Doctor Who © BBC

The Laws of Time


The Eight Doctors
"I'm not exactly breaking the Laws of Time, but I am bending them a little"

What's included in this biography?

Doctor Who has had spin-offs in many other media. These works often contradict the continuity of the TV show (which, of course, frequently contradicted itself). Many fans enjoy debating which of these spin-offs are "real" Doctor Who. While I'm familiar with, and have enjoyed, most of the spin-offs, I've adopted a narrow view of canon for this work. With a few exceptions, I've limited it to the original series and the 1996 TV movie Doctor Who (identified as Doctor Who TVM when referenced in the biography). The first exceptions are the 1981 TV special K-9 and Company, and the unfinished Tom Baker story Shada, released on video in 1992, which are referred to in The Five Doctors. Also included are the videos of Silver Nemesis, Battlefield, and The Curse of Fenric, which contain material cut from the original broadcasts. Please note that my decision not to incorporate the continuity of the spin-offs is not intended as a commentary on their quality. I've chosen to exclude them simply because they are not universally accepted as part of the Doctor Who "canon".

How's the information presented?

This work is intended to be read as a biography of a real person. For each entry I've cited one or more story references (like this). The pages which cover events shown on television are arranged by Doctor. They include a general overview of that Doctor's era, a personality profile, and capsule synopses for each story. In the sections covering events before the series began, I've assumed The Doctor's early travels were part of his Academy training, and that after graduation he had further adventures during his doctoral studies. Following these adventures, he returned to Gallifrey and became involved in other pursuits. Later he fled his home planet with his granddaughter Susan, and they shared more adventures before arriving in London in 1963. As far as possible, I've reported only those facts gleaned during my own viewings of the series, supplemented by the sources cited below, and tried to keep my opinions to a minimum. Sometimes, however, there's no easy way to explain discrepancies in the program's continuity. When I've used my own theories (or those of others) to explain these events, I've highlighted this speculation in red letters. Many of these theories simply take into account minor continuity points, and need no explanation. For those theories which require details, and for my ideas on continuity questions such as UNIT dating and guest appearances by previous Doctors, I've added footnotes in a section called Theoretically Speaking. When you see this button Theoretically Speaking click to go to the theory, and click the button following the theory to return.

What's the date of this story?

Since this work is about the order in which The Doctor experiences events, exact dates aren't as critical as they would be in a history or chronology, though they are given whenever possible. For stories set on contemporary Earth, I've assumed that the events occurred shortly before the story's original broadcast date unless compelling evidence indicates otherwise. For stories set in the past, I've assumed the events took place at the same time as they did in our own history, again provided that no evidence suggests otherwise.

Which version of events is correct?

This work assumes that The Doctor's adventures take place in a (reasonably) consistent universe, and that the actions of The Doctor and his companions are an integral part of that universe's history. This assumption is complicated by a number of stories which contradict "facts" which were established previously. How do we reconcile these discrepancies? My approach is this: (1) The latest version of events represents the best available information. If The Deadly Assassin says the Time Lords aren't quite the godlike beings we saw earlier, and The Two Doctors shows us a Second Doctor who does missions for them, it's because new information gives us a more accurate picture, not because Robert Holmes got his facts wrong when he wrote the later stories. (2) With one exception, I've assumed that what's seen on screen is fact, even if it's the result of a production mistake. The exception is the sign on the junkyard in which we originally see the TARDIS in An Unearthly Child, which gives its owner's name as "Foreman". This is confirmed in the Sixth Doctor story Attack of the Cybermen. Since Susan used "Foreman" as her last name while on Earth, I've chosen to ignore the misspelling of the name seen in Remembrance of the Daleks.

When DID The Doctor meet Napoleon?

The Doctor's always dropped names of historical figures, and mentioned events he's seen. Most such references are to untelevised adventures, and there's no way for us to know the order in which they took place. To preserve the flavor of the series, I've arranged these events in a random sequence, combining several references into a single entry whenever possible. One other note: The Doctor's version of history sometimes disagrees with ours, usually in small ways. Unless there's evidence to the contrary, I've assumed that he's telling the truth. If we can (and do) accept a Britain which was threatened by Daleks in 1963, and which launched manned Mars probes in the 1970s, I don't think it's difficult to accept that some minor historical details differ as well.

How old is The Doctor?

This question is difficult to answer, especially considering that The Doctor tends to lie about his age. Though the subject rarely has a bearing on specific events, I address it for the sake of completeness. While there must be gaps between stories to account for unseen events, I don't believe The Doctor aged 500 years between his second and seventh incarnations. My assumption is that he uses different dating systems depending on the circumstances. The Second Doctor tells Victoria Waterfield that he's 450 years old "in human terms" (The Tomb of the Cybermen). The Fourth Doctor, in a conversation with Sarah Jane Smith (Pyramids of Mars) which specifically highlights the differences between Time Lords and humans, says that he's around 750, and several of his subsequent stories confirm this. Since these later references are usually in conversations with Romana, another Time Lord, it seems obvious to me that, in these cases, he's using Gallifreyan dating. To further support this idea, at the time of his trial by a Gallifreyan tribunal, The Sixth Doctor is 900 years old, and The Seventh Doctor says that both he and The Rani, who'd certainly use the Gallifreyan calendar, are 953. (I'm aware that The Third Doctor hinted on occasion that he had been around for "thousands of years". I'm assuming, based on his habit of mentioning historical figures as personal friends, that these statements are meant to indicate the range of history that he'd witnessed, rather than being literally true.)

What sources are used in this biography?

I own copies of all complete Doctor Who stories, but many of the earliest episodes were destroyed by the BBC in the 1970s. More than twenty adventures from the Hartnell and Troughton eras are partially or totally lost. For these it's been necessary to rely on other sources. Whenever possible I've read scripts of the lost stories; the script books published by Titan Books, and the online archive of Missing Scripts, have been invaluable. I've also listened to many of the available audio recordings. I'm particularly grateful for the research done by Andrew Pixley for his Archives (published in Doctor Who Magazine), which have answered a number of questions. For certain stories, I've consulted the Target novelizations, giving particular weight to those by the story's original writer. Finally, although I disagree with some of their theories, these books have been very helpful in filling in the gaps, and are highly recommended: The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day, and Keith Topping; Doctor Who: The Sixties, The Seventies, The Eighties, and the Doctor Who Handbook series by David J. Howe, Stephen James Walker, and Mark Stammers; A History of the Universe by Lance Parkin; and The Terrestrial Index and The Universal Databank by Jean-Marc Lofficier. For historical information, I've primarily relied on memory, supplemented by Compton's Encyclopedia, The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Microsoft Encarta, The New York Public Library Desk Reference, The Oxford History of Britain, The People's Chronology, and The Timetables of History.

Past: What IS Doctor Who? Who's Doctor Who? Future: Who IS The Doctor?