Obviously Time Lords can regenerate, essentially granting them 13 lives in total. And we know that all Time Lords have this ability. On the other hand, there are numerous references to people on Gallifrey being killed, and we saw at least one instance where Daleks were simply shooting Gallifreyans with laser beams to kill them. This begs the question of whether or not your average "John Doe" on Gallifrey can regenerate, or is it an ability granted to Time Lords only - presumably when they look into the Time Vortex or whatever it is that makes them an actual Time Lord.

Is the ability to regenerate unique to Time Lords, or can all Gallifreyans do it? Or, if it's an easier answer, have we ever seen a non-Time Lord Gallifreyan regenerate?

  • If memory serves, it has something to do with looking into the Time Vortex. Time Lords get connected to the Matrix as well, which acts as a repository of "selves". Again, I can't remember specific details, hence the comment. Jul 5, 2017 at 19:59
  • 7
    Please let me know when you receive an answer for this. Jul 5, 2017 at 20:08
  • 3
    Wouldn't you know, @Gallifreyan? :p
    – Shokhet
    Jul 5, 2017 at 20:09
  • Check out tardis.wikia.com/wiki/Regeneration
    – user66716
    Jul 5, 2017 at 20:44
  • 2
    Yeah, I'm sick of people using that "rule" to cast doubt on practically anything and everything.
    – Kerr Avon
    Jul 5, 2017 at 23:50

5 Answers 5


Regeneration is technological in origin. A closely-guarded secret of the Time Lords.

We see in The Deadly Assassin and Heaven Sent that low-born Gallifreyans do not have access to Time Lord technology.

We see in The Five Doctors and The Time of The Doctor that it is possible to add additional regenerations.

We see in Mawdryn Undead and Let's Kill Hitler that regeneration technology can be applied to other species.

Much more detail is available at The Tardis Wikia.

Is the ability to regenerate unique to Time Lords, or can all Gallifreyans do it? Or, if it's an easier answer, have we ever seen a non-Time Lord Gallifreyan regenerate?

No, no, and no.

With The Timeless Children we learn that The Doctor is not actually Gallifreyan, but an unknown (possibly extra-Universal) species, and that regeneration technology was reverse-engineered from them. Whether the Doctor's regeneration had naturally evolved is not confirmed.

So the answer to all parts of the question is still "no".

  • 4
    And none of this is information from The Doctor, so rule #1 does not apply.
    – OrangeDog
    Jul 6, 2017 at 12:53
  • Worth noting that even The Doctor doesn't understand how River Song gained the ability to regenerate -- he handwaves about her being conceived in the TARDIS, but makes it pretty clear he's skeptical about that as an explanation.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Jul 6, 2017 at 13:31
  • @ZeissIkon Presumably combined with some bioengineering that The Silence performed. Though in actuality the writers probably didn't give it any thought.
    – OrangeDog
    Jul 6, 2017 at 13:32
  • Oh, while you could argue that The High Council also lies, we do see the Master regenerating again, so he must have got them from somewhere.
    – OrangeDog
    Jul 6, 2017 at 13:36
  • Adding of the corresponding Transcript/set description would really help this answer.
    – Edelk
    Jul 6, 2017 at 16:06

There would appear to be a hereditary component - for instance, in the TV show Jenny was considered by the Doctor to potentially be able to regenerate and she was half-Gallifreyan. If it was solely technological, this would not even be considered.

This happens again in "Big Finish" with speculation on whether Alex, Susan Foreman's half-human son via David, would have inherited the ability to regenerate from his mother - which he hadn't, but again, it was openly considered to be a possibility.

There's also Melody - who is not even Gallifreyan but "inherited" the ability to regenerate, thanks to her being conceived whilst in the untampered Schism.

Exposure to which, within episode, is attributed to being why the ability to regenerate formed within the Doctor's people.

There's a book too, which cites it being in relation to a "triple helix" - which could in turn, have developed in relation to the Time Vortex, so it doesn't go against any of the above.

Along with this, Big Finish detailed the "Dogma Virus" which broke out during the Time War - something triggered by regeneration that would essentially turn it's victims into mindless, violent "zombies". Mattias had to work to quarantine it while Romana was away as it threatened to spread throughout all of Gallifrey - the implication being that all Gallifreyans are susceptible to it a quarantine is not enforced: which by necessity, this being regeneration linked, has to mean that they can all regenerate too.

Then there's also this very explicit tidbit here:

"One Gallifreyan wrote that regeneration was a natural process for all Gallifreyans, and was not exclusive to the Time Lords."

