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You may wish to consult Key to Time (disambiguation) for other, similarly-named pages.

The Key to Time, also known as the Key of Time, was a powerful and legendary artefact which the Guardians of Time used to maintain the equilibrium of time itself, (TV: The Ribos Operation) controlling omniversal order and chaos. It was a perfect crystalline cube split into six pieces, with each of the Guardians responsible for a piece, as it would be the end of time without the Key. (AUDIO: The Judgement of Isskar) The holder of the Key also had the sole power to access the "heart" of the universe and, if necessary, replace it. (PROSE: Power to the People)

Nature and functions[]

Existing at every point in time, (PROSE: The Well-Mannered War) its shape was that of a perfect transdimensional crystalline cube, an orderly pattern extending through four dimensions, comprised of six segments pieced together to gain the full power of the Key. Temporary segments could be created if one had enough components of the original Key to access at least some of its power, but this was dangerous as the Key's segments were linked on a fundamental level. Cessair of Diplos had found out how to use the segment she had obtained to travel to Earth, and use its power of transmogrification, temporarily appearing as the Fourth Doctor to Romana. (TV: The Stones of Blood) Romana warned the Doctor that transforming another piece back to its four dimensional crystalline form would suck an incoming Cronquist invasion force to Earth "in the twinkling of an eye". (AUDIO: Ferril's Folly) Another fragment gave its holder the ability to see the future, and demonstrated enough power to make a normal-sized squid grow to gigantic proportions after swallowing it. (TV: The Power of Kroll) The individual segments were very tough and resistant to damage; The Taran Lamia blunted two of her diamond drills experimenting on one of them. (TV: The Androids of Tara) They could be transformed back into their original form by the Core to the Key to Time, or dispersed by it, reforming somewhere else in another form. (AUDIO: Ferril's Folly) Alternatively, the segments could be turned back into their disguised forms. (AUDIO: The Chaos Pool)

The Key didn't affect its operators, in order to let them use it. (TV: The Armageddon Factor) It was said to maintain balance and equilibrium, similarly to the Eye of Harmony - with the result that disrupting the links between the segments could damage the fabric of the universe. It could rewrite matter, change the state of quanta and start and stop the universe. (AUDIO: The Judgement of Isskar)

The sixth segment in particular was supposedly the most powerful of the segments (AUDIO: Luna Romana) and repeatedly took on an organic configuration when disguised. (TV: The Armageddon Factor, AUDIO: The Chaos Pool) Reconfiguring the sixth segment into its original form before doing so to the fifth segment would cause a temporal quake that could rip apart the space-time continuum. (AUDIO: The Destroyer of Delights)

The Key could be used to access the "heart" of the universe, so that it could be replaced if damaged or drained. Anyone who had once held the key would gain the ability to access the heart in perpetuity, even if they no longer physically held the artefact. However, this latter perk was not available to the Guardians. (PROSE: Power to the People)

In at least one reality, the Key was essentially able to manifest in the personification of those who assembled the six segments without the need for the cube of the key itself to serve as a physical construct. The Warrior and Davros served as the Key to end the Time War after the President destroyed the physical Key. (AUDIO: The Key to Key to Time)



There were many conflicting accounts concerning the origins of the Key.

Postar's Scrolls claimed that the Key was created by Rassilon shortly after his physical death, alongside the White Guardian and Black Guardian, using the greater mental powers that he wielded from within the Matrix. Rassilon then entrusted the Key to the two Guardians he had created. (PROSE: The Legacy of Gallifrey)

According to another account, God created the Key to Time as well as a singular Guardian, and sent both of them into the universe He had created. He did not expect that the Key would ever need to be used more than once, to replace the heart of the universe when it wore out halfway through the lifetime of the universe. He also failed to anticipate that the Guardian would splinter into two halves upon entering the physical world, one good and one evil, who would spend more of their time and energy fighting one another than guarding the Key and the universe. (PROSE: Power to the People)

According to yet another account, the Key to Time was originally created by the Grace — powerful beings from outside of time who used the Guardians of Time as their agents. (AUDIO: The Judgement of Isskar)

In another source still, the Guardians claimed to have forged the Key, and the Jewel, from primal materials. (PROSE: The Quantum Archangel)

Early uses[]

In the distant past, the Council of Guardians used the Key to wipe the memories of the participants in the Millennium War, and later used it to spin from the same primal materials the crystal prison within which they trapped Kronos. (PROSE: The Quantum Archangel)

At some point, the White Guardian used the Key to Time to bring an era of peace to the universe, which was represented by the Wicket Gate. This came to an end when Krikkit launched the Krikkit War. (PROSE: Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen)

At some stage, the Master obtained a segment of the Key to Time and used it to tear apart the constellation of Mandusus. (PROSE: Cold Fusion) The Crimson Hand later had a segment of one of the Keys to Time. (COMIC: The Crimson Hand)

Just before Event Two, the Doctor found a battered segment in the Librarinth. (PROSE: The Infinity Doctors)

The Doctor's first quest for the segments[]

On at least four occasions, the Doctor was sent on quests to assemble the key from its secretly scattered and disguised fragments.

