History of the Time Lords

History of the Time Lords

The Time Lords are fictional characters, a race of humanoids originating on the planet Gallifrey, seen in the British science fiction television series "Doctor Who". Time Lords are so called because they are able to travel in and manipulate time through technology to a far greater degree than any other civilization.

Details of the history of the Time Lords in the television series are sketchy and as is usual for "Doctor Who" continuity, fraught with supposition and contradiction. This history covers the various versions given on screen and in the spin-off media based on the television series. The canonicity of the spin-off media in relation to the television series, and each other, is open to interpretation.

On screen

What little has actually been established on screen, arranged roughly in chronological order, is as follows:

The Time Lords become the masters of time travel when one of their number, the scientist Omega, creates an energy source to power their experiments in time ("The Three Doctors"). To this end, Omega uses a stellar manipulation device, the Hand of Omega, to rework a nearby star into a new form to serve as that source ("Remembrance of the Daleks"). Unfortunately, the star flares into a supernova, then collapses into a black hole. Omega is thought killed in the explosion, but unknown to everyone, somehow survives in an antimatter universe beyond the black hole's singularity. In "The Satan Pit", the Tenth Doctor refers to this event when he claims that his people "invented black holes".

The founder of Time Lord society, however, and its most revered figure, is Rassilon. Rassilon's name reverberates through Time Lord legend and culture, and is applied to many artefacts of power. Rassilon takes a singularity (assumed by fans and the spin-off media to be the same one as Omega's) and places it beneath the Time Lords' citadel on Gallifrey. This perfectly balanced Eye of Harmony then serves as the power source for their civilisation as well as their time machines ("The Deadly Assassin").

The early part of Time Lord history is known as the Dark Time, when the first Time Lords abuse their powers over time by manipulating lesser species. Among these abuses is the use of the Time Scoop to abduct beings from throughout history to participate in gladiatorial games (with the exception of such races as Daleks and Cybermen who "play the game too well" and are thus considered too dangerous to be used) in an area of Gallifrey known as the Death Zone ("The Five Doctors").

During his rule, Rassilon leads the Time Lords in a war against the Great Vampires, a war so horrific that the Time Lords forswear violence from that point on. The weapons used by the Time Lords against the vampires in that war include Bowships that fired giant bolts through the Great Vampires' hearts. The Doctor encounters a surviving vampire in E-Space in the serial "State of Decay".

Eventually, Rassilon dies, or is deposed; contradictory legends surround his demise. His body is placed in the Dark Tower in the Death Zone, which becomes known as the Tomb of Rassilon ("The Five Doctors").

Over 4.6 billion years prior to 2007 AD, the Time Lords wipe out the Racnoss for unstated reasons, although it was most likely because of their devouring of entire worlds. The surviving Racnoss escape in their ship, which drifts into the Solar System and eventually forms the core of the planet Earth ("The Runaway Bride").

At some point in their history the Time Lords interact with the civilisation of the planet Minyos, giving them advanced technology. This has disastrous results, with the Minyans destroying themselves in a series of nuclear wars ("Underworld").

Apparently as a result of this, the Time Lords adopt an official policy of neutrality and non-interference, acting only as observers save in cases of great injustice. However, given the existence of the Celestial Intervention Agency and of renegade Time Lords such as the Doctor, the Master, the Meddling Monk, the Rani and the War Chief, the policy seems to have frequently been breached.

The Time War

In the 2005 series episode "The End of the World", the Ninth Doctor reveals that Gallifrey has been destroyed in the last great "Time War" and that he is the last of the Time Lords. In "Dalek", the Doctor further reveals that the War involved the Daleks and the Time Lords, and that both sides were obliterated in the final battle.

Producer Russell T Davies wrote in the April 28, 2005 issue of "Doctor Who Magazine" that the Time War in the series and the one in the novels are unrelated. The survival of several Daleks from the Time War, as seen in the 2005 and 2006 series, however, suggests that the fate of the Time Lords may not be definitive, as do the final words of the Face of Boe in "Gridlock" (2007). In "Utopia" it is revealed that the Master has also survived. In "The Doctor's Daughter" the Doctor's genetic information is taken against his will and used by the human faction of the planet Messaline colonists to create a daughter via a Progenation Machine. This daughter, Jenny had two hearts, and inherited the Doctor's brilliance and a number of superhuman qualities, meaning in some way the Time Lord race did live on.

