SPOILERS! Lot of them, for Doctor Who of old and new lie ahead. Including the (publicised) return of a face or two to Doctor Who series 9.
Cheating death is a fundamental part of the make-up of Doctor Who. It’s lasted for 52 years so far, whether on television or in spin-off media, and that’s in no small part because of the original idea to recast the title character in 1966, thus creating the concept of regeneration.
But resurrection has also affected the characters around the Doctor and with a new series about to start, that looks to be as prominent as ever. Heck, series 9 even has a two-parter called The Girl Who Died and The Woman Who Lived. Plus, we already know that apparently dead characters such as Missy, Osgood and River Song will be re-appearing between now and the end of the year.
So, we’ve gone back through the history of the TV series and picked out the characters who have enjoyed the perks of resurrection. We’re not counting each and every time that the Doctor has regenerated, but we’ve included instances in which certain incarnations survived death without regenerating. And of course, there are plenty of characters who have gotten out of dying without resorting to more Time Lord-y measures.
Died/reborn: Almost too many times to count throughout the last 44 years, but there will also be an imminent return in the series 9 opener The Magician’s Apprentice.
The Doctor’s oldest frenemy has long been characterised as a Time Lord who spent all of his regenerations- by the time of The Deadly Assassin, he is said to be at the end of his final life. Ever since then, he has grasped for life, most notably stealing the body of a Trakenite scientist called Tremas (because anagrams are fun) and holding onto that body through tangles with four consecutive Doctors.
In the 1996 TV Movie, he was executed by the Daleks but survived as a snake-like “morphant” that possessed a paramedic called Bruce and tried to use the Eye of Harmony to steal the Doctor’s remaining regenera– look, there’ll be plenty of time to cover the madness of the TV Movie later in the list and this is perhaps the least of the Master’s attempts to hold onto life.
In the new series, he was revealed to have been given a new regeneration cycle by the Time Lords, as they hoped to use his guile and ruthless ingenuity to fight the Time War. Instead, he ran off and hid himself as the human Professor Yana. That covers how he went from looking like Derek Jacobi to John Simm, and probably to Michelle Gomez, under the new name of Missy as well.
Typically, she was last seen being vaporised by a Cyberman, but she’s back in tomorrow’s new episode. If they go without explaining how she’s still alive, it’ll be just like old times for the Doctor and his most quarrelsome acquaintance.
Died: Dark Water
Reborn: Death In Heaven
Poor Danny Pink. Although some thought him to be too cynical about the Doctor, the clash between Clara’s home life with her adoring boyfriend and her adventures with the Twelfth Doctor was a running theme of the last series. He was surprisingly killed by a car in Dark Water, but became tangled in Missy’s scheme to convert planet Earth’s dead into an army of Cybermen.
Cyber-Danny ultimately broke through his emotional inhibitions to take control of the army and direct them on a suicide mission to save the world. Danny returned for a dream sequence in Last Christmas, but we suspect that there are enough loose threads involving Orson Pink (also played by Samuel Anderson) that we might see a fully-fledged resurrection for this character before long.
Died: sometime before we meet Danny, but we see his death in flashback in Dark Water
Reborn: Death In Heaven
Over the course of series 8, we learn that Danny was in the army, serving five years in the UK and Afghanistan and performing humanitarian tasks like building wells alongside traditional military work. Eventually, we find out that he left because he accidentally shot and killed a young boy while on a mission in the Middle East.
For his efforts at the end of the series, Danny takes control of the Nethersphere where Missy stored the souls of the dead and the Doctor is confident that he’ll figure out that he has a shot to come back to life for real. Danny realises this, but he gives it to the young boy and sends him back to Clara so that he can be reunited with his family in Afghanistan.
Sir Alistair (Brigadier) Lethbridge-Stewart
Died: The Wedding Of River Song
Reborn: Death In Heaven
We’re not counting every character who has ever been cyber-converted, (#NotAllCybermen) but it’s worth mentioning those who retained some semblance of their personality. Particularly when we see the Cyber-Brig, whose role in Death In Heaven carried a whole ton of history with it.
