The Doctor Backstory: Who is The Time Lord?

The Doctor? Doctor Who?

Thirteen: “I’m the Doctor. Sorting out fair play throughout the universe. Now please. Get off this planet while you still have a choice.”

Doctor Who “The Woman Who Fell to Earth” (Season 37, Episode 1)

Screams fill an arena. Several odd-looking tanks appear midcourt and begin shooting. You were knocked down as fans panicked and ran for the doors. The tanks are methodically shooting everyone they find. You spot a child hiding and run to pick them up.

You sprint out of an exit with the tanks hot on your trail. You toss the child to a security guard and bar the doors, which explode and hurl you into the street. A tank chants “EX-TER-MIN-ATE” as you lay there wounded. A high-pitched whine sounds and you feel something pull you to your feet.

And I thought Daleks couldn’t make football riots worse. C’mon!

You’re running before you have time to think, the tanks screaming for a doctor. Your savior runs into a… police box? What’s that doing here? Eh, any port in a storm. You run inside and the doors close. Gleaming lights and metal surround you. The police box is bigger on the inside. You sputter in shock before a hand lands on your shoulder.

I know this seems mad, but you can handle it. Trust me, I’m The Doctor.

Doctor Who is the longest running science fiction television series. An alien travels through time and space, righting wrongs and saving those without hope. So who are they? How can they travel through time and space? Why can’t their many enemies kill them? Let’s find out. Allons-y!

The Beginning of Time: The Doctor’s Backstory

The First Doctor: “It all started out as a mild curiosity in a junkyard, and now it’s turned out to be quite a great spirit of adventure.”

Doctor Who “The Sensorites” (Series 1, Episode 7)

The Doctor debuted in Doctor Who in 1963. They were created by Sydney Newman, C.E. Webber, and Donald Wilson. The character’s name is not Doctor Who. They are called The Doctor, with their given name never revealed.

Teachers Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright were puzzled by their student Susan. She was a genius, but ignorant about much of contemporary Britain. They followed her to a junkyard and stumbled into a police box, which was really a spaceship and time machine hybrid. Ian and Barbara met Susan’s grandparent, The Doctor, who revealed that they were aliens.

The Doctor kidnapped the teachers to prevent them from revealing the secret. Over many adventures, the teachers railed against their cruelty and cowardice. Their complaints sank in, leading the time traveler to become more compassionate and heroic, if grumpy.

Ian and Barbara eventually returned to their own time. Susan was later left on a future Earth where she had fallen in love. Other Companions came and went, tethering The Doctor to a human morality when the universe’s many ills wore upon them.

In the real world, actor William Hartnell was growing sick and had to leave the show. The producers replaced him with newcomer Patrick Troughton at Hartnell’s suggestion. In-show, The Doctor died of old age and underwent their first Regeneration, reviving with a new personality, restored youth, and a new face. The First Doctor was dead. Long live the Second.

An Adventure in Time and Space: The Doctor’s History

Jo:Oh, I see! You’re both Time Lords.
Second Doctor:Quite! …Well, not quite. Not just Time Lords. We’re the same Time Lord.”
Third Doctor:Now please, you’re only confusing my assistant. Jo, it’s all quite simple — I am he and he is me!
Jo: And we are all together, goo goo g’joob?

Doctor Who “The Three Doctors” (Season 10, Episode 1)

The Second Doctor was more energetic and heroic than their predecessor. They battled evil through the cosmos until they were punished for interfering by their species, The Time Lords. They were temporarily trapped on Earth and forced to Regenerate. The Third Doctor was an action-focused science consultant for an international alien-defense organization called UNIT.

The Fourth Doctor was a cosmic bohemian, traveling the stars while thumbing their nose at any authority. The Fifth was a diplomat and cricket player whose stories invariably featured high body counts. Six was a temperamental rabble-rouser wearing a multihued coat at odds with their aggressive personality. Doctor number Seven was a clownish manipulator who held the role until the series was canceled in 1989.

Fox brought Doctor Who to America with a TV movie starring the Eighth Doctor. The pilot failed, but they enjoyed a long run of novels and audio dramas. Eight Regenerated into a Warrior to fight in the Last Great Time War between the Time Lords and the Daleks. They reluctantly committed genocide and wiped out both factions to end the war.

