Saturday, 24 October 2015



An honest look at the measure of the Doctor's sense of compassion

Another multi-parter! Unlike our Gallifreyan History Essay, however, we will put the episodes back-to-back. The first installment will cover the Doctor's morals against violence during the Classic Series. Part Two, of course, will look at the changes he undergoes during New Who. 


When discussions arise about the nature of iconic pop-culture heroes, the Doctor tends to hold a special place among his peers. Most of the characters that fight for good in our modern-day fiction are painted with much the same strokes as our classical heroes. They are noble of heart, but still quite brutish. Luke Skywalker, for instance, still kills people with his lightsaber even though a Jedi is meant to be striving for peace in all that he does.    Captain Kirk is plenty happy to blast Klingons and Romulans out of the sky if they look at him the wrong way.  Even someone like Batman, who refuses to take human life will still beat his opponents to a pulp and bring them quite close to death in order to achieve his goals.     

But many scholars of contemporary media like to point out that the Doctor is very different.   That the authors who have written for the character over the years seem to have been heavily influenced by the hippie movement in the 60s or the philosophies of people like Ghandi. They have very much made the Doctor into a pacifist.  A man who refuses to meet violence with violence. Who chooses brain over brawn and preserves all life at any possible cost.  
And, in some ways, they are very much right when they make this claim. 

In other ways, of course, they are totally wrong.   
The truth of the matter is, the Doctor's insistence to never stoop to the level of his opponents is somewhat sketchy, at best.  If we take a genuine look at how he behaves himself we can see that he might not be quite as cold-hearted as other famous fictional heroes of the day, but he still has his moments. There are very definite instances where the last word we could use to describe his actions would be "merciful".           

While most of these moments can be explained away as instances of plot expedience - they still exist. The Doctor can still be cruel, at times. But what is most interesting to note is that the nature of his compassion does move to a legitimate pattern.  His ethos regarding the use of violence appears to have evolved throughout the duration of the show.  And, even though there have been an uncountable number of people who have been integral in the molding of the character, there is a degree of consistency within this evolution. We shall analyze that consistency and chart the growth and retraction of the Doctor's policies towards non-violence.  
Before we dig too deep, however, let's discuss one important disqualifier: battles against Daleks and Cybermen.   In my view, these beings are the walking dead.  Creatures that have been stripped so much of their humanity that they have no hope of redemption.    Killing one of them is like taking out a zombie. You are actually putting them out of their misery and making the world a better place. So when the Doctor destroys either of these creatures, he's not being violent at all. In fact, he's been merciful towards everyone.   Including the victim of his attack.  Especially the victim of his attack. There is no hope for a Dalek or a Cybermen so it is truly justifiable homicide if you take one down.  
So when we see a scene like the one at the conclusion of Attack of the Cybermen where the Doctor shoots up the Controller, Cyberleader and Cyberlieutenant all in one fell swoop, he's actually above criticism for such actions. Fights with these two alien races are the exception to the rule and he can be as destructive with them as he damned-well pleases. In my opinion, at least!   
But any other denizen of the universe that he encounters has a certain set of (pardon the pun) inalienable rights to exist.  They are beings capable of making moral choices and their right to life should be respected.  But if the Doctor does something to endanger those rights then he is crossing a valid line and we must question the claims he sometimes makes to being a pacifist.   But there is a word in that last sentence that we must emphasize. Only sometimes does the Doctor actually make the claim of being non-violent.   There are other occasions where he has quite openly claimed that he does not totally subscribe to complete non-aggression.   And still more occasions where he openly displays impulses that could be described as somewhat heartless or even downright malicious.  But, again, these opinions and actions do seem to move through definite character arcs.   
So let's examine them from the very beginning. 
At the very start of Doctor Who, before we were even introduced to the concept of regeneration or given any kind of detailed background about the main character's origins, the Doctor was a genuine anti-hero.   Not only did he openly display such unlikeable traits as selfishness or short temper - but he also seemed to lack a lot of basic human morals.    How shocking has it been for any fan who was not actually there at the very beginning of the show to go back and watch that moment in Episode Three of An Unearthly Child where he is prepared to kill the wounded caveman?    If Ian Chesterton had not caught him handling the stone knife, he would've done exactly that!   Surely, this is not the Doctor that we know?   
And yet, it is.  It's him at the beginning of his journeys where is he still unsure of himself and what he's meant to be doing.    In fact, if we try to extrapolate a bit, the Doctor is probably a very embittered man at this stage of the game.   He is deeply disenchanted with the policies of his people and has felt the need to abandon them.   In the very first episode, he describes himself as an exile.    That's how much he's renounced Time Lord society.   Surely someone who has completely rejected his whole way of life is bound to be fairly callous for a bit.   While that still doesn't truly justify his attempt to kill Za, we can see why it is that the Doctor acts the way he does.   We can also see why he seems to be so cold in his first few stories. 
It is, perhaps, quite fortunate that he has Barbara and Ian thrust upon him.   Their influence on him causes his dark moods to lift quite quickly.    He still goes on to commit a few more heartless acts.   In The Daleks, he's partially responsible for convincing a completely peace-loving society to go into battle against their ancient enemy so that he can retrieve his fluid link.   In Edge of Destruction, he's prepared to throw Ian and Barbara out of the TARDIS wherever it lands next and let them fend for themselves'.    But his acts of cruelty are less intense every time he commits them.  And, in fact, he doesn't actually throw out the two schoolteachers.   But he does have a nice reflective speech about how they're affecting him as he travels with them.   This is, perhaps, the main reason why the Doctor selects human companions as often as he does.   They cause him to become more human.     And he needs that.   
During those early episodes, the only real noble quality we see in the Doctor is his protectiveness for his grandaughter, Susan.   Although he shows her considerable tenderness, she is the only one who seems to really receive that sort of treatment - no one else. But as Ian and Barbara assert themselves' more and more as companions, that "grandfatherly love" begins to spread. Even by the later episodes of Keys Of Marinus, the Doctor's heart of gold is beginning to shine through. He's still very tempermental and even a bit prone to the occasional act of violence (he gives someone quite the vicious blow to the head in Reign of Terror) but that hard, nasty character we first encountered has been greatly diminished by the end of Season 1.  As we move into later seasons, the Doctor's sense of ethos shines through more and more. So that by the time Dalek Masterplan rolls along, he is every inch the hero we imagine him to be. I site that story, specifically, because the Doctor displays tremendous courage throughout those twelve episodes. Steven Taylor might still be there with his lancing jaw but the Doctor is the true hero of the story. It is he who poses as the alien ambassador to steal the tarrinium.  Who stands up to the Mavic Chen and the Daleks in Egypt and not only save his companions - but the life of a rival Time Lord. By Masterplan, the First Doctor's moral compasse is now very clear. He always tries to do what's right and does his best not to resort to violence.  At the same time, his general attitude has softened greatly. Yes, there's still the occasional flash of anger - but it's usually only directed at the bad guys. The people that he cares for see, quite clearly, the gentle feelings he has for them.  At this point, the Doctor is not only a force for good - he's a fairly nice person too.    
And so, the character of the Doctor is now set in stone: he'll always try to do what's right and he'll never try to hurt anyone.  

