I was reading in the news today that it's been confirmed that Jo Martin's Doctor is an actual regeneration of the Doctor. How can that be when all 12 regenerations of her previous regeneration cycle have been accounted for (the one where the "duplicate" Doctor is created counts).

The only regenerations of the current cycle have been into Peter's Doctor (start of the cycle) and into Jodie's Doctor.

Does this mean that the Doctor has had a previous regeneration cycle that she's forgotten about?

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    This has not been explained yet but I suspect that it has to do with a parallel universe and possibly a single cyberman. Rose and her mother may appear. – Jeeped Jan 28 at 19:44
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    I think it has to do with the "timeless child" stuff that the Master was talking about at the beginning, with the Time Lord leaders having lied to them about everything. One possibility I have thought of: instead of new Time Lords being born or loomed or whatever, as they're told happens, the leaders just reset existing Time Lords, giving them a new cycle of regenerations and a memory wipe, but otherwise not changing their names or to an extent personalities. So in reality, most or all Time Lords are much older than they believe, and their society is truly stagnant. – Adamant Jan 28 at 19:48
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    "How can that be[?]" Tempting to suggest the point of the episode was to make us ask that exact question... – Zeiss Ikon Jan 28 at 19:59
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    @Jeeped - The showrunner has confirmed that the new Doctor doesn't come from a parallel universe. – Valorum Jan 28 at 20:08
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    @Valorum - I don't know what their core fanbase is, but all the elements of Doctor Who that fans know and love are still present: aliens, Daleks, Cybermen, historicals, callbacks, bad continuity, retcons, and weird TARDIS noises. If people are fine with the War Doctor but not another unknown regeneration...c'est la vie. – Adamant Jan 30 at 1:04

The answer is, we don't know yet.

We know that the Time Lords can bestow an entirely new regeneration cycle. There's nothing to say they can't also add regenerations to the current cycle.

Clever Theories abound, but most are centering on the period between Troughton and Pertwee as the most likely place that this "new" regeneration could have occurred.

The Season 6B Theory believes that before The Doctor was forcefully regenerated to Pertwee, there was a period where he was press-ganged into working for the Time Lords as a sort of rogue agent. The Two Doctors is believed to be from that time - he's traveling with Jamie but not Zoe, and is complaining about being made to do chores for the Time Lords. That could only have happened after War Games.

The most likely scenario is that something happened to him, requiring a regeneration, into Jo Martin's character. At some point after the events we're seeing now, (possibly immediately after) something else cause the Time Lords to proceed with their original sentence, forcing a regeneration into Pertwee. Perhaps they feel responsible for the accident/event that causes Martin's regeneration, and in addition to erasing/blocking all memories of that period, add a regeneration to her cycle.

That while, while technically Matt Smith was the 13th regeneration and not the 12th, his was still the last of his cycle, so his worries about it being the end for him are still valid.

Chris Chibnall has confirmed that this really is The Doctor - not a dream, not a hoax, not an imaginary story - so there will certainly be SOME explanation.

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    I think it's veeeeery likely that it's not a one-time event that only happened to the Doctor like this theory is suggesting, but rather tied in to what the Master was saying about the lie of the timeless child and the secrets buried in the subconscious of all Time Lords. The idea that someone could have had a whole life that they didn't know about sounds like it could easily be related to a "timeless child" and subconscious memories and all that. – Adamant Jan 28 at 20:45
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    Besides which, three unrelated mysteries (timeless child, unknown regeneration, and lone Cyberman) is a lot for one season. More than likely two of them or all are tied together. – Adamant Jan 28 at 20:47
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    The Timeless Child was dropped last season, so we're already seeing multi-year plot threads. Chibnall has said (but may be lying) that Captain jack does not return this series. So we may well see at least one of these threads go till next year. But we know we're seeing Cybermen this year - they showed up in one of the teasers. – VBartilucci Jan 28 at 23:43

Short Answer:

I don't know what will be revealed in future programs about any extra lives the Doctor may have had. I have a little evidence and a theory.

Long Answer:

I don't know what the answer is.

But here is some more evidence.

