The Timeless Children
01 March 2020
Julie Graham (Ravio), Orla O’Rourke (Meg), Rhiannon Clements (Bescot), Seylan Baxter (Tecteun), Kirsty Besterman (Solpado Caolan), Sacha Dhawan (The Master), Patrick O’Kane (Ashad), Alex Austin (Yedlarmi), Matt Carver (Ethan), Ian McElhinney (Ko Sharmus), Nicholas Briggs (voice of the Cybermen), Seylan Baxter (Tecteun), Kirsty Besterman (Solpado), Paul Kasey (Judoon Captain), Nicholas Briggs (Voice of Cybermen & Judoon Captain), Matthew Rohman, Simon Carew, Jon Davey, Richard Highgate, Richard Price, Mickey Lewis, Matthew Doman, Paul Bailey (Cybermen), guest appearance by Jo Martin (The Doctor)
|Written by||Chris Chibnall|
|Directed by||Jamie Magnus Stone|
|Produced by||Nikki Wilson, Adam Friedlander & Alex Mercer|
In the epic and emotional series finale, the Cybermen are on the march. As the last remaining humans are ruthlessly hunted down, Graham, Ryan and Yaz face a terrifying fight to survive. Civilisations fall. Others rise anew. Lies are exposed, truths are revealed, battles are fought, and for The Doctor — trapped and alone — nothing will ever be the same again.
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 TThe 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.
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 (here posited as The Doctor’s species) are a species from another planet 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.
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.
Time Lords had red blood; The Master mentioned that a “red carpet” was such because it was “drenched in the blood of [his] people”.
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.
- 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.
- 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 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 confirms that the faces in the mind battle with Morbius in The Brain of Morbius are incarnations of the Doctor, something long debated amongst fans, on the grounds that these 8 faces did not appear 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.
- The episode used an anagram for actor Sacha Dhawan on The Doctor Who website; “Barack Stemis” which, if re-arranged, means “Master is Back” and playing a false character called “Fakout”. 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.
- The Master and his army of CyberMasters mimic the rallying speech of Rassilon at the end of the Last Great Time War. (The End of Time)
- The Master reminisces about assassinating presidents with The Doctor. (Birth of a Renegade, The Deadly Assassin)
- The Master reveals the truth of the Timeless Child. (The Ghost Monument, Spyfall, Can You Hear Me?)
- The Doctor and The Master see Brendan and the Garda in “Ireland”. (Ascension of the Cybermen)
- Graham and Yaz wear Cyber-suits to disguise as Cyber-Warriors, similar to the gambit Bates and Stratton attempted on Telos. (Attack of the Cybermen)
- The Doctor sees the “Ruth” Doctor within the Matrix. (Fugitive of the Judoon)
- The Master reveals that the original inhabitants of Gallifrey were the Shobogans. This is a term which, by their time, had come to be used by a group that lived outside traditional Time Lord society. (The Deadly Assassin, The Eight Doctors, All-Consuming Fire) The Shobogans themselves were a sub-group of the Outsiders. (The Invasion of Time, Weapon of Choice, The Eight Doctors)
- The Master refers to the Great Cyber War, which he claims to have lived through. (Last of the Cybermen, Revenge of the Cybermen)
- The Master recalls fleeing from Borusa (The Deadly Assassin, The Five Doctors) when they were young.
- The Master double-crosses Ashad and kills him as he had done to a Cyber-Leader on the Death Zone. (The Five Doctors)
- The Master names his Time Lord-converted Cybermen under his command the “CyberMasters”. Previously, he transformed humanity into what he dubbed the “Master Race”. (The End of Time) Before that, he named himself “Cyber-Master” while posing as a converted Cybermen. (Master of Worlds)
- Incidentally, Karl believed the Cybermen to be “the master race”. (Silver Nemesis)
- The Master wishes he had thought of making a pun before using the Tissue Compression Eliminator on Ashad. (The Two Masters)
- The Doctor’s memories used to overwhelm the Matrix are of:
* The Master (Spyfall)
* Ashad and his Cyberguards (Ascension of the Cybermen)
* Herself absorbing the Cyberium and Team TARDIS (The Haunting of Villa Diodati)
* Rakaya (Can You Hear Me?)
* Gat, the “Fugitive” Doctor and Captain Jack Harkness (Fugitive of the Judoon)
* Herself running from Praxeus infected birds (Praxeus)
* Nikola Tesla and the Queen of the Skithra (Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror)
* A Dreg (Orphan 55)
* The TARDIS beside the ruined Capitol (Spyfall)
* A Kasaavin (Spyfall)
* The reconnaissance scout Dalek (Resolution)
* The Ux (The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos)
* The Solitract as Grace O’Brien and Team TARDIS in the fjord (It Takes You Away)
* A Morax and herself chained down (The Witchfinders)
* Umbreen and Prem’s wedding (Demons of the Punjab)
* A Kerb!am Man (Kerblam!)