Most of the time...
As the Second Doctor steps in, those core values seem to gain even greater emphasis.   Because of his clownish demeanor, this new incarnation seems completely useless in a fight, anyway.  At best, all he can do in a physical altercation is run away from his assailant shouting "Oh my word!" in a completely ridiculous manner.
Fortunately, he's using a convention that his predecessor also took great advantage of in order to avoid fights. He employs the man of action.  Since the early days, the male companion has always been in charge of handling the bulk of the brawling while the Doctor applies himself to the challenges that require intelligence and technical knowledge.   The Second Doctor is lucky enough to have two men of action travelling with him during his early days.   Which enables him to create an even greater distance from violent action. This is clearly displayed in stories like The Moonbase where Ben and Jamie are frequently dispatched to deal with Cybermen or humans under Cyber-control while the Doctor concerns himself with labwork or technical alterations to the gravitron.  Even after Ben's departure, Jamie continues to fulfill his role of "handling all the rough stuff".  To the point where it almost works against the TARDIS crew, sometimes.  In Episode One of The Krotons, Jamie actually picks a fight with a Gond who's copping a bit of an attitude with him - even though the Doctor will eventually choose to help these people escape from their yoke of oppression.  But such acts of brutishness enable the story to still have action sequences in them while the Doctor  conducts a very "hands-off policy" with the defeating of his foes.    Indeed, the Doctor's more passive qualities are truly on show during his Second Incarnation.  Rarely do we see him directly harm an enemy. 
However, this does not mean the Second never commits any acts of violence.   Rarely do we really see the Second Doctor swing a fist at someone. At no point do we see him aim a gun.  But he is responsible for what I like to call "bloodless killing".  Or actions that lead to very "clean" deaths. Where the blood on his hands is purely metaphorical - but the culpability is still there. The clearest example of this would be The Dominators where he places a bomb on the Dominators' ship just before it lifts off.   It's a very detached, long-range sort of attack.  But an attack, nonetheless.  We can even justify what the Doctor did.   He had to make a decision about what to do with the bomb quickly and he was giving the Dominators their just desserts.  But if the Second Doctor wants to claim he's a complete pacifist - he really can't after such an action.  
A more abstract example of this can be seen in Tomb of the Cybermen.  At the beginning of the story, the Doctor is openly discouraging the archaeologists from investigating the Cybermen's final resting place.  And yet, as the story moves along, he begins to very sneakily manipulate the team into assailing the obstacles presented to them and getting access to the Cybermen sleeping below. Those Cybermen, in turn, wake up and begin killing the humans that have roused them.  Does this not make the Doctor, at least, partially responsible for their deaths?   Again, he is not directly wielding a weapon at someone - but he is causing harm to occur.   
These example of "bloodless killing" would still be somewhat remote in the case of the Second Doctor. Most of the time, he truly is a gentle person who refuses to hurt other living things in any sort of way and always finds a clever, non-violent way to resolve a conflict.    But there are the occasions where he does hurt people physically in a very indirect manner.  A later regeneration would, very much, take his same stance but commit far greater and more frequent acts of bloodless killing.  So much so, that he is frequently categorized as one of the more aggressive incarnations of the Doctor - even though we rarely see him cause any direct physical harm to someone.    But he's further down the road.   We've got a few other incarnations to examine first. 
Once more, as a regeneration takes place, the Doctor's attitude towards violence shifts.    In his Third Incarnation, he takes on the attitude of a high-principled comic book superhero.  Characters like Spiderman, Superman and Batman all boast of a deep respect for human life and a desire to only use brute force as a last resort.  But, inevitably, someone pushes them into a fight every adventure that they have!    By no means are the Third Doctor's battle sequences as long and protracted as they are in comic books - but they're there.   And almost every story has one.    But, like a comic book superhero, the Doctor fights defensively and stops attacking the moment he's overpowered his foe.    Those rules are always respected.   Mind you, his constant speeches to the Brigadier and the UNIT staff about their need to go to such violent extremes do seem a bit hypocritical in light of this fact.   It's tough to take someone seriously when they speak of peaceful tactics and then quickly dispatch anyone who looks at them the wrong way with a bit of Venusian Aikido! 
But it is not just karate moves that display this new Regeneration's propensity for more brutish tactics.  The Third Doctor hurts people in other manners, too.  In The Mutants, he arranges an escape from the lab of Professor Jaeger by instructing the scientist to stand close to a device they're working on and then rigging it to explode in his face and render him unconscious.  Again, a certain limit is adhered to, here. The explosion is only meant to knock him out - not kill him.   But as far as escape plans go, one must admit, the Doctor is pretty vicious, here.  
So the Doctor's peaceful attitudes are changing again.    At the beginning of his travels, he experiences a short period of being explicitly cruel.  He then softens into a very committed pacifist for the rest of this incarnation and the next.   But upon his second regeneration, he becomes a bit more pragmatic.   He still tries to adhere to his ideals as much as possible but also understands there are times when you've no choice left but to bare fists and do nasty things to baddies.  There's a limit to how far he'll go with such actions - but he's not afraid to stoop to that level when required to.   
This attitude persists throughout a good chunk of his Fourth Incarnation, too.  In his early days, Doctor Four does seem to have returned to the more "too-silly-to-actually-fight" personality of his Second Self.  It helps that he's got another man-of-action with him in the form of Harry Sullivan during this period.  But once Harry departs, it's back to the "pragmatic pacificist" of his third body.    Only this time, there's no defensive martial arts, involved.  The Doctor is a brawler.   In fact, the Doctor is at his most violent as he and Sarah are travelling alone together.   During stories like Seeds of Doom, he seems to take more swings at people than Duggan does during City of Death.   There is never a period where he is more aggressive and downright bloody.   He still shows the occasional dose of mercy (ie: trying to save Harrisson Chase from his own shredding machine) but, for the most part, the Doctor reaches his most violent depths.   He attacks and/or kills with little or no remorse.   Observe how quick he is to simply kill Solon with lethal gas (he has a whole lab at his disposal, he couldn't have found something that would've just knocked him out?) in Brain of Morbius.   Or how his android double outright kills Styggron but he seems not the least bit upset.   Or even the open glee he seems to show as he trips Eldrad and sends him plunging to his doom.   This is the Doctor at his meanest.