Never mind that one of Lethbridge-Stewart’s first appearances was opposite the Cybermen in 1968’s The Invasion– in terms of the show, the Brigadier has been an adversary of the Master just as long as the Doctor has, so it’s fitting that he’s the one who stands beside his old friend when all goes to hell, and ultimately shoots Missy because the Doctor won’t. Steven Moffat has jokingly posited that the Cyber-Brig could have continued adventures with his daughter Kate at UNIT, but it remains to be seen if we’ll ever see him again.
Died: Asylum Of The Daleks and The Snowmen
Reborn: The Bells Of Saint John
The big surprise of series 7’s opening episode, Asylum Of The Daleks, was the early arrival of Jenna Coleman as Oswin, a character who died after being converted into a Dalek. The Eleventh Doctor unknowingly met her again in The Snowmen, as a Victorian governess called Clara, but cottoned onto the mystery about her recurrence throughout time and space when she died a second time.
Picking up the contemporary version of this Impossible Girl in The Bells Of St. John, the Doctor started an investigation that led him to his tomb on Trenzalore in The Name Of The Doctor, when we found out that Clara scattered herself through his timeline to save him from the Great Intelligence, dying and coming to life a thousand times before eventually being rescued. In short, Clara died, but she got better and she’s just fine now.
Died/reborn: The Name Of The Doctor
In the same episode in which we found out what was going on with Clara, one of the scarier twists came during a dream-induced conference call started by Madame Vastra. During the call, her wife Jenny became aware that the Whispermen were in the room with their sleeping forms, leading to the chilling line, “So sorry, so sorry, I think I’ve been murdered.”
It doesn’t last and Jenny is revived after the Whispermen take her body and the Doctor’s friends to Trenzalore. She then disappears again when the Great Intelligence goes into the Doctor’s timeline, because if he died long ago, then so did she. She got better after the timeline was corrected by Clara though.
Died: A Good Man Goes To War
Reborn: The Snowmen
This is an odd one- it’s not so much a resurrection in context as a retcon by Steven Moffat. The unwilling Sontaran nurse was introduced as one of the Doctor’s comrades at the battle of Demons Run in A Good Man Goes To War and he appeared to die in Rory’s arms after a battle with the headless monks, surprised that his glorious death in combat was not as enjoyable as he thought.
In The Snowmen, the Doctor tells Clara that Strax was resurrected, but as we learn in the minisode The Battle Of Demons Run: Two Days Later, his death in combat is downgraded to merely fainting. Vastra and Jenny healed his injuries and offered him an opportunity to come home with them and be their manservant and the Paternoster Gang have been semi-regular characters ever since. Strax is a pretty funny character though, so we can understand why killing him off might have just been a rash decision.
The Eleventh Doctor
“Died”: The Impossible Astronaut
Reborn: The Wedding Of River Song
Barring those that introduce new Doctors, it seems that Moffat’s opening episodes are never knowingly predictable. So when series 6 opened with the Doctor being shot to death by an astronaut emerging from Lake Silencio in Utah, it kicked off a series-long mystery about why he would invite his friends to come and watch.
This turned out to be the crucial point in the Eleventh Doctor’s lifespan, in which he was dogged by the Silence as they tried to make his death a fixed point in time. As it turns out, the Doctor helps them to do this, but sends the robotic Teselecta in his place. Having escaped death, he’s still on the path that eventually led him to a millennium-long vigil on Trenzalore and the birth of the Twelfth Doctor.
Died: Amy’s Choice, Cold Blood, The Curse Of The Black Spot, The Angels Take Manhattan
Reborn: Amy’s Choice, The Pandorica Opens, The Curse Of The Black Spot, The Angels Take Manhattan
Anybody would be over-confident about resurrection if they were in Rory’s shoes. Even the Silence make a point of mentioning how often he’s died when they try to kill him in The Wedding Of River Song. His first death happens in one of the Dream Lord’s illusions in Amy’s Choice, but he dies a little more severely a couple of episodes later, and his whole existence is erased from history shortly thereafter.
