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Published on August 23rd, 2013 | by Alex Skerratt

Moffat: “The Time Lords Are Dead”

For those waiting patiently for the return of Gallifrey’s most famous Time Lady Romana, or maybe even – dare we say it – The Rani, Steven Moffat had some sobering news.

Speaking this week to Frank Skinner and Fred MacAulay at the AdLib Comedy event in Edinburgh, Moffat stated:

“I have actually given no thought at all to Romana. The Time Lords are dead in my mind. They died.”

He couldn’t, however, rule out the return of Jenny, the Doctor’s genetically-engineered daughter played by Georgia Moffett, insisting that the door had been left well and truly open.

And speaking of Time Lord mortality, everyone knows that, after the thirteenth Doctor has spawned, it really is game over. With a regeneration awaiting Matt Smith this Christmas, fans have been gazing nervously at their fob watches, wondering how, exactly, the Time Lord will circumnavigate this tricky situation.

Steven Moffat gave little away. When asked if he acknowledged that the Doctor can only regenerate twelve times, his answer was short and succinct:


Looks like we’re going to be left hanging on this one…


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About the Author


likes William Hartnell, whisky, being creative, debating canonicity, The Gunfighters, The Keys of Marinus and City of Death. He has a strong dislike of cold quiche, corporate PowerPoint presentations and lanyards, but loves terrible puns. He's currently employed by a mute teddy bear with black ears.

82 Responses to Moffat: “The Time Lords Are Dead”

  1. I don’t believe anything anyone says any more. It’s all misdirection. We were told all the Timelords were dead, then the Master showed up.

    • Yes but the master was trapped in a fob watch, however with the death of the Time Lords there is no Council. The Council determined the regenerations as a way to control the population. Without the Council The Doctor can regenerate as many times as he wants, in fact when he was asked how many times he could regenerate the 10th Doctor replied “507″

      • avatar Mark Lenton says:

        totally correct except it was the 11th who said that

        • Rule 1: The Doctor Lies
          Rule 2: Steven Moffat Lies

      • avatar Mike Osborne says:

        The Doctor Lies – River Song

      • avatar Matt Hickman says:

        that was a joke it’s pretty clear form the context

        • Seemed to me like a flustered answer more than a joke.

    • avatar Anna Griffin says:

      Misdirection…the question was if “The Doctor” can only regenerate twelve times…but we know he can regenerate and not be The Doctor too…

      • avatar FrancoPabloDiablo says:

        I assume this is a reference to John Hurt? In which case you must have already had the privilege of viewing the 50th Anniversary special. Care to enlighten us to the plot so as to explain your thinking behind your comment as no-one else knows who John Hurt’s incarnation is and won’t until November 23rd 2013.

        • You do realize she could mean the Valeyard and not John Hurt. But I am sure your arrogant response was more for your benefit than it was for anyone else’s.

  2. avatar Spider-pope says:

    As we all know, Moffat lies.

    • avatar Möbius flame says:

      Rule 1

  3. avatar FrancoPabloDiablo says:

    Watch Death Of The Doctor for evidence debunking the 12-regenerations fate. Dealt with nicely in one throw-away line.

    • avatar RTO Trainer says:

      Hardly. If that line were true, why did the Master have to steal the body of Tremas?

      • avatar FrancoPabloDiablo says:

        Because that was LONG before the destruction of Gallifrey and the Time Lords.

      • Please explain how the Master returned in the new series if the only way he could continue was to inhabit the body of another. Could it possibly be because there are ways around 12 regenerations and thus 13 incarnations? Please keep in mind that it was one line that from “Deadly Assasins” that gave us that number and the only other time it is stated as a fact is the movie that also says he is half human. And let us not forget that in “The Five Doctors” the master is offered an entirely new set of regenerations.

        • avatar RTO Trainer says:

          The explanation given was that the Time Lords brought him back for the Time War. It’s established that they have ways to grant additional regenerations. So, now an answer to my question?

