Fans of Doctor Who know that The Doctor can do many wonderful things. This is not simply because he’s a Time Lord from Gallifrey. The Doctor is a renegade who likes to get up to shenanigans and impress people (usually pretty young human women) with the wonders of time and space, always getting into surprisingly intense and dark adventures in the process.
While he is presented as an amazing sort of character, the term “superpowers” isn’t normally associated with the guy, but, from a certain point of view, he actually has a few of them. Some pop up as a convenient deus ex machine here and there, some are just because of his magical sci-fi alien race, and some are forgotten as one-offs, but, make no mistake, The Doctor, in all his twelve incarnations (so far—and thirteen if you count The War Doctor) is really a superhero.
15 The Doctor can speak "animal"
It’s not that The Doctor can speak to animals, like a horse whisperer or a lonely writer locked away in a one bedroom apartment with only two cats to keep him company day in and day out. The Doctor can speak to some animals in their OWN animal languages, whatever that means. The Eleventh Doctor conversed with a male horse who told him his name was Susan in the Western episode “A Town Called Mercy.” Animal-chatty Eleven also memorably spoke to the cat of a kind gentleman named Craig (played by a pre-Late Late Show James Corden)’s cat in “The Lodger.” While Nine previously chatted with an alley cat in “The Empty Child,” it didn’t seem to be any special language or psychic-style conversation, instead just a guy petting a kitty.
Speaking of speaking to animals, The Doctor can also speak baby. Yes, babies are animals. Eleven talked with one in the second Corden adventure “Closing Time.” The most delightful revelation in that chat is that, while his parents named him Alfie, the baby refers to himself as “Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All.” They have a more emotional chat at the end. While the baby talk was mostly fun for Eleven, Twelve translated a much darker, sadder bit of baby talk with a scared little one in “The Girl Who Died.” There, where others hear crying, he knows exactly the fear and anguish the baby is expressing and can put them into heartbreaking words. Whether or not his animal language knowledge is limited to some creatures, not all, remains to be seen.
14 The Doctor is psychic...kind of...sometimes
This one is a little nebulous. Sometimes, as in episodes such as “The Girl in the Fireplace” and “The End of Time,” the Doctor can explore someone’s mind by putting his hands on the person’s head. Another time, when there’s no time for gentle niceties, The Eleventh Doctor head butted the aforementioned nice guy Craig in “The Lodger” to give him the info dump he needed as quickly as possible, without all that talking to slow things down.
His psychic abilities also expanded to a bit of astral projection in the classic series episode “The Two Doctors,” though he comments he runs the risk of death by separating his body from his mind in doing so. In “The Last of the Time Lords,” the Tenth Doctor connects with almost every human on Earth as they chant his name. This also causes him to levitate and deflect lasers and...look, he really is pretty much a superhero.
13 The Doctor can grow new limbs, like, say, a hand
When The Ninth Doctor gave way to The Tenth way back at the end of the 2005 season, it was a bumpy ride (And not just because, no matter how great Tennant was as The Doctor -- and he truly was -- most viewers could’ve used at least one more season of Eccleston, right?) Anyway, Ten sleeps through most of his first full-length adventure, “The Christmas Invasion,” as Earth is invaded by killer Santa Clause, deadly spinning Christmas Trees, and an alien race called the Sycorax. The latter are threatening to make every human with A-positive blood type commit suicide unless they are given half the human population as slaves (how is this a “kid-friendly” show again, with such constant nightmare images?). When Ten wakes up to confront the Sycorax, decked in his pajamas in great Arthur Dent-style, he ends up losing a hand in a sword fight!
Luckily for him, it’s conveniently revealed that limbs can grow back if lost early enough in the regeneration process. He even flashes a smile as it grows back!