Even shortly after Sarah's departure, he continues to commit all sorts of random violence.    We see some pretty vicious grapples with Goth and the Master during The Deadly Assassin.   It is in this era that we also see, in my opinion, the most cruel act the Doctor has ever committed:  the hurling of a Hordaa at a member of the Sevateem during Face of Evil.   The first time I was watching it, I was practically in a state of shock.   Did he really just fling a land-based piranha at someone just because the guy slapped Leela across the face?!    And he tried to be comic about it at the same time!   I know many people site the Sixth Doctor's killing of Shockeye as being his most malovelent act - but he, at least, was in a kill-or-be-killed situation!   This was just the Doctor being flat-out mean!  
But it is Leela's presence in his life that begins to mellow him again.   Her violent methods must have, somehow, made him more cognizant of his own actions. He begins to become more and more non-physical in the way he handles the evil of others. So that, as he scolds Leela for her rash behaviour, he doesn't seem to be showing quite as much of a double-standard as his Third Self did in his various lectures to the Brigadier.  
As Romana comes along - this policy continues. In fact, we start seeing the Doctor in his most passive state (the Fourth did love to go to extremes didn't he?   Only a few years earlier, he's at his most violent!). Even the "bloodless killing" tactics of his Second Incarnation don't seem to creep into his techniques much.   Aside from occasionally ordering K9 to stun during a really sticky situation, we really don't see the fourth version of the Doctor do much to hurt anyone during his later years. He is truly relying on wits to overcome the enemy rather than fists.  
This is, essentially, the version of the Doctor's ethos that we know best.  The one we talk about the most during those discussions about the nature of heroism in modern-day pop culture heroes.    When we want to berate the way goodness is portrayed in our modern-day fiction and we say things like:  "Why can't our protagonists be more like the Doctor in Doctor Who?   He never hurts anyone!" - we are referring to the Doctor in this very brief era of the show.    Where he is truly living out his pacifist philosophy.   Offering jelly babies instead of pointing guns or swinging fists. 
While we remember the later-years Fourth Doctor best for this sort of behavior, his desire to always settle things peacefully extends quite nicely into his next incarnation.   Admittedly, we do see the Fifth Doctor hold a gun now and again, it is usually wielded against a Cybermen or Dalek (who are, of course, my exception to the rule) or, in the case of The Visitation he uses it to blow open a lock on a door.   Otherwise, the Fifth Doctor is probably an even bigger pacifist than his fourth body. His extreme vulnerability makes him even more intolerant of all things brutal.   Who can forget the look of genuine sadness on his face as the Master burns to a crisp in Planet of Fire? Even what appears to be the death of a bitter rival causes him to mourn.  There is, perhaps, no other incarnation of the Doctor who displays this level of mercy.
And yet, in his later years, he clearly sees this mercy failing him.  Over and over, his desire to never hurt anyone causes an unusually high number of bloodbaths to occur. He witnesses various full-scale slaughters in places like Sea Base Four or the Dalek attack in the old warehouse in London in 1984.    Even his final adventure on Androzani Major has all kinds of people being killed off. At least a few of these deaths are the direct result of the fact that he will not raise a hand against his foes.   When he tries to outwit them in a more benevolent manner, it doesn't seem to be as effective anymore. Too many people are dieing because he won't act more assertively.  
Somewhere at the back of the Doctor's thoughts he's seeing that his desire to never hurt anyone is no longer effective. The Universe is becoming a cold place where those who wish to do harm to others must suffer harm themselves' in order to be properly stopped. And as his next regeneration ensues, we see a definite hardening of the Doctor's heart(s).   
Many like to claim that the Sixth Doctor, in his earliest days, was our protagonist at his coldest and most callous peak. He openly attacks and, in some cases, kills his opponents.  On top of this, his personality is not entirely likeable.   He's got a temper and can even be quite arrogant, at times.   
However, closer scrutiny reveals that Doctor Six is really just channeling his first incarnation's irascible characteristics.    And, although he does commit several violent acts, he is probably not quite as vicious as he was during his Fourth Incarnation's later travels with Sarah Jane Smith.    So these claims some fans make of Six being "undoctorish" in both thought and deed are largely unfounded.    Yes, a couple of Varosians die at his hands (mostly by accident, though) and he does flat-out murder an Androgum in single-handed combat and then makes a bad joke about it.    But this is hardly the Doctor at his worst.   We've seen this sort of stuff before in stronger doses. 
But the Sixth Doctor does signpost a very significant shift in our hero's attitude.    He seems no longer afraid to stare into that abyss that Nietzche warns us of.    When clever plans based on pacifist policies don't seem to be working any more, this incarnation is not afraid to take off the kid gloves and do what needs to be done.   His brawling skills have, once more, deigned to return to him.     We see him punch out fake police officers and Necrosian guards when they get in his way.  And if he's got to push that Borad down the Timelash then, by golly, he'll do it without a second thought.    He's become the man of action that first appeared in a ruffled shirt back in his Third Incarnation.     
Even though he does actually "soften" a bit as he grows older (in much the same way as Doctor One did) he's still prepared to wipe out those Vervoids when more peaceful approaches are failing him.   Nor does he try to rescue the Valeyard during the Ray-Phase Shift that occurs at the end of his epic trial.   So the softening is more of a cosmetic issue. His core values remain very stringent: if he needs to dispatch a foe violently - he'll do it.     
This is a very solid direction that the Doctor's character is now moving towards.    Whereas the late-era Fourth and the Fifth Doctor were both very quick to still try to save a villain's life near a story's resolution, the Sixth Doctor is more-than-happy to let them “enjoy their just desserts" and allow all kinds of harm to befall them as they lose to him.    This sort of attitude would continue to grow and develop in him.  But it really seems to start here - in his sixth body.   Which is, perhaps, one more reason why his cruel streak seems all the more poignant to us.   We did get a good half-dozen seasons of overt friendliness from this character during the late 70s/early 80s.    But now, that's all starting to change.  
And then, another regeneration ensues.   And with it, an even colder, harder man emerges.  Doctor Seven takes on the many traits of his Second Incarnation: he is diminutive and comical and his brawling skills are gone again.    But that occasional indulgence in a "bloodless fight" intensifies tenfold in this latest incarnation.   To the point where this manifestation of our hero becomes downright ruthless.   Doctor Seven's meanest direct physical action occurs in his first story where he trips Beyus with his brolly and knocks him out in the process.  His indirect attacks, however, are countless.   This incarnation manipulates people and situations in all sorts of manners so that he doesn't actually kill the baddies with his own hands.But he ensures that someone else who is willing to do it is present to accomplish the task for him. It's an almost twisted philosophy, really.  He values life so highly that the people who take it without remorse violate their right to exist. And while he can never kill someone in a direct confrontation - he'll still make sure they get their comeuppance through indirect means.
The best example of this style of killing is seen in the final episode of Remembrance of the Daleks. While I have said that violence against Daleks doesn’t really count, it is still pretty horrific to watch the Doctor wipe out an entire solar system. But he does he push the Big Red Button, himself? No. He takes advantage of Davros’ lust for power and gets him to commit the atrocity for him. This is how the Seventh Doctor strikes: from a distance and through manipulation and deceit. It’s easily one of the darkest deeds we’ve seen the character commit.

