Warning: this article contains spoilers for Doctor Who series nine, episode eleven, Heaven Sent. Don’t scroll below the Spoiler Squirrel if you don’t want to find out more…
So after a couple of years of searching, the Doctor has finally found his way back to Gallifrey. Having been practically off-limits for the last ten years, there’s a rich seam of Doctor Who continuity hidden in plain sight on Gallifrey just waiting to be mined. With that in mind, here’s a run down of some of the characters who could potentially appear in next week’s episode, Hell Bent…
Played by Ken Bones, the General first appeared in The Day Of The Doctor, and was the man who ultimately sanctioned the Doctors’ attempt to hide Gallifrey from the rest of the universe. Though this is his only appearance to date, the General’s voice was heard in Matt Smith’s final tale The Time Of The Doctor emanating from the crack in space-time on the planet Trenzalore. Was it him who granted the Doctor his new regeneration cycle? How does he feel that the Doctor didn’t free them at the first possible opportunity?
Likelihood of reappearance: Very likely. He’s been the representative of the Time Lords on the show for the last couple of years, so one way or the other we’d expect him to be there to greet the Doctor. Also, er, he’s in the ‘Next Time’ trailer.
When the tenth Doctor came face-to-face with the Time Lords in The End Of Time, they were led by ancient Gallifreyan president Rassilon, played by Timothy Dalton. Rassilon was one of the founders of Time Lord society, giving his name to such important artefacts as the Sash of Rassilon, the Rod of Rassilon, the Harp of Rassilon and the George Foreman Grill of Rassilon. He had previously been seen lying at rest in his tomb during The Five Doctors, but was resurrected at some point during the Time War to help lead his people against the Daleks. His plan to have Gallifrey take Earth’s place in the universe failed and the Doctor sent him back into the war, but now that the war’s over will Rassilon still be in charge? And will he have decided to forgive and forget?
Likelihood of reappearance: Possible. As delicious as Capaldi and Dalton going head-to-head would be, it seems unlikely that they could have brought Dalton back for the finale without it getting out. But Rassilon was the last incumbent president we saw, and it’s possible the events of The End Of Time sparked a regeneration – for better or worse…
Romana, full name Romanadvoratrelundar, is the only Time Lord (or rather, Time Lady) ever to have served as a companion to the Doctor. She was assigned to him in 1978 to assist him in his season-long quest to reassemble the fabled Key to Time and stayed with him through to 1981 tale Warriors’ Gate, at the end of which she and K-9 (who I’ll come to shortly) elected to stay behind in the pocket universe E-Space to help free the enslaved Tharil race. Though this was the last we saw of the character on television, numerous spin-off media have suggested that she eventually escaped the pocket universe and became president of Gallifrey prior to the Time War. But what happened to depose Romana? And is she still somewhere on Gallifrey?
Likelihood of reappearance: Unlikely. Though Lalla Ward has shown through her audio work that she’s absolutely still capable of playing the character, she apparently retired from acting a couple of decades ago.
Though the fourth Doctor had to leave previous companion Sarah Jane Smith in Aberdeen rather than let her accompany him to Gallifrey, her successor Leela wasn’t so lucky. Leela, a member of a savage tribe of humans, accompanied the Doctor (who was at that time Gallifrey’s president elect) to his homeworld, where she is promptly expelled by him into its wastelands. There, she rallies a resistance force which helps to defeat the attempted Sontaran invasion. At the end of the story she decides to stay behind as she has fallen in love with Andred, a member of Gallifrey’s Chancellery Guard who she has known for a full half hour or so. Romana and Leela formed the basis for the Gallifrey series of audios from Big Finish – which also starred the next characters on our list…
Likelihood of reappearance: Very unlikely. Again, Louise Jameson has been no stranger to the role in audio adventures. But adding a former companion to the mix of an already crowded finale, and one who, unlike Romana, can’t be hand-waved for casual viewers as just a former president who the Doctor happens to know, seems like it would over-complicate matters.
A Couple of K-9s
Both Romana and Leela were lumbered with iterations of the Doctor’s robot dog when they decided to leave the TARDIS; Leela had K-9 Mark I by her side, and Romana Mark II. Both versions of K-9 appeared for a time in the Gallifrey audios, though (spoiler) K-9 Mark I was eventually killed off. He then suffered an even worse fate when he was reborn and packed off to Australia to take part in the K-9 TV series. But could it be time for a Time Lord and his best friend to be reunited?
