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The Timeless Children was the tenth and final episode of series 12 of Doctor Who.

The episode brought to light an account of the Doctor's origins in which, prior to becoming the First Doctor, they had lived many forgotten lives as the Timeless Child. This new thread in the ongoing tapestry brought the Doctor, once again, to the forefront of Time Lord history.

In this new account, the Timeless Child was discovered near a boundary to another dimension or reality by the Shobogan traveller Tecteun, who took her in as her own. Their regenerative abilities were attentively studied by Tecteun and eventually replicated. This was put forward as the true origin of regeneration on Gallifrey. A result of this retroactive continuity is that the Doctor, in their earliest lives, was the biological template upon which Time Lord society was founded.

It also offered a new explanation for pre-William Hartnell incarnations, such as the so-called "Morbius" Doctors, and continued to push the mystery around the Fugitive Doctor played by Jo Martin.

The Timeless Children also brought another redesign of the Cybermen, after the Cyber-Warriors in Ascension of the Cybermen, in the form of the CyberMasters - Cyber-Warriors converted from dead Time Lords by the Spy Master, with the ability to regenerate.

The episode also brought about another shift in the current status quo, with the Doctor's companions, Ryan, Graham, and Yaz being returned to the 21st century without the Doctor, for their protection, with the group still being separated by the end of the episode.


Gallifrey is dead, the Spy Master is in control of an army of Cybermen ready to take over the universe, and Graham, Ryan, and Yaz are trapped, being hunted down with the last remnants of humanity. But for the Doctor, one question remains... Who is the Timeless Child?


Having just come through the Boundary, the Spy Master forces the Thirteenth Doctor to join him back through to Gallifrey, or else he will use his Tissue Compression Eliminator on Ryan, Ethan, and Ko Sharmus. Pulling her through, the others intend to follow, but a Cybercarrier appears overhead.

Inside, Graham, Yaz, Ravio, Yedlarmi, and Bescot attempt to sprint from Ashad and his Cybermen. Bescot holds them off as the others scramble through a vent, but she is killed in the process.

The Doctor and the Master land outside the ruins of Gallifrey's Capitol and he taunts her about his work. He plans on showing her a tour of the ruined Citadel and reminds her there is nothing she can do to help her friends.

On the Cybercarrier, the group makes it to a storage vault as Graham comes up with a mad idea. Reaching another carrier full of disabled Cyber-Warriors, he plans to hide in their armour as a disguise. Knowing how nasty the insides of a cyber-suit may be, Ravio works to disconnect the suits from their shared neural network as the others work on the bodies inside. Meanwhile, Ko Sharmus shows Ryan and Ethan his very limited weaponstore. Although Ryan has gained an aversion to weapons since travelling with the Doctor, the others say he has no choice.

Back on Gallifrey, the Master leads the Doctor to the centre of the ruined Citadel, reminding her of all the times they spent there. As he talks, a mini scanner in his pocket notifies him that the Cybermen have reached the Boundary. He extends a holographic call to Ashad and they introduce themselves. The Master coaxes Ashad to join him on Gallifrey and successfully convinces him to send some Cybermen to Ko Sharmus' planet as the carrier sets course for Gallifrey.

Meanwhile, Graham and Yaz take a moment to relax while Ravio and Yedlarmi work on the cyber-suits. He lets her know in case they do not survive that he thinks she is incredibly impressive, arguably more so than the Doctor, as she keeps fighting without Time Lord technology to help her. He says that she is doing the human race proud, leaving her deeply moved. With a tear in her eye, she jokes that he is not bad either, just as the others say their plan is ready. Meanwhile, the Cyberguards alert Ashad to the humans' meddling. Ashad plans to get them himself.

On Gallifrey, the Doctor tries to question the Master on why he would work with the Cybermen, but he prepares to show her the unbelievable truth that he had previously mentioned. Knowing she will not believe him, he takes her to the Matrix, the total of all Time Lord knowledge that he chose not to destroy. He explains that he was casually hacking the system when he found the truth for himself. He captures the Doctor in a paralysis field and she appeals to him to save her friends but he ignores her. Preparing to send her deep into the Matrix, he warns her that it will hurt.

Ashad enters the Cybercarrier's storage unit where the four humans have hidden in cyber-suits. After a lot of deep analysis of them, he decides nothing is wrong and is called away by one of his guards as they are reaching the Boundary. Graham tries to find a way out for the group.

In the Matrix, the Master shows a pained Doctor the secret history of Gallifrey, with both of them appearing in the projections of his story. He reveals that the Shobogans, not the Time Lords, were the indigenous species on the planet. One of them, Tecteun I, was the planet's first space explorer and one day, upon searching another planet, she found a gateway to another dimension or universe. Beneath it lay a young girl. Tecteun adopted her and after she grew up a little, she brought the child back to Gallifrey to figure out where she came from, but with no luck. Then, one day, when playing on a cliffside with a friend, the child fell. However, instead of dying, she regenerated - the first time this ever had happened on Gallifrey.

