The War Doctor


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John Hurt as The War Doctor

John Hurt as The War Doctor


Portrayed by John Hurt
Tenure 2013
First appearance The Name of the Doctor (guest)
First appearance The Night of the Doctor (regular)
Last appearance The Day of the Doctor (regular)
Appearances 2 stories


click on images to enlarge


It was announced that John Hurt sadly died on 28 January 2017.

The “War Doctor” was the post-eighth incarnation of the renegade Time Lord known as The Doctor. (The Night of the Doctor) This incarnation, originally young and robust, disowned the name of The Doctor due to his predecessor realising that a warrior was more appropriate for the unforgiving scope of the Time War. He would spend countless years waging war, aging significantly more than any other incarnation shown before.

This incarnation of The Doctor was later encountered by the Eleventh Doctor and Clara Oswald when they entered The Doctor’s own timestream. (The Name of the Doctor)


After the Eighth Doctor crash-landed during the Time War, he was revived temporarily by the Sisterhood of Karn. They offered to control his regeneration so that he could become the person he needed to be to end the Time War. Initially he refused, but after witnessing the death of Cass (the starship’s pilot, who refused The Doctor’s help because he was a Time Lord) he accepted their help and asked them to make him a warrior. After drinking a potion offered by the Sisterhood, he regenerated into his new incarnation, who promptly rejected the name of The Doctor, declaring, “Doctor no more”. (The Night of the Doctor)

The Sontarans told legends of The Doctor leading Time Lords into battle. (The Sontaran Stratagem) The 10th Doctor told the Cult of Skaro that he survived the Time War “by fighting, on the front line”, mentioning the fall of Arcadia as one of the battles he was present at. (Doomsday)

Originally young and robust, the ninth incarnation of The Doctor, christened the War Doctor by Alice Obiefune, set upon the warrior path for which he had been intended, and disavowed the name “The Doctor”. Though the Time Lords and Daleks continued to refer to him by that name, he was also referred to as “the Warrior”, the “Doctor of War”, and “the Renegade”, but, as far as The Doctor was concerned, he had no name.

As he fought alongside the Time Lords, he became regarded as a war hero who commanded a great deal of respect from the Time Lord military. One soldier stated that, during the Time War, the War Doctor was noted for going into battle unarmed, but winning nonetheless, with his unarmed state being the last thing many saw.

After becoming old, battle weary and faced with the end of reality, The Doctor considered activating the Moment to end the Time War by committing genocide against both the Daleks and his own people. However, the Moment’s sentient interface led him down a different path by letting him view his future first-hand. By teaming up with his future selves, his mind was opened to a peaceful way to end the Time War in lieu of the deadly alternative he was going to enact. Teaming up with past and future incarnations, the War Doctor helped to save Gallifrey from destruction; although he was not able to retain these memories, believing himself to have destroyed Gallifrey due to the timeline being out of sync.

After departing from his future incarnations’ company, and once again embracing the name of “The Doctor”, this incarnation regenerated into a younger form due to advanced old age

This Doctor became known to the Time Lords as “the Renegade”, and destroyed Gallifrey and ended the Time War using the Moment. (Sky Jacks, The End of Time)

When he was exposed to energy from a time storm, the Twelfth Doctor degenerated through all of his previous incarnations, including the War Doctor. (The Lost Magic)


the Eleventh Doctor, upon coming into contact with this incarnation, spurned the very memory of him. He went so far as to suggest this incarnation did not even hold the moniker of “The Doctor” due to his actions in life. He explained to Clara that his real name was not the point; he chose the name “The Doctor” and explained that the name a person chose was like a promise. This unknown incarnation was “the one who broke the promise.” He described him as “my secret.” This unknown incarnation responded by defending those actions, stating that what he did, he did “without choice” and “in the name of peace and sanity.” the Eleventh Doctor acknowledged that as true, but rebutted that it had not been “in the name of The Doctor.” As he carried Clara away, the unknown incarnation turned around and watched them with a sombre stare. (The Name of the Doctor)


The exact circumstances behind the War Doctor death are unknown. The Doctor’s tenth incarnation implied that this incarnation demise had been caused by the events of the Last Great Time War as he would later state that his ninth self was “born in battle”. (Journey’s End)


The War Doctor appeared old and bedraggled, wearing a distressed leather overcoat and a waistcoat. (The Name of the Doctor) His oldest article of dress was a bandolier across his left shoulder, taken off the body of Cass and equipped as an instrument for battle by him mere seconds after his regeneration was finished.

As shown immediately after his regeneration, this Doctor actually regenerated to a very young age, and seemed to have aged far more than any previous incarnation (other than the first) during his life. (The Night of the Doctor)

The Night of the Doctor

The War Doctor at the start of his life. (The Night of the Doctor)

This incarnation originally had a stern, shaven and determined face with a head of dusty brown hair. (The Night of the Doctor) However, after spending an inordinately long period fighting in the Time War, he became jaded and tired, with pronounced wrinkles and weary eyes. His hair colour turned entirely to a deep silver, which he slicked up in peaks at the top of his head. The elderly War Doctor also allowed himself to grow a full beard; he was the only incarnation to normally sport facial hair, rather than go clean-shaven, further distancing him from the other lives of the Time Lord. (The Name of the Doctor)

Behind the scenes

Hurt, aged 73 when he first appeared on screen, is the oldest actor to portray The Doctor upon their debut appearance. The second oldest would be William Hartnell, who was 55 years old when the show premiered in 1963.