And he’ll do it again. The Cybermen suffer a similar fate a short while later. Or he’ll maneuver other characters to assist him in destroying the Gods of Ragnorak. Or get UNIT to do his fighting for him in Battlefield. And so on…
The Doctor is, perhaps, at his absolute darkest, here. It is fortunate that he has such a humorous side to offset things a bit.  Otherwise, he might have legitimately grown too far away from the roots of the character. But even if incarnations after him have a "lighter touch" to them, that dark ideology seems to stay with a lot of them. Certain types of monsters need to be taken down by any means necessary. He might still try a peaceful tactic at the onset - but, if that should fail, then he's not afraid to let all Hell break loose in order to save the day. And if the Monster should perish in the storm of chaos the Time Lord creates, then He's just getting what he deserves. And the Doctor will feel no regret over it.   
It seems the Pacifist has been laid to rest once and for all….

Tuesday, 13 October 2015



An essay written as a special request. 

Brian Stewart - a local Windsorite who knows his Who almost as well as I do - asked if I could write something about Ancient Gallifrey and how I think this dark and mysterious period of Time Lord history played out. 

I've gone one step further. I'm going to chronicle the full history of the Time Lords from the early days before Rassilon to the hidden Gallifrey that exists after the Time Wars. Some of this, of course, will be very straightforward - thanks to the concept of Gallifreyan Mean Time. But part of the point of doing this is to speculate on certain elements of the Time Lords' past and how it relates to continuity we've seen displayed in the show. In this installment, for instance, we're going to try to get some of the stuff we've seen hinted at in Seasons 25 and 26 to reconcile with continuity that has been established in the New Series that seems to be contradicting it. 

While this will be a three part series (like Moff, I'm trying to do things in parts, now), I will only be presenting Part 1, for now. I'll post a few essays on other topics and then come back to this later...


In the distant constellation of Kasterborous, in a time when the Universe was still young, a civilization evolved on the planet Gallifrey....

It grew in much the same way as any society matures. There were discoveries and inventions that improved their way of life. There were characters and personalities wise beyond their years who influenced various schools of thought. There was conflict. And there was progress.

There were two key factors that had the deepest impact on the evolution of Gallifreyans. Two things that made them different from so many other societies.

The first was the fact that Gallifreyans had just the slightest hint of telepathy. This meant that, even at the most primitive of stages, acts of aggression were just that little bit more difficult for them. While other societies on other worlds tended to advance through Right of Conquest, such tactics were far more difficult for the Gallifreyan. For the plain and simple reason that they were able to feel the pain of the people they oppressed.

No doubt, their earliest history still contained some of the same violence and bloodiness that any other primitive culture experienced, But there was considerably less of it. Empathy made the Gallifreyans a more peaceful people.

This enabled them to advance far more quickly. That sense of personal greed that so often slows progress down to a snail's pace in other societies was virtually non-existent among the Gallifreyans. Which meant they could just set themselves' upon the task of improving their conditions. While many of the societies on other planets around them were still just discovering fire, the Gallifreyans were perfecting the basic principles of trans-mat technology.

The second major difference that influenced their evolution was even more significant. While their first advantage was biological, this one was more geological. Or, perhaps, even cosmic.

For whatever reason, a very significant Temporal Rift had formed on the surface of the planet. The Rift was large enough and tangible enough for anyone who stood before it to see into the Time Vortex, itself. Such a natural circumstance  had a tremendous impact on the Gallifreyans. The first ones to stumble upon it worshiped it like a god. But, because their natural telepathy had enabled them to advance so quickly, they soon came to understand it as a phenomenon rather than a deity.

Having such a huge Rift figure so prominently in their landscape enabled the Gallifreyans to rapidly develop a deeper understanding into the nature of time. It also bled into their very DNA. It made them "time sensitive" or enabled them to develop a sort of symbiotic relationship with time energy. Something that would heavily influence their development further down the road.


Like any other blossoming civilization, the Gallifreyans went through a period of feudalism. Different bloodlines saw themselves' as natural-born leaders. They rose to positions of power and gave themselves' titles. Aristocracy reared its ugly head fairly quickly on Gallifrey.  There weren't, necessarily, kings and queens ruling over the people. But there were lords and ladies. This is probably where we saw the most violence erupt in their early history. Clashes occurred between the various noble families as they all sought to rule over the greatest number of people and own the largest portions of land.

The names of some of these families would become immortal in Time Lord culture. Names like Prydon, Arcale and Patrex. More about them later...

Although feudalism was prevalent in these early days - the rapid advancement of Gallifreyan culture meant democracy arrived quite quickly, too. While the noble families did represent a ruling class, of sorts - there were systems of election that took place within the structure. Those who were being ruled had a strong voice in the policies and protocols of those who lorded over them. The result was a rare fusion between two seemingly-contradictory systems of government. But, somehow, the Gallifreyans got it to work.

These noble families naturally recognized that this rift in the time/space continuum represented knowledge and power if they studied and understood it. At first, battles erupted between the various noble houses for ownership of it. But, again, the Gallifreyans learnt to get along. The families came up with a treaty that allowed equal access to the rift. In fact, everyone started sharing so nicely that all of them centralized their estates around the whole thing. The Lords and Ladies of Gallifrey all started basing themselves' in that one location. Soon they amalgamated into a huge structure that they christened: "the Panipticon".

