Doctor Who: If Not Gallifrey, Where IS the Doctor From?

We're pretty sure we've nailed it.

Ncuti Gatwa as The Doctor in the TARDIS
Photo: BBC STUDIOS 2023,James Pardon

First, apologies if this violates Den of Geek’s house style guidelines, but LOL. LOL at everyone who thought that Russell T Davies would return to Doctor Who as the avenging angel of ‘The Fans’, riding in and heroically retconning out all the plot points they had been complaining about for the last four years.

Davies has announced he has no plans to retcon Chris Chibnall’s controversial, canon-shaking Timeless Child plot twist, which revealed that the Doctor is no child of Gallifrey, but a foundling discovered at the mouth of a dimensional rift from universes unknown. Neither is he going to let that twist simply sit in the Doctor’s backstory, present but unacknowledged, alongside other inconvenient facts like the Moon being an egg, Earth’s forests spontaneously multiplying to help burn off solar flares, and the Doctor being best mates with Winston Churchill.

No, instead Davies has said he is going to take Chibnall’s idea and run with it, making it “the spine” of the Doctor and Ruby Sunday’s story going forward. This can only mean that there is an even bigger, more momentous, more canon-shattering plot twist in the pipeline.

So, from the people who brought you “Obviously the Morbius Doctors aren’t going to be canon”, “The Flux is definitely going to destroy the universe forever” and “Maybe the 14th Doctor looking like the 10th is just a big coincidence?”, here are our best, extremely informed and almost definitely correct theories about what the Doctor’s secret origin will turn out to be.

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The Doctor is from a Future Earth

Almost next to the question posed by the show’s title, one of the show’s biggest mysteries has always been ‘Why is the Doctor so into humans anyway?’ Is it because human characters and settings are easier to portray on an increasingly strained BBC budget?

Maybe humans are special somehow, and there is some ineffable quality to them that the Doctor finds appealing? Maybe there’s not actually anything that great about humanity itself, but the Doctor just likes them anyway, like Liquorice Allsorts? Or perhaps it’s the Doctor’s boundless compassion and empathy that drives them to protect us?

These are some pretty weak theories to be honest. Everyone knows humanity is awful, and compassion isn’t real. No, there must be some massive secret backstory to explain this obvious character flaw.

The only people who like humans are humans, so the Timeless Child must be some sort of genetically modified human from a future Earth (maybe from before it got blown up in the 2005 series, but probably after it got put back in its original place after being moved halfway across the galaxy in “The Mysterious Planet”).

That’s right, Davies is not just confirming the Timeless Child, he’s making “The Doctor’s Half Human” canon as well.

The Doctor is a Boltzmann Brain

In an earlier draft for the script of “Wild Blue Yonder”, the Doctor goes into quite a bit more detail about what “the edge of the universe” actually means, this being the kind of thing you have to be specific about when you are writing Doctor Who.

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Davies later revealed the cut passage, which said that the Doctor and Donna had gone “Beyond the Realm of the Boltzmann Brains”. Boltzmann Brains are cool. Basically, the idea is that given the infinite size of the universe and the vast chaos it contains, it might actually be more likely that a brain would randomly materialise out of nothing with the memories of an entire life behind it, than it is for intelligent life to emerge over billions of years through the processes science currently tells us happened.

So what if that’s why Davies cut the line out? Because it gave away the true origin of the Doctor. Wouldn’t that be fitting? For the person whose past has always been their biggest mystery to turn out to have no past at all? It would be like the Rey twist in The Last Jedi, but times infinity.

The Doctor is a Skywalker

We’re on Disney+ now, why the hell not?

The Doctor is Their Own Future Self

This one would admittedly be more likely if Steven Moffat was still in the big chair, but Russell T Davies’ is not above some timey wimey when the mood takes him. We know a surprisingly large amount about the Doctor’s future. We know, for instance, that at some point they retire from TARDISing for a bit to put Tom Baker’s face back on and become the curator of the undergallery. We even know that, although it was never confirmed on screen, at some point they look like Colin Salmon and download their brain into The Library to keep River Song company.

But what, really, is the ultimate End of the Doctor? What else, when all is said and done, could it be? What if, rather than “revisiting a few old favourites”, the Doctor ultimately revisits all of their old faces? What if, like the Master during the Time War, the Doctor wipes their own memory, regenerates into a small child and falls through a dimensional rift, dropping themselves off right at the beginning of their own story and closing the loop?

