Thoughts on the timeless child lore?

thought it might be interesting to have a thread to discuss one of the most controversial decisions in recent doctor who. what do you all think of the timeless child lore?

full disclosure, i love it–i think it’s a really great chance to explore something new for the doctor, and it really resonates as a story about childhood trauma. i think it could’ve been executed better (chibnall’s dialogue is pretty flat no matter how good the idea is) but i really love the concept itself.


I agree with you, I think. I wish it had a bit more time in the show to really… mean much? It feels like it’s just swept under the rug a little. Who knows, maybe we get some more in the upcoming seasons but that doesn’t seem likely at this point. It feels like a major status quo change, but not one that we ever see the impact of.


Yeah I think it has such interesting potential that wasn’t used much in chibnall’s seasons other than having the Doctor repeatedly going “I don’t know who I am anymore” “oh, yeah, I know, I’m still the Doctor!” over and over again on repeat. I think Chibnall didn’t really know what to do with the Doctor’s emotions about it except “I don’t know who I am” “Yes I do” so he just kind of did that, like, three separate times.

I really like how it’s been used in RTD2 so far, Wild Blue Yonder especially. It’s cool how it’s the basis of Ruby’s whole schtick and that she and the Doctor are going to get to bond over being foundlings. The contrast of Ruby having an amazing adoptive family who she loves to the Doctor having nothing to feel but anger at Tecteun, while they both wish they knew more about their origins, is a really fascinating dynamic and I’m so excited to see more of it


Love it! The delivery of the reveal and its immediate impact (or lack thereof) in The Timeless Children definitely falls a little flat, but I absolutely love how it’s handled through Flux and the way it impacts 13 and really brings out her worst as she obsessively chases answers. Excited to see it continue to be a major thread in 15’s era, though I’m just slightly concerned that RTD may try to provide more answers in ways that are less satisfying than leaving it as a mystery.

(And now I’m most likely muting this because I simply don’t think I have it in me to do more discourse about 13’s era right now)


You know, mixed feelings.

I don’t think Chibnall explored it enough. I also think that being special with the power to regenerate seems like something that would have worked better with the Master, given that Delgato’s Master was on his last regeneration, and we’ve had new regeneration’s many times since then.

I’m also not the biggest fan of the Doctor being somehow the only one able to regenerate and everyone getting the ability to regenerate from them. It makes them kinda ultra special, which was already a thing that’s been going on with new Who. I prefer it when no one really knows who the Doctor is and they have to fast talk their way through things.

I do actually like the idea of previous Doctors we didn’t know about. The Fugitive Doctor had a lot of potential (which I wish had actually been realised), and I wouldn’t mind a few others. It does also give us an origin backstory we don’t know to be explored.

How that plays out could help some of the parts I don’t like, too. I’d be a fan of there being a time loop involved. Maybe the Doctor was from a future Gallifrey where everyone could already regenerate, and went backwards in time? (Or I could have fun with Jenny being the Doctor’s mother…)

I actually do like how RTD seems to be concentrating on the parts where the Doctor is an orphan and doesn’t know where they come from. On a similar level, I like how he went and added the emotional impact that should have been there from the Flux.

My biggest take would be that a lot depends on the writing and how they play things out. Good writing can make me like things that I’m not a fan of in theory, and being badly written can sabotage ideas I otherwise like!

I’ll also say that the Fugitive Doctor as first presented seems like a lot of what I’d like in a Doctor played by a great actor, and I really regret that we aren’t getting a few seasons of them as the Doctor. (Nothing against 15. He’s also a lot of what I want from the Doctor in different ways. I’d love some multi-Doctor specials with both of them!)


Yeah, I really don’t like the Timeless Child. Like at all. When I first saw The Timeless Children, I nearly gave up on the show entirely I was so utterly disappointed by what I saw.

If I had to narrow my thoughts down to one point, to one reason why I hate it so much, it would be that it was boring. The Doctor is a wholly unique character, a bohemian runaway turned legend who believes in simple good and kindness, but the Timeless Child was just a story I’ve heard a million times before. It was a mix of an amnesia and a chosen one narrative, two of the most clichéd plot points in script writing. Chibnall could’ve done a thousand things to make it more interesting and he just didn’t, it was so predictable and dull that all I saw was Chibnall trying to forcibly brand himself on the show.

And try as I might, looking at anything pre-Series 12, I just can not picture the character in this way because, you know, they were written completely differently. Chibnall went over the heads of hundreds of writers who have contributed to this show in the past to shove in a lazily written and predictable twist that doesn’t even make sense (why does the Fugitive Doctor have the TARDIS, we literally have seen the First Doctor stealing it).