Knowing that knowledge was power, the noble families took a stronger and stronger academic bent to them. They all began to sponsor specific schools or chapter-houses that were in their name. Understanding that intelligence could be just as easily found outside of their bloodline, "commoners" were allowed to apply as students at their academies. The trappings of royalty fell away more and more. Very soon, the titles these families bore had less and less meaning. Anyone that applied to their chapter would be considered a member if they passed. Which caused a slight bastardization of the family titles (Prydonians, Arcalians, Patrexes....).

Naturally enough, many of the studies that were undertaken focused on the properties of this rift in time. They gave it a name - The Untempered Schism. Staring into the Schism became an important test for anyone seeking initiation into a school. Only if they showed the proper reaction to the ritual would they truly be allowed to study at the academy.

Minor breakthroughs in time travel started to occur at this point. The Time Scoop was probably discovered. Perhaps even some primitive Time Corridor technology came into use. This new Gallifreyan society, seeing how distinct it was becoming from the rest of its people, decided to give themselves' a special title of their own. One that showed a unity among the noble families but also held on, ever-so-slightly, to these feudalistic roots.

They called themselves' Time Lords.


As the Time Lords rose up, two great heroes immediately emerged from their culture. Each of these heroes dealt with a specific form of problem that the Time Lords were facing.

Omega handled external issues. Gallifrey, by this point, had conquered the challenges of interstellar travel and had started exploring other worlds. Probably even setting up trade agreements with some of them (the Sisterhood of Karn, for example). Omega began a very specific push to explore the furthest reaches of the Universe and understand it better. He became something of an expert on stars.

Other species that were evolving at a similar speed to the Time Lords began to covet their technology. More than likely, an invasion attempt or two might have transpired at this point. Omega rode in to save the day. He not only repelled the attacks but he did something to ensure no further invasion attempts would occur.

On one of his exploration campaigns, he discovered a rare sentient metal on a distant planet. He dubbed the substance: validium. The mineral was spread across the planet. In this state, it was useless. But Omega assembled it into a critical mass and it became a fully-functional sentient being possessing enormous destructive power. Thankful for finally being given a proper existence, the Validium offered its servitude to the Gallifreyan Hero. Omega set the strange being into orbit around his homeworld to act as its protector.

The validium, being in a constant state of flux, acts in a very interesting way. It takes on the form of the worst enemy of any approaching invader and delivers to them the most terrible fate when they try to attack Gallifrey. The Validium garners itself a nickname. It starts being called Nemesis.

This became the first form of defense the Time Lords created against potential enemies who might seek to rob them of their power. Other security systems would come into play later. In many ways, how Gallifrey protected itself marked different eras of its long history.


Rassilon, our second great Gallifreyan hero, dealt with problems from within.

Those early experiments in time travel created all kinds of complications. There were paradoxes and all sorts of other damage to the time lines that started occurring more and more frequently. Rassilon recognized that the Panipticon would soon turn into a temporal mess if he didn't do something about it. So he created a series of laws by which all Time Lords must govern themselves'. Some of these rules were more of a code of honor.  Others were absolutely necessary - they were tenets that couldn't be violated or there would be all kinds of nasty consequences.

The Time Lords, seeing the problems their expeditions into the Fourth Dimension were creating, embraced the charter Rassilon presented them. His Laws of Time were immediately implemented. This gained Rassilon great prestige.

That melding of democracy and feudalism continued to be at work throughout the Time Lord way of life. Various councils that governed different aspects of Gallifreyan society existed within the Panipticon. Both Rassilon and Omega moved swiftly among these groups and held all kinds of different titles. Both were huge social climbers because of the credit their achievements had given them.

Rassilon's Laws created an even greater sense of distinction between Time Lord and Common Gallifreyan. We even started seeing various types of ceremonial garb that the Time Lords would wear as a way elevating their status. Eventually, the "non-Time Lords" of Gallifrey created a second city for themselves'. They named it Arcadia and the bulk of their population lived there. Only a small segment stayed within the Panipticon. They worked as a sort of servant class to the Time Lords. Some were technicians put in charge of the more menial tasks that the Upper Class couldn't be bothered with. Others were there simply to work as a security force. More times than others, handling legal issues the Common Gallifreyans were disobeying.

Nonetheless, Rassilon saw the importance of the security forces that patrolled the Panipticon and implemented statutes that increased their sense of purpose. They were given special uniforms and an impressive-sounding title. The Chancellory Guards were born.


At last, Omega and Rassilon reached the apex of their social climbing. Both were given seats on the High Council - the most powerful group of Time Lords on the planet. Here, they were given insight into the deepest secrets and greatest challenges their blossoming culture faced.

The biggest issue was the fact that the Time Lords' ability to travel through the Time/Space Vortex was still rudimentary, at best. The High Council sought to gain full mastery of time. Other cultures that had advanced quickly in the galaxy were pursuing similar ambitions  but were not interested in adhering to Rassilon's Law (or, quite simply, the Laws of Time - as they came to be known). The High Council was sure that if an alien species developed time travel technology superior to the Time Lords, they would make an absolute mess of the Universe. They had to get there first. It was a bit like the Space Race between the Soviets and the Americans during the mid-to-late 20th Century. Except, in this case, the Time Lords really did need to win.

The problem, of course, was finding an adequate power source that could fuel deeper exploration into the Vortex. So far, no one had been able to find something that could accomplish this. But with Rassilon's deeper knowledge of the Nature of Time and Omega's amazing technical skills, the obstacle seemed easily surmountable.

Pooling their resources, the two heroes came up with a plan. Omega created a remote stellar manipulator. Similiar to the validium that guarded Gallifrey's heavens, it was quasi-sentient. He could send it to any star in the universe and cause it to go super novae. The Time Lords nicknamed the artifact the Hand of Omega.

Rassilon, on his end, created a technology that would enable the Time Lords to harness the energy of an exploding star and use it to their advantage. His research into this science would expand in later years. But, for now, he had a system in place that would absorb the power of a super novae that Omega would engineer using his Hand.

Selecting a distant star, the experiment was initiated. In many ways, it was a success. The Time Lords gained the raw energy they needed to gain full mastery of time - but there had been a horrible accident. A miscalculation had caused Omega to be swept up into the star's destruction. He was believed to be dead.

Rassilon would have to continue building Time Lord culture all on his own.


And so we reach a moment of heavy speculation that must dabble into areas that I have officially declared as non-canon.

