In the episode “Oxygen,” the Doctor is exposed to vacuum for an prolonged period and

suffers blindness as a result of this exposure.

The Doctor reassures Bill that this condition is temporary, and that, once he has access to the resources within his TARDIS, he can deal with it (even if he has to implant the organs of a lizard).

BILL: You’re blind.

DOCTOR: I am? Well, that explains the bruised shins.

(Bill hugs him.)

DOCTOR: Oh, don’t get all gooey on me. It’s temporary.

BILL: Really?

DOCTOR: Yeah. Once we get back to the Tardis.

BILL: The Tardis?

DOCTOR: I’ve got stuff in there that’ll cure anything. Failing that, I think I’ve got some spare eyes somewhere. They’re from a lizard, but I’m sure they’ll fit.

Doctor Who, “Oxygen”

Later, however, it is revealed that he is still blind, a condition which he believes will be permanent.

DOCTOR: Nardole, I can’t. I really can’t! I can’t look at anything ever again. I’m still blind.

Doctor Who, “Oxygen”

Why is this? The Doctor clearly wants to have visual capabilities. He has access to all the medical resources of time and space (possibly including those of Gallifrey). Admittedly, there may be some that are too dangerous to be worth the bother of accessing, but we’ve seen highly advanced medical facilities that he’s been to before (New, New York, for example).

In addition, we know that the Doctor does indeed carry highly advanced synthetic body parts around in his TARDIS.

TANYA: You got your leg back?

DOCTOR: I had some spares in the medical bay. The Lothan, giant centipedes, experts in prosthetic legs. You’ll get the hang of it. You just have to train it to act like your own leg.

Class, “For Tonight We Might Die”

How, with all these resources, is the Doctor incapable1 of dealing with his blindness?

1: Besides, apparently, borrowing barely a few minutes of vision at a potentially ruinous future cost.

  • 4
    A possible out-of-universe explanation for his blindness is that Moffat wanted the sonic shades back. He obviously was quite fond of them, but the audience hated them, so he had to think of a valid reason to bring them back.
    – Mr Lister
    May 21, 2017 at 7:17
  • @MrLister - Possible. That still doesn’t quite explain it from the Doctor’s perspective, though.
    – Adamant
    May 21, 2017 at 7:18
  • 1
    Maybe it was never possible. Maybe his sight was so massively damaged, that no cure would help. And in that case he just lied to Billie, to make her feel better and move along (the situation was still critical at that point). Or maybe he thought it possible, but then found out that the cure didn't help. I'm just theorizing here, ofcourse. The last theory is that we get to know the whole story later on and we just have to wait. Just like with the vault.
    – Renttutar
    May 21, 2017 at 8:44
  • Perhaps the fix required someone else as advanced as the Doctor or someone sighted to implement May 21, 2017 at 14:34
  • the true answer is that the plot demanded it. There is no canonical reason why he shouldn't have been able to see. In fact SPOLERS FOR EXTREMIS in the following episode, he uses a device that briefly restores his eyesight, although admittedly it was eyesight borrowed from his future, but that tells us that he does get his eyesight back at some point (Probably when he regenerates, though) May 22, 2017 at 18:05

2 Answers 2


Out of universe perspective :

Having the doctor being blind allows several interesting dynamics.

Secret sharing with Nardole, but also it turns out to be necessary in the script of The Pyramid at the End of the World, where the blindness of the doctor is the reason of Billie's consent

Also has pointed out by Mr Lister, Moffat used it to bring back the sonic shades

In universe perspective

TLDR : He cannot regenerate only his eyes, and would not / cannot search a technology that would heal him

The Doctor do not want anyone other than Nardole to know about his condition. So he cannot use surgery that Nardole cannot perform himself. Moreover, a Time Lord body is precious. So even if he did not care about this secret, it is doubtful that the would implicate someone he does not completely trust. In this perspective, if the Doctor do not have the corresponding technology on the TARDIS, he probably would not acquire it not to risk exposing himself.

As for the regeneration, it is unclear if he can regenerate only a part of his body in case of localized damage. He is able to heal River's wrist in The Angels Take Manhattan, but number 10 in his first episode consider himself lucky to be able to have enough residual energy to regenerate his hand. So I'm tending toward "He cannot regenerate only it's eyes".

  • 1
    I’ll accept this provisionally, since I doubt we’ll get a better answer, and it’s fairly plausible.
    – Adamant
    May 29, 2017 at 19:15
  • @Adamant : thanks. I agree that this answer is not solid, but I doubt we will have better answers. I'll keep editing it if other elements come to mind or are revealed
    – Edelk
    May 31, 2017 at 8:00

The lizard eyes thing is probably just a way to reassure Bill.

The fact that the doctor is still blind at the end is probably due to the device being dodgy. The Doctor is always fiddling with his devices and it seems that most of them are broken and he is known to overlook small details.

Also, he is probably still blind because otherwise, Missy would not be released and there would be no warning of the coming invasion.

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