* The Pting (The Tsuranga Conundrum)
* Giant spider’s webs (Arachnids in the UK)
* Rosa Parks (Rosa)
* The TARDIS and remnants on Desolation (The Ghost Monument)
* Tim Shaw (The Woman Who Fell to Earth)
* Herself choosing an outfit (The Woman Who Fell to Earth)
* Davros (The Stolen Earth)
* Rose Tyler (The Stolen Earth)
* The Sycorax leader (The Christmas Invasion)
* Donna Noble (Partners in Crime)
* A Slitheen (World War Three)
* Amy Pond (The Impossible Astronaut)
* The Abzorbaloff (Love & Monsters)
* River Song (A Good Man Goes to War)
* An animated scarecrow (The Family of Blood)
* Wilfred Mott (Journey’s End)
* Clara Oswald (Dark Water)
* General Staal of the Tenth Sontaran Battle Fleet (The Poison Sky)
* Bill Potts (The Pilot)
* An Ood (The Impossible Planet)
* Martha Jones (Smith and Jones)
* Mickey Smith (Boom Town)
* The Empress of the Racnoss (The Runaway Bride)
* Rory Williams (A Good Man Goes to War)
* Jatt of the Sisters of Plenitude (New Earth)
* Sarah Jane Smith (The Stolen Earth)
* The Twelfth Doctor, (Listen, The Magician’s Apprentice, Hell Bent)
* The Eleventh Doctor (The Almost People, The Bells of St John, The Rings of Akhaten)
* The Tenth Doctor (Last of the Time Lords, The End of Time, The Runaway Bride)
* The Ninth Doctor (Rose, The Parting of the Ways)
* The War Doctor (The Name of the Doctor, The Day of the Doctor)
* The Eighth Doctor (The Night of the Doctor, Doctor Who)
* The Seventh Doctor (The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, Time and the Rani, The Curse of Fenric)
* The Sixth Doctor (The Ultimate Foe, Vengeance on Varos)
* The Fifth Doctor (Time-Flight, Arc of Infinity, The Caves of Androzani)
* The Fourth Doctor (The Brain of Morbius, Pyramids of Mars)
* The Third Doctor (Planet of the Spiders, Carnival of Monsters)
* The Second Doctor (The Moonbase, The War Games, The Tomb of the Cybermen)
* The First Doctor (The War Machines, An Unearthly Child, The Name of the Doctor)
* A Sea Devil (The Sea Devils)
* The Master (World Enough and Time)
* A Zygon (Terror of the Zygons)
* Sil (Vengeance on Varos)
* Missy (Empress of Mars)
* Sharaz Jek (The Caves of Androzani)
* An Auton (Terror of the Autons)
* The Master (Utopia)
* A Voc (The Robots of Death)
* The Master (The TV Movie)
* Sutekh (Pyramids of Mars)
* An Ogron (Day of the Daleks)
* The Master (Logopolis)
* The Ancient One (The Curse of Fenric)
* The Master (The Deadly Assassin)
* The Master (The Sea Devils)
* Scaroth (City of Death)
* Various incarnations of the Timeless Child (Spyfall, Can You Hear Me?)
* Seven of the faces seen during the mindbending battle against Morbius (The Brain of Morbius)
* Brendan (Ascension of the Cybermen)
* The “Fugitive” Doctor (Fugitive of the Judoon)
- The Doctor seeks to uphold the rule “No humans on Gallifrey”, echoing her reason for leaving behind Sarah Jane Smith. (The Hand of Fear)
- The Doctor mentions Percy Shelley when she takes responsibility for the Cyberium. (The Haunting of Villa Diodati)
- The Doctor returns her companions home in a TARDIS while she prepares to sacrifice herself to destroy some of her oldest enemies. Similarily, the Ninth Doctor sent Rose Tyler home in the TARDIS as he confronted the Dalek Emperor and his human-converted Daleks. (The Parting of the Ways)
- The Doctor is prepared to sacrifice herself using a weapon that cannot be remotely detonated, only for Ko Sharmus to take her place. Previously, the Ninth Doctor offered to light the match which would stop the Gelth for the sake of Gwyneth, who silently refused. (The Unquiet Dead) Earlier still, Orcini, despite the Sixth Doctor’s protests, chose to hand detonate a bomb to destroy Davros’ Daleks. (Revelation of the Daleks)
- Ko Sharmus was part of the resistance unit who sent the Cyberium through time and space. (Fugitive of the Judoon, The Haunting of Villa Diodati)
- The Doctor once again steals a TARDIS in order to run away from Gallifrey. (The Beginning, The Name of the Doctor, Hell Bent)
- The Doctor responds to being ambushed by the Judoon aboard her TARDIS by repeatedly exclaiming “what?”, as the Tenth Doctor had previously done when caught by surprise aboard his TARDIS. (The Runaway Bride, Time Crash, Voyage of the Damned)
- The Cybermen use transmats. (Revenge of the Cybermen, The Pandorica Opens, Nightmare in Silver)
- The Master once again works with the Cybermen, and is once again instrumental in creating a new race of them. (The Five Doctors, Dark Water/ Death in Heaven, World Enough and Time)
- The Cybermen again show their ability to convert the bodies of the deceased. (Dark Water/ Death in Heaven)
- The Eighth Doctor previously uncovered another secret hushed up by the Founders of Gallifrey: the role Rassilon had played in the true origin of the Ravenous. The Doctor hypothesised that Rassilon had invented the myth of their creation precisely to hide his own involvement in the events on Kolstan. (Day of the Master)
- The Doctor states that she had fought the Matrix before and denied its reality. The Fourth Doctor previously entered the Matrix to locate The Master after the Time Lord President was assassinated, and was forced to fight against the Matrix, which was manipulated by Chancellor Goth. (The Deadly Assassin) The Sixth Doctor had also entered the Matrix after following the Valeyard and had to deal with the Matrix and its reality. (The Ultimate Foe)
- The Master had twice before secretly infiltrated and manipulated the Matrix for his own ends. (The Deadly Assassin, The Ultimate Foe)
- Lady Peinforte once threatened to reveal The Doctor’s secrets concerning his role on Gallifrey during the Dark Time. She believed this secret would prove the Seventh Doctor’s downfall. (Silver Nemesis)
- 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 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). (Hell Bent)