In the 2008 finale "The Stolen Earth"/"Journey's End", the Doctor's severed hand - brimming with discarded regenerative energy comes into contact with human companion Donna Noble and as a result transforms both of them into a Human-Time Lord hybrids. The human Doctor has only one heart and a finite, human life span, but retains all his brilliance - albeit compromised by human emotions and weaknesses. Donna on the other hand came into possession of Time Lord intellect and memory, but her biologically human brain could not store this information and the Doctor forced a complete memory wipe of himself onto her, leaving her essentially human again. The human hybrid Doctor clone was left to live out his life with Rose Tyler on a parallel world.

The "Doctor Who Annual 2006" article refers to the Etra Prime Incident of the audio play "The Apocalypse Element" as an early skirmish in the Time War.

pin-off media

New Adventures

Of the many, sometimes contradictory, accounts of Time Lord history, the most developed single vision may have been seen in the licensed spin-offs, in particular the Virgin New Adventures and Virgin Missing Adventures novels and, to a lesser degree of consistency, their successors, the BBC Books "Doctor Who" novels. Due to Virgin's low print runs, their general non-availability outside of Britain, and the fact that the vision has never been translated to screen, their influence is uneven within the global "Doctor Who" fan community.

The Virgin novels, and by extension the BBC novels, took heavily from the so-called "Cartmel Masterplan" devised by former "Doctor Who" script editor Andrew Cartmel, which was supposed to explain the Doctor's origins and his ties to Gallifrey's ancient history. Elements of the Masterplan were supposed to be revealed over the course of Cartmel's tenure on the series, but ultimately, as the programme ceased production in 1989, only hints of it surfaced in Seasons 25 and 26 and were never made explicit.

According to the novels, some millions of years ago the planet Gallifrey is home to a civilisation that can see all of the past and future. Ancient Gallifrey is also a matriarchy, ruled over by a mystical religion consisting of a cult built around the Pythia, a great and powerful priestess. Among the ancient Gallifreyans are time-sensitives, marked by their red hair, who pilot early Gallifreyan time machines. Rassilon is rumoured to have been one of these time pilots, who are known as Heroes (as much a title as a term of adulation). Rassilon, as a scientist, opposes the religious and monarchical power wielded by the Pythia.

Gallifrey begins its wars against the Great Vampires during this period. Rassilon commands a fleet of Bowships that wins the first war and his rationalist movement gains popular and political support as a result.

The rule of the Pythia is finally overthrown by Rassilon and two other scientists, Omega and "the Other", a mysterious figure whose actual name has been lost to history. This marks the start of the Intuitive Revolution, turning Gallifrey into a society based on rationality and a republic with an elected President, although a caste system remains. The three are ultimately responsible for Gallifrey's move towards a purely scientific society.

However, when overthrown the Pythia curses the people with sterility before casting herself into an abyss. The curse results in the still birth that night of every unborn child on Gallifrey, including Rassilon's own son. Persecuted, her priestesses and acolytes flee to a nearby planet where they become the Sisterhood of Karn ("The Brain of Morbius").

The Pythia's curse forces Rassilon to find a new way to reproduce, leading him to create the Looms, cloning machines that can create new Gallifreyans to replace the dead. The Looms are eventually incorporated into great Houses of Cousins, to regulate the population levels and organise the new society. Time Lords are born fully grown from the Looms, although they still need to be educated.

Rassilon, with the assistance of Omega and the Other, applies transdimensional engineering to the creation of TARDIS technology. Omega then proceeds to concentrate completely on his time travel experiments. The Other's role is unclear, but he seems to have held the alliance between Rassilon and Omega together, and is a part of the project that produces the Hand of Omega. Omega uses the Hand on the star Qqaba (named in the comic strip "Star Death" by Alan Moore, DWM #47 and the novel "The Infinity Doctors" by Lance Parkin), and vanishes, presumed dead, in the resulting supernova which creates the Eye of Harmony. Rassilon then takes control of both the Eye and Gallifreyan society, and the Time Lords are now able to live up to their name.