Strax describes this incarnation of The Doctor as having “the look of a battle hardened warrior.” (Strax Field Report: The Doctor’s Greatest Secret)

This incarnation of The Doctor is never named during The Night of the Doctor itself, but is described as the War Doctor in the end credits.

Though John Hurt was 73 years old when he debuted as this incarnation of The Doctor, special effects were used to blend archive material of the actor from earlier in his life to depict the War Doctor with a younger appearance at birth.

The War Doctor also shares certain characteristics with the Valeyard. Most particularly, he’s a darker version of The Doctor who rejected the name of ‘The Doctor’ and the expectations that go with it.

The Keska incident

The Doctor dematerialised his TARDIS at Omega One as two Time Lords were about to detonate the Dalek’s Time Destructor on the Dalek Fleet. The Doctor allowed the Time Lords to return home and detonated the device himself. The Doctor was found in a coma on the planet Keska, and was nursed to health by Rejoice, a native Keskan. He wanted to help the Keskans stop the Taalyens from wiping them out, and constructed a force field to do this. Cardinal Ollistra used power from the Eye of Harmony to drag him back to Gallifrey. (The Innocent)

He was then sent to find Seratrix in the Null Zone with Veklin by Ollistra because he was an expert on the Daleks. He decided to disobey these orders and accidentally entered the Null Zone. He landed on Keska and discovered that the Daleks had helped the Taalyens bypass the force field. He met with an older Rejoice. He discovered that Seratrix wanted to make peace with the Daleks to stop the Time War. (The Thousand Worlds) He tried to tell Seratrix that his work was stupid as the Dalek plan to administer a defensive empire in the Null Zone wasn’t possible. He planned to show Seratrix the true Dalek plan, doing this by hacking into the Dalek systems.

Along with the Keskans, they destroyed the Daleks by deafening then, and stopped their plan by detonating the drill early. By this point he had accepted that he was a monster. (The Heart of the Battle)

War criminal

The Doctor destroyed the Annihilator on Vildar, but a Time Lady named Collis, who had been sent to retrieve it, died protecting him from Varga plants. Now deemed dead, The Doctor found himself on Aldriss, the planet of the Technomancers, where they had been reviving dead Time Lords, such as Collis, outraging The Doctor when he found out that the Valdarians were being sacrificed to revive the dead. Discovering that a small part of the Technomancer’s masters, the Horned Ones, were also being placed in the revived Time Lords, Collis and The Doctor ran to the Crypt of Non-Time, where the Annihilator resided after The Doctor had used it to wipe itself from time. After Collis died at the hands of the Technomancer leader, Shadovar, The Doctor set the Annihilator off, wiping the Technomacers and the Horned Ones from time. It was this act which Ollistra used to imprison him. (Legion of the Lost)

Placed in an Artron leash, The Doctor went with Ollistra, Jarad and Solex to Asteroid Theta 12. He was also tasked with discovering the purpose of the anima device. When he went to save Jarad, Ollistra accused of him of still keeping his values of his rejected name. He discovered that the Daleks were retro engineering themselves back into Kaleds, in order to get new insights into war. When he discovered the use of the anima device he allowed Ollistra to use it so they could escape. (A Thing of Guile)

Ollistra had programmed the TARDIS to travel into the Neverwhen explosion. There he witnessed the results of the Time Lord weapon. He initially helped a set of soldiers against an aggressor. He saw that time phasing at first hand when he saw Kaleds evolving into Daleks, and Time Lords retro-evolving into Cave Men before the Dark Times. Ollistra caught up with him and told him to dismantle the Neverwhen so that she can use it in conjunction with the anima device to destroy Skaro. Instead, he stopped it from working in the first place. The Doctor attempted to use it to create a state of peace where both Daleks and Time Lords were farmers, but their conflict was so ingrained that the residents of the new timeline still ended up fighting. Ollistra planned to use it along with the Neverwhen to destroy Skaro, but The Doctor modified the Neverwhen so that the experiment would be deemed a failure, as he felt that there was no way to predict the side-effects of Ollistra’s plan on the wider universe. (The Neverwhen)

Opposing the Dalek Time Strategist

He travelled to Earth to stop the Dalek Agent Lara Zannis from operating the Shadow Vortex. He was initially captured by the Stasi in East Berlin and interrogated by Kruger, and he later escaped with him and went to West Berlin to try to stop it from happening. In order to stop the Dalek invasion he materialised around the vortex and Zannis and took them with him back 45 minutes in time, and landed in her and the machine’s past killing her and reasserting the Web of Time. Returning from Earth back to the war he was informed by Heleyna that Ollistra had been kidnapped. (The Shadow Vortex)