I’m never going to like it as an idea because of how dull it is an I can’t really move past that because of how horribly it was written into the show, the Timeless Children is my least favourite episode of the entire revival for a number of reasons besides the twist.


As far as having the TARDIS, we don’t know for sure that it is the same one. OTOH, Clara went all over the Doctor’s timeline and specifically pointed out that one for the Doctor to steal, so she might’ve been making sure the Doctor kept the same TARDIS.

It looking like a police box is a different matter, since the chameleon circuit would presumably have been working at the time.

But the TARDIS belongs to the Doctor and has a connection to them. Sensing two versions of its owner in the vicinity, may have shifted to a form that our Doctor would expect.

Or maybe this ones thing for police boxes started earlier then we thought, and it just reverted to form eventually.

(Practically speaking, if it’d looked like a marble pillar or a clock or something, the viewers would have been confused, and the Doctor wouldn’t have immediately recognised that it was a TARDIS and that she was with another Doctor…)


Pretty much agree with all of this


I’m not a big fan of the Timeless Child stuff, for the most part.

A key part of The Doctor is that they are actually not a great Time Lord, they are the ‘runt of the litter’. They rebel against the stuffy nature of Time Lords and want to be out there exploring.

Making The Doctor super-duper special, almost a messiah figure, actually cheapens them for me. Making them not even Gallifreyen even more. Now all you have is an outsider who doesn’t actually belong, whether they know it or not.

While the idea of pre-First Doctor regenerations isn’t a new concept, the way it was shoehorned in was a real failure of writing. There are better ways to tell the story that wouldn’t have made me roll my eyes, and essentially choose to ignore it.

here is my version.

DOCTOR starts getting reactions from people, where The Doctor is a name to be feared and not trusted. This is subtle over a season or so. DOCTOR presumes either an imposter or future incarnation. A season finale ends with FUGITIVE, in A TARDIS turning up on a planet, gun in hand, and introduces themselves as The Doctor.

A catastrophic event has happened and everyone blames The Doctor. They investigate and that leads to an encounter with FUGITIVE who explains that she is doing this for the glory of Gallifrey. They are one of the first Time Lords, forging a path for a glorious empire. The Doctor vows to stop them. After a few encounters, you can see FUGITIVE empathising with DOCTOR about the beauty of the universe and its diversity.

This leads to an encounter at Division. Out of time and space Rassilon, Omega and FUGITIVE are working on Gallifreys future. They have seen the rise of The Hybrid, The Great Time War, The Master and others. All of this leads to the destruction of Gallifrey. FUGITIVE is still from another place, but they came across Gallifrey by accident and agreed to help Omega and Rassilon. They are trying to engineer a perfect society using FUGITIVEs technology, but they won’t give them regeneration. LOOMS are used.

At the confrontation, FUGITIVE sides with DOCTOR. Omega declares FUGITIVE a heretic from his MASTER plan for the universe. They shoot each other. As FUGITIVE starts to regenerate, Omega pushes them into a loom. DOCTOR holds fugitives hand but can’t hold on. CONTACT. DOCTOR gets half formed memories but ultimately lets go of hand. FUGITIVE joins Omega in the vasts to be reborn another day, but giving Time Lords regeneration.

DOCTOR traps Rassilon out of time and space, but takes the looms, Hand of Omega, and other tech to the part built dome on Gallifrey. Leaving DOCTOR sorts through the memories and tries to find the home of FUGITIVE.

For me this is a combination of Timeless Child and Lunbarrow/The Other. It still allows The Doctor to be The Doctor and from Gallifrey, but also have a lineage that comes from somewhere else. It ties in The Master and The Doctor more closely. The Flux could also be incorporated as a Rassilon event after all this.

This all works within established continuity, and doesn’t cheapen The Doctor too much.

PS. This was just a quick write-up in about 10 minutes. Obviously, this would need to be worked on to get into a more thought out plan. Don’t flame haha

PPS. I may write this out more and as re-reading it there are some holes and presumptions about you knowing what’s in my head.


I really like the whole idea of The Timeless Child, though I do believe there was room for improvement in how it was told - and I am equal parts excited and trepidatious for RTD to pick up on it.
If the story had been a telling of a Space Messiah I would have been really on the fence (I only have room for one Space Messiah in my heart: Paul Atreides😉), and that’s where I am nervous that RTD would go - he has several times pictured the 10th Doctor as a Devine Saviour, and I just don’t enjoy it (“If you are looking for a higher authority there isn’t one”, being forgiving towards The Master in "Last of the Time Lords " and the visual imagery from the Space Titanic one (name escapes me at the moment). But on the other hand it opens up to so many different stories of personal discovery for the Doctor, which is along the lines of what RTD excels in writing.