Eventually, Rassilon's rule becomes dictatorial and reaches the point where he becomes obsessed with implementing his reforms and preserving Gallifreyan society as he sees it before the end of his life. Despite the Other's protests, bloody purges begin, and Rassilon begins to dabble in immortality. Meanwhile, knowing that Rassilon will hold his family hostage to secure his cooperation, the Other tells his granddaughter Susan to go into hiding. He then literally throws himself into the Looms, disintegrating and spreading his genetic code into the machines.

A year later, the Doctor arrives in his "borrowed" TARDIS from Gallifrey's future and discovers Susan on the streets of the city, where she has been living since failing to make it off-world. Somehow, Susan recognises him as her grandfather and he also knows her name. The Doctor then leaves Gallifrey's past, taking Susan with him into his exile. (Many of the novels (especially "Lungbarrow" and "The Infinity Doctors") have implied that the Doctor may be the Other, genetically reincarnated from the Looms, but the truth of the matter remains uncertain. [A short story, "Birth of a Renegade" by Eric Saward, published in the "Radio Times" 20th Anniversary Special (1983) gives an alternative account of the Doctor's origins. The story puts Susan in the Time Lords' recent history and identifies her as a descendant of Rassilon and the unwitting focus for a "student rebellion" against a dictatorial President. The rebellion is put down and the Doctor, his memory altered, is used to take Susan into exile. Andrew Cartmel's "Masterplan" deliberately contradicted this account.] )

Rassilon, now absolute ruler of Gallifrey, leads the Time Lords in further wars against the Great Vampires and other otherdimensional beings released because of the use of time travel, whom he considers dangerous to the universe. Aside from the Bowships, the Time Lords also use N-Forms, extra-dimensional war machines developed by the Patrexes chapter that attack planets where they detected the presence of vampires. The Doctor encounters a reactivated N-form in the Virgin New Adventures novel "Damaged Goods", by Russell T Davies.

Eventually, the Pythia's curse is lifted with the arrival of the Fourth Doctor's companion Leela on Gallifrey. Leela falls in love and marries a Gallifreyan, Andred ("The Invasion of Time"), and at the conclusion of the novel "Lungbarrow" is pregnant — the first naturally conceived child on Gallifrey for millennia.

Big Finish Productions

In the Big Finish Productions audio play "Zagreus", a historical simulation shows the existence of a vampiric race connected with Gallifrey which Rassilon destroys in his purges. The novels "Goth Opera" by Paul Cornell and "Blood Harvest" by Terrance Dicks suggest that Rassilon becomes a vampire himself to attain eternal life, a belief shared by a Gallifreyan cult also seen in Cornell's comic strip story "Blood Invocation" ("Doctor Who Magazine Yearbook 1995").

The Big Finish Productions audio play "Gallifrey: The Inquiry" reveals further details of the Time Lord encounter with the Minyans: it is actually the secret test of a Time Lord timeonic fusion device that destroys Minyos, an incident that is covered up by the High Council and leads to their policy of non-interference.

Later history

The recent history of Gallifrey has been referred to in the spin-off media as well as the television series. In addition to the uncertain canonicity of the spin-offs, where these various events fit on a time line, or even if they can be consolidated into a single one, is also unclear. The spin-off media have also suggested that they each take place in separate continuities.

Audio plays

Echoing similar events in the novels, the Fourth Doctor's former companion, Romana, returns from E-Space (where she remained at the end of "Warriors' Gate") and rises to become President of the High Council. She is subsequently captured and imprisoned by the Daleks on the Etra Prime planetoid for twenty years ("The Apocalypse Element") until she escapes on the eve of their invasion of Gallifrey. The Dalek invasion is repelled with the help of the Sixth Doctor, although the Daleks manage to take control of the Seriphia galaxy, using it as a new power base. Romana reassumes her position as Lord President.

Her tenure, however, is far from smooth. In the "Gallifrey" audio series, the emergence of a terrorist group known as Free Time, which wants to break the technological monopoly on time travel, threatens not just Gallifrey, but its time travel-capable allies. Romana's progressive policies, including opening the Academy to non-Gallifreyans, face opposition from more conservative elements. The escape of Pandora — an evil from Gallifrey's past — from the Matrix further complicated matters. Indeed, it is eventually revealed that Pandora is manipulating the Free Time zealots.

