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In the episode Deep Breath, the way living species can disguise themselves as clockworks is to hold their breath. It looks like the Doctor has been able to do that for a very long time (at least 10 minutes, based on the time he spent disguised in the larder).

Are there other occasions where we learn how long a Time Lord can hold their breath?

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From an out of universe perspective there are techniques which can be implemented to hold one's breath for 'super-human' lengths. Nothing as high as 10 minutes, as far as I know, but if it does turn out there's no canon that the Doctor can hold his breath, there's always these methods which can be supplied as a potential explination. ETA: strike what I said about length -- humans can apparently hold their breath upwards of 22 minutes, in the case of a world record diver. –  Mac Cooper Aug 27 at 10:20
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@MacCooper: It should however be added that in addition to being a world-class trained diver, those 22 minutes are outright cheating (breathing pressurized 100% oxygen for a few mins before starting), which not just saturates haemoglobin to 100% but also brings a considerable amount of oxygen into solution in plasma and cell water (not normally the case) and obviously leaves several times the normal amount of oxygen in the lungs. Then again, who said a timelord couldn't be cheating (by locally halting time, if nothing else) in addition to being an alien. –  Damon Aug 27 at 12:04
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For as long as necessary to enable him to find some celery. –  Paul D. Waite Aug 27 at 12:15

1 Answer 1

up vote 33 down vote accepted

The Doctor, like all Galifreyans can hold his breath for a very long time (upwards of ten to fifteen minutes) using his famous "Respiratory Bypass System", an evolutionary trait which he has used on numerous occasions to avoid gas, to prevent himself from suffocating and to ignore strong smells:

From TV: The Robots of Death

LEELA: Doctor, why didn't the helium make your voice go squeaky?

DOCTOR: Because I'm a Time Lord. I've been around, you know. Two hearts, respiratory bypass system. I haven't lived seven hundred and fifty years without learning something. After you. Little mouse.

From TV : The Caves of Androzani

DOCTOR: I can store oxygen for several minutes, Jek. Now, you must do everything you can to keep her temperature down until I get back.

JEK: Doctor, wait! I have just one oxygen cylinder left. I used it when I went into the baking chambers of the refinery. It will run out in minutes, but it might help.

From the Prose Story : A Town Called Eternity

They dragged him the short distance to the gallows outside the jailhouse and then they hoisted him up. They watched him swing for a full quarter of an hour, with him too weak even to struggle or choke, before they cut him down.

The undertaker had fled the moment the Doctor spoke to him. Unsurprising, really, thought the Doctor, rubbing his bruised throat. Unfortunately, most victims of a lynch mob didn't have a respiratory bypass system to fall back on. On Gallifrey, hangings were less a form of justice, more a risky hobby for seedy Cardinals with regenerations to spare.

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Great and very well documented answer! Thank you! –  Trevör Anne Denise Aug 27 at 11:09
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Ew that last sentence –  Lightness Races in Orbit Aug 27 at 12:12
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There was also The Pyramids of Mars where the Doctor was supposedly strangled but after a short while began to breathe. And in the Terror of the Zygons he was trapped in a pressurised tank where he hypnotised Sarah into not breathing before stopping his own breathing. –  Nigel Ellis Aug 27 at 14:55
    
@nigelellis - I considered adding both but concluded that neither demonstrate the length of time that he can hold his breath while remaining active –  Richard Aug 27 at 14:56
    
@Richard A good point; PoM could be a defence mechanism, but TotZ was at least a conscious decision not to breathe. Unfortunately there was no on screen indications of time. –  Nigel Ellis Aug 27 at 14:59

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