    • avatar TonyS says:

      Death of the Doctor doesn’t finally nail it I’m afraid. But like the others I don’t believe him. It’ll last beyond Doc 13 if trhe show is still a money-spinner.

    • I always interpreted the line in Death of the Doctor to be the Doctor answering Clyde’s questions jokingly.

    • avatar Erika Bates says:

      you do realize that River gave him all her remaining regenerations… right?

      • avatar barry rix says:

        Thank you, Erika, pleased someone else had picked up on this.

      • avatar Maria says:

        Yes but to heal The Doctor not add to his tally. That wasn’t clarified. He used some of his regeneration energy to heal her wrist. We did not see her regenerate before going to The Library.

      • avatar Time_lady says:

        yes , she did , but only to cure him from the poison . so rivers regenerations are alredy used.

    • avatar Matt Hickman says:

      He was joking

  4. avatar krumstets says:

    Couldn’t agree more with the three comments above.
    The Time Lords are clearly not dead & I bet he hasn’t ‘thought’ about Romana!

  5. avatar dailypop says:

    Exactly, Jeffrey.

    Even if someone says ‘all the Time Lords are dead’ on screen it means nothing because the program can contradict itself at the whim of Moffat, the same guy who invented the ‘timey wimey’ and ‘The Doctor lies’ gimmicks to get out of any corner he finds himself in.

  6. avatar Derek Watson says:

    He than added ‘…and no’ fairly quickly after that statement.

  7. avatar Derek Watson says:


  8. avatar Colin says:

    Naturally, as a life-long fan of the show, it’s understandable that Moffat would remember Ice Warriors, Zygons, Rassilon, and countless Who minutia… and not even give a passing thought to Romana–one of his companions. Suuuuure!

    Here’s what I think went through Moffat’s head when the question was asked: “Oh… Romana… I hadn’t seriously considered bringing her back, but now you mention it… Oh, no, wait… can’t say that… ummm… what to say?? Default mode: LIE LIE LIE LIE… Time Lords are dead… I hadn’t even thought about Romana… no way we’re bringing back Romana…” :)

    Unless the show gets cancelled within the next five or so years, the BBC will insist that Moffat figure out a work-around to the regeneration issue. Assuming he doesn’t already have a work-around. Which he probably does.

    BTW, here’s an interesting interview with RTD on the regeneration line from “Death of the Doctor”: RTD notes that the “13 regenerations,” while not ingrained in the show’s lore from the beginning, has stuck with people. From the sound of it, he didn’t give serious thought to changing this limitation. And it seems Moffat’s of the same mind.

    It’ll be interesting to see what they end up doing. It’s Doctor Who, so the possibilities are endless. Of course they can find a way around it. The Master managed to, after all… :)

    • avatar FrancoPabloDiablo says:

      My God… What if the 14th Doctor is Eric Roberts!!!

      • avatar Colin says:

        Now, Julia, maybe… ;)

        • avatar FrancoPabloDiablo says:

          Julia could be the Rani!

          I say that jokingly but I can actually see it! :)

          • avatar Colin says:

            Actually–oddly–so can I! :)

        • avatar iLikeTheUDK says:

          Or William Hartnell.
          Who then finds out Jenny had a daughter, who he meets has her join his travels in time and space, until they land in early ’60s Shoreditch, London, where his granddaughter enrolls to a middle school called Coal Hill School, and is taught science by teacher Ian Chesterton and history by teacher Barbara Wright.
          And so it begins, all over again…

          • avatar vortexter says:

            Leela and Andred are the Doctors parents. Human mother, Timelord father. And Leela named their child after the Doctor…

          • avatar Time_lady says:

            wow 0-0 i never thought about it

  9. avatar Elton Townend Jones says:

    Not true on the regeneration nonsense. He also said ‘And no’. I was there. as was Derek Watson – hello!

  10. avatar rickjlundeen says:

    I think we’re taking everything too literal here, as always. I bet he hasn’t thought of Romana–in regards to bringing her into the show. He’s not saying he’s lost all memory of her, just that he hasn’t been considering a storyline involving her. You can’t get all caught up on dwelling on the classic stuff. Upward and onward. It’s worked until now.