During the later years of the Classic Series, this absolutely wonderful arc was starting to develop in various storylines that came to be known as The Carmel Masterplan (named after Andrew Cartmel - one of the best script editors Classic Who ever had. When he accepted my friendship request on FB, I may have squealed a bit). For years, it was merely a set of vague references made during Seasons 25 and 26 that suggested the Doctor was more than just a Time Lord. Eventually, however, Virgin's New Adventures series of novels revealed the full extent of the plan.

We would learn in the novel Cat's Cradle that the people of Ancient Gallifrey had been rendered sterile from a curse placed on them by a being known as the Pythia. Rassilon counters this problem by creating Genetic Looms. As a Time Lord's life ends, he/she re-intergrates into the Loom so that their genetic material can be used to create a new Gallifreyan. The population never grows. But, at least, it sustains itself.

Various Target and New Adventures novels that were written in the late 80s/early 90s start mentioning a third Gallifreyan Hero meant to have existed around the Dark Times that was simply called the Other. Little is known about him or what he did to contribute to Ancient Gallifrey - but he was a respected figure. As important as Rassilon or Omega.

At last, the Other's true nature is revealed in the novel Lungbarrow. Contrary to Popular Fan Theory, the Machiavellian Seventh Doctor does not go back into time and become the Other. In fact, it's the exact opposite. The Other, discontent with the society Rassilon is creating, intentionally joins himself with the Loom while he is still alive. He re-emerges years later and becomes the Doctor (I'm summarizing, here - it's bit more complex than this but this is the basic idea). The Doctor has only half-memories of his existence as the Other. But, in Lungbarrow, he finally gains full knowledge of who he once was. It's a real cool concept that was meant to get fleshed out more and more in what would've been Season 27 - had it not been cancelled.

Because these events never occurred in a transmitted episode, many fans (including myself) do not consider it canon. Even the production teams behind New Who appear to have rejected this idea. Another important revelation that is made in Lungbarrow is that Susan is actually from the Dark Times and is the Other's granddaughter - not the Doctor's. The Doctor stops off briefly in Gallifrey's past just after he escapes from the Panipticon. Susan meets him and can tell that he is, somehow, her grandfather. New Who clearly establishes, again, that Susan is actually the Doctor's granddaughter. The Doctor claims he was a father (Fear Her) and then, later, claims that he is also a grandfather (Rings of Ahkathen). There's no talk of Looms, anymore. Gallifreyans seem to reproduce in much the same way as humans do. So what was discussed in Cat's Cradle and Lungbarrow no longer holds water.

Still, we have some problems. Clues are given in proper episodes during Seasons 25 and 26 that point towards the Doctor's involvement with Ancient Gallifrey. Some sort of backstory must be provided to get these references to make sense.


In Season 25, we learn that the Doctor is in possession of a couple of significant Gallifreyan artifacts that a mere Time Lord should not be able to control. Again, had the Cartmel Masterplan succeeded, we would've learnt that the Hand of Omega and the validium obeyed the Doctor because, like Susan, they could also see that he was the Other. But since that reality has become invalidated, we must come up with a new explanation.

The Seventh Doctor of Season 24 does show hints of deviousness to him (the way he tricks the Rani into blowing up her Brainiac, the fact that he's trying to hide from Mel that his visit to Svartos is intentional) but he's much more treacherous as Remembrance of the Daleks rolls in. Something must've happened after Dragonfire that changed him.

I suggest that he, somehow, made a visit into Gallifrey's past - either by accident or by intention. I'm inclined to believe that it happens by mistake. He's trying to make some sort of repair to the TARDIS and it goes haywire - flinging him into Gallifrey's past. Perhaps the damage to the TARDIS is so severe that the Doctor tries to take it back to Gallifrey to fix it properly with specialized equipment that exists only on his homeworld. But the TARDIS, in its malfunctioning state, skips some time tracks and goes back to the Dark Times.

He arrives right about where my current narrative in this essay ends. Rassilon and Omega have just completed their super nova and harnessed its energy. Omega has been lost. The Doctor arrives from the future and, perhaps, even lends a hand to Rassilon for a bit with holding Time Lord Society together in its infant stages. Perhaps he even, reluctantly, allows Rassilon to make certain choices that he doesn't agree with. That he knows will lead to a civilization whose basic tenets he will reject in the far-flung future. These ideologies that are born in the Dark Times will compel him to, one day, leave Gallifrey. But the Doctor respects that this future must happen and doesn't interfere.

Although Ace is now travelling with him, he manages to keep her out of the action. For the most part, at least. Ace gets hints of what he was up to - which is why she presses him for more information any time he starts talking about Ancient Gallifrey during Seasons 25 and 26. She knows he's keeping stuff from her about this visit that he made and wants to learn the full story.

Again, if we're going with my "repairs gone bad" theory, perhaps she is actually trapped aboard the TARDIS while it's malfunctioning. The Doctor manages to make it out of the console room to get help. Ace, however, is stranded in some way. But she still learns a bit about what the Doctor is up to outside. Perhaps she can still get the scanner to work and sees a hint of where she is.

After spending some time with Rassilon, the Doctor finally chooses to re-board the TARDIS and return to his own proper place in his timeline. Once more, if we continue with the malfunctioning TARDIS idea, he is finally able to make the necessary repairs to his vehicle and leaves. Perhaps he even caused certain technological strides to be made on Ancient Gallifrey so that he can acquire the equipment he needs to effect those repairs (how's that for devious?!).

Before he leaves, though, he takes Nemesis and the Hand of Omega with him. There could be any number of reasons why he does this. My personal theory is that the Hand of Omega has been raging out of control since the loss of it creator and now represents a threat to Gallifrey. Nemesis, being Gallifrey's defence system, is trying to contain the stellar manipulator as it lashes out. The two artifacts are battling in Gallifrey's heavens. They are evenly matched, however, so the fight is a stalemate. The Doctor, somehow, lures both of the artifacts aboard the TARDIS. TARDISes are probably only in a prototype phase at this stage of the game and haven't even made a proper journey in time, yet. So, to suddenly see one in transit piques the curiosity of Nemesis and the Hand. Once onboard the TARDIS, the Doctor is able to subdue the stellar manipulator by letting it know that its creator has survived.

For whatever reason, though, the Doctor must take both of these super-weapons with him. Maybe he doesn't trust the ancient Gallifreyans with these devices, anymore. Or maybe he needs to leave because of something to do with the repairs he's made to the TARDIS. He doesn't want the Gallifreyans to see too much of the TARDIS now that it's functioning properly so he just departs after he's brought the Nemesis and the Hand onboard. Or, maybe, because his ship is working again - he can only stay in Gallifrey's past for so much longer. Gallifreyan Mean Time is forcing the TARDIS to return to its proper time and place and he can't drop off the Hand and Nemesis before he leaves. We can't say for certain what it is. But the Doctor must depart the Dark Times with both of these artifacts in his possession.

