Life on Gallifrey
Like all Time Lords, K'anpo was taken from his family at the age of eight for the selection process in the Drylands. Staring into the Untempered Schism as part of a Time Lord initiation rite, K'anpo reacted by running away from what he saw in the Schism. (PROSE: A Brief History of Time Lords)
The Time Lord later known as K'anpo Rimpoche was a member of a Gallifreyan religious order which was disestablished during or shortly after the reign of Rassilon and had fallen into decline by the time the Doctor was young. (PROSE: Interference)
During the Doctor's early life, he knew K'anpo Rimpoche as the Hermit, a wise Time Lord who lived on the side of a mountain behind the house where the Doctor lived as a young boy, (TV: The Time Monster) near the Prydonian Academy where he studied at the time. (PROSE: Timewyrm: Revelation) The Third Doctor said the Hermit spent "half his life" sitting under a tree behind the Doctor's childhood home. (PROSE: Separation Day)
The Hermit told stories to the young Gallifreyans, like the Doctor, about vampire swarms (TV: State of Decay) and the legions of the Sphinx. (PROSE: Lucifer Rising) He taught the Doctor transmigration. (PROSE: The Three Paths)
The Hermit was, as the Third Doctor later said, his guru. In the time of the Doctor's greatest despair, he showed him hope in a simple yellow flower (TV: The Time Monster) called a sarlain. (PROSE: Timewyrm: Revelation)
Once, the Hermit told the Doctor to fast for three days and three nights to make supplications to the Menti Celesti. (PROSE: Timewyrm: Revelation) Towards the end of the Doctor's first life, K'anpo helped him prepare for his upcoming regeneration by telling him the story of Penultimate Evil and returning to him his Five Hundred Year Diary. (PROSE: The Three Paths)
The Hermit spent several days communicating telepathically with to the Third Doctor, warning him of the Collision, and explained to him the events leading up to it. He told the Doctor to stop the chain of events at its source. (PROSE: Separation Day)
Life on Earth
The Third Doctor next met him as the abbot of a Buddhist meditation centre in England with his assistant Cho Je. Unbeknownst to the Doctor and his companion at the time, Sarah Jane Smith, Cho Je and K'anpo Rimpoche were one and the same. Cho Je only existed either as a future projection of K'anpo Rimpoche or a creation of his mind, which Rimpoche used as a proxy while he hid from the Eight Legs. This did not deter the Eight Legs for long.
When K'anpo was struck down by the Eight Legs possessing his own meditation students as human hosts, Cho Je faded into nothingness and then re-appeared, taking the place of K'anpo Rimpoche. He had regenerated.
After the Doctor's confrontation with the Great One in her cave, he began to die from the radiation there. Once the Doctor had returned in the TARDIS to UNIT HQ, K'anpo Rimpoche teleported to him to give the Doctor "a little push" enabling him regenerate into his next incarnation. (TV: Planet of the Spiders)
K'anpo Rimpoche had several abilities that other Time Lords did not. He was able to create a "mental projection" of his mind that was able to move and talk independently of K'anpo himself. When K'anpo was injured, he regenerated into the mental projection, "Cho Je". He was also capable of teleporting himself and others from one place to another.
K'anpo displayed another unexplained skill in being able to "assist" in the Doctor's regeneration from the third incarnation to the fourth. By simply pointing both hands towards the pre-regeneration Doctor, he was able to speed the Doctor's regeneration considerably. It is possible that this was achieved though an unseen transfer of regenerative energy from K'anpo to the Doctor. (TV: Planet of the Spiders)
In Mesopotamia, the Seventh Doctor tried to apply the techniques that K'anpo had taught him to remember why his fourth incarnation had recorded a warning about the Timewyrm for his present self. (PROSE: Timewyrm: Genesys)
Behind the scenes
- Rimpoche or Rinpoche is a title given to Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leaders, in particular to those who are believed to be reincarnated lamas.
- The Third Doctor mentions the hermit to Jo Grant in The Time Monster. He does not give his Gallifreyan name.
- K'anpo Rimpoche may have been the Time Lord known only as the hermit from The Taking of Planet 5. At the end of that story, he relocated to Earth, and in The Time Monster K'anpo Rimpoche was known only as "the Hermit".
- Cho Je seems to have a similar function to a Watcher merging with its Time Lord.
- While George Cormack appeared as K'anpo Rimpoche as a Caucasian, as Cho Je, Kevin Lindsay wore makeup and adopted a faint accent to portray him as apparently Tibetan. As the new regeneration of K'anpo Rimpoche, Kevin Lindsay continued to wear the makeup and employ the accent. This is one of the few times a Time Lord is shown to change ethnicity upon regeneration.