Given the time traveling nature of Doctor Who, I've never been able to figure out when the Time Lords ruled the universe. The event I'm specifically looking for is those 10 million years when the Time Lords held absolute power that came to an end with The Last Great Time War.

Was it in the far past of earth? Or in the far future, and only in the personal past of The Doctor?

All things considered, I think it more likely to be in the future since the universe lasted 100 trillion years, and "present day" earth is roughly 13 billion years into that timeline. However, if someone could conclusively show me either way, I would be grateful.

  • We're closer to 14 billion years than 13, but that's still only 0.014% of 100 trillion years :)
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 23:43
  • 2
    I've heard a plausible-sounding theory that the Time Lords are in fact future humanity. That definitely points to the future of earth, but given the timey-wimeyness of everything in the Whoniverse, I very strongly suspect the answer is we don't know or even the question makes no sense (they're time travellers, so they rule all of history, not just one particular era). Of course, +1 for a good question :-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jan 13, 2018 at 0:46
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    The Doctor does frequently say to humans - "No, I don't look human, you look Time Lord, we came first". Is this another fibbage? Who knows...
    – Radhil
    Commented Jan 13, 2018 at 1:21
  • Is there any meaningful way in which you can define the duration of a society with widespread, routine time travel? For example Faction Paradox used as their centre of activities the same eleven days in September 1752 (the Eleven Day Empire), over and over and over...
    – tardigrade
    Commented Feb 12, 2018 at 17:23
  • Well, the doctor has said they help power for 10 million years, so it has to be quantifiable to someone. They also had a non interference policy with time travel, so I don't think that really plays into this much.
    – amflare
    Commented Feb 12, 2018 at 17:43

2 Answers 2


At the time of THE TRIAL OF A TIME LORD the sixth Doctor states "10 million years of absolute power that's what it takes to be really corrupt", we may therefore take that as a description of the minimal length of Time Lord Civilisation. But it could actually have been much longer: the ten million years could refer only to that particular administration, or to the specific period of power when the Time Lords felt absolutely unassailable, or to the period that excludes 'the dark times' also known as the 'rassalonic era', or even just how long its been since the Doctor was last there.

It is more likely that the Time Lords were powerful for billions of years. We know that the Time Lords contended with the Racnoss [together with the so-called fledgeling empires (ie just born, and 'learning to fly' by metaphor)] 4.2 billion years ago [when the Earth was forming].

The Time Lords have diplomatic ties with the Third Zone Governments [the Two Doctors] which are contemporaneous with 20th century earth. In the Three Doctors, Omega's energy drain assault on the then unnamed planet of the Time Lords seems to co-incide with his sending creatures to kidnap the third Doctor from Earth (in the 20th century).

The most likely answer therefore is that the Time Lords were powerful for at least the last 5 billion years, but that they were ''absolutely' powerful [having complete mastery of time/space travel ie TARDISES, not time-scoops, and with Gallifrey shielded by transduction barriers from any possible physical attack. So secure that they could forget their own origins] only for the last 10 million years.

[Actually the shows writers never defined the answer, but the above connects the greatest number of dots. The position that the Time Lords were a civilisation of the far past existing to the present day, was also the position taken in the licensed New Adventure books published by Virgin Publishing, and in the recent licensed tie-in book "A brief history of Time Lords".]


this scene is interesting and should help answer your question.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. Just because this encounter is taking place at the end of the universe does not mean that is when the Time Lords ruled, it could simply be a convenient time for this meeting. It could equally be that just because the Time Lords no longer rule does not mean that their civilization did not continue, or arise again. Also you shouldn't just post the linked video; it is likely to disappear fairly quickly. You should at least describe what is said, or better provide exact quotes.
    – DavidW
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 3:09
  • I took it as the Time Lords pulling a Master and hiding at the edge of the universe and not, in fact, when the Time Lords ruled. Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 17:45
  • And, it's a link-only answer that becomes useless should that clip be pulled from YouTube.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Jun 21, 2021 at 18:04

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