Who or what is the Timeless Child in Doctor Who?

Did episode two introduce a new series story arc?

Jodie Whittaker in Doctor Who: The Ghost Monument (BBC, HF)

Bad Wolf. The Impossible Girl. The Hybrid. And now the Timeless Child? Have we just witnessed the start of a mysterious new Doctor Who series arc?


Episode two of Jodie Whittaker’s first season, The Ghost Monument, introduced eerie bio-engineered ribbon monsters the Remnants, and saw them trying – and apparently succeeding – in scaring the Doctor with talk of “the Timeless Child”.

Referring to their clairvoyant abilities, they told her “We see deeper though, further back. The Timeless Child… we see what’s hidden, even from yourself. The outcast, abandoned and unknown…”

All pretty unsettling stuff, which feels far too significant to be just a throwaway comment. So it seems very likely that we’ll be revisiting the concept of the Timeless Child later in the series. But who or what could it be?

One answer might be the Doctor herself – the Remnants do, at least initially, seem to be addressing her directly, telling her “You lead but you’re scared to, for yourself and for others…” – but could the Doctor be described as an “outcast, abandoned and unknown”?

“Outcast” and “abandoned”, quite possibly – she’s not exactly popular with the rest of her people, the Time Lords – but “unknown” seems like a stretch since the Twelfth Doctor has had some pretty intense dealings with them relatively recently and is also known throughout the universe as the scourge of numerous alien races.

Then again, consider the words “we see deeper… further back… what’s hidden, even from yourself”. There is evidence from Doctor Who canon that the Doctor may have had a cycle of regenerations prior to her current one – could this be a reference to that perhaps: the Doctor’s “unknown” former selves?

Or perhaps the Remnants are referring to someone close to the Doctor.

Asked in the first episode whether she had any family, she said “No. Lost them a long time ago”. Perhaps what was lost has been found. New showrunner Chris Chibnall seems intent on harking back to the early days of Doctor Who, so maybe he’s minded to bring back one of the original characters such as the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan.

Of course, one option when trying to guess the identity of an unknown Doctor Who character is always… the Master. And there’s actually some logic in this, if you try hard enough.

The Doctor’s sometimes-evil twin is certainly an “outcast”, certainly “abandoned”, and given that he was (probably) about to regenerate into his female incarnation Missy last time we saw him, “unknown” might fit too since we don’t know where or when she is.

But why might the Master be referred to as the Timeless Child? Well, as a boy, staring into the Time Vortex sent him mad. Could it somehow be a reference to that?

Actually, it seems unlikely – mostly because Chibnall appears keen to give Doctor Who a fresh start and has already promised pretty much all-new monsters and villains this series. So even though he’s a fan of classic Who, he probably won’t want to bring back a character who has just been dealt with so thoroughly by his predecessor Steven Moffat.

For now, there’s only one thing about the mystery that seems clear – this is not the last we’ve heard of the Timeless Child…

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This article was originally published on 14 October 2018