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 brings 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. Her regenerative abilities were attentively studied by Tecteun, and eventually replicated. This is put forward as the true origin of regeneration on Gallifrey. A radical 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 offers a new explanation for pre-Hartnell incarnations like the so-called "Morbius" Doctors, and continues to push the mystery around the "Fugitive" Doctor played by Jo Martin.

The Timeless Children also brought another redesign of the Cybermen not long after the warrior-class Cybermen in Ascension of the Cybermen in the form of CyberMasters - a branch created by the 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 own protection, with the group still being separated by the end of the episode.


Gallifrey is dead, the 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?


The Master persuades the Doctor to join him on Gallifrey; after some hesitation, the Doctor agrees and is then forced to enter the Matrix. He shows her the secret history of Gallifrey and reveals that the Shobogans, not the Time Lords, were the original species on the planet. One of them named Tecteun, a space explorer, was the first to leave Gallifrey and spent an untold amount of time searching the stars; eventually, she found a lone child left abandoned. Taking pity on the child, Tecteun adopted her and discovered the child had the ability to regenerate. After studying the child for many years (and forcing several regenerations to occur), Tecteun was successful in her studies. Once Tecteun tested it on herself and successfully regenerated, the society of Gallifrey increased exponentially and the Shobogans residing on the Citadel had the ability grafted into them, transforming them into Time Lords; they chose to limit one's regenerations to twelve. The Master reveals that the Doctor herself is the "timeless child". Tecteun and the child were inducted into a clandestine organisation called the Division, the details of which were redacted from the Matrix. The Doctor's memories were subsequently erased, prior to the childhood she remembers; only snippets remain, masked as the story of the Irish policeman Brendan.

With the Doctor trapped in the Matrix, the Master lures Ashad to Gallifrey and shrinks him with his tissue compression eliminator, taking the Cyberium. With its knowledge, the Master creates a race of infinitely-regenerating Cybermen, using the bodies of Time Lords, which he will use to take over the universe. In the Matrix, a vision of the Ruth Doctor gives the Doctor a means to escape by overloading the Matrix with all of her memories from her past regenerations.

On board the Cyber-carrier, Bescot is killed while Yaz, Graham, Ravio and Yedlarmi successfully hide from the invading Cybermen in empty Cyber-armor. They subsequently arrive at the Boundary and save the lives of Ryan, Ethan, and Ko Sharmus from Cybermen forces sent to the planet by Ashad. The group gather and agree to all go through the portal to Gallifrey.

The Doctor regroups with her companions, and they decide to destroy the Cyber-carrier; as they prepare the explosives, The Doctor discovers Ashad's minaturised body containing a "Death Particle" capable of destroying all organic life on a planet. Finding a room of default and unused TARDISes, she programs one to take her allies home. The Doctor attaches the minaturised body of Ashad to the explosive and sets off to confront the Master. She encounters the Master and the Time Lord-Cybermen hybrids (whom the Master earlier dubbed 'The CyberMasters'.) Despite being goaded by the Master to detonate it, she is unable to but Ko Sharmus appears and offers to take it as penance for failing to suitably hide the Cyberium. The Doctor escapes in another TARDIS as Ko Sharmus triggers the Death Particle, the explosion consuming Gallifrey and presumably destroying the Master along with the hybrids.

The Doctor's allies arrive on contemporary Earth in their TARDIS. The Doctor lands the other TARDIS near her own, but as she prepares to take off, she is arrested by the Judoon and teleported to a prison located inside an asteroid.


Special guest appearance by Jo Martin as The Doctor


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  • Shobogans were the original indigenous species of Gallifrey, who later genetically altered themselves into the Time Lords thanks to Tecteun's research.
  • The Timeless Child's species are a species from another reality or dimension that have the ability to regenerate infinitely and continuously change their appearance. Because of Tecteun's research, their DNA was placed into the Shobogans's DNA and thus created the Time Lords.


  • Time Lords have red blood; the 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.


  • 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 a TV show The Apprentice, claiming he "deserves to be its business partner, because he has performed well in all the tasks", a common excuse that the candidates from the TV show use to become Lord Sugar's business partner.


  • One death particle was able to wipe out all organic life at least on a planet.

Story notes

  • This episode used the same kind of "cold opening" used in Spyfall: Part Two; a recap of the preceding episode.
  • This episode had the most extensive use of archive footage in any of the Doctor Who episodes or any other media, and indeed any of the spin-offs as of 2020.[source needed]
  • Tecteun's 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.


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Filming locations

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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.

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Home video releases

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External links

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