The Master is briefly interrupted from telling his story by the arrival of the Cybercarrier over the Capitol. Near the Boundary, the Cybermen land to take down the humans, but they are distracted by Ko Sharmus' weaponry which they quickly destroy. It falls to Ryan to throw a bomb at a large group of them and he succeeds, overcoming his nervousness due to his dyspraxia. However, one Cyberman is left standing; Ryan runs.

Ashad finally arrives in the Citadel and the Master says he wants to help him. However, Ashad reveals his plan is to wipe out all organic life in the universe via the death particle, placed in his chest by the Cyberium. Ashad explains that his warriors will be fully automated, including himself, but the Master is disappointed in the lack of imagination of simply making themselves robots. Although Ashad is offended, he allows the Master to use his cyber-conversion processes. The Master follows him as his consciousness deals with the Doctor.

The Master's story continues. With the child having regenerated, Tecteun dedicated her life to solving the mystery, through several of the child's forced regenerations as they grew older. Finally, after many years, she cracked the code. Taking a risk to test it on herself, the regeneration eventually worked, turning her male. With the knowledge gained, Shobogans created the Citadel, discovered time travel, and Tecteun, as part of the ruling elite, chose to have the ability grafted into his species, transforming them into Time Lords. They chose to limit their regenerations to twelve, with the "Timeless Child" as the base of Gallifreyan genetics, "and the rest, as they say, is history." With the story all but finished, the Doctor asks what happened to the child. The Master laughs, calling it obvious, and reveals that the child is, and always has been, the Doctor herself. She cannot contain the revelation as the Matrix starts to warp around her.

Meanwhile, Ryan, Ethan, and Ko Sharmus run from the Cybermen, grab what few guns they have and try to take a few down. Although a few are killed, one captures Ethan and gives the others ten seconds to surrender before he is executed. As the two arrive to surrender, the Cybermen's weapons fire, but they arrive to find four Cybermen stood over some collapsed ones. One takes its helmet off, revealing Yaz inside, and the rest of her group appear as well.

Ashad leads the Master to the Cybermen's storage inside the carrier, but he says that his orders will be given by the Cyberium. He tells the Master that it will not vacate him while he lives, so the Master calmly uses his TCE to kill him. The Cyberium appears in mid-air, and the Master admits that he thought the death particle would be activated by Ashad's miniaturisation. Keeping the miniaturised Ashad and his death particle close, the Master proposes to be the Cyberium's "business partner" and it enters his body with the promise of absolute supremacy.

In the Matrix, the Doctor wakes up in a projection of a vast green landscape with the Master. She refuses to believe his story, knowing her own history, but he promises that it is true. The Master explains her real childhood did happen, it just was not the start of her life. He is most furious, however, that her genetics went into the creation of him. Shoving the Master to the ground, she demands he show her the rest. Tecteun and the child were inducted into a clandestine organisation called the Division, led by a Time Lord called Solpado, whose job it was to intervene in time when necessary, with the child's memories being erased of their time working for them. However, the scene shifts to that of Brendan from Ireland, which the Doctor admits to having seen visions of. It is revealed that his retirement clock reads "For Services To The Division" before the scene disappears. The Master explains that the details of the child, and the Doctor's, life were redacted from the Matrix, unrecoverable, but it took up a lot of space. Tecteun masked the story to be that of the fictional Brendan so it would appear unremarkable. The Master wonders how many more lives the Doctor has had.

The Doctor wakes up in the Citadel as the Master explains that, although he ruined the planet, he kept the Time Lords' bodies just in case. He reveals that he has decided to create a race of Cybermen made out of Time Lords, with the ability to regenerate, with which he will take over the universe. Several of these Cybermen, dubbed CyberMasters, enter the room. To test his experiment, the Master orders one to shoot another, and the Cyberman falls to the ground, seemingly dead. However, after a few seconds, it regenerates and returns to its rank. With the Doctor still paralysed, the Master leads off his new army.

Back by the Boundary, the Doctor's friends gather to visit Gallifrey. Of the seven of them, Yaz volunteers to try crossing first and the group successfully cross over to Gallifrey. Yaz swears that they will find the Doctor and save her as she saved them.