But in the stories we have been told Chibnall has been very careful in not actually retroactively changing the stories told over the last 60 years - both in Series 12 and during Flux. Sure the memory wipe is a tried and true sci-fi trope, but it fits the narrative decisions of The Timeless Child perfectly. I find the adoption storyline presented to us really profound, and doubly so knowing that Chibnall himself is adopted.

And the TARDIS being in the shape of a Police Box in Fugitive of the Judoon doesn’t require much handwaving - semi-sentient alien time machine has a favourite outfit that it will encounter in the future, wibbly-wobbly - you get the gist.


This is the most elegant explanation of that.


I honestly don’t know whether that’s a compliment or not :wink:

1 Like

It was a compliment.


Not a big fan of it. Makes the Doctor an exceptional time lord rather than a regular one that chose to reject their ways.

Obviously the real test is how it’s used in the upcoming stories and future seasons.

Will be interesting to see what the rest of the Doctor’s original society is like. Will be disappointing if they are another ‘benevolent observer’ society like galifrey. For me I think I’m hoping they’re evil; maybe the doctor was meant to conquer the universe. This would be an interesting point of difference from the time lords.


I like the Doctor as an orphan, but not as the basis of time-lord society. I like that it seems RTD is running more with the former as of now. The latter being very Chosen One narrative is frustrating. Chibnall dropped this bomb and then didn’t actually know what to do with it.

I’m curious to see where the show goes with this, but I definitely wouldn’t mind some sort of retcon to fix it. I’m not sure how I’d like to see it fixed, but something that makes the Doctor not beholden to the Chosen One narrative.


I only feel that there was a missed opportunity for 12 to be the official final regeneration only to regenerate into 13 anyway and theres a spark from the beginning of her looking into that


For me it is just one of the many ways in which the show has added to it’s ‘lore’ (shudder) over its 60 years. I feel it did work for 13 and am intrigued by the way RTD seems to have picked up on it for his ‘abandoned at birth’ link with Ruby.

I hold very little stall though with suggestions that it undid all the series prior. It does no such thing and, if it does, then so does The Time Meddler; The War Games; The Deadly Assassin; Silver Nemesis, the TV Movie etc etc. Chibnall was careful - possibly too careful - at weaving ‘get out clauses’ into the narrative. He was well aware of how Doctor Who has worked in the past with it’s ‘lore’ in that each subsequent production team has come in with their own ideas of how they want the show to work and what they want to focus on and picked and chosen the bits that work for them.

David Whitaker established that history could not be altered - that’s his influence in The Aztecs and The Reign of Terror but then Dennis Spooner gets his hands on the show, introduces the Monk and all bets are suddenly off where altering history is concerned.

And so it continued throughout the series - the Doctor is immortal until he is given a regen limit. He invented the TARDIS until he stole it. The Daleks were confined to their city on Skaro until they were planet-conquering invaders.

There are plenty more examples of ‘but how does the Fugitive Doctor have a police box’ type anomalies across the series history and I really don’t get why some parts of fandom have doubled down on crucifying Chibnall for doing what writers, producers, script editors and showrunners have done for 60 years.

And as for making the Doctor a ‘chosen one’ or ‘Messiah’ figure, RTD and Moffat had both already been there and done that. The Doctor, at the end of the day, can be both the most special person in the universe and a crazy alien making it up as they go along. There is this idea that the two are mutually exclusive but the Doctor has been a ‘pioneer among his people’ and a mad old loon since the Hartnell era.

I really struggle with the scale of the backlash that Chibnall got for what he wrote. I do think he could have written it better but that’s a different criticism to those who don’t think he should have written it at all. I mean, I think Terry Nation could have done a much better job writing Planet of the Daleks and The Android Invasion but I’m not out for his blood because of it.

Maybe Chibnall’s ideas weren’t massively original but then, is any of Doctor Who? A show which has spent 60 years blatantly ripping off everything from Frankenstein to Quatermass and Murder on the Orient Express.

The furore over the Timeless Child will be a bit like when the Eighth Doctor kissed a woman! Fans will get over themselves, move on to their next outrage and look back on the era wondering what all the fuss was about.


I think the big difference between the Timeless Child flavour of chosen one, and the Moffat/RTD flavour of chosen one is where it comes from.

Timeless Child makes The Doctor important because of their birth, something out of their control, RTD/Moff make The Doctor important because of what they’ve done, e.g.

Doctor. The word for healer and wise man throughout the universe. We get that word from you, you know


Well put my friend :+1: This is basically why I don’t like the very concept of a “canon” for Doctor Who - it only serves to give limits to which stories can be told. All bets should be off when there’s a new pair of hands at the helm.


Yep, I can understand and appreciate that qualification. It’s when they lambast Chibnall for doing it at all whilst roundly ignoring anything any other writer has done that rankles me.