Looms or breeding-engines were devices used by the Great Houses of the Time Lords to perpetuate their race after the Great Schism. (PROSE: Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible, The Book of the War) Unable to procreate sexually, the Time Lords had to rely on these Rassilon-invented devices (PROSE: Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible) to "weave" new life from base matter and biodata. (PROSE: The Book of the War) According to Dionus, his kind's "need to be Superior was "seeded into every morsel of the breeding engines that churn[ed them] out", conditioning them from birth to fanatically protect the Spiral Politic. (AUDIO: Eternal Escape)
Pre-time war Looms had frames (PROSE: The Short Briefing Sergeant's Tale) with a mesh of "a million fine chords" which sang with the wind and had microscopic data flowing down themselves, (PROSE: Human Nature) as well as stores of semiotic fluid in which embryos formed. (PROSE: Christmas on a Rational Planet) It was said that the Looms smelled of "tangy celestial potental". Some Looms were kept in Cradles (PROSE: Cobweb and Ivory) House Dvora's looms were made of shining silver. (PROSE: The Return of the King) During the War in Heaven, breeding engines were redesigned into a vat-like shape (PROSE: The Short Briefing Sergeant's Tale) which continued to be used after the Last Great Time War. (COMIC: Supremacy of the Cybermen)
When someone was loomed, they would be dripping wet when pulled out of the weft of chords by another Time Lord. (PROSE: Human Nature, The Blue Angel) Errors in the weft could leave the loomed with physical deformities that persisted across regenerations, as happened with Philetes' clubfoot. (PROSE: The Brakespeare Voyage)
Each Great House on Gallifrey had their own Loom which they used to create new members of their Family. (PROSE: Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible, Lungbarrow) Every breeding-engine was kept outside the corresponding chapterhouse in a loomshed's cradle, (PROSE: The Book of the War, PROSE: Cobweb and Ivory) where they would whisper to each other in the night. (PROSE: The Book of the War)
The breeding-engines were slightly prescient, but not enough to weave a newborn's entire life story into their biodata. (PROSE: The Book of the War) During looming, childrene were primed with foreknowledge through memetic priming. (PROSE: Against Nature)
The genetic relationship between people originating from each Family Loom was lateral rather than direct, meaning that people from the same Loom were "cousins" of each other. Many Gallifreyans were loomed as "full-grown adults", albeit ones that began child-like and had to mature mentally. (PROSE: Lungbarrow)
Most members of a Great House were loomed to full physicality but lacked the experience of the elders, so they were called childrene (PROSE: Against Nature) or "loomlings". (PROSE: Unnatural History, The Taking of Planet 5) Leela felt pity for Gallifreyans, saying that the Looms prevented "true children" from existing on their planet. (PROSE: Lungbarrow) According to one account, upon being Loomed into the House of Lungbarrow, the Doctor was physically in the form of a child. (PROSE: Human Nature) Some children of other Houses, while being mentally or emotionally older, apparently did physically resemble children (PROSE: Of the City of the Saved...) Some Time Tots, a term specifically used for mental and physical children, were loomed. (PROSE: Apocrypha Bipedium) Only childrene of Newblood Houses were loomed with their second hearts. (PROSE: Christmas on a Rational Planet)
Looms also kept a tally of all the people they birthed, and could normally indicate how old each of its "offspring" was and how many regenerations each had gone through. Data from all the Family Looms on Gallifrey was sent to the Bureau of Loomographic Records, which served as a central repository of genetic information.
Each Great House had a specified number of cousins which could exist in the Family at any given time. The House of Lungbarrow, for example, was allotted forty-five cousins. When a member of a Family died for the final time, the Loom would weave a new cousin into the Family. Cases did exist when an additional cousin was illegally woven, such as the Doctor's cousin Owis, but these were extremely rare. Another rare crime was "Loom-jumping", where a perpetrator covertly entered another Family's Loom and dissolved their own body in it, allowing them to be re-loomed as a child with a fresh regenerative cycle. (PROSE: Lungbarrow)
Looms were used by other species, including Sontarans. (PROSE: The Infinity Doctors) The Krotons grew weapons in the looms of Quartzel-88. (PROSE: Alien Bodies) The Osirian Court, amongst other societal traits similar to the Great Houses, (AUDIO: Body Politic) used "flesh looms", such as the one Sutekh used to give himself a new body. (AUDIO: The Pyramid of Sutekh) Cernunnos' mammoths of the pre-universe created humanity in breeding-engines like those of the Great Houses. (PROSE: Cobweb and Ivory)
Faction Paradox's remembrance tanks were deliberate parodies of breeding-engines (PROSE: The Book of the War) and were sometimes called "looms" in the City of the Saved. (PROSE: Philology: The Real Professional Bag of Tricks)
The Doctor and Looming
According to one account, the Doctor was loomed from the genetic material of the Other. (PROSE: Lungbarrow) He screamed when he was dragged out from the Loom. (PROSE: The Blue Angel) Upon leaving the Loom the childe Doctor's first word was "Again". (PROSE: Human Nature) When he was only five years old, the First Doctor boasted that he could remember existing in the House of Lungbarrow's Loom before being actually born:
I can remember waiting to be born... It was like being all strung out. All unravelled inside the Loom. I was spread really thin... I couldn't think. Not put thoughts together... But I knew where I was and what was happening. I couldn't wait to get out. And then I was born. My lungs nearly burst. The first rush of air was so cold..."