12 He can also grow a body out of a severed limb such as, say, a hand
Somewhat surprisingly, that hand wasn’t forgotten. Captain Jack Harkness, almost always more fun on his actual Doctor Who episodes than on his own spin-off show, Torchwood, found that hand and used it as a sort of Doctor tracker. In “The Stolen Earth,” the Doctor is seemingly mortally wounded by a Dalek blast. Just when it seems like he’s going to regenerate into The Eleventh Doctor in the next episode, “Journey’s End,” he instead uses the time energy from his severed hand to heal himself!
It gets wackier when that hand then grows…another Tenth Doctor body! This version turns out to be a little more human, as he was near underrated companion Donna Noble at the time. That means only one from life to life. He ends up being left with Rose Tyler in a parallel world, while the “real” Doctor is left to more adventures and regenerations. One suspects he’d trade all that to be in his doppelgänger's position, though. Such is the operatic tragedy of this fun time kid’s show!
11 The Doctor is capable of surviving in freezing temperatures
In all his incarnations so far, The Doctor usually sports outerwear that’d be good for cold temperatures, at least for a frail human. Whether he’s outfitted in a cool outwear such as The Ninth Doctor and The War Doctor’s tough guy leather, Ten’s crop duster, or even Three’s fancy cloak and gloves combo, though, it’s pretty much unnecessary from the perspective of keeping warm for a Time Lord. Even when he accessorizes in something like the Fourth Doctor’s iconic (and insanely long) scarf or Eleven’s occasional green pea coat, this guy can actually handle freezing temperatures no problem!
In “Seeds of Doom” and “Planet of the Ood,” The Doctor was able to tolerate the cold much better than his human companions. The Tenth doctor even said in “42” that Time Lords can survive, at least for a short time, in absolute zero. That comes in handy against monsters like the Ice Warriors, for sure. So, all The Doctor’s the coats and accessories must just be for the sake of snazzy fashion, it seems.
10 He can punch through big diamond walls!
In “Heaven Sent,” one of The Twelfth Doctor’s best outings, at least so far, he must survive a crazy castle trap of adventures and puzzles set by The Veil in an effort to get to his confession dial and hopefully save and/or mourn his recently fallen companion Clara. At the end of said quest against a clockwork enemy, in the mysterious Room 12, is a seemingly impossible to pass diamond wall. What’s a Doctor to do but just punch in in frustration?
That would probably break a human’s hand, and while it hurts The Doctor, he seems ready for more punching. In fact, due to a convenient bit of teleportation cloning that enables him to restart this crazy castle puzzle every time he dies, he punches it about a million more times until he gets through! Sure, it’s not Superman crushing a piece of coal into a diamond in front of Richard Pryor, but it’s darn impressive.
9 The Doctor is an accomplished speed-reader
Do you ever wish you could get through that book you're reading a bit faster? Even if it’s enjoyable, there are just so many more to read that one never seems to find the time. The Doctor, meanwhile, is lucky enough to get through one so fast he can basically just flip through the pages.
The Ninth doctor casually thumbs through a copy of The Lovely Bones, reading the entire novel in a matter of seconds in "Rose." He finds the ending rather sad. Years earlier, The Fourth Doctor speed reads through a book by Ernest Hemingway, declaring it “not bad, though a bit boring in the middle." The Doctor also displays his fast reading talent in “The Unearthly Child.” He reads for fun (a couple favorites being Charles Dickens and Agatha Christie, both of whom he met in “The Unquiet Dead” and “The Unicorn and the Wasp” respectively) as well as knowledge, so he’s not just skimming -- he can really process and retain the information.
8 He has a “respiratory bypass system"
This is another perk to being a Time Lord, apparently. They have some extra organs -- two hearts is the most well-known example -- but they also have some extra pieces in the lung department. Called a "respiratory bypass system," basically a couple lungs underneath their main ones, it makes a Time Lord harder to suffocate or strangle than the average human.