Using wall-crack powers, Amy remembers him back into existence shortly before the Doctor reboots the universe altogether. He dies and comes back again in The Curse Of The Black Spot and by the time of his final appearance in The Angels Take Manhattan, he lets out an exasperated “When do I not come back?” in the face of sacrificing himself to break the Weeping Angels’ paradox. He’s right, but shortly after, he and Amy are sent back in time to live a long and happy life together and eventually die for real.
Died: A long time ago…
Reborn: The End Of Time Part 1
As one of the founders of Time Lord society, Rassilon has a number of Gallifreyan artefacts named for him, most of which popped up in the 20th anniversary story The Five Doctors. It’s here that we get an account of Rassilon’s supposed death at the end of the Dark Times on Gallifrey, when the Time Lords revolted and entombed him in the Dark Tower in the gladiatorial Death Zone.
When the Time War kicked off, Rassilon was one of the Time Lords brought back to help the war effort and by the time we meet him in The End Of Time, he’s President again. His big plan is to retroactively create the Master’s mania in a bid to break out of a time lock and follow through on his effort to end the universe so that the Time Lords can become beings of pure consciousness. It doesn’t end too great for him and the last time we saw him, he was being killed off by a vengeful Master.
The Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble
Died/reborn: Turn Left
Series 4’s “Doctor-lite” episode found a pretty good reason to get David Tennant out of the way- he was dead. At the encouragement of the Trickster’s brigade, Donna is coaxed into creating another timeline in which she never met the Doctor and he drowned while stopping the Empress of the Racnoss in the events we saw in The Runaway Bride. Things went downhill from there, but Donna eventually broke out of the darkest timeline by sacrificing her own life.
Alternate timelines are a tricky business, but we definitely see a dead Doctor in this one and he’s definitely fine by the end. You could also include the regeneration at the end of the following episode The Stolen Earth, which gave us a few more episodes with the Tenth Doctor but also used up one of his original regenerations, according to The Time Of The Doctor.
Proper Dave, Other Dave, Anita, Miss Evangelista and Charlotte Annabel Lux
Died: Silence In The Library/Forest Of The Dead
Reborn: Forest Of The Dead
In very real terms, the Library belongs to the Vashta Narada, piranha-like creatures that lurk in the darkness. On paper though, the Library belongs to the Lux family and the Doctor has to step in when Strackman Lux brings an expedition of archaeologists to find out what went wrong on the planet.
As it turns out, the CAL hard-drive at the heart of the planet contains the consciousness of a young girl, Charlotte Annabel Lux, whose body died from terminal illness long ago. The planet has also unnecessarily “saved” various other visitors to the library and as the Vashta Narada pick off members of the expedition, the Doctor is ultimately able to save them all using data echoes from their spacesuits. He has plenty of time to think up that idea, as it turns out…
… and River Song
Died: Forest Of The Dead
Reborn: The Name Of The Doctor
Death is not the end, and there’s no character of whom that’s truer than River. Song. The great irony of the Doctor and River’s backwards courtship is that his first meeting with her is her last, as she dies to recover the “saved” inhabitants of the Library. Happily, this gives him plenty of time to work out how to save her, and he does. (See above.)
However, she’s apparently found a way to get back to the material world from her existence in CAL as she manages to forge a connection with Clara in The Name Of The Doctor. Although we’ve seen her many times since her death, this is the first appearance that explicitly takes place post-mortem from her point of view and we can probably expect to find out more about that in this year’s Christmas special.
Died/reborn: The Doctor’s Daughter
Well, she’s not really his daughter, but ‘The Doctor’s Generated Anomaly’ doesn’t look nearly as good in the Radio Times. Anyway, this generated anomaly (Jenny for short) challenged and impressed an initially sceptical Doctor by going against her conditioning as a boil-in-the-bag soldier and helps to end a deceptively short war with the alien Hath. Alas, she takes a bullet for her “dad”, who then leaves believing her to be dead.