The Eighth Doctor remembered both being loomed and having parents and a childhood. (PROSE: Unnatural History, The Shadows of Avalon, Bafflement and Devotion) He knew that one of these was a dream, but he could not recall which. (PROSE: The Shadows of Avalon) In the seas of Hyspero, Sam Jones encountered a group of starfish creatures who told her that the Eighth Doctor was "woven from genetic broth, a Loom, on a Patriarchial world without mothers - though sometimes he believes he was birthed of a more Earthly mother." (PROSE: The Scarlet Empress) The boy from Faction Paradox suggested that this was because the enemy was rewriting the Doctor's past "when he wasn't looking". (PROSE: Unnatural History)
When Maris tried to investigate the Doctor's origins, she found five conflicting birth notices for him, including one claiming he was created from Lungbarrow's Loom and another that he was born to a human mother. (PROSE: Celestial Intervention - A Gallifreyan Noir)
In the time of the anchoring of the thread, (PROSE: The Book of the War) Rassilon created the Looms to stabilise the Gallifreyan population after they were rendered sterile by Pythia's curse. One was given to each Great House. (PROSE: Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible) These breeding-engines were designed to produce generations of flawless academicians and observers, and they did so for ten million years. (PROSE: The Book of the War) A Brief History of Time Lords speculated that Rassilon created the regeneration cycle by "playing with test tubes and genetic looms". (PROSE: A Brief History of Time Lords)
However, there were instances of womb-born children during the period where Looms were in use. Rassilon passed a decree that "only the Loom-born shall inherit the Legacy of Rassilon", and enforced this decree by wiping out the womb-born. (PROSE: Cold Fusion) In the Doctor's time, Time Lords born of a Loom were seen as "high born." (PROSE: Celestial Intervention - A Gallifreyan Noir) However, some womb-born survived this persecution and hid among the general population for hundreds of centuries. (PROSE: The Infinity Doctors)
Despite their supposed infallibility, mutations began to appear in the breeding-engines twelve hundred years before the War in Heaven. This resulted in a generation of renegades that included the Imperator, Grandfather Paradox, and the War King. (PROSE: The Book of the War)
The Order of the Weal was interested in unstable bloodlines, and The Book of the War hypothesised that the Order made subtle alterations to the programme dynamics of the Houses' engines. (PROSE: The Book of the War)
While for most of history "Great House children were spun like a cottage industry on the old gene-weaving frames", this system was no longer possible during the War in Heaven. (PROSE: The Short Briefing Sergeant's Tale) The Looms of Romana III's Gallifrey were overworked making warriors such as Cavis in the decades before the War. (PROSE: The Shadows of Avalon) Into the War, loomstacks on Gallifrey Eight were used to mass-produce soldiers. (PROSE: The Taking of Planet 5)
The Enemy once defined itself as "the weave that the looms make not". (PROSE: No Enemy But Despair) It was feared that the enemy's influence could retro-compromise the Houses' soldiers and affect the nature of their breeding-engines; this exact phenomenon may have caused the Sixth Wave to retro-annul itself at birth or to be born supporting the wrong side. (PROSE: The Book of the War) Some neo-loomed Fifth Wave agents were intentionally exposed to aspects of the Enemy to prepare them for War. (PROSE: Subjective Interlock)
In the Rivera Manuscript, the enemy's attack on the Homeworld made the breeding-engines continuously scream from the loomsheds. The enemy soldiers eventually attacked the engines directly, detonating themselves and leaving the looms intact but mutated. These mutations spread as a sickness throughout the survivors of the attack. (PROSE: The Book of the War)
When Sutekh corrupted the Faction Paradox shrine under Civita, the remembrance tanks grew into a vast Tree of Filth. (AUDIO: Coming to Dust) Parts of Gallifrey were covered in Loomforests shortly before the Last Great Time War. (AUDIO: Celestial Intervention)
When Rassilon and the Cybermen conquered Gallifrey, they used Looms to trap captured Time Lords in a state of perpetual regeneration, where the Looms could harvest the energy created. The Cybermen later linked it to the Cyberiad and the Eye of Harmony, where they planned to alter history. The Twelfth Doctor and Rassilon countered this plan by using the energy to regenerate the universe and return history to normal. (COMIC: Supremacy of the Cybermen)
Behind the scenes
- Like many ideas and concepts in Doctor Who, this has not been referenced on-screen, and can be seen to contradict other sources. There have been many statements by the Doctor and others referring to him having been a "boy" or showing the Doctor and other Time Lords as children.
- Many prose and audio sources have recently found ways of integrating Looms and Great Houses into the televised Doctor Who continuity. A Brief History of the Time Lords references Rassilon using "genetic looms", Celestial Intervention - A Gallifreyan Noir references the House of Lungbarrow, Lords and Masters mentions the Patriarchs of the Great Houses, and the Gallifrey: Time War box set refers to loom forests. The Faction Paradox short story Cobweb and Ivory references Looms being kept in Gallifreyan cradles, thus hinting the Doctor's cot was the shell of Lungbarrow's Loom.
- Steven Moffat said that it was "reasonable to assume that Time Lords [met] and marr[ied] and mate[d] in much the same way" humans did. He acknowledged "some highly inventive material in the Virgin New Adventures books contradicting this" and described the New Adventures as "a separate (and equally valid) continuity" to the modern BBC Wales TV series. When asked if series 11 would confirm the existence of Looms, Chris Chibnall said he had not read Lungbarrow, as he had not been able to find a copy.
- Lance Parkin's short story Executive Action, published in the charity anthology Walking in Eternity, contextualized the conflict between Loomed and Womb-Born seen in Cold Fusion and referenced in The Infinity Doctors. Loomed Gallifreyans were said to be considered "pale imitations" to the Womb-Born, with considerably weaker mental powers, suggesting that Rassilon instigated the forced social change to ensure that no Time Lord could become more powerful than he.