Doctor Who and the Time War was an Eighth Doctor short story written by Russell T Davies for Doctor Who's 50th anniversary celebration in 2013. However, as it conflicted with Steven Moffat's plans for the TV anniversary special, the story was ultimately not released by Doctor Who Magazine.
It was finally released in 2020 as a prequel to the 2005 TV story Rose for the Doctor Who: Lockdown! watch-along series. Davies commented that, following The Timeless Children, "the idea [had] come of age", as "all stories are true." He described its relation to The Night of the Doctor as a "glimpse of parallel events".
It was later published as the fourth story in the anthology Adventures in Lockdown.
This was never meant to exist.
Way back, maybe early 2013, Tom Spilsbury, the editor of Doctor Who Magazine, asked me if I wanted to contribute to DWM’s great 50th special. Maybe addressing that huge gap in Doctor Who lore, how did the Eighth Doctor regenerate into the Ninth?
I said well, yeah, no, but, isn't that best left to the imagination? If I write a script, it would be too real, too fixed, too canonical. But Tom's never one to give up. He said okay, what if you wrote, say, the final pages of a Target novel? About the last days of the Time War. The Doctor's final moments. And we could present it like a surviving fragment of the Novel That Never Was, so it exists in that half-real space of the spin-offs, possible but not factual, just slightly canon, if you so choose. Okay, Tom. You temptress. I'm in.
So I wrote this. It even starts mid-sentence, as if you've just turned to the last pages. Lee Binding created a beautiful cover. We were excited! And then Tom said, I'd better run this past Steven Moffat, just in case…
Oh, said Steven. Oh. How could we have known? That the Day of the Doctor would have an extra Doctor, a War Doctor? And Steven didn't even tell us about Night of the Doctor, he kept that regeneration a complete surprise! He just said, sorry, can you lay off that whole area? I agreed, harrumphed, went to bed and told him he was sleeping on the settee that night.
So the idea was snuffed a-borning. Until 2020. When a science fiction-shaped virus came along to change our lives (honestly, I've written the end of the world 100 times, but I never imagined everyone just sitting at home). Emily Cook of DWM created the livestream Day of the Doctor, then turned to Rose, and asked me if I had anything to offer..? At exactly the same time, Chris Chibnall emailed me, saying we need the Doctor more than ever these days, and could I think of any material?
By some miracle this file still existed. Lee still had his illustration (naturally, because he was under a Binding contract, oh I'm so funny). And strangely, looking back, it's funny how things fit; the Moment is described here as oak and brass, which isn't far from the final idea (I don't mean Billie). I wonder; I suspect, without realising, if Steven and I were both riffing off Eighth Doctor-style designs, maybe..? More importantly, the idea has come of age. This chapter only died because it became, continuity-wise, incorrect. But now, the Thirteenth Doctor has shown us Doctors galore, with infinite possibilities.
All Doctors exist. All stories are true. So come with me now, to the distant reefs of a terrible war, as the Doctor takes the Moment and changes both the universe and themselves forever…
The Eighth Doctor stands on an eyrie, too far for the Time Lords and Daleks screaming in vain to stop him, and observes the devastation of the Last Great Time War. At his feet, "her" skeleton crumbles into dust; he looks up to see the Moment, an implement of brass and oak, or rather its only extrusion yet remaining in its world.
After deciding that "last words are useless", the Doctor steps forward and pulls down the handle of the Moment, flat. As the War ends around him and Gallifrey Original disintegrates in a blaze of light, the Doctor finds himself falling, believing he is dying. He lands into the open doors of his Ship and lies there in pain both mental and physical, his bones broken, his hearts empty.
Knowing he is about to die for good, having prevented himself from any further regenerations by using the Moment (which "fixed his existence"), the Doctor muses on what age he is now, after all the temporal manipulations he's been through. Feeling about a thousand, he decides to round it down to 900.
Feeling himself beginning to regenerate after all, the flabbergasted Doctor looks down at his hand and sees a curious new golden glow accompanying the familiar change. He realises that with her kiss, his saviour passed the Restoration onto him, resetting his life cycle. As the phoenix-flame engulfs him, he promises to one day pass it on to save another.
- The Doctor sees shreds of Earth, which was duplicated a million times to be fired into the skull of the Nightmare Child. He notices parts of Mumbai, Manhattan, and Old London Town.
- The "vile" towers of Morbius's Red Capitol have "fused" with the spires of Yarvelling's Church.
- Due to the time being weaponised for the Time War, the Doctor's age constantly changed. At the Battle of Rodan's Wedding, he was aged to five million and then back to a baby. In the current moment, he feels a thousand years old, which he rounds to nine hundred.
- The Deathsmiths of Goth were among those who predicted "the final event", namely Gallifrey's destruction.
- Years were used as ammunition in the Time War.
- Lee Binding posted his unused artwork on Facebook on 27 May 2016. The 1973 logo was replaced with the 1996 logo for the new official version on the BBC website. This was in line with the designs for the latest run of Target novelisations, beginning with Rose.
- However, the 1973 logo was seen on the promotion image used on the official Doctor Who Twitter and provided to news sites.
- The story was originally meant to be released as part of The Doctor: His Lives and Times.
- While Rassilon is featured on the cover, he is not mentioned in the "final pages" that form the text of this story.
- Richard Atkinson designed this story to look like the pages 125-128 of a Target novelisation, which Russell T Davies posted on his Instagram.
- The story retcons the golden glow of regeneration energy as depicted in the post-Time War universe of the BBC Wales series, in contrast to the various looks of regeneration in the Classic Series, to be an effect of the Restoration.
- This offers an alternate account to the Eighth Doctor's regeneration, seeing him regenerate into a Ninth Doctor rather than the War Doctor. Continuity established after this story was written would place the War Doctor as the one to fight in the Time War, and to have activated the Moment, while the Eighth Doctor is shown, most notably in The Night of the Doctor and throughout The Eighth Doctor: Time War, to have abstained.
- The pointed mention of the newly-regenerated Ninth Doctor feeling at his ears, and the eventual release of the story as a prelude to a watchalong of Rose, point towards the new incarnation being the Doctor as played by Christopher Eccleston on TV. However, on Instagram, Davies liked a comment by a fan asking whether the incarnation could be interpreted as being the "Shalka Doctor" or the "Rowan Atkinson Doctor".
- Yarvelling's Church is among the wreckage of the Time War. (COMIC: Genesis of Evil)
- The Doctor uses the Moment to destroy Time Lords and Daleks alike. (TV: The End of Time)
- The Master's resurrection by the Time Lords "so long ago" (TV: The Sound of Drums) interfered with the workings of the Doctor's TARDIS, (TV: Doctor Who) which is now "aching for a new shape". (TV: Rose)
- The Battle of Rodan's Wedding was an event in the Time War. Rodan was a Time Lady who maintained the transduction barrier around Gallifrey. (TV: The Invasion of Time)
- The Ninth Doctor says "Blimey!" when he feels his new ears. The Eleventh Doctor later said the same thing when noticing his new chin post-regeneration. (TV: The End of Time)
- Version on Russell T Davies' Instagram
- Russell T Davies writes a prequel to Doctor Who – Rose
- "Doctor Who": Russell T Davies Pens "Rose" Prequel for Anniversary