Steven Moffat is credited with suggesting to Russell T. Davies that the character ought to be brought back at the end of the episode, and we see her revived in the final scene, stealing a spaceship and going off on her own adventures. Rumours of her return have persisted throughout the grand Moff’s tenure as a result, but have yet to be fulfilled.
Died/reborn: Voyage Of The Damned
Another companion presumptive who turned out to be a one-off, Astrid met the Doctor aboard the starship Titanic and got one of the most awesome deaths on this list. Voyage Of The Damned might not have the same re-watch value for every fan, but personally, I say Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Kylie shoving Robo-George Costigan to a fiery death.
Pre-empting the CAL save, the Doctor tries to reconstitute her from the ship’s stasis but accidentally turns her into a spectral form. While it’s a very different form of life, she’s now free to roam the universe as she dreamed she would- as RTD noted in The Writer’s Tale, she still cops it, but it’s a nice, “pure Disney” ending.
As mentioned, we’ll count the Cybermen who retained their human personalities, so you won’t see John Lumic here- he started as a nationalist who thought that robots were superior and should run the world, so becoming Cyber Controller was actually something of a lateral move for him. On the other hand, Torchwood 1 head Yvonne Hartman resolutely repeats her last words as she prevents fellow Cybermen from retreating into the void. She did her duty for Queen and country.
Lady Cassandra O’Brien Dot Delta 17
Died: The End Of The World
Reborn: New Earth
Amongst the Mos Eisley cantina’s worth of delegates who witnessed the Earth burn was the last surviving “human”, Cassandra, now stretched out like a “bitchy trampoline” after years of obsessive cosmetic procedures and harbouring plans to kill her fellow passengers in an insurance scam. After she dried out and exploded in the heat of the exploding sun, she was salvaged and reconstituted from leftover skin in New Earth, where she hopped between a number of other bodies, including the Tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler, before finally dying for real.
Captain Jack Harkness
Died/reborn: The Parting Of The Ways and countless times since in both Doctor Who and Torchwood.
To date, he’s the only character in Doctor Who that has been described as a fixed point in history. Wielding Bad Wolf powers, Rose brought Jack back from the dead after he was exterminated by the Daleks in The Parting Of The Ways, but she brought him back a bit wrong, so he can never ever die.
Jack next appeared in his own spin-off, Torchwood, but has crossed paths with the Doctor too. He’s been stabbed, shot, buried in cement, poisoned, starved, hit by a stray javelin and yet he always bounces back usually with a bit of exquisite “waking up” acting from John Barrowman into the bargain. As implied in series 3, he may or may not be the Face of Boe, so we might actually have seen his final death in Gridlock if that’s the case.
Died/reborn: Father’s Day
“There’s a man alive in the world who wasn’t alive before. An ordinary man: that’s the most important thing in creation. The whole world’s different because he’s alive.” The first series of new Who was already well established by the time of episode 8, Paul Cornell’s Father’s Day, but the emotional tale of how Rose saves the dad she never knew is arguably the most important mission statement of that first run.
We see Pete die, but Rose manages to save him on the second go-around and all of time might be eaten as a result. On multiple occasions since Moffat took over, the series has come alarmingly close to breaking the rules established here, but it’s all the more heartbreaking when Pete realises he has to die all over again. Happily, Rose later reunites her mum with a Pete from an alternate universe in Doomsday.
Mr. Sneed, Mr. Redpath and Mrs. Peace
Died/reborn: The Unquiet Dead
Zombies! Cardiff undertaker Mr. Sneed has problems with the Gelth possessing the corpses in his care. The most ghoulish possession comes when Mr. Redpath comes to mourn his grandmother Mrs. Peace, only to see her become reanimated by a gas creature. Sneed is later killed and turned into a Gelth vessel too.
Died/reborn: The TV Movie
Told you we’d get back to this. Grace was a doctor who accidentally kills the Seventh Doctor on the operating table when she’s confused by his alien biology, but her guilt is alleviated when a dashing Paul McGann-looking version of the same man comes back and takes her on an adventure on New Year’s Eve 1999.