In the Fourth Doctor series from the 13th season "The Brain of Morbius", 3 to 24 January 1976, written by Terrance Dicks and Robert Holmes there is a time lord duel between the Doctor and the brain of the evil Time Lord Morbius (installed in a monstrous body). As they mentally battle each other and attempt to force their minds back to the time of birth and then before birth, and thus into non existence, a monitor shows faces.

It shows the face of the 4th (Tom Baker) Doctor, then the face of the 3rd (Jon Pertwee) Doctor, then the face of the 2nd (Patrick Troughton) Doctor, then the face of the first, (William Hartnell) Doctor, and then it shows other faces. Morbius says "How far Doctor? How long have you lived?".

After about eight, if I remember correctly, more faces are seen after Hartnell's, Morbious's mind is killed and his mindless monster body goes on a rampage until it is physically killed.

And fans assumed that the eight faces seen after the face of William Hartnell were faces of some or all of the Doctor's incarnations before the William Hartnell Doctor, and thus that the Tom Backer was the 12th or later incarnation of the Doctor.

But in the next season, the serial "the Deadly Assassin" 30 October to 20 November 1976, written by Robert Holmes, featured the almost dead Time Lord The Master returning to Gallifrey. The Master had used up all his regenerations (by being fatally injured or wounded in various conflicts, I guess) but sought to gain new life on Gallifrey. A Time Lord said that a Time Lord gets twelve and only twelve regenerations.

It is possible he meant that that a time Lord gets twelve incarnations, which would put the Fourth Doctor in his last regeneration. But it is much more likely that the Time Lord meant that Time Lords get 12 regenerations from one incarnation to the next, and thus that a Time Lord would have thirteen incarnations or lives, meaning that the Fourth Doctor would have one more regeneration into his thirteenth incarnation or body.

Since either possibility would limit the number of future bodies the Doctor could have, and thus the number of future actors who could portray him, fans were not happy and so most fans decided that the eight unknown faces seen in "The Brain of Morbius" were not all previous incarnations of the Doctor. Some or all of the faces should have been those of the previous Time Lord lives of Morbius.

It was established in The Deadly Assassin (1976) that a Time Lord can regenerate twelve times before permanently dying – a total of thirteen incarnations. The 20th Anniversary special, the 1996 television film and the 2013 special "The Time of the Doctor" all confirm this with the latter showing that the Time Lords can circumvent the cap of 12 regenerations in total by giving a Time Lord extra regenerations.


So the accepted theory is that the William Hartnell Doctor, seen in the first few seasons, was the first incarnation of the Decctor, and that all of the eight unknown faces in "The Brain of Morbius" were lives of Morbius.

And that is supported by once or two references to the William Hartnell Doctor as "the first" in stories like "The Three Doctors" 30 December 1972 to 30 January 1973, and "the Five Doctors" special 23 November 1983, written by Terrance Dicks. And possibly various Doctors in the "new Who" shows since 2005 have been referred to by numbers consistent with the William Hartnell Doctor being the first incarnation.

In The Brain of Morbius (produced shortly before The Deadly Assassin), a sequence of faces displayed during a mental battle between the Fourth Doctor and Morbius imply that the Doctor had at least eight incarnations prior to the First Doctor. This is contradicted by multiple dialogue references throughout the programme (particularly in The Three Doctors, Mawdryn Undead and The Five Doctors) as well as the fact that the Doctor has regenerated nine times since then (as confirmed in "The Time of the Doctor"). Producer Philip Hinchcliffe has said, "We tried to get famous actors for the faces of the Doctor. But because no one would volunteer, we had to use backroom boys. And it is true to say that I attempted to imply that William Hartnell was not the first Doctor."[62] The Doctor's previous incarnations are represented by images of production unit manager George Gallaccio, script editor Robert Holmes, production assistant Graeme Harper, director Douglas Camfield, producer Philip Hinchcliffe, production assistant Christopher Baker, writer Robert Banks Stewart and director Christopher Barry.[63][citation needed]


However, I do have a fan theory that the Doctor is more than a normal Gallifrean and more than a Gallifrean Time Lord. My theory is that the Doctor is actually a non Gallifrean who has an infinite number of lives, being reincarnated when he dies or is killed, unlike a Gallifrean who can not regenerate if killed. This hypothetical alien has been reincarnated as a Gallifrean at least once before he was reincarnated as the Doctor. Thus the eight unknown human looking faces seen in "The Brain of Morbius" might be eight previous faces of Morbius, eight previous faces of that hypothetical alien from his previous incarnation as a Gallifrean Time Lord who could regenerate 12 times, or some mixture of faces of Morbius and faces from the Doctor's previous life.