    However, from what he says (and half of it probably is BS…) that Time Lords do only have 13 lives/12 regenerations as a rule. That also doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to get a new life cycle. Whatever he says, it’ll rile someone up. The bigger issue is that if he has a plan on how to deal with it, does that also mean that he’s ***planning to still be around as showrunner when #14 arrives***? Because we’re realistically looking 7 or 8 years down the line minimum.

    I like the Moff but that’s too long for one guy to be in charge.

    • I’ve never considered 12 regenerations to be an absolute limit since the Five Doctors. They Timelords offered the Master a complete new life cycle. So it is possible. With no other Timelord interference, there is no reason the Doctor can’t take advantage of this somehow.

    • avatar Colin says:

      JN-T ran the show for nine years. Maybe that makes your case–depending on your view of the JN-T era (especially the latter part). :)

      That said, I don’t think Moff will stay as show-runner for that long. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he bows out within the next couple of years. I’m sure he’s getting lots of attractive offers to do other (and bigger) things, and I bet he’s getting tired of saying “no.”

  11. avatar Neu 75 says:

    Well the Monk hasn’t been back since 1966, so why Romana? Besides, she’s in E-Space, isn’t she?

    • avatar FrancoPabloDiablo says:

      It depends on whether you consider the spin-off audios etc as canon! And I’ve always wondered, what about Leela and K-9 mark I? Again, this depends on your stance towards spin-off media but purely going by the TV continuity there is nothing to say that Leela managed to survive/escape Gallifrey’s destruction. (I mention K-9 mark I in full knowledge of the Bob Baker spin-off series, but I personally count that as less canon than my daughter’s insistence that I am the Doctor and she is Amy Pond) :)

  12. Rule # 1 ) The Doctor LIES!
    Rule # 2 ) MOFFAT LIES!!

  13. avatar Hyncharas says:

    Even if Moffat isn’t lying, it shouldn’t be taken as an order from on high at the Beeb…

    Just because he may not want to do another story with them, doesn’t mean other writers can’t either.

  14. avatar January says:

    As someone else mentioned, the Master is a great example of how a Time Lord can exist beyond their normal life-span without the aid of Time Lords. While his methods to attaining new lives were disturbing, I’m certain the Doctor can and will find a less destructive way to extend his own life.

    This is of course only considering the Doctor as a “normal” Time Lord—he’s stated himself he’s more than a normal Time Lord. I think, reasonably speaking, that this open door would only take a minute’s worth of exploring to write a fantastic way in which the 12 regenerations doesn’t apply to him.

    Even forgetting the above, I still think it would be relatively easy to keep the rule and circumvent it. It only takes a little bit of imagination.

  15. I liked it better when we didn’t know anything. Now we know everything. Matt is leaving, so we know there is going to be a regeneration. We already know who the next Doctor is… I mean come on,.. All the mystery and suspense are being taken away. Half the fun is seeing what happens next. Too bad we already know.

    • avatar Simon Magellan says:

      Well, I don’t remember a time when we wouldn’t have been aware of who the new Doctor was in advance of the regeneration. It has never been sprung on the viewers as a surprise – the lead actor announces his departure, and at some point, usually before his last programme is shown, the new actor is unveiled to the press. With the possible exception of the Hartnell/Troughton handover – which I believe was very low key (I was only 1 at the time so couldn’t say!) – this has always been the case. The one regeneration we did get as a surprise was a false one (“The Stolen Earth”).

  16. avatar Nick says:

    Easy fix – the 13-lives rule is a Time-Lord “belief”, long-held to the point of “acceptance” because the longest-lived Time-Lord’s on record have all expired during their 13th life. Since most Time-Lords never leave Gallifrey, they spend their entire lives in mind-numbing repetition of their daily routine. Assuming an average regeneration-span of 100 years, that’s 1300 years of samey-wamey… who wouldn’t choose to just “let it all go”…?