Unfortunately, she gets possessed by the Master as part of his bid to open the Eye of Harmony (again, it’s not worth explaining the one-night-only rules of this story) and he throws her to her death when she breaks free of his control and puts the TARDIS in a holding pattern to prevent the destruction of the world. Once the Master has been foiled and the Eye is closed, time reverts back to a few moments before midnight and Grace is brought back to life.
Died/reborn: The TV Movie
Another character who’s killed at the climax of the TV Movie, only he meets a rather more violent end. The Master snaps his neck when Lee comes around to the idea that the Time Lord might actually be quite a villainous sort, but he also enjoys the benefits of time being reversed in time for the new millennium. All of his mates got killed off in the shootout that mortally wounded the Seventh Doctor anyway, so we’re sure that he never endured any gangland reprisals hereafter.
Died/reborn: Paradise Towers
The Great Architect of Paradise Towers and other masterpieces had his mind removed from his body and installed in the basement of his own building on Earth. There, Kroagnon had to content himself with eating dead residents of the Towers with the help of his collaborator, the Chief Caretaker. He eventually brought himself back to life by possessing the Chief and enacting a plot to gas the residents and preserve his own architectural perfection. Fortunately, inbetween resident Pex made short work of him by pushing him down an elevator shaft and blowing them both up.
Died/reborn: Paradise Towers
Died/reborn: The Greatest Show In The Galaxy
Like the Doctor, Cook was an intergalactic explorer who travelled around with a companion, in this case a werewolf called Mags. Unlike the Doctor, Cook is a cowardly Darwinist bastard who allies himself with the Gods of Ragnarok and their henchmen and tricks various characters to their deaths at the Psychic Circus. Mags kills him in the ring, but the Gods reanimate him in order to try and recover their medallion, but he falls to his (second) death by pit in the process.
Died/reborn: The Ultimate Foe
The Valeyard is an amalgamation of the darker sides of the Doctor’s nature that manifested somewhere in between his twelfth and final incarnations, whereupon he went back in time to try and take the Sixth Doctor’s remaining regenerations by putting him on trial. This comes across very quickly in the final story of the season-long trial arc, which seemingly ended with the Valeyard being killed by a feedback surge. However, the final shot reveals that he’s still around and he laughs at the camera. He hasn’t been back in the series proper, but going by the description and the post Time Of The Doctor-numbering, he ought to have manifested somewhere between David Tennant and Matt Smith…
Died: Some time ago…
The Mentors were a race of amphibious capitalists who were first represented in Vengeance On Varos in the form of Sil. During the Trial Of A Time Lord arc, we meet Sil again as he conspires to resurrect the leader of the Mentors, Lord Kiv, by transferring his ever-expanding brain into a healthier body. However, the mind that previously occupied the body kept influencing Kiv, forcing him to make designs on the Doctor’s companion Peri…
Reborn: The Ultimate Foe
It’s another retcon, but this was far weirder than the Strax one. Mindwarp ends with the shocking reveal that Kiv successfully deleted Peri’s mind and Yrcanos, a besotted and battle-mad alien king played by Brian Blessed, killed her and the rest of the Mentors in a fit of rage when he discovered their success. The Doctor, having not been present for this, doesn’t find out until later that this was a false memory created by the Valeyard and Peri actually survived to randomly get married to King Yrcanos. Varoonik, indeed!
Died/reborn: The Mark Of The Rani
Luke was an aide to inventor George Stephenson in this Sixth Doctor story, but he fell afoul of a bizarre plot cooked up between the Master and the Rani to lead Peri into a minefield. These particular mines didn’t kill people so much as it turned them into trees and Luke stepped on one while hypnotised by the Master. As with certain Cybermen on the list though, he retains some of his personality when he saves Peri from stepping on another mine with his branches later. Yep, really.
Died/reborn: Mawdryn Undead
As the title suggests, Mawdryn arrives in this story having already died. After an accident during his search for the secret of Time Lord regeneration, he condemned himself and his crew to an eternity of regeneration through mutation. Taking advantage of the Fifth Doctor’s companions Nyssa and Tegan being particularly thick in this story, he persuades them that he is a newly regenerated Doctor in a bid to get hold of– you guessed it– his remaining regenerations. He and his crew were eventually released from their immortality by the temporal energy caused by the Brigadier of 1977 meeting and shaking hands with the Brigadier of 1983. Whoomph!
