In the episode 'The Pandorica Opens' it is revealed that several of the Doctor's greatest enemies have formed an alliance to prevent the destruction of the universe, as they believe (through data extrapolation) that the Doctor's travels ultimately cause the cracks in time and space.

To combat this problem they construct the Pandorica, a prison so perfect you can't even escape it by dying. My question is this; after trying to foil the Doctor on countless occasions, and finally devising a plan that ensures his entrapment, why don't his enemies just kill him? He's very well known for escaping even the most dire of situations, so why leave him imprisoned?

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    I've always found the idea itself of imprisoning/killing a Time Lord ridiculous: you kill him/her today and you may meet him/her tomorrow - in your future, but in his/her past :) Nov 13, 2018 at 18:48
  • Design by committee has a reputation for being inefficient.
    – Gaultheria
    Nov 15, 2018 at 7:37

4 Answers 4


We know that The Doctor's "death" (or perceived death) was a fixed point in time. But because The Doctor travels through time this does not mean that his enemies should not expect to see him before or after that date! The attempt to kill him was to end his timeline and prevent something from happening in his future (the question "Doctor who?" being answered). The Doctor evaded this by tricking the Silence into believing they had succeeded.

Time travel isn't the sole property of the Timelords anymore. The Daleks have messed about with time, travelling through time corridors and using other technology that alters the flow of time. Then you've got the "cheap and nasty" vortex manipulators used by various individuals. Quite a number of the doctor's enemies that formed the alliance and the plan to imprison him were among the races known to have travelled through time and across dimensions, so it is possible they already knew about the date of The Doctor's "death".

Even though his "death" was established and the plan of The Silence a seeming success, The Doctor's timeline/life would still play out across all the times he travelled to, foiling dastardly plans along the way. So to answer your question Why imprison the Doctor? - it makes sense that these enemies, knowing his death is inevitable, would be happy to just put him out of their way in the meantime. And though you are right, he is known for escaping tricky situations, this was an all-out effort, coordinated by an alliance of enemies, creating what they genuinely believed was an inescapable prison. And you have to admit, the way he got out of it was pretty hokey.

Remember that the time travel element of the show means that, unless events in an episode make up part of an established sequence of events, we can't really be sure if one plan was hatched before or after another. Even though 'The Pandorica Opens' came before the story involving his death, the events could be considered to have come after.


Because he's also well known for cheating death, in fact the more danger he's in the more likely it seems he is to get away with a death defying stunt that saves the day and thwarts his enemies. Under those circumstances putting him in a nice safe prison where he's not in any danger looks like a surer road to success than attempting to kill him.

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    If that's the case then why do the Silence opt for an assassination as oppose to imprisonment? If he's so well known for cunning escapes then why do his enemies even bother to fight back anymore?
    – Ongo
    Nov 13, 2018 at 19:16
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    Different enemies have different amounts of information on the Doctor. At that point in the series we hadn't even encountered the Silence yet (that we recall), so it's quite possible that they don't know enough about the Doctor and his tendency to cheat death, compared to races like the Daleks and Cybermen who definitely had plenty of experience.
    – ConMan
    Nov 13, 2018 at 23:38
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    +1 A later episode explores this too: in Heaven Sent he is imprisoned for 4.5 billion years (give or take) before he finally breaks free. They looked pretty disappointed, too, since it seemed The Doctor would never escape at that point. That's much more effective time-wise than the killing of (which would be a regeneration immediately) or even crafting a fatal fixed point.
    – phyrfox
    Nov 14, 2018 at 0:25

There's the fear that maybe killing him might set off the chain of events that puts the universe in danger in the first place. It has to do with his TARDIS, and imprisoning him might seem the safer option. The TARDIS explosion is actually caused by the Silence's attempt to kill the Doctor but it all goes wrong.

His enemies do know something of the future for certain, which is why they imprison him in the first place. That's canon.

As to why they imprison instead of kill, they might know that death of the universe is CAUSED by an attempt on the Doctor's life (because it is, and that might be why they are careful not to do that, but they don't have all the information), or they might know it through prophecy and what-not. In that case, they might have decided that it was safer to imprison him through the period of time when he is supposed to have caused the death of the universe.

Supposition, true, but it fits what we know.

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    Cannon is a big gun. Canon is a collection of writings accepted to be reliable. Neither exists in Doctor Who :-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Nov 15, 2018 at 10:08
  • @Randal'Thor The strictest definition, yes, but time has marched on, and it also means facts within writings, films, and other genres, that are officially accepted within a particular "world" as part of the continuity of that fictional world. Nov 15, 2018 at 16:48
  • Yep, that's what I meant in this context by "collection of writings accepted to be reliable". Doctor Who still doesn't really have a canon :-) But that's just me being pedantic - my main point was the typo.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Nov 15, 2018 at 17:36

The Doctor is told that the Pandorica is a prison for the "greatest threat in the Universe". As it turns out this is the Doctor, now all these enemies have all faced the Doctor before and failed. Most of them more then once. Killing the Doctor may not stop the upcoming event because they can't be sure that this incarnation of the Doctor causes the cracks in time. It could be a future version. What they knew was that they could bring the Doctor to this point in time and space and imprison him, separating him from his Tardis and stopping the destruction of the universe.

This is why a Prison and not death, how do you kill that which can't be killed (remember the enemies of the Doctor can't be sure this is the last regeneration) you can't, instead you imprison it until the end of the universe.

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