Knowing he can't hold on to these two powerful devices for too long, he makes one brief stop in his own past and gives the Hand of Omega to his First Self - telling him to bury it in a graveyard on 20th Century Earth (the time and place the First Doctor and Susan have been living for quite a bit, now, when the Seventh encounters him). Violating his own time line might have something to do with the TARDIS still not quite working properly. He's still trying to get her to run smoothly but she experienced a hiccup and broke some more Laws of Time. It is, after all, her first trip since the necessary repairs were made. Maybe there still needs to be some tweaking done. The Doctor finally accomplishes this and the TARDIS will start flying properly, now.

Finally returning to his own proper place in his time stream, the Doctor also sets up a weird asteroid-like spaceship to hold the Nemesis in. He then sends it off into orbit around Earth. He sets the validium into orbit in the 1800s, though, so that Nemesis will be near the Hand in case it starts making trouble again as the 1960s approach. Nemesis will re-activate and contain the stellar manipulator if it starts to act up. Thankful for being liberated from its great fight with the Hand, Nemesis has now pledged its servitude to the Doctor. So it obeys his instructions when he orders it to watch over the Hand. But Nemesis doesn't like the fate that's been handed to it and can be unruly in its own way. It affects the aggression of humans when it flies too close to the Earth. During its brief stay on Earth in the 1800s before it was shot off into orbit, it also told the Lady Peinforte some rudimentary principles of time travel and shared the secrets of what the Doctor did during Gallifrey's Dark Times. Maybe it was trying to use Peinforte to free it from the boredom of resting in orbit around Earth and would then pledge servitude to her.

Again, the Doctor was able to keep Ace out of the way during all this. Any number of tricks could've been employed. He probably went with something simple like putting her into a hypnotic state while he went about dealing with Nemesis and the Hand of Omega. Snapping her out of it once he was done. But then, as the adventures of Remembrance of the Daleks and Silver Nemesis occur, he's willing to finally fill her in on things a bit (but only a bit - he still wants to keep most of his secrets if he can). This might also help account for why Ace is so intensely curious about these relics. She knows they have something to do with a lost memory...

While we can't say exactly how or why he meddled during one of Gallifrey's most crucial periods of development (I have tried to provide both general ideas and specific theories for this) the whole experience definitely turns the Doctor into a darker man. His behavior becomes more manipulative or even ruthless as he combats the evils of the Universe. He even decides to take these two powerful Gallifreyan artifacts that he's frittered away and use them as weapons against two of his greatest enemies. It's here that he first earns such nicknames as the Cosmic Chess Player, Time's Champion or the Oncoming Storm.

And it's my belief that those experiences happened right around this era of ancient Gallifreyan history. That the Doctor even creates a bit of a bootstrap paradox (a term we'll all start using far more often thanks to Before the Flood). He causes Time Lord Society to evolve in certain directions because he knows, already, that these things must happen. He creates the Gallifreyan equivalent of Beethoven because he knows the Gallifreyan equivalent of Beethoven must exist.

But now that he's left the Dark Times, Rassilon must forge on by himself, again...

And so endeth Part One of The History of Gallifrey (that was one hell of a footnote, wasn't it?!). We'll pick up where things left off a bit further down the road. Other topics need to get ranted about first! 

As I mentioned in the intro, this was written as a special request. Is there anything you'd like me to, specifically, write about? Feel free to make your suggestion in the comments or email one to me at:

Want to see Episode 2? It's right here:

Thursday, 8 October 2015



by Adam Gobeski

If you've been following my essays closely, you'll have noticed my last post mentioned a theory Adam Gobeski had about the Valeyard's role in the Time Wars. Adam, wonderful guest contributor that he is, tossed me an essay he wrote that talks about the issue more extensively....

Special Note: This essay was originally composed before the 50th anniversary special. A few of the references it makes will be slightly dated because of this. 