He devised a plan to get onto Rovidia to recapture Ollistra from the Sontarans. He was amazed that the Sontarans were able to hold out for six hours against the Dalek time fleet. Using a stealth ship, and dressed as Rovidians, he went to the planet to rescue her. With the help of Kalan he got to the citadel where the Sontarans kept Ollistra. The closer he got to the citadel he experienced the pain of Vassarian during his prolonged regeneration. He couldn’t imagine the Sontaran’s allying with either the Daleks or Time Lords and realised Ollistra was bait, as they wanted to start a third front in the war. He worked out that it wasn’t the Sontarans that were controlling the atron energy but Vassarian, and discovered that he needed some help to stop the Sontarans. He then managed to escape in Vassarian’s Battle TARDIS with Ollistra, Kalan and Heleyna. He was pushed off the TARDIS by Heleyna in order to kill him. (The Eternity Cage)

Ollistra used the TARDIS’ transmat to get him back on the ship. He had to find Heleyna through the ship, avoiding her traps, which included the sabotaging of the ship’s Architectural reconfiguration system. He eventually made it to the Eye of Harmony chamber just in time before the Dalek Time Assault Squad arrived in the ship. He used Heleyna’s idea of manipulating the reconfiguration system and destroyed the chamber to stop the Daleks. This stopped the Daleks but stranded him in the Vortex. He realised that asking Heleyna to detonate a Dalek Dark Matter bomb would give the TARDIS enough energy to materialise into real time. When they did he tried to save Kalan but he had already died. (Eye of Harmony)

The Doctor and Ollistra were then captured and sent on an escape capture to be picked up by the Daleks. The Doctor avoided capture by flying the capsule to Beltox. Whilst there he met Schandel, who wanted to interview him as a war hero. The Doctor did not like this, especially when he learnt that the Daleks were going to arrive. He warned the locals in Fergil and helped to defend them by augmenting their climate control system to become a shield. Eventually, The Doctor realised he could trick the Daleks into thinking that he had tremendous firepower, and blew them up when they got arrogant. He then took Schandel’s time ship to its next destination. (Pretty Lies)

Arriving at Grend, he asked Rosata Laxter to help him locate the Lady of Obsidian, which he realised was Leela. He went into the Obsidian Nebula to find her. When he had to escape from The Unlived, his escape pod was taken by Leela’s forces. She couldn’t remember him properly due to her death by the Disruptor Dalek, but The Doctor tried to help her remember but this caused her more pain. Leela showed him the breach that cause the Unlived to get into the universe, he decided to close it. (The Lady of Obsidian)

He couldn’t get back to Gallifrey but there was a massless planet that was fractal in nature. He thought that there was a visual disturbance that was causing them to perceive it. He thought that destroying the Enigma was like fighting poetry with a battleship. He went to the origin of the Enigma. He thought that the Enigma had rewritten time to replace the Time Lords with Daleks. When he left the TARDIS in the Enigma’s dimension he couldn’t feel anything that he could comprehend and that the time War never happened. The Doctor realised that it was using emotions to contact Leela. The Doctor theorised that it was the contact with Leela that stopped the destruction of Gallifrey. He managed to get the TARDIS to absorb energy from the Daleks weapons. He wished that the Enigma should kill both races to stop a Time War. (The Enigma Dimension)

  • The War Doctor was the first among the incarnations of The Doctor introduced in the BBC Wales-produced series of Doctor Who to appear in Big Finish Productions.
    The War Doctor was dubbed in Portuguese by Isaac Bardavid and in German by Fred Maire.
  • He bears the sad distinction of being The Doctor whose actor passed away in the shortest amount of time after his debut, as John Hurt incurred an on-and-off bout with pancreatic cancer in the years to follow his appearances in the television series and audio stories, succumbing to it in early 2017.
  • The War Doctor’s existence and numberless designation was a workaround in response to the lack of Christopher Eccleston’s participation in the 50th-anniversary special. Since the Eighth Doctor had not been shown regenerating into the Ninth Doctor, it left the door open for another incarnation of The Doctor to theoretically exist between the two. As such, Steven Moffat appealed to John Hurt to take up the role because of his famous reputation among British actors, and he also liked the concept of a “mayfly Doctor” who has a short amount of time in existence in the television series before serving their purpose. This caused a permanent disruption in the numbering of The Doctor’s incarnations and ultimately accelerated the timetable on his regeneration cycle to be dealt with when Matt Smith left the series.
  • When the War Doctor’s costume was initially added to the display of Doctor outfits in The Doctor Who Experience, the bandoleer was incorrectly displayed over the right shoulder instead of the left.
    He placed last in the first popularity poll where he was included among choices of favourite incarnation of The Doctor taken by Doctor Who Magazine, not because he was disliked, but because his debut was so recent and sparse in the television series that he was overshadowed, predating the production of his audio adventures and many new stories to continue fleshing him out prior to the events of his regeneration.
  • Memorable Quotes

    “Oh for heavens sake, Gallifrey stands!”


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