If that theory is true, even if the Doctor runs out of Gallifrean regenerations and dies as a Gallifrean, he/she will be reincarnated and live again as either a Gallifrean or a member of some other species, since I don't know whether this hypothetical alien incarnates only as Gallifreans or also as members of other intelligent species.

There were a number of hints dropped in the era of the Seventh Doctor that he was more than "merely" a Time Lord.

Feeling that too much of the Doctor's backstory had been revealed by the Seventh Doctor's era, writers Andrew Cartmel, Ben Aaronovitch and Marc Platt developed a new direction for the series. Cartmel wished to restore the character's "awe, mystery and strength" and make him "once again more than a mere chump of a Time Lord" – an idea the media dubbed the "Cartmel Masterplan".[13] Under Cartmel, the show foreshadowed this concept; however, its 1989 cancellation meant that it was never realised onscreen. The proposed backstory was fully explored in Platt's 1997 novel Lungbarrow, where the Doctor is revealed as "the Other", a mysterious figure in Gallifreyan lore who co-founded Time Lord society with Rassilon and Omega. After a curse renders Gallifrey sterile, the Other devises biotechnological looms to "weave" new Time Lords; his granddaughter Susan is Gallifrey's last natural child. To escape a civil war with Rassilon, the Other throws himself into the loom system, where he is disintegrated and later woven into the Doctor.[13][14]


This backstory is partially, but not entirely, consistent with my hypothetical alien who reincarnated as two or more Gallifreans with 13 bodies each. But it was never made explicit in television canon, though a few vague hints in the 7th Doctor Episodes are canon and much more consistent with my hypothesis which isn't very specific about the Doctor's previous lives before the William Hartnell Doctor.

One problem with the Doctor's biography is the constant time travel in the series, and suspicions that some episodes might be ind different alternate universes than other episodes, and the possibility that history has often been changed, including facts about the Doctor's biography. Nobody can be certain that facts about the Doctor's biography in one episode are canonical and true in other episodes.

Warning! Spoilers follow!

In the 18th season, in "Logopolis", written by Christopher H. Bidmead, 28 February to 21 March 1981, the Fourth Doctor occasionally spotted a mysterious figure, "The Watcher". The Doctor is fatally injured and "The Watcher" appears and merges with him, and then he starts to regenerate into the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davidson). "The Watcher" is considered m a mysterious"in-between incarnation" of the Doctor. So the Doctor was apparently in two places at once during parts of "Logopolis".

In season 23 of the Classic Who, with the overall title of "Trial of a Time Lord", the Doctor was put on trail for various alleged crimes by the Time Lords. The time Lord prosecutor was the Valyard.

The Valeyard (/ˈvæliɑːd/) is a fictional character from the long-running British science fiction television series, Doctor Who. He is described by the Master as an amalgamation of the Doctor's darker sides from between his twelfth and final incarnations. In the serial The Trial of a Time Lord, comprising the whole of Season 23 of the series, the High Council of the Time Lords appoint the Valeyard as prosecutor at the Sixth Doctor's trial, hoping to have him executed and thereby remove the sole witness to their near destruction of life on Earth.


At the time of "Trial of A Time Lord" fans assumed that if the Doctor would have only 13 bodies the Valeyard would be an intermediate step between body number 12 and body number 13. Body 12.5, I guess. But possibly some fans suspected that the Doctor might somehow get a new set of regenerations, as in fact happened decades later.

As of now, the Doctor has a new set of 12 regenerations and 13 bodies, and the Doctor's "last regeneration" would be his 26th body. So the Valeyard would be the combination of all the dark personality traits of every Doctor between the 12th or 13th body an the 26th body. If the Master was telling the truth, that is.

So is the Valeyard a past or future life, or both, for the present Doctor? Or is the Valeyard non existent in the fictional universe the present Doctor is in?