    However, as we have seen with both the Master and the Doctor, regenerations are not mandatory and regeneration-energy appears to be present, even when the Time-Lord is not on the point of needing a regeneration. Some Time-Lords, in the most inner-circle levels of power, are aware that the “belief” is not a “hard-and-fast rule”, which allowed them to attempt to control the Master by offering him “a new regeneration cycle”.

    So my opinion is that the Time-Lords could freely choose to continue on past a 13th life, but most see no reason to do so. The Doctor, however, has rejected the antiseptic life of other Time-Lords and has seen the wonders of the universe, so when the time comes for him to reach the end of his 13th life, he will simply choose to continue on, regenerate, and the adventures will continue.

  17. avatar Diego Peter says:

    I remember River giving the doctor the reat of her regenerations so… when the 23th doctor shows up we can discuss the possibility

    • avatar barry rix says:

      Quite right on this one, she did indeed.

  18. I tries to post but apparently the moderator or whoever for no reason DELETED my post, want to tell me why?

    • First post must be approved.

      So simmer down :)

  19. avatar ian grigor says:

    The Moff said the Time Lords are Dead…ok but they’ve not always been so and the Doctor still has a Tardis so why not travel back before the Time War and thus somehow extend his life?

  20. Well the Daleks are meant to be dead and they keep coming back. ;)

  21. avatar Emma says:

    DW lore also says that Time Lords don’t sexually reproduce, yet Susan became pregnant and had a healthy baby boy.

    • avatar Simon Magellan says:

      Not on TV.

      Unless I missed an episode…

  22. avatar Rod says:

    Lets not forget that River gave her regenerations to the Doctor to save his life in Lets Kill Hitler.

    and the time lords are dead as is the master. They are time locked and gone.

    • avatar barry rix says:

      Ten out of Ten, Rod, yes she did, and yes they are.

  23. avatar TimeChaser says:

    While Moffat will never bring back the Time Lords, I don’t think it would prevent any future showrunner from bringing them back, if it served the story.

    • avatar Al says:

      That’s the thing. Even RTD, who killed them off in the first place, gave us not one but two stories that revealed death wasn’t final – we had Utopia where the Master was found still alive, and of course The End of Time. Moffat might not want to go there himself, and that’s fine. RTD never wanted to do any stories not set earth that weren’t all about humans; Moffat has already given us Rings of Akhatan, in which Clara goes to an alien planet and she’s the only human for miles around. Nightmare in Silver was technically another. So several years from now, when Mark Gatiss or whomever is in charge, nothing’s stopping them from bringing the Time Lords back if they want.

  24. avatar kevin says:

    dont forget that the time lords gave unlmited regenerations to those who fought in the time war which the doctor was on the front lines so in essence he already has unlmited regernations

    • avatar eva says:

      that’s what i thought, didn’t the time lords mention in the end of time that they keep on dying and regenerating? if it was only 12 times that would be over soon…

  25. This is complete nonsense. With David Tennant regenerating twice (once back into himself) and the addition of a John Hurt doctor somewhere in the timeline, Matt Smith is already Doctor #13. So Peter Capaldi is already going to be breaking the 12 regeneration rule.

    • avatar David F says:

      There is no reason to count Tennant’s aborted change. I mean, you could, if you were a writer who desperately wanted to contrive reasons for Smith’s Doctor being the last, but otherwise, nothing in those episodes implies that it has to count.

      • avatar Jonathan Karch says:

        Aside from the fact that they use the word ‘regenerate’ and ‘regeneration’ to describe it. Still it doesn’t have to be the end. Perhaps amongst the sins of Hurt’s ‘Doctor’ is accepting another round of regenerations in exchange for participating in the Time War. They gave the Master another set after all…

      • 12 regenerations – not 12 actors. Of course it counts. He died and regenerated. It was not aborted – it was convenient that he was able to choose this time to keep the same body, which is how it works when it’s not an emergency – for example, Romana in Destiny of the Daleks. Regeneration is technology-based, not genetic – the limitations no longer apply now that Gallifrey is gone.

