In the Doctor Who episode "The Woman Who Fell to Earth" The Doctor removed

several DNA bombs from her companions and reinserted these into the data-gathering coil brought to Earth by Tzim-Sha (Tim Shaw).

The Doctor was not surprised when these found their way back into Tzim-Sha and seemed to understand he was connected to the coil.

Why then,

after Tzim-Sha had detonated the bombs, potentially killing him,

did The Doctor chastise Karl by saying "you had no right to do that!" for kicking him

off the crane? Surely he was as good as dead anyway? Although he appeared to teleport away before we saw him die, The Doctor had previously gone into great detail about the way DNA bombs worked and their deadly potential.

  • 1
    Well arguably Tzim-Sha had killed himself, rather than the Doctor doing it. And I thought the "you had no right to do that" was directed at Tzim rather than Karl, though I could be mistaken.
    – Jontia
    Oct 9, 2018 at 14:56
  • 1
    @Jontia True, but I struggled to get that accross in a punchy title. I explain in the post that Tim detonated the bombs. But he had already teleported before she made the comment and she turned to Karl when she said it
    – Astralbee
    Oct 9, 2018 at 15:08
  • Good point. Although talking to (or at) characters that have just left is a fairly common TV/Film convention.
    – Jontia
    Oct 9, 2018 at 15:09
  • @Sava (cc Astralbee) Making a post entirely spoilers is next to pointless because people have no way of knowing what the spoiler could contain and so will have to read it anyway. In the future can you try and make posts readable without having to see most of the content hidden behind spoiler markdown. I haven't seen the episode yet but I have tried to do this here.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Oct 9, 2018 at 15:11
  • "Never be cruel, and never be cowardly". That's the consistent promise among all the Doctor's Incarnations.
    – tilley31
    Oct 9, 2018 at 16:00

4 Answers 4


It's similar to his reaction to Harriet Jones, British Prime Minister's (*) choice to destroy the Sycorax ship after The Doctor had gotten them to retreat. They'd already lost, in The Doctor's eyes, there was no need to kill them.

One could argue that there's no knowing if pushing Tim Shaw off the crane will result in his death (or at least any more than the DNA bombs will). Presumably, Tim Shaw will return to his planet on some sort of receiving platform, and whether he's on the ground or on the 47th floor of a building would not matter. He was falling as he teleported, but he'd only fallen a few yards or so - when he arrived at home, he'd probably arrive horizontal, but only with the kinetic energy of a very short fall, not a fatal one.

Still, She tells Karl From The Train off, more because at the very least it was a case of kicking Tim Shaw while he was down.

(*) Yes, we know who you are...


The Doctor's comment to the alien Tim Shaw that it should return home (after having set off the bombs inside itself) would strongly suggest that with the appropriate medical treatment, that the DNA bombs shouldn't be fatal. Since it had no choice but to comply and had stopped actively trying to kill them, that was tantamount to admitting defeat.

Doctor: You got everything transferred to you including five tiny bombs. You had a choice. You did this to yourself.


Go home.

In essence, he was killing an enemy that had already surrendered.

  • 5
    It's no more perverse than allowing enemy soldiers (who had been murdering your soldiers on a routine basis) to go home when the war's over. The Doctor has consistently allowed opponents to live if they're willing to lay down arms and walk away. It's when s/he doesn't that they get scary. Oct 9, 2018 at 19:26
  • 6
    It's only a rough analogy. And we're talking about The Doctor. The person who was faced with the "Would you kill Hitler as a baby?" decision with Davros and saved him. The person who let Bonnie get away with outright murder and terrorism because he thought the chance for peace was more important than vengeance, however justified. Oct 9, 2018 at 19:35
  • 5
    I would not call this a "perverse" morality, I would call it a core element of the Doctor's character - perhaps the core element. Oct 9, 2018 at 20:50
  • 5
    @Valorum: The alternative is a cycle of retribution, which the Doctor has no desire to kick off.
    – Kevin
    Oct 9, 2018 at 21:09
  • 2
    @Kevin Last time the Doctor was involved in one of those Gallifrey burned.. and was first destroyed and then saved by the Doctor.. so there's good reason for that.
    – Leliel
    Oct 10, 2018 at 0:54

Legal right

While the Doctor certainly disapproves of violence on moral grounds, when she said "you had no right to do that!", she may have also meant the legal right.

The Shadow Proclamation enforces interstellar law, including the rules by which technologically advanced societies may interact with primitive societies such as 21st-Century Earth. These strict regulations have been a recurring negotiating tool and/or legal impediment for The Doctor since their first mention in "Rose" (2005).

In "The Woman Who Fell to Earth" (2018), the Doctor may have been relying on this (or similar) interstellar law in her negotiation with the hostile alien. Karl's action, if in violation of legal protocol, may have opened the door to reprisals against Earth.

  • 2
    Interesting, but I think there's no way this is what she meant. Legal matters are the last thing the doctor cares about. They're boring to him/her. The doctor only brings them up when they win an argument or accomplish some direct purpose then and there. The doctor is very chaotic in nature (to steal D&D terms).
    – Nacht
    Oct 10, 2018 at 0:18
  • Those rules are aimed more at what the more advanced civilization may and may not do to/with the less advanced one. They are there for the protection of the less advanced planets. Odds are there are little to no rules for what the lesser group may not do, especially in terms of self-defense. Also, The Doctor has referenced the SP more to impress and unnerve the aliens he's talking to, more than any real wish to stand behind the rules. Oct 10, 2018 at 13:56

The Doctor shows a consistent abhorrence of violence which has become more marked over time. One could argue that the first Doctor didn't really show this very strongly, but it becomes a theme over time. KFTT's attack on a defeated foe is well out of bounds for the Doctor's ethos.

In addition, the Doctor does not like to have their plans disrupted, and KFTT's attack disrupted the plan.

  • 1
    The latter part of this doesn't address the question of right
    – Valorum
    Oct 9, 2018 at 20:19
  • The question of the wording - her use of the word "right" - will presumably be unrolled over the course of the coming series. At the moment, I'm answering the question of why the Doctor chastised KFTT. Oct 9, 2018 at 20:27

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