The first time this came up was when the Fourth Doctor was strangled seemingly to death by a robot in "The Pyramids of Mars," only to wake up not too long later, much to the surprise of Sara Jane Smith, his grieving companion. In "Four to Doomsday," the Fifth Doctor uses it to survive the vacuum of space. He also explains he can store extra oxygen for several minutes in his final adventure before regenerating in “The Caves of Androzani.” The Tenth Doctor pulls this extra set of lungs trick again in "Smith and Jones,” and it comes in handy for Twelve in “Mummy on the Orient Express.”
7 He can absorb and dispose of radiation
After his first tearful good-bye to Rose at the end of modern Doctor Who season two, “The Parting of Ways,” the Tenth Doctor met another underrated companion by the name of Martha Jones on the moon in the episode “Smith and Jones”. After having Martha dose a baddie with radiation while he’s also in the room, Ten was able to not only survive that lethal amount of energy, but also shake it out of his body, through his foot and into his shoe! It was also revealed in this scene that he apparently wore his Chuck Taylor All-Star sneakers (or “trainers” as the British call them) sans socks. This isn’t a super power or anything, so much as it’s, frankly, ill-advised.
This power to survive radiation exposure has its limits for The Doctor, however, as illustrated in The Third Doctor’s regeneration in “The Planet of Spiders.” Radiation took another Doctor’s life when the Tenth stepped into a radiation chamber to save companion Wilfred Mott in “The End of Time.” It’s okay to still tear up at Ten saying “I don’t want to go,” by the way.
7. He can take on a sword with a spoon
Much was made of Peter Capaldi’s casting as The Twelfth Doctor. (Well, he was kinda the Thirteenth if one counted John Hurt’s The War doctor, as one should, but he’s still called Twelve.) It was mostly to do with the fact that he was the oldest actor to take the role, and was actually replacing the youngest (Matt Smith as The Eleventh) at the time.
That hasn’t slowed the character down, though, as Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor often displays a very youthful energy and can get into a scrap now and again, such as the time in “Robot of Sherwood”, when he went up against Robin Hood’s sword with… a spoon. It didn’t seem like a fair fight, but The Doctor more than held his own against the legendary adventurer. Sure, he was kind of making fun of the whole thing with his choice of weapon, but that’s almost what made it all the more impressive. This clearly goes beyond mere normal skills and into the realm of superpowers, right?
6 The Doctor has super taste buds
The dubious enjoyment of fish sticks and custard aside, The Doctor has incredibly powerful taste buds. This isn’t just figuring out what spices were used in a bowl of chili or the vintage of a wine; the Doctor can do some serious sleuthing with his super taste buds. The Tenth Doctor recognized blood types in “The Christmas Invasion.” The Eleventh was even able to figure out the age of an object by licking it in “The Eleventh Hour.” Most improbably, he could taste the ORIGIN of a TARDIS-blue envelop in “Day of the Moon” and the composition of the atmosphere in both “The Time of Angels” as well as the classically and hilariously accurately entitled, “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.”
As taste is heavily related to one’s sense of smell, The Doctor has amazing abilities on that front, too. The Doctor can actually sniff out the date and time of any particular location by taking a whiff, as he did in “The Unicorn and the Wasp.” That’s a good trick for a space and time traveler, for sure.
5 The Doctor has a big ol', superhuman brain!
For anyone with a passing knowledge of Doctor Who, it should come as no surprise that The Doctor has a bigger and more complex brain than normal old human beings do. The immense size made it impossible for famed human doctor Mehendri Solon to transplant the evil Time Lord tyrant Morbius’s brain into a skull human in the Fourth Doctor adventure, “The Brain of Morbius.” The large Gallifreyan brain also contains an extra lobe that Time Lords can separate form the rest of the brain to help out with multi-tasking.
The Twelfth Doctor has stated that he’s had to dump out some information to fit in new stuff, so there is a limit, though. Still, to label The Doctor and all Time Lords as being geniuses compared to your average human is an understatement. The Doctor himself has forgotten more than any one human could ever even know. For The Doctor, knowledge isn’t just power -- it’s a SUPERpower!