When the new Doctor Who began in 2005, everyone assumed that the Christopher Eccleston Doctor was the ninth one, after eight regenerations. But it was later revealed that the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) had regenerated into the War Doctor (John Hurt), who was thus the real Ninth Doctor, and that the War Doctor had regenerated into the Christopher Eccleston Doctor who was thus actually the Tenth Doctor. So if you see a reference to the Ninth Doctor, or a later once, you need to be certain which Doctor is counted as the Ninth Doctor in that source.

So there is same evidence that besides having had one set of 13 bodies as a Gallifrean Time Lord, and starting on a second set of 12 regenrations and 13 bodies as a Gallifrean, the Doctor might have had a number of previous lives before the First Doctor, the William Hartnell One. And there have been examples of "in-between" Doctors, alleged Doctors allegedly amalgamated from the personality traits of several future Doctors, possible alternate universe Doctors, and previous Doctors whose existence is only revealed to the audience later.

So good luck figuring out whether the Doctor had a previous incarnation cycle before the William Hartnell Doctor, as you ask and I have theorized for different reasons, or if Jo Martin's Doctor is one of those other possibilities previously seen, or possibly something else, until it is revealed in some future episode. There are too many possibilities in the Doctor Who universe for you or me to deduce what brilliant or silly plot the writers have planned.


There does appear to be an answer forthcoming in "new Who" Season 12 with the addition of

the "Ruth" Doctor. Apparently a previous Doctor (confirmed by Martin's Doctor to be from her past) and flying in a TARDIS with a "classic Who" interior decor. They went to great lengths to ensure there was no question that the Ruth Doctor is indeed the real deal, although it remains to be seen when and where she came from.

  • Isn't that who they were talking about with "Jo Martin's Doctor"? At least I assumed so. – Adamant Jan 31 at 1:37

To repeat someone else's short answer: we don't know (yet).

All we know about the newly revealed 'Doctor' portrayed by Jo Martin at this point is:

  • She is The Doctor
  • She is not from a parallel universe

(these two points have been confirmed by writer and showrunner Chris Chibnall)

Neither Doctor recognises the other was in their past, so we can't say if the new Doctor is from the past or the future. The Timelords ability to wipe minds has already been re-asserted this season, so that could have happened to one of them (or both?), but it still could be either way around.

The 'new' Doctor does not recognise the sonic screwdriver which has been in the show since Patrick Troughton (the second doctor), which rules out any 'branching' of timelines. This detail alone doesn't confirm that she is from the past because of the mind-wiping possibility.

Until the answers are broadcast, we can only guess at any number of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey explanations, but if it is a reveal that the Doctor has had previous regeneration cycles we don't know about, this wouldn't be the first time this has been hinted at or conceived. The 4th Doctor serial The Brain of Morpheus hinted at previous, unseen incarnations of The Doctor, and it is widely documented that the writers of classic Doctor Who had plans to reclaim some of the mystery lost from the Doctor and Gallifrey by hinting that he was "more" than just a Time Lord. This planned (but never filmed) story arc is widely known as the Cartmel Masterplan, and would have suggested that The Doctor had a previous incarnation as 'The Other', one of the founding fathers of Gallifrey.

It has also been stated by Chris Chibnall that not all of the questions posed in season 12 of Doctor Who will be answered in the same season - some will stretch on into the 13th season.

  • The sonic only appeared (IIRC) once during Troughton's run, in Fury of the Deep, and was a far more rudimentary instrument. It's possible Doctor!Ruth simply didn't recognize the Current Doctor's sonic as such, as she'd barely started using it. It only started being the "miracle device" it is now in the Pertwee era. – VBartilucci Jan 31 at 16:04
  • @VBartilucci No, it appeared twice in Throughton's run - it was in War Games as well. youtube.com/watch?v=fvhbGGkhKe4 – Astralbee Jan 31 at 16:10
  • I'm not sure how the screwdriver rules out branching timelines... except, perhaps, the specific 'between Troughton and Pertwee' one. My theory's that the time travelling Cyberman we've been warned about alters the circumstances of the Doctor's first regeneration (which involved Cybermen) and that changes their history thereafter. It's still the same universe (so Chibnall told the truth), history changed and wibbly-wobbly rules allow Whittaker-Doc to experience it. – starpilotsix Feb 1 at 21:12

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