in the last Great Time War.


Have there been any ‘Doctor Who’ movies?
Yes. In the 1960s, Peter Cushing starred in two movies as ‘Doctor Who’ – a human scientist who just happened to invent a time machine. The Peter Cushing movies have no connection to the ‘Doctor Who’ series.
In 1996, Paul McGann starred as the 8th incarnation of the Doctor in a movie that was meant to be a pilot for a new series – however the series never went ahead.

Why did Sarah Jane believe the Doctor was coming back for her? I know he was called back to his homeworld, but had he ever left her on Earth before and returned?
The Doctor had been recalled back to Gallifrey, a place he was unable to take Sarah-Jane so he dropped her back home (‘The Hand of Fear’). They never said goodbye and Sarah-Jane would have assumed the Doctor would come back for her once his business on Gallifrey was concluded. Though Sarah-Jane met various Doctors in ‘The Five Doctors’, her memories of this event where most likely wiped by the Time Lords to avoid possible time paradoxes. Similarly, Sarah-Jane encountered the 7th Doctor in the novel ‘Bullet Time’ but time manipulation occurring around Sarah-Jane at the time very well could have resulted in her memories changing once again.

Who is the longest running companion?
That would depend on what you take into account. Just the TV series? Books? Audio plays? I would think it may have been Ace, who the Doctor was grooming to join Time Lord society (as seen in ‘Ghost Light’) and who stayed with the Doctor for quite some time after ‘Survival’.

If someone discovered Dr. Who through the new series, what’s available in terms of old episodes on DVD?
DVDs of the classic series serials are coming out all the time, currently the following are available:
The Beginning Boxed Set, City of Death, The Web Planet, Revelation of the Daleks, The Claws of Axos, The Mind Robber, Horror of Fang Rock, Lost in Time: Complete Collection, Ghost Light, The Leisure Hive, The Green Death, Pyramids of Mars, The Visitation, The Three Doctors, The Curse of Fenric, The Two Doctors, Earthshock, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, The Talons of Weng-Chiang, The Seeds of Death, Resurrection of the Daleks, The Aztecs, The Armageddon Factor, The Power of Kroll, The Androids of Tara, The Stones of Blood, The Pirate Planet, The Ribos Operation, The Key to Time Box Set, Carnival of Monsters, The Ark in Space, Tomb of the Cybermen, Vengeance on Varos, Doctor Who: The Movie, The Caves of Androzani, Remembrance of the Daleks, Spearhead From Space, The Robots of Death, The Five Doctors.
Please note that DVD availability is dependent on what country you’re in. Dr Who DVDs are typically released in the UK first, then Australia followed by the US.

Did Eccleston always plan on just doing one season of the show? And, is there any indication as to whether David Tennant is staying on beyond the current season?
Eccleston, so the story goes, always intended to do only one season as he did not want to be typecast in the role. Tennant, from all indications, plans on doing numerous seasons starring as the Doctor.

What counts as Doctor Who Canon?
Obviously, the two TV Series are canon material as is the 1996 movie starring Paul McGann. The audio plays/books and the novels are treated by most as still being canon but to a lesser degree – basically it works something like this: Information presented in the Audios and Novels is still perfectly valid unless it’s directly contradicted by the TV series.

  1. Alexander says:

    Excellent post! I didn’t know the story about the 7th Doctors unfortunate cycling accident, that’s great! Have they ever made any reference to this in the TV show?

    Just for the record, I’m not suggesting that it’s non-cannon. One of the main things that appeals to me about the Doctor’s story is its mutability.

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  4. Jack Kass says:

    what is this bullshit about a dr. is this an MD .PHD or what
    as a currently practising doctor physician /surgeon I have a interest in people claiming to be doctors I believe this Dr is a fraud phoney faker liar goof and an asshole that uses titles and other social items to feather his nest in a way any birdbrained asshole would lies and more lies

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