Likelihood of reappearance: Iffy. K-9 Mark III (and later Mark IV) endeared themselves to a whole new generation with appearances in the David Tennant era and spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures, so a cameo would no doubt be welcomed by viewers. But given the unlikelihood of either of his mistresses reappearing, and given that Bob Baker is currently trying to launch his own film in which K-9 battles Time Lord villain Omega, he’s probably off the table for the time being.
Before the series was put on ‘hiatus’ in 1989, the production team had been considering writing out the seventh Doctor’s companion Ace by sending her off to Gallifrey to train with the Time Lords – this is why the Doctor was often seen to be testing her towards the end of the run. Ace has now seemingly suffered a number of different fates across the various Doctor Who spin-off media, including getting killed in an explosion in the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip Ground Zero. But could the Doctor’s return to a Scottish accent signal Ace’s return to the series?
Likelihood of reappearance: Nah, much as we’d like it to happen. Russell T Davies had originally planned to bring Ace back in The Sarah Jane Adventures before the untimely passing of Elisabeth Sladen, but there’s no reason for Steven Moffat to have adopted those plans. Davies also hinted in the two-part The Death Of The Doctor that Ace is very firmly Earthbound these days, having established benevolent organisation A Charitable Earth (geddit?).
Commander Maxil appeared just once, in fifth Doctor story Arc Of Infinity, and was played by future sixth Doctor actor Colin Baker. An overzealous member of the Chancellery Guard, Maxil survived to the end of that story and was mooted to appear in anniversary tale The Five Doctors until Baker proved unavailable. Steven Moffat has been on record as saying that, while he loves the old Doctors, the reason they couldn’t come back is because the actors don’t really resemble their characters anymore. But could an appearance from Colin Baker as an older Maxil be a nice way to pay tribute to his work while obeying Moffat’s rules..?
Likelihood of reappearance: This one probably has to go in the pipe dreams pile. Colin Baker retains an immense fondness for a show that hasn’t always treated him well, and surely would take the part if the script was good enough, but the reality is it would likely prove too confusing for casual viewers who recognised Baker from his many appearances as an ambassador for the series.
The Doctor’s Family
Whilst it’s unlikely that the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan, last seen staying behind on 22nd-century Earth to start a new life with a man she’d only just met (It’s an occupational hazard if you travel with the Doctor), would have been anywhere near Gallifrey during the Time War, it’s entirely possible that he’s got other family members still living there. In The End Of Time Claire Bloom played ‘the Woman’, a Time Lady who opposed Rassilon’s horrific plan to save Gallifrey and was forced to stand behind him when he came to Earth. Russell T Davies has stated that he wrote the character to be the Doctor’s mother, but this was never confirmed on screen.
Likelihood of (re)appearance: This one feels like it might be 50/50. Whilst we’re unlikely to learn too much about the Doctor’s life before leaving Gallifrey, it seems entirely plausible that we might see one or more members of his family, either in flashback or in person – as it stands, the Doctor doesn’t have any specific emotional ties to his home planet, and adding a family member or two would help raise the stakes for whatever happens next.
The last time we saw John Simm’s incarnation of the Master, he was blasting Rassilon as they – along with Gallifrey – were both sent back into the Time War. Four years later the Master returned from Gallifrey with a new body, calling himself Missy and claiming to know where Gallifrey could be found. We’ve already seen Missy once this series, and last left her at the mercy of the Daleks, but now that the Doctor’s found his way home could Missy also be headed there to ensure a warm welcome?
Likelihood of reappearance: Pretty strong. Everyone involved with the show has made no secret of their love for Michelle Gomez, and Missy’s in the unique position of being (presumably) the only other person in the universe to know exactly where Gallifrey is – not to mention the person who is supposed to receive the Doctor’s confession dial in the event of his death. It’s shaping up to be something of a packed finale, but it’d almost be more of a surprise if she didn’t make at least a brief appearance.
The Rani/The Monk/Borusa etc.
It was always rare for the Doctor to encounter members of his own race who weren’t the Master, but whenever he did it was memorable. Somehow the Doctor has known since 2005 that there weren’t any other Time Lords wandering around out there, which may suggest that either he watched the likes of the Rani and the Monk die or that they were on Gallifrey when the Time War ended. The original actors who played both have sadly passed away, but that’s the beauty of regeneration, isn’t it..?
Likelihood of reappearance: Your guess is as good as ours. In truth, it’s unlikely they’re going to appear in this year’s finale. But provided the Time Lords stick around after next week, it opens up some fascinating possibilities for the future…
When he’s not analysing Doctor Who in too much detail, Pete presents and produces Geeks Say Things, the Den of Geek podcast. You can subscribe and download all five episodes – including the just-released winter preview special – here.