Last of the Time Lords: The Modern Stories

Fifteen: “Our whole lifetime… That first Doctor that met The Toymaker never, ever stopped. Put on trial. Exiled. Key to Time. All the devastation of Logopolis…
Fourteen: “Adric…
Fifteen: “Adric. River Song. All the people we lost… Sarah Jane is gone, can you believe that for a second?
Fourteen: “I loved her.”
Fifteen: “I loved her. And Rose. But the Time War, the Pandorica, Mavic Chen… We fought the Gods of Ragnarök, and we didn’t stop for a second… to say “what the hell?

Doctor Who “The Giggle” (2023 60th Anniversary Special, Episode 3)

Doctor Who received a new life in 2005. Christopher Eccleston had the shortest tenure as the Ninth Doctor, but reintroduced the character and setting to new audiences. Ten built on Nine’s trauma with a darker, very human personality. Eleven went all-in on alien goofiness to mask their self doubt.

The Twelfth Doctor was a grumpy older person who often released their pain and rage. This led to a much cheerier Thirteenth Doctor, the first to be played by a woman. Thirteen explored the character’s backstory before regenerating into Fourteen, who was a redo of Ten with David Tennant reprising his role.

The Fourteenth Doctor buckled under the collective trauma of their previous incarnations. While fighting The Celestial Toymaker, the Doctor bi-generated, a mythical phenomenon allowing Fourteen and Fifteen to coexist. Fifteen convinced Fourteen to retire and live out their life, spending years healing among their Companions. Fifteen reaped the mental health benefits and has flown off into the sunset for their own adventures.

TARDIS: The Doctor’s Powers and Personality

Eleven: “Who’s she?
Kazran: “Nobody important.
Eleven: “Nobody important. Blimey, that’s amazing. D’you know, in 900 years of time and space, I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important before?”

Doctor Who “A Christmas Carol” (Season 31, Episode 14)

The Doctor is a Time Lord, an ancient species related to humans. They have two hearts, are psychic, can slow down time when it’s convenient to the writers, and are sensitive to changes in time. Regeneration is their get-out-of-death-free card, but Time Lords will die for real if killed mid-Regeneration.

The Doctor is a pacifist who eschews weapons. Their signature tool is a Sonic Screwdriver, which functions as a sci-fi magic wand. Psychic Paper tricks foes into thinking they are someone else. They are also supported by Companions, who rarely have the same distaste for weapons and fighting.

The TARDIS is The Doctor’s first and greatest ally. A self-aware spaceship masquerading as an English police call box, it can take them anywhere in space and time, often sending them where they are needed rather than where they want to go. TARDISes have Chameleon Circuits that project disguises, but The Doctor’s has a broken circuit and is stuck as a police box.

No matter the incarnation, several of The Doctor’s traits remain consistent. They are intellectual, idealistic, and lean towards pacifism. They will do anything to help those in trouble and often offer one last chance for villains to back down. The Doctor has a darker side and can be cruel when pushed too far. The Doctor fears that giving into darkness will create villainous future incarnations known as The Valeyard and the Time Lord Victorious.

The Actors Who Play The Doctor

William Hartnell (1963 – 1966)
Patrick Troughton (1966 – 1969)
John Pertwee (1970 – 1974)
Tom Baker (1974 – 1981) 
Peter David (1982 – 1984)
Colin Baker (1984 – 1986)
Sylvester McCoy (1987 – 1989)
Paul McGann (1996, 2013)
John Hurt (2013)
Christopher Eccleston (2005)
David Tennant (2005-2010, 2023)
Matt Smith (2010 – 2013)
Peter Capaldi (2014 – 2017)
Jodie Whitaker (2018 – 2022)
Ncuti Gatwa (2023 – Present)

Didya Get All That?

A hero for past, present, and future.

Want more Doctor? We ranked our Five Favorite Doctors and Five Scariest Whovian Monsters.

Image:  The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson). Image courtesy Disney+.

Related posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Get Netflix Dates emailed free to you every week