Doctor Who is one of the most exciting TV series around, and has been since it first started in 1963. There are plenty of things that make the show exciting– the time travel, the villains, the twisty storylines– but without a doubt the best thing about the show is the main man himself: the Doctor. And in case you can’t put your finger on what makes him so great, let us help you out. It’s the character’s brilliant mix of alien, human, and almost god-like status. And all these attributes can be put down to him being a Time Lord.
Time Lords have been a big part of the show throughout its history, whether it’s down to their presence or absence, and over the years we’ve got to learn some interesting things about the peculiar race. We’ve learnt a lot about their culture, their planet Gallifrey, and of course their near-extinction in the Last Great Time War. But look closer and you’ll see there is even more to them than all of that. To help guide you through it all, we have the Doctor Who: 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Time Lords.
15. Time Lords have their own language
The language of the Time Lords is called Gallifreyan, and is most commonly referenced in the show in its written form of circular shapes (did anyone else think that the language in Arrival looked suspiciously similar?). It’s also of course got a spoken form, but thanks to the language translation tools of the TARDIS anyone we see on the screen will conveniently speak in English with a British (or occasionally American) accent. That hasn’t however stopped us from learning a bit about the language.
The modern Gallifreyan language has three different dialects. They are known as the upper dialect, middle dialect, and lower dialect and are divided by society rankings. The upper dialect is spoken by high councillors, royalty, and other high ranks. The middle dialect is spoken by the aristocratic families and nobility, and is believed to be the dialect which the doctor speaks. And finally, the lower dialect is spoken by civilians and the general working population. It all sounds a bit weirdly dystopian to us.
14. There are supposed to be six pilots per TARDIS
The TARDIS is a signature part of the show, and almost as important as the Doctor himself. It is known for being the ship which allows the Doctor to travel through time and space. But have you noticed how it’s often a bit of a bumpy ride, how they often end up in completely random places, and how the Doctor has to run around frantically to fly the thing? Well, it seems there’s a very simple reason to explain all these difficulties he encounters.
The truth is that TARDISes are conventionally flown by a crew of six pilots at a time, rather than just one. So that explains it– he’s not a bad driver, and the TARDIS isn’t a bad vehicle, he’s just missing his crew! It also explains why he’ll sometimes shout instructions to other passengers, as he’s unable to always fly the ship completely solo. Although it’s quite impressive that he manages flying it alone, we can’t help but wonder just how many sticky situations he’d avoid if he had a functioning crew on board.
13. They only need one hour of sleep
With all the running around and all the constant chaos, you’d think the Doctor would need the occasional power nap just to get him through the day. And yet we never seem to see him sleeping. Well, other than the fact that it would make for boring TV, we have the reason why: it’s because Time Lords, with all their superiority, can survive of very little sleep. It’s thought that they only need about an hour of sleep a night to function properly.
However, there are also some facts that imply they need even less than that. Time Lords can put themselves into a self-induced trance of sleep which reduces bodily functions to a minimum, while allowing them to still contemplate complex ideas. Twenty minutes in this state is thought to be the equivalent of 8 hours of sleep for humans, and so they could survive on a very small amount. They already live so long and they get all that extra time in the day, it’s not fair!
12. Not all Time Lords regenerate 12 times
One of the most obvious facts about the Doctor is that he changes faces every so often. Time Lords usually have twelve cycles of regeneration, but more interestingly that isn’t always the case. There have been exceptions to the rule as some Time Lords have found ways of getting extra regenerations. One example is the Master, who found a way of getting some extra life by inhabiting a human body.
However, there have also been examples of losing out on regenerations. River Song, while she may have been only partially a Time Lady, had the ability to regenerate. She gave up her remaining regenerations in order to help save the Doctor.
That brings us onto another exception to the rules: the Doctor was granted another cycle of regenerations when he saved the Time Lords. That meant that in his last regeneration, he was granted the ability to have more regenerations and thus more new faces. Somewhat convenient for the series too, don’t you think?
11. Regeneration can change their biological sex
Regeneration can change a lot of things about a Time Lord. We’ve seen the Doctor’s regenerations change almost everything about him. He’s regenerated looking older, looking younger, and even having different accents. We’ve also seen it change his mannerisms, and even tastebuds. There are a few things it has yet to change about him though. Much to his disappointment, he’s never been ginger. He also hasn’t ever regenerated into a woman.