(in regards to "A brief history of Time Lords")

This also goes along with "Time Lord" being a rank trait and not a biological one.

A Note: It's potentially true that this started off as a technological trait, one introduced to Time Lords as some other materials would suggest, but that in turn eventually spread and became a natural/hereditary one over time.

As for the daleks shooting and killing them: People who can regenerate can die if just killed fast enough or they've ran out of regenerations. They need time to kick start the process, which daleks do not tend to often provide.

  • 1
    If the technology involves DNA alteration (which it appears to) then it certainly becomes a possibly-heritable trait.
    – OrangeDog
    May 3, 2019 at 15:58

Just an updated from season 12:

The doctor is not in fact gallifreyan, but from another universe/reality/dimension. He was found as a child from one of the first spacefaring gallifreyans, a female scientist. The gallifreyan never had the ability to regenerate at the beginning. The scientist took the girl as her own child. After the child was involved in an accident and her regeneration ablities surfaced, the scientist studied her for years. After the scientist discovered how the regeneration process worked, the elite built the cathedral and implemented the regeneration gene into their DNA. After they discovered how to time travel, they called themself time lords.

The 12 regeneration limit is an artificial one, implemented by the scientist. The doctor, in fact, can regenerate infinity. She lived an unknown amount of time before the official doctor time line started. She worked for a unknown "the division" for the cathedral. Some sort of secret agency, which doesn't needed to follow the time lord directives. After she had stopped the work there, every memory of her past life was removed by the time lords and she lived a new live.

  • 2
    How about other Gallifreyans, can they regenerate? Please focus on the question; note that you can improve your answer by citing specific episodes and who said what (in case certain characters are unreliable or lying).
    – DavidW
    Jul 31, 2022 at 19:29

It is true that regeneration is technological thing but It is not clear that the regeneration is only exclusive of few high born I think that every citizen has oportunidad to be aceptes in academy and be expuse to schims witch make regeneration posible , the doctor was sleepy in a barn in tv show with outsiders so probably he was form low family dispite is contradicting with other books say way around , other child from outsiders goes academy ( brief history of time lords ) , regeneration is granted when you see the schims and doctor say that every children were taking age of 8 for initiation ( academy or military) all children not only high born children so it not something exclusive high born , it more about been expuse in schims


As far as I am aware, Gallifreyans receive symbiotic nuclei on admittance to the Time Academies, essentially allowing them to 'converse' with their TARDIS, in a manner of speaking. The symbiotic nuclei make them Time Lords, and therefore able to legally own a TARDIS. In Hellbent The Doctor mentions that "On Gallifrey, Death is like the common cold," or something to that effect. While the Doctor does lie, we can generally assume that he is correct, in the case of the Time Lords. As much as it annoys me to say it, the evidence points towards Gallifreyans not being able to regenerate, at least without Symbiotic Nuclei. One case of such is when we see Gallifreyan citizens being slaughtered by Daleks. On the other hand, Daleks have some pretty goddamn good weapons. Dalekanium, the metal of which their shells are made of is extremely difficult to destroy. In fact, the only times that we ever see Daleks destroyed in the new seasons is via specialised weaponry, Dalek weaponry, and being crushed by the War Doctor's TARDIS. Excluding the first and third options of killing Daleks, we can see that Dalek weapons are extremely powerful. So powerful that they vaporise everything organic that they hit. How is cellular regeneration supposed to occur when every single cell is dead?

Also, to address the point about The Doctor getting more regenerations, the giving of more regenerations is relatively easy, by the looks of things. The Master returned to Gallifrey to receive another regeneration cycle, and there didn't seem to be much trouble with that. Anyway, I rambled, and I'm pretty sure it led to a moderately sensible answer. Answer is NO-ONE KNOWS.

  • The Doctor said it's like man-flu. The common cold is close enough. Basically the show hasn't decided if all Gallireyans or only Time Lords regenerate. I suspect if it can confined to only Time Lords, there would be revolution.One DW comic strip suggested Gall-freyans were originally shape-changers and this either evolved into or was technologically modified as regeneration. Remember they make it up as they go along.
    – a4android
    Feb 3, 2020 at 1:12
  • Speaking of the way things keep changing in the show. Dalekanium was first introduced in the Dalek Earth Invasion story. Then it was a powerful explosive created to destroy Daleks. Someone must decided it sounded like something Dalek machinery was made of. A simple contradiction.
    – a4android
    Feb 3, 2020 at 1:15

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.