Ok I have only watched two episodes so I am not expert but he does not seem... well balanced. He finds all things even rather dangerous things amusing or at least exciting and for a Time Lord he can never arrive at the right time, which I think is odd. Is it a sign of him being a little mad? Also he is the only Time Lord (that I know of from listening to people talk) so was he given the TARDIS and sent to earth because he was insane?

Also in "Aliens of London" he does not seem to really get the idea of danger... this is not normal is it? Or are all Time Lords like him?

Just wondering!

  • 3
    My personal theory is that he has a death wish. At one point in old Who, he is made to work with another Time Lord, who accuses him of the same. Their personalities clash too, so that gives some indication that other Time Lords aren't like him.
    – yesennes
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 16:30
  • 34
    "There's something you must know, your life might depend on it one day: I am definitely a mad man with a box"
    – tilley31
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 17:35
  • 21
    You should really watch more than just two episodes before asking. Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 21:46
  • 6
    Does he do things that a human in our current culture would consider insane? Yes, sometimes. But he isn't human and he isn't from our culture.
    – keshlam
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 5:16
  • 5
    "Insane" is a rather ham-hamded way of describing non-normative mental states. Clearly the Doctor is peculiar. He is also not human. He is also clearly not insane often enough.
    – Misha R
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 14:57

5 Answers 5


TL;DR: watch more of the show and you'll learn the answers to all these questions and pick up a lot more about the Doctor and the Time Lords, by osmosis if nothing else.

  • He finds all things even rather dangerous things amusing or at least exciting

    Yes, he's an adrenaline junkie with a lust for adventure. This is something of a theme with the character, consistent across all his regenerations and personalities, and it's part of the reason he was ostracised from Time Lord society.

  • for a Time Lord he can never arrive at the right time, which I think is odd.

    Being chronically disorganised and not being able to fly his TARDIS properly is another theme common to all the Doctor's personalities. He explains this in Series 4 Episode 13, Journey's End (in an absolutely amazing scene, btw) as follows:

    DOCTOR: Because you know why this Tardis always is always rattling about the place? [...] It's designed to have six pilots, and I have to do it single handed.

    Part of it is also the fault of the TARDIS herself. She doesn't always do exactly what he wants her to, but in Series 6 Episode 4, The Doctor's Wife, in which she temporarily takes on a humanoid form, she excuses this by:

    DOCTOR: You didn't always take me where I wanted to go.
    IDRIS [TARDIS/SEXY]: No, but I always took you where you needed to go.

  • Is it a sign of him being a little mad?

    Oh, he's certainly a little mad. Again, all of his regenerations have that in common, whether it's expressed through the eccentricity of an old man or the slapstick craziness of a young one. After all, he's nothing but a mad man with a box.

  • he is the only Time Lord (that I know of from listening to people talk)

    It's a LOT more complicated than that.

    The Time Lords were a great and complex society on the planet of Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous, probably the most advanced society in the universe. But in the Last Great Time War (which took place between the pre-2000 Old Who series and the post-2000 New Who), they and the Daleks wiped each other out. The only survivor, at least as far as we know at the start of the 2005 series, is the Doctor.

    At this point he misses them terribly - they were, after all, his people. But back in the days of Old Who, he never really got on very well with them anyway. They had a philosophy of standing aloof and not 'interfering with the universe', whereas he liked to dash about getting into scrapes and helping people. This got him into trouble with them more than once ... which leads me on to ...

  • was he given the TARDIS and sent to earth because he was insane?

    At one point, he was indeed banished to Earth by the other Time Lords. But this is way way before the days of New Who, back in the black-and-white era of the 1960s. In fact, it was the end of the black-and-white era and of the Second Doctor. From Season 6 Episode 7, The War Games:

    TIME LORD: We have accepted your plea that there is evil in the universe that must be fought, and that you still have a part to play in that battle.
    DOCTOR: What? You mean that you're going to let me go free?
    TIME LORD: Not entirely. We have noted your particular interest in the planet Earth. The frequency of your visits must have given you special knowledge of that world and its problems.
    DOCTOR: Yes, I suppose that's true. Earth seems more vulnerable than others, yes.
    TIME LORD: For that reason you will be sent back to that planet.
    DOCTOR: Oh, good.
    TIME LORD: In exile.
    DOCTOR: In exile?
    TIME LORD: You will be sent to Earth in the twentieth century, and will remain there for as long as we deem proper, and for that period the secret of the Tardis will be taken from you.
    DOCTOR: But you, you can't condemn me to exile on one primitive planet in one century in time! Besides, I'm known on the Earth. It might be very awkward for me.
    TIME LORD: Your appearance has changed before, it will change again. That is part of the sentence.

    You'll probably have to go to Old Who to see much of Time Lord society (although who knows what the future of the show will bring), since one of the main in-universe differences between Old and New Who is that Gallifrey no longer exists by the time New Who starts.

  • are all Time Lords like him?

    Most definitely not; see above.