4 He is way sturdier than a human
While he’s no Superman, The Doctor’s Gallifreyan body is way tougher than a normal human’s (maybe close to Captain America-levels) to help with the super power thinking. On average, they are still superior to a human in peak condition. Their bones are nigh unbreakable, at least when compared to us ordinary folk. In “The End of Time,” the Tenth Doctor -- probably at this point the most superheroic of all the incarnations so far -- jumped out of a flying space ship sans parachute, fell from an impossible height, crashed through a skylight, and slammed belly-first onto the floor. Aside from a few scratches and some obvious discomfort, though, he was able to stand up and shake it off.
Of course, the Fourth Doctor’s much shorter looking plummet from a radio telescope dish while fighting The Master did enough damage to him that he regenerated into his Fifth incarnation in “Logopolis.” Adding further continuity headaches is a creepy middle-version of the Doctor, between Four and Five, called The Watcher, but, ah, let’s just leave that alone. Whether he’s as impervious to harm as Ten or not, The Doctor and all Time Lords are made of pretty sturdy stuff.
3 The Doctor has some super eyesight
The Doctor wears eyeglasses sometimes, from the opera glasses the very First Doctor always kept in his pocket, to the Fifth’s eyewear to look older or cleverer, to the Tenth’s hipster frames (and his occasional foray into 3-D glasses, though that was a whole other thing in “Doomsday”). The Eleventh borrowed spectacles from Amy Pond, but it’s more for the look than anything else.
In fact, the Tenth Doctor commented on their unnecessary eyewear when he met The Fifth in the Children in Need mini-episode “Time Crash.” The truth is, The Doctor, in all his incarnations, has even better than 20/20 vision. He has superior range deception, able to zoom in and see in incredible detail from around a hundred yards away, as the Eleventh Doctor demonstrated in his first adventure, “The Eleventh Hour.” He was also able to see well beyond what a human could see in “The Hungry Earth.” It's also been shown that he can see better in the dark, and has the power to see beyond the visual spectrum.
2 He's clairvoyant...sometimes
The Time Lord’s clairvoyance might be more related to their time senses than standard psychic abilities. The Fourth Doctor displayed this in the all-time classic, “City of Death.” The Eleventh perceived time loops that no one else could in “The Lodger.” It might be kind of like being the only person able to see glitches in The Matrix. The Ninth Doctor said he could see possible futures in “The Parting of Ways.” Ten could instinctively, mentally know when certain events were “fixed” in time, meaning that, no matter what heroics he and his companions got into, the event was going to happen.
The most poignant example of this was in “The Fires of Pompeii,” which introduced the notion of these fixed moments in time. Tragically, he and his companion Donna have to ignite Mount Vesuvius, actually causing the tragedy, sacrificing the citizens of Pompeii to save the Earth itself from a rock and magma aliens called the Pyrovile. He does cheat a bit, though, saving a family, the patriarch of which seemingly inspired the Twelfth Doctor’s face -- intense eyebrows and all.
1 The Doctor has superhuman bow tie-wearing abilities
This one is all Eleven. Sure, other incarnations such as the Second and Third Doctor sported a bow tie at times, but this was Eleventh’s biggest fashion statement, even bigger than the fez. Once he put that little tie on, it was his signature look. While bow ties can be fun or classy or kitschy, only Buckaroo Banzai could arguably make them look anything approaching "cool." The bow tie is to the Eleventh doctor like the celery stalk was to the Fifth Doctor, but, even then, it’s not like Five started a celery fashion crazy. The bow tie was so inherent to Eleven that, as he was about to regenerate into The Twelfth, he actually took it off, leaving that look behind, making it kind of an incarnation-specific, super powerful style-choice.
Okay, yes, some of these abilities being called “superpowers” are debatable, of course. Also, as the show’s been on for over fifty years, not to mention been featured in hundreds of novels, comic books, and radio dramas, some powers no doubt have been missed. But you know what? The tie stays!
So, what other super powers does The Doctor have, Whovians? Let us know in the comments.
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