In the Matrix, the Doctor wakes up to find a vision of the Fugitive Doctor, who is equally confused as to how she is there. The Thirteenth Doctor asks if her memories of being her were erased before she was reverted to a child, but the Fugitive Doctor does not have the answers. However, she states that they have never been limited by their past before and should not be again. When the Thirteenth Doctor cannot think of how to escape the Matrix and stop the Master, the Fugitive Doctor tells her to focus on "the one thing he said that you didn't understand" and suggests she should blow the Matrix's mind. She vanishes and the Doctor decides to overload the Matrix with all of her memories from her past regenerations. Finding her energy back, she focuses intently and her entire history of faces, friends, and enemies in reverse chronological order flashes before her, going further past the First Doctor to the Fugitive Doctor, the so-called "Morbius" Doctors, and finally the Timeless Child before the Matrix explodes.

The Doctor collapses on the floor of the destroyed Citadel, freed but unconscious, as her friends find her. She comes to and they share their new findings, deciding to destroy the Cybercarrier, although the Doctor admits it will not stop the Master. However, the Doctor remembers the one thing she did not understand - Ashad claiming he held the death of everything - and the others tell her the story of the death particle. With a plan to detonate it on Gallifrey then escape, the Doctor locks on to the Master's location.

Around the Cybercarrier, the Doctor's allies set up bombs but cannot find the Master. However, the Doctor discovers Ashad's miniaturised body. The Master makes psychic contact with the Doctor, having laid her a false trail, but she tells them that they will meet in the Matrix Chamber alone. As Ko Sharmus' bombs detonate early, the group, split in two, leaves as fast as possible as the Cybercarrier blows up, destroying the Cyber-Army onboard and foiling Ashad's plan to restore the Cyber-Empire.

Escaping to the Capitol and finding a room of default and unused TARDISes, the Doctor programs one to take her friends and the refugees back to the 21st century. Ko Sharmus has one hand-detonated bomb left and the Doctor plans to use it on the death particle, destroying all remaining life on Gallifrey. Knowing she will die too, the Doctor bids one final heartbroken farewell, telling her "fam" to "live great lives".

In the Matrix room, the Doctor meets the Master, with his CyberMasters still in tow. He tells her that he will let her live to witness his victories and that the Cyberium lives in him now. He believes he has broken the Doctor, but she tells him she feels the opposite; she is so much more than she previously imagined. She pulls out the miniaturised body of Ashad attached to the explosive, but, despite being goaded by the Master to detonate it and become like him, she is unable to go through with her plan. However, Ko Sharmus appears, having left the TARDIS, and explains how he sent the Cyberium back through time and space and offers to take the death particle as penance for failing to suitably hide it. The Doctor sprints away and escapes in another TARDIS as Ko Sharmus triggers the death particle, the explosion consuming Gallifrey and everything on it.

The rest of the Doctor's allies arrive on contemporary Earth in their TARDIS, which materialises as a detached house to blend in with the housing estate where it has landed, with them unaware of the Doctor's fate. The Doctor lands the other TARDIS, in the shape of a tree, in a quarry on the refugees' planet near her own TARDIS, which she fondly greets. She takes a moment to herself, extremely shaken by the events, before going to pick up her friends. However, as she prepares to take off, a siren sounds and three Judoon beam in. A Judoon Captain introduces the trio as a cold case unit who have tracked down the long-lost escaped fugitive, the Doctor, and she is arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment in a maximum-security facility. Being teleported to a solitary prison located inside an asteroid in deep space, she can only stammer "what?!" as she looks out on her surroundings, completely isolated, with no way out, and very far from home.


Uncredited cast[]


General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics



General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.



  • Shobogans were the original indigenous species of Gallifrey, some of whom genetically altered themselves into the Time Lords through Tecteun I's research on the Timeless Child.
  • The Timeless Child's species are a species from another reality or dimension that have the ability to regenerate and change their appearance. Tecteun was able to splice elements of their DNA into herself and other Shobogans, creating the Time Lords.


  • Time Lords have red blood; the Spy Master mentions that a "red carpet" is such because it is "drenched in the blood of [his] people".


  • An early incarnation of the Doctor was recruited by the Division, an organisation which officially did not exist nor had operatives and acted against the non-interference policy of the Time Lords.
  • The Judoon possess a "cold case" unit.


  • When showing the destroyed Citadel to the Doctor, the Master references "Ozymandias", a sonnet by Percy Shelley.
  • When the Master requests an alliance with the Cyberium, he references the TV show The Apprentice, claiming he "deserves to be its business partner, because he has performed well in all the tasks", which was a common excuse used to become Lord Sugar's business partner.