However, it is perfectly possible for Time Lords to regenerate into a different biological sex. This does, of course, mean that we could at some point have a female Doctor. And while it may be a controversial idea, almost every new actor playing the role faces a little resistance initially from some of the audience. And let’s be honest, in a show as weird and wonderful as Doctor Who surely anything goes. Right? We’ll leave that for you to decide.
10. Time Lords had the ability to control the stars
One of the more surprising facts and lesser known facts about Time Lords is that they had the ability to control the stars and also to harness their powers. Although little is known about the details of how and why they did this, the extent of their powers has been hinted at by the Doctor. In the episode “The Satan Pit” (back in the much loved days of the Doctor and Rose) the Tenth Doctor actually claimed that Time Lords invented black holes. We can’t help but wonder if they ever came to regret that decision!
One of the other few details known about the Time Lords’ control of the stars comes from the episode “Remembrance of the Daleks”. We found out in that episode that the Time Lords could use the Hand of Omega to actually speed up the development of the stars. They really do make us humans look weak, don’t they.
9. Time Lords have different biology from humans
While Time Lords may look a lot like us, there is a lot more going on inside of them then you may first think. It’s fairly common knowledge that Time Lords have two hearts– their second one helps with regeneration– but it certainly doesn’t stop there. They also have more hemispheres in their brain, which would explain their superior intelligence. In addition to this, they have a smaller secondary pair of lungs tucked beneath their main ones.
Over the years we’ve out to find out a lot more about their anatomy and found out that the list of differences doesn’t end there. The list goes on as Time Lords are known to have four kidneys, extra rib cages, and two stomachs. And although they may only have two eyes like us mere humans, that doesn’t stop them from also getting night vision, range deception, and the ability to see beyond the visual spectrum. A lot of these differences in biology could be put down to their DNA, as they have triple stranded DNA too. Now they’re just being greedy!
8. 4 individuals that have been partially Time Lord
Time Lords are obviously a very rare species in the universe now, and so fans will keenly take note of anyone who is even close to being a Time Lord. Well, since the Last Great Time War there have been at least four individuals who are known to be part Time Lord.
One of the most curious of these is Jenny, a “generated anomaly” widely known as the Doctor’s daughter. She was artificially created with a skin sample that was taken against the Doctor’s will. After she was shot, it was believed she was dead. Unbeknown to the doctor however, she actually regenerated and could still be flying around the universe.
Another one that is close to home for the Doctor is the Meta-Crisis Doctor, who is a Time Lord and human hybrid that looks identical to the Tenth Doctor but can’t regenerate. This ended up working well for Rose, who got her wish of living with the Doctor (well sort of) in the parallel universe she was trapped in. However, when this Time Lord Human hybrid was made, Donna Noble also became half Time Lord. Things didn’t end well for her, as the Doctor was forced to wipe her memory and return her to her normal life. The final partial Time Lord is River Song, who was conceived by two humans on the TARDIS and so ended up with some Time Lady traits, including regeneration.
7. The Time Lords were led by the High Council
Like most of the advanced races in the universe, the Time Lords had a very structured society with rankings and leaders in place to maintain order. The Time Lords and Ladies were ruled over by the High Council of Gallifrey, which is a governing system that has several ranks to it. Without getting too boring and political, we’ll break it down a bit for you.
The High Council was led by the Lord or Lady President and they were joined in the highest ranking, the inner circle, by the Lord or Lady Chancellor and the Castellan. The Lord President was the most powerful and had access to the matrix, and nearly absolute authority. The Chancellor handled many of the government functions and the Castellan was responsible for the safety of Gallifrey. The rest of the High Council was built up of Lords Cardinals and each of the Lord Cardinals represents a Gallifreyan chapter. In a weird way, it’s kind of similar to most human societies. Well, except for the whole part about accessing the matrix.
6. Young Time Lords are known as Time Tots
One of the cutest pieces of trivia that we know about Time Lords is that the young Time Lords are known as Time Tots. It may also surprise you to know that some aspects of their childhoods are quite similar to our own. For example, they are also entertained with the likes of nursery rhymes and children’s stories. Although we’re guessing by the title Snow White and the Seven Keys to Doomsday that their stories were ever so slightly different to ours– it doesn’t sound very Disney, does it?