        • avatar TimeChaser says:

          Are you talking about the regeneration cliffhanger from The Stolen Earth/ Journey’s End? The Doctor explained he used his severed hand as a receptacle to channel the energy into. He bled off the energy and didn’t regenerate. He didn’t just regenerate back into himself as you seem to be suggesting.

  26. avatar Al says:

    The 13-life limit was done away with the moment they revealed in The Five Doctors that it was artificial and that the high council could extend it any time they wanted (later confirmed in The Sound of Drums). It seriously is a non-issue now.

  27. avatar ian says:

    Romana is in E-Space, and there she should stay. I don’t want the NuHu crowd going near her character anyway.

    • Actually, Romana became president of the high council of Gallifrey before the Time War. She came back from e-space.

  28. avatar David F says:

    The thirteen-life limit is only significant if Moffat wants it to be.

    Option A:

    Clara: “How many lives can you have, Doctor?”

    Doctor: “Well, my people used to put a limit on them, to prevent abuses of power. But now they’ve gone . . . I really don’t know.”

    And it’s never mentioned again.

    Option B:

    Use it for the basis of an interesting story arc about the Doctor in effect being mortal and having to deal with it. Then have him find a way to go on living. Maybe put him in the further ethical dilemma of deciding whether he has the right to more life when nobody else does. Maybe have him decide he doesn’t want to live when everyone else dies, and be forced into it by threats to other people. There are lots of ways to play this before he ultimately gets the new life cycle we need him to have.

    The “rule” has become a big deal in fandom, but it simply doesn’t need to be.

    • avatar Simon Magellan says:

      “in fandom” being the operative words – the general viewing public are unlikely to know about this and probably care even less. They just want to watch a TV programme that entertains them each week.

  29. avatar Elton Townend Jones says:

    None of you are listening to what he said. He said ‘Yes’ to 12 regenerations. And then he said ‘Or no.’ Neither and either. But not what was reported above and elsewhere on the web. It’s a non-statement. A non-story. It probably won’t even be up to him when the time comes. The Doctor will probably pass into his 14th body under the supervision of a producer who thinks ‘Deadly Assassin’ was a 1970s aftershave and makes no reference to the ‘regeneration limit’ because he’s not even aware of such a thing.

    • avatar Geoff says:

      “Deadly Assassin” for the man who doesn’t have to try too hard!

  30. avatar Heywoob Jablome says:

    The limit of 12 regenerations (13 bodies) was imposed by the Timelords themselves. Otherwise there was no limit.
    So…if the Timelords are dead and Gallifrey is gone…….

  31. avatar Geoff says:

    I remember SM being asked about the 12 regeneration limit in his DWM column which he wittily answered by saying there is an agreement handed down from producer to producer over the years that the incumbent at that fateful time will “make something up”!

  32. avatar Captain Tus says:

    One word to debunk the theory of 12 regenerations- Valeyard.

  33. avatar Simon Magellan says:

    I think you’ll find that John Hurt is playing Romana…

  34. avatar brian mattocks says:

    is susan dead then too?

  35. avatar Geoff says:

    I don’t care as long as the producers of the show produce a legally binding affidavit stating that whatever happens in the future The Castillan as portrayed by Paul Jerhico is definitely definitely dead and will not return under any circumstances and furthermore the mind probe shall never be mentioned again! Is that too much to ask?

    Anyway Gallifrey is no loss. We watched Arc of Infinity the other day and Mrs Geoff pointed out that it just looks like an Arndale Centre for the most part. Which it does.

  36. avatar coppermop says:

    I quite like the idea of Romana emerging from E-Space with a Tharil boyfriend in tow.

  37. avatar drvwho says:

    i think that this is all very good comment but i think when they brought back dr who a lot of water had gone under the bridge and from a personel point of view started from a fresh chris eccellstone being the first doctor.
    reason as just said above a lot of the younger followers of dr who get confused with older fans comparing the older doctors to the new ones hence a lot of facts get missed out or distorted
    we are talking about gallifrey which is good but as i said the younger viewers may not understand why the fuss about it .

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