The Doctor almost never seems to carry / use a gun and I've heard that this is a deliberate decision on the part of the writers; that this is somehow part of The Doctor's character.

All I can find about this is (from the TARDIS wiki):

One practical limit on the use of firearms was that they were usually lethal. While it was possible to use a firearm to incapacitate rather than kill, this could be done only by inflicting serious injury and pain. While there were forms of ammunition known as "less than lethal" intended for incapacitation, such as rubber bullets, they still inflicted great pain, and were lethal under certain circumstances. For this reason, individuals such as the Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith often refused to use them on moral grounds.

This page also lists the occasions where The Doctor does use a firearm.

But aren't these the exceptions? Isn't there a(n unwritten) rule that The Doctor almost never uses a handgun? I'm looking for both an in- and out-of-universe explanation, if they exist.

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    Isn't the answer in your question!? The doctor "refused to use them on moral grounds." He doesn't want to use a tool that is designed specifically to kill people.
    – AidanO
    Jun 5, 2012 at 8:21
  • @AidanO: certainly that is part of it, but I expected a bit more, like some kind of back story explaining how he came to that conclusion. And I'm looking for the out-of-universe explanation - was showing a gun on UK television unsuitable in the 60s, for example? Jun 5, 2012 at 8:27
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    Dr Who was, and still is technically, a children's TV series. It's just been hijacked by adults! Jun 5, 2012 at 8:35
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    The Doctor's parents were shot and killed outside of a movie theater by a mugger. Jun 5, 2012 at 11:38
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    Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart : You know, just once I'd like to meet an alien menace that wasn't immune to bullets. Jan 1, 2022 at 20:27

4 Answers 4


In the Doctor's own words:

(Leela picks up the Tesh weapon.)

DOCTOR: You won't need that.

LEELA: How do you know?

DOCTOR: I never carry weapons. If people see you mean them no harm, they never hurt you. Nine times out of ten.

The Robots of Death

That's not to say the Doctor won't use weapons as either threats or very occasionally to save himself or others, after all there are documented cases of each - as you'd expect in such a long-running show. Even more if you count "threatening" someone with a sonic screwdriver.

However in the Doctor's experience going in with a peaceful mindset, or at least the appearance of one, results in much better results than the alternative. Appearances matter.

So to some extent it's a moral issue, as the Doctor's intent and desire is to avoid confrontation and violence, but it's also presumably based off experience (observed or first-hand) of what happens when you do go in armed and looking like you're looking for a fight.

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    Extra points for getting the right Original Series quote!!
    – SteveED
    Jun 6, 2012 at 0:01

Because the Doctor has essentially committed the genocide of at least two races (Timelords and Daleks) and has seen the deaths of many that he loves over the years, he is especially sensitive to the loss of any life. If you watch the show carefully, you will see that in almost every circumstance, he not only tries to save the life of those he is defending, but he is also trying to save the lives of those who are attacking or threatening. He always tries to find a peaceful solution before resorting to other measures.

Carrying around a gun runs contrary to the philosophy of trying to save every life possible, both friend and foe. If one is carrying a gun, one is far more likely to use it. And, as the wiki mentions, a gun has only one purpose: to cause extreme pain or death. This is diametrically opposed to the philosophy of trying to save every life through peaceful means whenever possible.

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    Originally, I wanted to post pretty much exactly this explanation, but then I thought; If you point a gun at somebody, they might give up peacefully, even without you actually using the gun.
    – bitmask
    Jun 5, 2012 at 12:15
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    @bitmask - This MIGHT happen as you say. But it starts out the process by immediately escalating the situation to one where someone either gets shot (and potentially killed) or someone backs down. Note that the Doctor's enemies tend to be the rather dedicated type - who won't ever back away from a confrontation. The Daleks assume they will win all battles. When faced with that opponent, you either draw faster than them, or you die. So it becomes the wild west of SF. The Doctor's approach is one where he always looks FIRST for a different solution.
    – user93
    Jun 5, 2012 at 14:16
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    If someone surrenders at the point of the gun, it is not a peaceful surrender. They will hold anger and contempt and will look for another day to fight the battle. Peace at gunpoint is not any peace at all. It's merely a temporary cessation of hostilities.
    – BBlake
    Jun 5, 2012 at 15:14
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    The other thing that not going armed does for the Doctor is buy him some time. He's not an immediate threat so (some of) his enemies are willing to listen to him instead of just shooting him to dispose of the threat. Jun 5, 2012 at 17:04
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    The Doctor's dislike of weaponry also predates the deaths of the Time Lords and Daleks. It was present in the original series, not just the reboot.
    – dlanod
    Jun 5, 2012 at 21:49

An important thing to remember with Doctor Who in general is that every Doctor has a different personality. The reason I say this is because this means that if you asked your question to every Doctor you would get a different answer.

( I should say here that I know the relaunch Doctors a lot better than I know any of the original ones.)

There are two scenes I can think of that would inform my answer to your question.

The first takes place with the 10th Doctor (David Tennant) the scene takes place in The End of Time (I forget which part). When he finds out that the Timelords are coming. He immediately takes the gun from Wilfred Mott (Donna Noble's Grandfather). That moment was so significant because I had never before seen the Doctor with a gun.

The second scene is at the end of A Good Man Goes To War.

Madame Kovarian: There is nothing to fear from a good man. Good men have too many rules. Doctor (gets in her face during this line): Good men don't need rules. Today is not the day to find out why I have so many.

Based on these two scenes I would say that the Doctor doesn't carry a gun because he is more afraid of himself and what he would do with one.

There is also the monologue at the end of The Family of Blood where the brother is saying "Now I understood why that man who had battled gods, ran from us. He ran not because he feared us. He ran because he pitied us". This monologue seems to support the theory that the Doctor doesn't feel he needs a gun. Rather that he is a man (or Timelord) that feels the need to repent for horrible deeds he was forced to do at the end of the Time War.

(The episodes mentioned in this answer are:

  1. 308-309 Human Nature (Part 1) and The Family of Blood (Part 2)
  2. 417-418 The End of Time (Parts 1 & 2)
  3. 607 A Good Man Goes To War )
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    I always interpreted the Family of Blood quote (and the Doctor in general) as him having so much power that he would rather run away because when forced to fight, he tends to overkill... dramatically. Jul 10, 2012 at 20:07

The Doctor doesn't carry a gun because he doesn't like violence. Davros once said, talking about The Doctor, "The man who abhors violence, never carrying a gun."

Yes, there have been quite a few exceptions to this where the Doctor did, in fact, pick up a gun in anger. When it does happen, it's easy to tell that the Doctor is VERY upset and FURIOUS. Whenever The Doctor snaps like this, the viewers see an entire different side of him.

Why do we hardly ever see this side of the Doctor? Because he keeps it hidden. He knows EXACTLY what he's capable of and it terrifies him. I truly believe that The Doctor holds back his anger more times than we know of.

The Doctor doesn't carry a gun because he doesn't want to and he's scared of what might happen if he did. He hates violence and he hates himself for causing so much of it in his life. The Doctor can't stand guns because of what they're made for: killing and violence.

He's the Doctor. As River Song said, "Doctor: The word for healer, or wise man." It would be rather surprising if a regular doctor carried a gun, wouldn't it? He's THE Doctor; that's who he chose to be. I think it's safe to assume that he'd rather not carry a gun around in his many travels.

Episodes referenced:

"Journey's End"

"A Good Man Goes to War."

  • Might also want to finish that quote from River on how the word Doctor is for healer or wise man because of him, that he came before the word.
    – Prof. Bear
    Feb 23, 2016 at 13:57

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