After years of theorising, speculation and head-scratching Doctor Who has finally resolved one of its biggest mysteries – who or what is the Timeless Child? – with a series of gutpunching revelations in series 12 finale The Timeless Children.
If you haven’t managed to watch the episode yet, please look away now, as we’ll be delving into some pretty serious spoilers about Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor, her species the Time Lords and the series as a whole.
Still here? Well then, you’ll already know that in the episode it’s revealed that the Timeless Child was once a being from another dimension, rescued and adopted by a Shabogan (early Gallifreyan) called Tecteun who soon realised her new daughter’s capability to regenerate and change her body.
After years of research, Tecteun managed to extract and splice this ability into herself, and subsequently into the upper echelon of Gallifreyans, passing down the power through generations to found Time Lord society.
Time Lord’s ability to regenerate their bodies (as series lead the Doctor has done regularly)? All taken from this child, whose genetic code was doled out to Time Lords in 12-regeneration bursts.
If that sounds familiar, well, it’s because it’s a theory RadioTimes.com actually posited early in the series – though to be fair, some fans had come to the idea themselves as well, and given just how many Timeless Child theories there were, we were sure to hit on the right one eventually…
But the series 12 finale’s revelations didn’t stop there. As it turned out, the Timeless Child didn’t stay a child forever, growing up to become none other than… the Doctor. And following an attempt to join Time Lord secret police The Division, the Doctor apparently went on to have all sorts of other adventures, though the Time Lord Matrix was redacted to prevent the Doctor finding out exactly how many other lives she might have once led…
“What did they do to you, Doctor?” Sacha Dhawan’s Master asks mockingly. “How many lives have you had?”
So here we can tick off another confirmed fan theory. The Timeless Child is the Doctor (which some had theorised as long ago as October 2018) and therefore also a younger version of the Jo Martin version, which many fans had considered a possibility over the past series.
The reason the Doctor doesn’t remember this is also made clear, with the edited “Brendan” flashbacks hinting that the Doctor had her mind wiped at the end of many lifetimes serving the Division, rebooting her into a child who probably became William Hartnell’s Doctor and starting the character history that we’re familiar with.
So yes, there’s a lot going on here – including a hint that the iconic ‘Morbius Doctors‘ could be canonical after all – and we’re sure it’ll take fans a while to get their heads around the whole thing. After all, these new revelations (which, all joking aside, no-one quite predicted in their entirety) change everything about Doctor Who.
The Doctor? Not just any Time Lord, but a different species from another dimension with incredible abilities, laid as the founding stone of Gallifreyan society. The Time Lords themselves? Given a new and completely different origin from the one presented in the series before. And William Hartnell, of course, is no longer the First Doctor – instead he’s one of many, which is sure to be controversial with many fans of the series.
And perhaps episode writer Chris Chibnall anticipated this, writing Whittaker’s Doctor a speech suggesting that these new revelations don’t take anything away from the character but instead add a lot more.
“You’ve given me a gift…. of myself,” the Doctor tells Sacha Dhawan’s Master. “You think that could destroy me? You think that makes me lesser? It makes me more. I contain multitudes more than I ever thought, or knew.
“You want me to be scared of it because you’re scared of everything. But I am so much more than you.”
Should the Doctor be born special? Should Doctor Who tinker so fundamentally with the series’ history as we knew it? And will any of this really make that big a difference to the series going forward as the Doctor continues travelling, battling threats and saving the universe?
With a bit of a wait until the next series, Doctor Who fans may be pondering this one for a while.
Doctor Who returns to BBC One in late 2020/early 2021 for a new festive special