All of this is stuff you'll pick up with time, either by continuing to watch the show or by hanging out with more experienced Whovians and listening to them rant talk about it in great depth and detail :-)

  • 55
    Note: I'm trying desperately to avoid spoilers here. If you're a more experienced Whovian reading this and wondering why I've phrased certain things in certain ways ... that's why :-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 11:49
  • 8
    Great answer, and so glad you included the exchange with Idris that ended with "I always took you where you needed to go." That was a theory I'd formed a long time ago, and I was thrilled to hear it put into words. Another conversation that I found very funny (contradicts a little the 'six pilots'" was when, I think it was Amy talking to River Song. She had cause to pilot the TARDIS and Amy noted it did not have the usual chaotic 'throwing them all about the place' effect. She queries River on that, and River blithely replies that WTE "Yes, but he doesn't know how to fly it!" .. Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 12:08
  • 4
    Probably worth pointing out that season 1 of the 2005 not-reboot of DW is set very soon after the Time War. So the Doctor is fresh off being in a war and losing the rest of his species.
    – Quentin
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 12:16
  • 19
    @AndrewThompson Also, from the same episode: "RIVER: Of course we've landed. I just landed her. DOCTOR: But, it didn't make the noise. RIVER: What noise? DOCTOR: You know, the [TARDIS wheezing noise]. RIVER: It's not supposed to make that noise. You leave the brakes on."
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 13:22
  • 8
    The part about leaving the brakes on was great, but it also felt a bit contrived... for one thing, the Doctor continued leaving the parking brake on after that (as opposed to the whole "snapping his fingers" thing which he actually adopted), but worse it also suggests that many Time Lords don't know how to operate their TARDISes, as the Master, the Rani, etc. in the old series also materialized and dematerialized their TARDISes with the same wheezing noise.
    – user11521
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 20:09

Amy Pond: I thought... well, I started to think you were just a madman with a box.

The Doctor: Amy Pond, there's something you better understand about me, 'cause it's important and one day your life may depend on it. [He Smiles] I am definitely a madman with a box.

From S05E01 - 11th Hour

  • 1
    A link to where you got this quote, and which episode it happened in, would be nice
    – Machavity
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 13:04

Aren't all genuises mad? Also he is very very old and so has every right to be a bit eccentric.

Now coming to why he likes those tight situations?! well, he is the last surviving person from his planet. He has got nothing to lose. He has seen a lot, learnt a lot, did a lot. So if there is anyone who will be stupid enough to go voluntarily into a danger to help all those species and planets from dangers, it is him. Now we should not begrudge him if he enjoys it and has a little fun while doing it.

Lastly, as River Song once said or will say (if you haven't watched that episode) " I hate good wizards in fairy tales; they always turn out to be him." Now obviously, "A wizard is never late, nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to." In this case we can say "when the TARDIS means to".

  • 6
    Heh, nice cross-universe reference there!
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 13:28
  • 1
    Very nice cross reference!!!
    – Rincewind
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 14:55
  • 6
    @Randal'Thor "Use the force, Harry!" -- Gandalf (picture of the Doctor)
    – user11521
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 20:11
  • 3
    @Michael cdn.meme.am/instances/40013168.jpg
    – Machavity
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 13:09
  • 1
    "as River Song once said or will say" - in the case of River Song, that's not just a matter of whether you have watched the episode; but also of who you are... :-)
    – Floris
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 15:34

There is a reference in one of the new series, (2005 onwards), that states that a rip in time and space called the Untempered Schism was used by the Time Lords in an initiation ceremony for children entering the Time Lord Academy.

At the age of eight, young Gallifreyans - not yet Time Lords - would be taken to the Schism. When subjected to its effects the children would react in different ways — "Some would be inspired, some would run away, and some would go mad." It is said that two of the Time Lords, one of these being the Doctor, agreed that the experience was "Painful".

It should be noted that not all Gallifreyans become Time Lords, but it is said that the "Untempered Schism" is what gave the Time Lords their ability to regenerate. Whether this applies to all Gallyfreyans or not is unkown.

I think though, that looking into the Time Vortex is enough to make a person lose some of their grip on reality. I surmise that it opens up their mind to the time stream and allows them to see what has been and what will be. Unfortunately this is a lot of information and its not always set in stone. I would think this can make remembering where you are and where you should be quite difficult. Things might get a bit mixed up.

The above might also account for the fact that the Doctor rarely arrives when he says he will. Some times he is early, and sometimes he is late. However, as a great man once said, (paraphrasing), "Time is relative and the perception of time is different for all of us."

That could explain why the Doctor sometimes perceives himself as being on time when others do not. In the great scheme of things time isn't linear, its a sort of "ball of wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff".

As I understand it, although the Doctor beleives he stole the Tardis, it was more a matter of the Tardis stealing him . She's not a new one and sometimes she is a little temperamental. However, she does her job and gets him where he needs to be, when he really needs to be there. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, this may not actually be where he wants to go.

The Doctor is the last of the Time Lords remaining in our universal reality, as I understand it. For a time he wasn't alone, but now he is again. However, because the Time Lords have existed throughout all time and space, he isn't. It's complicated, I refer you back to the "Timey Wimey" comment earlier.

  • As I said to Rand al'Thor earlier, I love "ball of wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff"... it is just so.... brilliantly vague!
    – Rincewind
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 16:38
  • 1
    The doctor was not one that went mad. He is one that ran away. It was the master that went mad.
    – user64742
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 5:29
  • @TheGreatDuck - yet the Master also ran away, so can we not surmise that the Doctor might also have gone mad...?
    – Jules
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 9:15
  • @Jules ran away from the time vortex. He ran away as he looked. The master simply went mad from looking at it.
    – user64742
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 14:51
  • Is the Untempered Schism the same thing as the Medusa Cascade? (the Stolen Earth and Journeys End)
    – sueelleker
    Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 10:11

After just 2 stories it's impossible to grasp the literally universal scale of the The Doctors' experience, uniqueness, capabilities, hardships and self-imposed responsibilities.

He has learned to survive this pressure by eagerly exploring the infinite universe with (relatively) normal companions who anchor him from veering off into complete god-like insanity.

So yes, he's a bit eccentric and not at all normal and only occasionally goes actually insane.

Beware The Doctor with no companion.

  • 1
    "Beware the Doctor with no companion." Yeah. He's liable to solve a murder and save Gallifrey! ;-) Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 22:36

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