First of all I gotta make it clear, I began watching Doctor Who with the new (2005) series, so if the answer is from old series you'll have to forgive me.

We know that psychic paper appears to be some sort of clearance permit from someone with a higher clearance/authority/rank etc. What would a person (let's say the Queen of England in one of the Britain-centered episodes) see if the Doctor showed the psychic paper to her? (I'm assuming that she doesn't have that mental training against the effects of paper like we have seen couple of times before in the show.)

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    The paper doesn’t necessarily show clearance permits – witness, for example, Jack and Rose flirting via psychic paper in 2005. It shows whatever the person holding the paper wants, which is often a clearance permit, but could be any manner of things.
    – alexwlchan
    Dec 12 '15 at 20:03
  • i actually never thought of that, instead my initial thought about was to be a free-pass of everything
    – Mr.SixTwo
    Dec 12 '15 at 20:05
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    Everybody answers to somebody.
    – Joe L.
    Dec 12 '15 at 22:34
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    It'd show wife's message maybe..
    – Crazy Frog
    Dec 13 '15 at 6:10

It depends on what the user wants them to see.

The psychic paper is not limited to clearance permits – it can show whatever the user is thinking at the time.

It often takes the form of a permit or ID card because it’s convenient. The user thinks “show this person something that will persuade them to show me sekrit thing”, and the psychic paper shows the identification or permit of a ranking officer. But in practice, it can show many other things – witness messages sent to the Doctor, or Jack and Rose’s flirting, or as a payment card on a London bus.

In the case of somebody who doesn’t have a superior, I’m sure the paper is inventive enough to come up with alternatives. From the top of my head:

  • Identification for an inferior but very high rank that establishes them as a trusted person, if not able to give the target a binding order
  • A statement of trustworthiness, possibly from a predecessor, person of equivalent rank to the target, or a friend of the target
  • A fact that would persuade the target that the user is somebody worth taking seriously (for example, an obscure personal fact)

It would depend on the exact circumstances in which the psychic paper was being used.

Edit: It’s also worth remembering that the psychic paper doesn’t always work. There have been people smart enough to see through it, or with a “serious lack of imagination”. If you have a tinpot dictator who truly believes they answer to nobody, and is dead set against listening to the user, you may find the psychic paper just fails.

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    ok it's becoming more and more clear that i didn't actually know the properties of the psychic paper :)
    – Mr.SixTwo
    Dec 12 '15 at 22:10
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    I thought it showed people what they expect to see. So if the Doctor adopts the manner of a Lord High Executioner when approaching a government functionary and flourishes the paper, the functionary will expect to see the LHE credentials, and so that is what he will see. Apr 10 '16 at 14:12

In Series 2 Episode 2 (Tooth and Claw) we find an example of what the Queen of England would see if the Doctor showed psychic paper to her. Well, at least what Queen Victoria saw on that occasion (source).

When Victoria sees the psychic paper, she notes it says the Lord Provost has appointed the Doctor as her protector.

Interestingly, only moments earlier...

Using psychic paper and a Scottish accent, [the Doctor] convinces Captain Reynolds he is a Scottish doctor named James McCrimmon.


In the case of the queen, perhaps it would choose 1. An equal (a foreign dignitary)or 2.the Archbishop of Canterbury.

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