As far as the Doctor's concerned, at some point between the TV Movie and Rose, a great Time War occurred between the Time Lords and the Daleks - wiping out both races (sort of: see, among others, Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways, Army of Ghosts/Doomsday and Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords for why this isn't exactly true). While bits and pieces of the events of the War have been revealed over the course of the BBC Wales series, the trigger of the conflict remains unknown. But perhaps more importantly, the question remains: why was there a war at all?
Initially, it seems odd because the Time Lords are often portrayed in the series as observing the timelines and intervening when they deem it necessary (such as Colony in Space, or The Two Doctors). If they have this power, then surely they should have seen the Daleks coming? Shouldn’t they have prepared themselves?
Well, maybe they tried. In Genesis of the Daleks, the Time Lords send the Doctor on a mission to either prevent the Daleks from being created, make them less aggressive as a race, or find a weakness in their origin. The reasoning being that the Time Lords foresee a time when the Daleks will become the supreme power in the universe. Presumably this would mean that the Time Lords were threatened as well as other races. Despite the fact that the Doctor doesn’t outright destroy the Daleks at their inception, the Time Lords aren’t seen to attempt to interfere in Dalek history after this.  So it would seem that they’re reasonably satisfied with the results and must not feel the Daleks would become a threat to them. Which means that we’re back to wondering why there was a war in the first place.
Perhaps, in order to better understand the question, we should first ask how the Time Lords monitor the timelines at all. We can probably safely assume that the Time Lords' monitoring device is the Matrix - the repository of Time Lord knowledge. The Deadly Assassin mentions that the Matrix can predict future events, such as the assassination of the President of the Time Lords in that story. Presumably if the Matrix has this capability, then it would be the main tool which the Time Lords use to monitor the timelines. They examine the future with the Matrix and see what results from certain events. But The Deadly Assassin also shows that these predictions can be intercepted and redirected, Although, as Coordinator Engin points out, you would need a living mind to do it. So someone who actively wished ill upon the Time Lords may have re-directed these predictions about the Time War so that the Time Lords never saw it coming. Who would such a person be?
Going by Occam's razor, let's assume that it has to be a fellow Time Lord. We can eliminate most of the likely candidates right away. The Monk's more mischievous than evil, and the Rani's far too scientifically-minded to get caught up in that sort of thing - it's not clear what she would gain from such an action. The Master's more likely. But The Sound of Drums seems to scotch that notion (unless you think the Time Lords would seriously resurrect the betrayer of their people to fight on their side). And no other Time Lords that we've seen would be interested/capable of diverting the Matrix in such a manner.
No, hang on. There is one possibility. At the risk of being unbearably fannish, it could be the Valeyard from the Doctor’s trial. After all, at the end of The Ultimate Foe it was revealed that he had taken over the body of the Keeper of the Matrix - the guardian of the sum of Time Lord knowledge. He would have control over the predictive powers of the Matrix as well, which would mean he could very well link into the Matrix (supplying it with the "living mind" required) and divert any predictions about the impending Time War. As for his motivation for doing this, it’s possible that the Valeyard would be attempting to withhold vital information from the Time Lords to use as bargaining chips in exchange for a full Time Lord lifespan. Similar to what he was promised in The Ultimate Foe. Or he could just be doing it out of spite.
(If that doesn't work for you, there is an alternative. In the wake of The Ultimate Foe, the Time Lords could now be simply mistrustful of what the Matrix predicts. After all, it’s been shown that it can be tampered with - something that the Time Lords haven’t considered as a possibility before - and they might therefore dismiss a prediction of the Time War as either an artifact of the tampering or simply inaccurate. Or they may be simply unwilling to believe that a force could actually threaten them in the face of the facts. Quite simply, they are in denial. Maybe that was the part of the Matrix that the Valeyard blew up.)
(No? One additional possibility then. This is the least workable theory, but we include it in the interest of full disclosure. The Time Lords do know that something big is approaching, but they're too powerless/scared to do anything about it. This would be the reason why Time Lords aren't supposed to travel to the very far future (Frontios) - it's not actually because (say) interfering with the colony on Frontios is forbidden, But because a Time Lord might learn something about the Time War. This theory has major drawbacks though, not least of which is that it requires Gallifrey to adopt an unusually lax and defeatist attitude toward their own future. For one thing, it plays all sorts of havoc with the idea of Gallifreyan Mean Time (the rough idea of which says that (a) Time Lords and Gallifrey travel in time at the same rate - so when a year passes for the Doctor, it also passes on Gallifrey - and (b) the timeline of Gallifrey isn't necessarily at a one-to-one correspondence with the rest of the Universe), some version of which is required if you want to make any sense of the Gallifrey-based stories. After all, if Gallifrey's not linked up to the rest of the Universe, why should it matter if the Doctor travels to Frontios?)
So we now have a workable theory as to why the Time Lords wouldn’t have seen the Time War coming. But why would the Daleks attempt to specifically destroy the Time Lords (as opposed to just incorporating them into their general plans for universal conquest)? Russell T Davies has suggested that the events in Genesis of the Daleks were the catalyst for the Time War, but this doesn’t really make sense, as it would then follow that all of the Daleks’ actions have been with the ultimate goal of wiping out the Time Lords, That's a nice idea thematically - implicating that the Time Lords are ultimately responsible for the Daleks’ thirst for conquest - but rather at odds with most of what the series (including Genesis of the Daleks itself) tells us about the Daleks.
There is, however, a logical alternative. What if the Daleks’ antipathy toward Gallifrey didn’t stem from the actions of Genesis of the Daleks, but rather Remembrance of the Daleks? In that story, the Doctor, a Time Lord, not only destroys Skaro’s sun, but he does so with a Time Lord device - namely the Hand of Omega. Presumably there are Daleks who weren’t in the vicinity of Skaro when its sun went supernova (despite what the Doctor might claim to the Black Dalek) and they could easily discover what had happened to Skaro and who was responsible. Particularly if Davros survived at the end (as it appears he did) and told the other Daleks. (We could go into the War of the Daleks version of events here with its two Skaros, but as nothing there seems to contradict this theory, we won't bother.) So this then could very well be the catalyst that leads to the Daleks taking up arms against the Time Lords. This has the added bonus of fitting in well with the Doctor’s personal timeline, explaining why he wasn’t fighting the Time War back as the Third Doctor.
Two additional points we feel we should mention: First, the Daleks’ plan to assassinate the High Council in Resurrection of the Daleks. Ignoring the fact that the Daleks have set a trap for specifically the Doctor, (the one being in the universe who has defeated the Daleks time and time again and would therefore probably be the least likely person they would want to involve themselves with) even if all they want to do is duplicate him and use him as their agent...this still doesn’t really feel like it’s part of a large war effort. The whole tone of the piece seems less focused and centralized than what you’d expect from a Dalek war. Particularly one that will eventually end in the destruction of the Time Lords and the Daleks. It's possible that this is an initial skirmish by the Daleks before they make their intent plain. Buried amidst numerous plots and counterplots, the assassination plan hardly seems like the coordinated effort the Daleks must surely know they would need to make against Gallifrey. There's also the matter of how the increasingly divided Dalek forces on display in the '80s Who stories could possibly become the major threat of the Time War - especially since we now know that Davros was alive and active during the War (Stolen Earth/Journey's End) - but never mind about that now.
Second, the throwaway line from the beginning of the TV Movie which shows the Daleks exterminating the Master for his crimes, but then allowing the Doctor to take his remains back to Gallifrey, is a bit of a puzzle. Especially if we assume that the Daleks bear this intense animosity toward the Time Lords (actually, given what we know of the Daleks, this is a puzzle - to put it mildly - in any event.) But if we can turn to secondary material for a moment, we could note that the end of Lungbarrow includes a discussion about the difficulty of retrieving the Master’s remains from Skaro. Which means that we don’t need to entertain any possibilities about there being temporary peace between the Daleks and the Time Lords during which the Daleks' greatest enemy can pop in and collect the Master.
So, to sum up. Given what we know, it seems that the Time War was probably sparked by the Doctor’s actions in Remembrance of the Daleks. Which led to the Daleks waging a full-blown war against the Time Lords. The Time Lords were insufficiently prepared for this, most likely stemming from the events of The Trial of a Time Lord and probably involving the Valeyard, and so weren’t able to initiate any action (like a preemptive strike) to prevent the Time War from occurring. The events of the TV Movie and the lack of any ongoing Time War there suggests that the majority of the War almost certainly happens during the Eighth Doctor’s lifespan. Which, if you accept the BBC books as canon (and fair enough if you don't), means he’s seen Gallifrey and the Time Lords destroyed twice in as many regenerations.

If that is the case, no wonder he regenerates into Christopher Eccleston!

Thanks again, Adam. I definitely like to imagine that nasty Valeyard running around in his Keeper of the Matrix outfit screwing over the Time Lords as the Daleks amass their fleet at Gallifrey's doorstep. There's also a lot of other interesting ideas that you explore, here. 

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