Although Romana initially wards off an attempted coup by Inquisitor Darkel, Pandora manages to manifest herself in the form of Romana's first incarnation. Both Romanas claim the title of Imperiatrix, absolute ruler of Gallifrey, and their conflict plunges the planet into civil war. Romana II is eventually able to eliminate the Pandora entity, at the cost of the destruction of the Matrix. Romana is then removed from the Presidency and replaced by a Time Lord named Matthias. The series ends on a cliffhanger, with Gallifrey on the brink of economic and social collapse as well as in danger of being overrun by a Free Time virus, while most of the cast are trapped with no apparent means of escape.

Eighth Doctor Adventures

In the BBC books Eighth Doctor Adventures, Romana regenerates into a third incarnation, a more martial and war-like ruler looking ahead to a predicted future war with an unnamed Enemy. In "The Ancestor Cell", the Eighth Doctor apparently destroys Gallifrey and retroactively wipes the Time Lords from history to prevent the voodoo cult Faction Paradox from starting that war.

In the last regular Eighth Doctor novel, "The Gallifrey Chronicles" by Lance Parkin, it is revealed that while Gallifrey is destroyed, the Time Lords are not erased from history. However, the cataclysm sets up an event horizon in time that prevents anyone from entering Gallifrey's relative past or travelling from it to the present or future. Some Time Lords, however, may have survived, including Iris Wildthyme, the Master and the Minister of Chance from "Death Comes to Time".

The memories of the Time Lords also survive within the Matrix, which has been downloaded into the Eighth Doctor's mind, but their reconstruction will require a sufficiently advanced computer. At the novel's end, the question of whether or not the Time Lords would be restored remained unanswered. However, it can be assumed that both they and the planet are restored at some point before the start of the 2005 series if the novels are to remain consistent with the new series' continuity.


External links

* [http://meshyfish.com/~roo/index.html Rassilon, Omega, and that Other guy] — every fact about the Time Lords no matter how apocryphal
* [http://www.wheelinspace.com/who_are_the_time_lords.htm Television-only History of the Time Lords]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Last of the Time Lords — Infobox Doctor Who episode number = 191c serial name = Last of the Time Lords caption = show = DW type = episode doctor = David Tennant (Tenth Doctor) companion = Freema Agyeman (Martha Jones) companion2 = John Barrowman (Jack Harkness) guests =… …   Wikipedia

  • History of the Daleks — Kaled redirects here. For the musician, see DJ Khaled. The Daleks (  /ˈdɑː …   Wikipedia

  • The Time Monster — 064 – The Time Monster Doctor Who serial Queen Galleia plots with the Master. Cast …   Wikipedia

  • The Time Warrior — 070 – The Time Warrior Doctor Who serial Sarah Jane Smith discovers that attitudes in the Middle Ages were somewhat different Cast …   Wikipedia

  • History of the Peerage — The history of the British peerage, a system of nobility found in the United Kingdom, stretches over the last thousand years. The origins of the British peerage are obscure but while the ranks of baron and earl perhaps predate the British peerage …   Wikipedia

  • History of the Puritans — The history of the Puritans can be traced back to the Vestments Controversy in the reign of Edward VI ending in a decline in the mid 1700s. Background, to 1559 The English Reformation, begun his reign in the reign of Henry VIII of England, was… …   Wikipedia

  • History of the Jews in France — The Jewish community in France presently numbers around 600,000, according to the World Jewish Congress and 500,000 according to the Appel Unifié Juif de France, and is found mainly in the metropolitan areas of Paris, Marseille, Strasbourg, Lyon …   Wikipedia

  • History of the England cricket team to 1939 — The History of the England Cricket Team can be said to date back to at least 1739, when sides styled Kent and All England played a match at Bromley Common. Over 300 matches involving England or All England prior to 1877 are known. However these… …   Wikipedia

  • History of the BattleTech universe — The following is an abridged history of events in the fictional universe of BattleTech. Originally conceived in the early 1980s as a backstory for the franchise s tabletop wargame, it has been expanded considerably by material in numerous… …   Wikipedia

  • History of the British constitution — The constitution of the United Kingdom is said to be uncodified. That is, its constitution is not in a single, written document, but is drawn from legislation many hundreds of years old, judicial precedents, convention, and numerous other sources …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.