The Doctor is a God

The multiverse of Doctor Who is positively littered with celestial beings. The Toymaker, the Beast, Fenric, the White and Black Guardians, that frog from another universe in “It Takes You Away”. Pin their photos to a dart board, put on a blindfold, throw a dart. Wherever it lands, that’s your back-story, right there.

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The Doctor is God

What if the Doctor is just God? No messing about, metaphors or God-like aliens or any of that, just the Doctor being actual God. It’s not like the show hasn’t indulged in a bit of messianic imagery over the years, and as we’ve pointed out before, Christopher Eccleston and Russell T Davies first teamed up for a drama on this very topic with Second Coming.

So, let’s stop beating around the bush and call the Doctor what they are – the omniscient and omnipotent creator and lord of all things who came into the world in the form of a human, died to save us and was resurrected, over and over and over again.

The Doctor is Missy and the Master’s Lovechild

To be honest we only had one real reservation about the Timeless Child reveal, and that was that the Master seemed so upset about it. That the Master’s ability to regenerate came from the Doctor meant that the Master and the Doctor would be irreversibly bonded for all time, and made the Doctor partially culpable for every evil thing the Master did beyond their first incarnation. Plus, there is not a single actor to have played the evil Time Lord who would not have delivered the line “It turns out I have a little bit of Doctor in me!” with a lascivious grin.

But what if we twist the knife further? What if the Master had broken the Time Lord taboo? This, by the way, is not my idea. Credit for that belongs to Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat during the writing of “World Enough and Time” and “The Doctor Falls”, which featured both Michelle Gomez’s Missy and John Simm’s Master.

“We concocted this whole scheme that I’d cliffhanger out of my era on Doctor Who – handing over to Chris [Chibnall] – with Missy telling the Master and the Doctor that she’s pregnant,” Moffat has said.

Maybe Missy survived her backstabbing my her former self at the end of “The Doctor Falls”.

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A Time Lord getting pregnant by one of their own regenerations has got to break some sort of law of Gallifrey, and so in desperation (and let’s be honest, a temperament ill-suited to parenthood), she ditched the baby into a dimensional rift, only for it to be discovered by ancient Gallifreyan space travellers.

The Doctor is Inston-Vee Vinder and Bel’s Baby

Remember these guys? From “Flux”? Whatever happened to them? We know Vinder’s important because he started off at Outpost Rose, and we know they had a baby. Maybe they dropped it in a dimensional rift.

The Doctor is a Manifested Reality Forged from All the Stories About the Doctor

Again, this one is a bit of a Moffat idea, but it’s in keeping with the “power of stories” twist at the end of “Last of the Time Lords”. As River Song has said, whenever there is a good wizard in a story, it always turns out to be him. But what if the Doctor is not just an alien travelling the universe inspiring all those fairy tales and legends? What if all those fairy tales and legends called out to the universe and somehow summoned the Doctor? Joseph Campbell’s “Hero with a Thousand Faces” made literally real?

It’s an outlandish one, but come on, you’re not actually a hundred percent confident they’re not going to do this, are you?

The Doctor is the Rani

We are actually legally obliged to include the Rani as a possibility in any article about the identity of a mysterious unknown figure in Doctor Who, up to and including the Doctor themselves.

We have now fulfilled that obligation.

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The Doctor is a Time Lord but like a Proper Time Lord, from the Real Gallifrey Where They Do Looming

In the ultimate twist, Russell T Davies wins back every single one of the grumpy fans by undoing the destruction of Gallifrey, re-establishing the Doctor as a Time Lord and finally, beyond doubt, ensuring that all of the Virgin New Adventures are canon.

YOU Are the Doctor

Picture the scene. The villain makes a big speech “Blah blah, Doctor, you suck, you don’t even know who you really are…” etc. Ncuti Gatwa, bloodied but defiant and delivering the performance of his life says, “I know who I am. I’ve always known.”

Then he turns directly to the camera and says “I’m you, the viewer at home.”

You look down, and realise your hands have started to glow. Soon the glowing has encompassed your entire body, each cell spontaneously combusting and being reborn as something new.

Terrified, you flee to the one place you instinctively feel safe – that gap behind the sofa. Funny, there’s not much room there, even for a child. Why did you ever think you could hide there? Unless… and then you realise it’s bigger on the inside.

And that is your last thought before you are found, your memory gone, on a mysterious planet beneath a dimensional rift.

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If anything, this would raise more questions than it answers, but you can’t deny it would make for great television.