Their childhood certainly does have some differences from ours, the most significant being that theirs seems to last a lot longer than ours does. This is hinted at when it was said that a Time Lord (or Time Tot) that is ninety years old is still considered a kid. Why don’t we get a childhood that long? It certainly seems that the Doctor made the most of his, as he managed to be the Time Tot hide-and-seek champion for forty two years in a row! With all these stories, we are absolutely dying to see a children’s TV spin-off about the Time Tots.
5. They have some harsh punishments
Another part of the Time Lords society that seems oddly dystopian is their legal system. It comes with some pretty extreme punishments. Although given how powerful Time Lords can be, it makes sense to deter them from overstepping.
One of their harshest known punishments is the reversal of the time stream, which basically means erasing their entire existence completely. This punishment would have been the one the Master would have faced if he was tried and sentenced for all his various crimes.
Other punishments that they have are quite bizarre too. The Doctor, for instance, was once forced to regenerate and then exiled to Earth with a broken TARDIS. This punishment came after he broke the non-interference policy. Other potential punishments a Time Lord could face for breaking the rules include having any further regenerations removed from them, and even just being vaporized on the spot. It seems being a Time Lord does come with a catch after all!
4. Their minds go into the matrix when they die
The Time Lords do seem to have a habit of taking a god-like role in the universe. They travel in time and change the history and events of the entire universe. They also take the laws of the universe into their own hands when it comes to death too. When Time Lords die, they have all of their memories uploaded into the matrix to allow their memories survive long past their deaths. This is the same matrix used by their Lord President to access information about all time and space.
This act of passing their memories into the matrix is known as “soul catching.” Some Time Lords even plan the date of their death in order to help this. This is known as their Death Day and allows them a time to read their will, contemplate and accept their death, and then finally have their minds beamed into the matrix. It’s a pretty cool way to go, if you ask us.
3. Many Time Lords use titles instead of names
The Doctor is a name that is seemingly known throughout most of the universe thanks to his notoriety. But did you know that the Doctor isn’t even his real name? Other than the Time Lords, few have ever known the Doctor’s name to the point where the question “Doctor Who?” was apparently one of the most dangerous questions in the universe. Knowing his name is also seen as a pretty big deal; a privilege that River Song was permitted, but many of his companions never get to find out this mysterious name of his.
It is thought that part of the reason Time Lords don’t use their birth names is that they are very long and complicated. Therefore, most Time Lords will give themselves a title to be known by instead. Some of the more well known ones are the Doctor, the Master, and the Corsair. They’re not all as commanding and important sounding as those, though, with some opting for names like Susan.
2. Time Lords reproduce in two ways
Don’t be too worried, we aren’t about to give you a talk about the time birds and the time bees with this one. Interestingly though, Time Lords and Time Ladies do have some options when it comes to reproducing.
Other than the old fashioned way of reproducing, which we’ll leave to your own imagination, they also have the option of using technology to do all the work for them. Who knows, perhaps they have low libidos, or perhaps they want to avoid the pains of labor, but it seems they were rather keen of resorting to these high-tech methods to produce their offspring. This technology is known as Looms, and some think it may be responsible for the lack of traditional family units in the Time Lords culture. It’s hardly romantic, but at least it gets the job done.
One interesting point we will raise about their “traditional” reproduction is that they can allegedly reproduce with a variety of humanoid species, not just other Time Lords and Ladies. So if you fancy the Doctor, you might be in with a chance.
1. They’re allergic to aspirin & alcohol doesn’t affect them as much
One of the few weaknesses that Time Lords do have is a simple allergy to aspirin– though it doesn’t seem that it can do them much harm, since it’s simple enough to treat. Apparently, the correct way to cure a Time Lord of their symptoms from an aspirin allergy attack is by giving them chocolate. Although, who knows, perhaps they’re just faking it as an excuse to treat themselves.
Another one of their differences is that alcohol doesn’t have the same effect on them as it does on us. It seems that Time Lords can hold their liquor a lot better than us humans, as the effects of alcohol aren’t generally as great on them. This is thought to be because they metabolize alcohol very quickly. But there is an exception to that rule– if ginger beer gets involved, then it can reduce their ability to tolerate alcohol and leave them feeling a bit worse for wear. So if you ever want to get a Time Lord drunk, ginger beer is the way to go.
Is there any trivia about the Time Lords in Doctor Who you’d like to add? Leave it in the comments!