The quest[]

Needing the key to maintain universal balance (TV: The Ribos Operation) because the heart of the universe was wearing out and needed replacing, but being too busy fighting the Black Guardian to seek out the Key's scattered fragments himself, (PROSE: Power to the People) the White Guardian enlisted the Fourth Doctor to gather the Key's six segments, which were hidden in the forms of objects & icons of power. To help him, he enlisted the help of the Time Lord Romana I, to whom the White Guardian had misleadingly appeared as the Lord President of Gallifrey. Romana, whom the White Guardian had entrusted with a tracer, would serve as the Doctor's companion during the quest. (TV: The Ribos Operation)

Although generally focused on his quest for the Key to Time, the Doctor could become distracted and diverted, both by local events and disruptions to the Tracer. On one occasion, the TARDIS was diverted to the planet Ashkellia when a breach in the higher dimensions disrupted the Tracer, (PROSE: Tomb of Valdemar) and after a visit to Earth, (TV: The Stones of Blood) the abundance of chronon radiation caused by the Dragon Paths forced the Doctor and Romana to remain on Earth to deal with the source of the radiation, as otherwise the Tracer would be unable to lock onto the next segment. (PROSE: The Shadow of Weng-Chiang) On another occasion, the Doctor was simultaneously called upon by the Time Lords to investigate a rift in reality and drawn to Earth to find the kidnapped Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, although other such diversions took place during their search. (PROSE: Heart of TARDIS) During a confrontation with the Doctor's old foe Quadrigger Stoyn, Stoyn briefly stole the TARDIS and buried the fifth segment of the Key on a hill in Italy a year before the theft, allowing him to set a trap that would draw in the Doctor and Romana and allow him to steal the TARDIS in the first place. (AUDIO: Luna Romana) At this point, the Doctor revealed that he had actually been hesitant to reclaim the final portion of the Key as he feared what would happen to it.

The Black Guardian used the Shadow in an attempt to stop the Doctor from obtaining the sixth segment. Once the Doctor had defeated the Shadow, he assembled the Key and outwitted the Black Guardian, enabling the White Guardian to restore universal balance. The Key was then broken apart and scattered throughout the universe again, assuming five new shapes and restoring Princess Astra to her natural form. The Black Guardian swore revenge on the Doctor, who went on the run from him. (TV: The Armageddon Factor)

In an alternate timeline in which Romana never left Gallifrey, it was Leela and K9 Mark I who accompanied the Doctor on his search for the Key to Time. In this timeline, Leela was the only human to have held the Key in her hands. (AUDIO: Reborn)

Identities of the segments[]

Search by the Doctor's fifth incarnation[]

The Fifth Doctor searched for the Key to Time on at least two separate occasions. On one occasion, he gathered three unspecified segments to escape the Labyrinth of Death. Within less than one galactic hour, he retrieved the Key and took it to the centre of the universe, where it was used to initiate the Second Age of Time. (GAME: The First Adventure)

The Doctor was later sent on another quest for three of the six scattered segments by Amy, a Tracer in the form of a young human, due to his previous use of the Key with a substitute sixth segment. This upset the balance among the other segments, causing them to decay and disrupt time and space around their current locations. The Grace had meanwhile sent another Tracer, Zara, in search of the segments, intending for each Tracer to find three segments to prevent anyone gaining the full power of the Key. Things went wrong when Zara was corrupted and convinced to seek the power of the full Key for herself, while Amy became increasingly opposed to her original purpose as the Doctor helped her become a person. (AUDIO: The Judgement of Isskar)

Zara joined forces with the White Guardian some time after this and eventually the Doctor and Amy. They gave the completed key to the Doctor, allowing him to destroy it in the Chaos Pool, where it had been created. This prevented the Black and White Guardians from using it and simultaneously scattering the Grace — who had personified in the Key — across all of Time, preventing any of them from using the Key as he recognised that its power was too great. (AUDIO: The Chaos Pool)

Identities of the segments[]

Search by the Doctor's seventh incarnation[]

Key 3 time

The White Guardian activates the Key to Time. (COMIC: Time & Time Again)

Years later, the White Guardian sent the Seventh Doctor, Ace and Benny on a quest to find the six segments of the Key to Time. They were scattered across the Doctor's personal past and disguised as items connected with him in some way. (COMIC: Time & Time Again)

Identities of the segments[]

Undated events[]

At some point, a replica of the Key to Time was loaned to Sarah Jane Smith and K9 Mark III, from the Braxiatel Collection. (PROSE: Still Need a Title!)


The Key to Time was mentioned by the Fifteenth Doctor as one many memories which weighed on the Fourteenth Doctor when convincing him to go into rehabilitation on Earth. (TV: The Giggle)

Behind the scenes[]

As part of a the "Watch Out"/"Out And About" segment while hosting The Friday Night Project, David Tennant pretended to auction off a Key to Time - which was the only one in existence and stolen from the victim by a friend who was in on the joke - at a Doctor Who auction. Once Tennant had revealed it was a joke, the victim of the joke exclaimed, "David Tennant, you're a bastard!"

External links[]