Died/reborn: City Of Death
In one of the finest Doctor Who stories ever made, Professor Kerensky is working on accelerated time field technology that he believes will be used to solve world hunger. He demonstrates this to the Fourth Doctor by accelerating a live egg into a full-grown chicken. Alas, it also ages to death and the Doctor explains to Kerensky where he’s going wrong by reversing the polarity (take a shot if you’re playing the drinking game) and reverting the poor bird to egg-hood.
Died: Genesis Of The Daleks
Reborn: Destiny Of The Daleks and on a couple of other occasions.
The creator of the Daleks programmed his soldiers to see other forms of life as inferior, and yet he’s surprised at the end of his first story when they turn on him and damage his primary life support system. We learn in Destiny Of The Daleks that he was placed in suspended animation when his secondary systems kicked in and he’s been cheating death in one way or another in each successive appearance.
We’ve seen him fall victim to a virus designed by the Movellans to attack Daleks, his ship destroyed by the Gallifreyan weapon known as the Hand of Omega and he’s even been scooped out of the jaws of the Nightmare Child during the most hellish days of the Time War. Over the years, Davros has given his own creations a run for their money in terms of sheer durability.
Died/reborn: The Hand Of Fear
Eldrad appears in Sarah Jane Smith’s original final story, characterised as an egotistical scientist who betrayed his own people, the Kastrians, and got himself sentenced to death by obliteration. With various parts of his corpse scattered across space, one of his hands imprinted on Sarah Jane, eventually growing a new, female form of itself. Eldrad eventually discovered that the Kastrians would rather destroy themselves than allow their heritage to be exploited and was defeated. The Doctor doubted that Eldrad was that easy to kill and sure enough, the character also appeared in the Big Finish audio adventure Eldrad Must Die, this time grown from an eye.
Died/reborn: The Brain Of Morbius
The renegade Gallifreyan was another bodysnatcher and another mad President of the High Council of the Time Lords, but he died many years before The Brain Of Morbius begins. Spin-off media has it that the Sisterhood of Karn (who reappeared in The Night Of The Doctor and the recent S9 prequel scene) were present at the trial and execution of Morbius, but unbeknownst to the war-mongering Time Lord’s enemies, his brain had already been removed by a loyal scientist called Solon.
When the Fourth Doctor caught up with Solon, he had collected the rudimental elements of a new body for his master, who clung to life inside a plastic brain-case, and stitched them together a la Victor Frankenstein. After failing to appropriate the Doctor’s noggin for this homunculus, Morbius found himself disorientated in his new body and he was chased off a cliff by the Sisterhood.
Died/reborn: Planet Of Evil
By our reckoning, it’s quite rare for a character to make it out alive after being possessed by another creature, but Sorenson manages it. As leader of an expedition to find a new energy source to save his dying people, Sorenson went against the Fourth Doctor’s advice and stowed a volatile canister of anti-matter aboard their ship. He was promptly infected by the anti-matter and ultimately pushed into a pool of the stuff and killed as the planet tried to reclaim its energy. Luckily for Sorenson, the Doctor and Sarah Jane then found him restored to his usual self and suffering from memory loss by the side of the pool.
And in conclusion- just about everyone else on Earth too…
In recent series finales, we’ve seen a whole lot of resurrection. In Last Of The Time Lords, more than a tenth of the world’s population is brought back once the Master’s reign of terror un-happens. In The Pandorica Opens, the whole universe ceases to exist and then gets brought back in The Big Bang through a combination of the titular explosion and Amy’s wicked memory skillz. And even with all of the characters from Death In Heaven on this list, that whole episode hinges on everyone who ever died being turned into Cybermen.
Death and resurrection are undoubtedly a major part of Doctor Who‘s longevity and with another series about to start, you can bet that we’ll be able to expand this list considerably in years to come.
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