Story notes[]

  • This episode used the same kind of "cold opening" used in Spyfall: Part Two, recapping the preceding episode.
  • This episode had the most extensive use of archive footage in any Doctor Who media as of 2021.
  • Tecteun and the Timeless Child's regenerations mark the first time female to male regeneration has been seen onscreen. However, the first depiction of a female regenerating into a male in any media was in AUDIO: Enemy Lines. In the case of the Timeless Child, multiple regenerations were shown, both female to male and male to female.
  • The episode's cliffhanger ending calls back to the cliffhanger endings of both Doomsday and Last of the Time Lords, in which the dumbfounded Doctor repeatedly utters the word "what?" in response to the events suddenly and rapidly unfolding around them.
  • This episode is the first time in the show's history, discounting full red and full blue from various previous stories, that clips from the William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton eras have been shown in colour.
  • This marks the second time the theme music has been used during a TV story, playing across the Doctor's Matrix mind-blow-up sequence. The first time was in The Woman Who Fell to Earth.
  • This story strongly implies that the faces in the mind battle with Morbius in The Brain of Morbius are incarnations of the Doctor, something long debated amongst fans, as these eight faces had not appeared since, with following stories seemingly debunking them.
  • The Timeless Children made such a huge impact on the fandom as a whole that the episode made it into the satirical website News Thump.[7]
  • The episode used an anagram for actor Sacha Dhawan on the Doctor Who website; "Barack Stemis" which, if re-arranged, becomes "Master is Back", and playing a false character called "Fakout".[8][9] This tactic, discounting in-universe examples from 2007's Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords, has not been seen on television since The King's Demons in 1983. Back then it was used in the credits of the episode. Another more recent example is Mark Gatiss being credited, in the old tradition, as Sam Kisgart, for his role as a parallel universe Master, though this was more of a tongue-in-cheek reference to the classic trope than a genuine attempt at audience subterfuge.
  • This story is the third consecutive finale for an even-numbered season to feature both the Master and the Cybermen, following Death in Heaven and The Doctor Falls.
  • In the scene corresponding to the point where Tecteun's male incarnation stands alongside two other Time Lords in full high-collared regalia, the episode's script release mentions that "we can assume [the other two] might be Rassilon and Omega".[10] 2nd assistant director Mark Corden cast himself as the Omega stand-in and hired a Don Warrington lookalike to play Rassilon, in homage to Warrington's portrayal of Rassilon in Big Finish.[5]
  • Similar to Hell Bent, this story takes place primarily on Gallifrey and is the second season finale for its respective Doctor.
  • In a roundabout way, this episode also provides a televised fulfilment of the "Cartmel Masterplan".
  • The premise of this episode also fulfils several elements of the Hybrid prophecy from Season 9.
    • A hybrid creature (the Spy Master had merged with the Cyberium), would stand over the ruins of Gallifrey and unravel the Web of Time (the Master had hacked into the Matrix), breaking a billion billion hearts to heal its own (the Master had also slaughtered the Time Lords after he became distraught at learning the truth of their origins).
  • This story is the third to feature multiple on-screen regenerations, following Planet of the Spiders and Twice Upon a Time, and the first such story in which the then-current incarnation of the Doctor is not among those shown to regenerate.
  • Early versions of this story referred to Ashad as the 'Cyberzealot', like the previous two episodes, and swapped the roles of Ryan and Yaz. Additionally, the death particle would have been created by the Cyberzealot as a mercy to kill humanity in the event of losing to the Cybermen. (DWM 570 supplement)
  • On production documents, the Fugitive Doctor was named as Ruth, the Master as O, and Gallifrey as the village of Gilfach Goch in south Wales to disguise their real identities. (DWM 570 supplement)


  • 3.78 million (BBC overnight)[11]
  • 4.69 million (BBC final)[12]

Filming locations[]

  • Nash Point, Marcross, Llantwit Major - shanty town
  • Garth Hill, Cardiff - The Matrix green landscape
  • Taffs Well Quarry, Morganstown, Cardiff - Gallifrey
  • Aberthaw Power Station - Cybercarrier corridors
  • Craiglee Drive, Cardiff - House TARDIS' housing estate
  • Mamhilad Park Estate, Pontypool - Cybercarrier
  • St Fagans National Museum of History, Cardiff - Ireland

(All DWM 570 supplement)


Production errors[]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • The extreme close-up shot of the bomb activating the death particle is in the wrong format, which causes a horizontal stretch of the image. This is due to a wrong de-squeeze of the footage filmed with an anamorphic lens.
  • When the CyberMaster who was shot and regenerates stands up to resume its position, it can briefly be seen that its Cyber-helmet is not on correctly and the actor underneath is visible.


Home video releases[]

DVD and Blu-ray releases[]

  • This story was released as part of the Complete Twelfth Series boxset on DVD and Blu-ray in region 1/A on 9 June 2020, in region 2/B on 4 May 2020 and in region 4/B on 3 June 2020.

Digital releases[]

  • In the United Kingdom, this story is available on BBC iPlayer.

External links[]