In several instances he throws some "Shadow Proclamation" paragraph at his adversaries implying they are violating this intergalactic law (for instance, killing all humans doesn't seem to be a good thing).

Is it really just to stall? He always looks convinced about the severity of that particular injustice (no matter which incarnation of the Doctor).

Isn't this like informing a person who is pointing a gun at you asking to hand over your wallet that stealing isn't legal? I mean, it's pretty obvious, isn't it?

3 Answers 3


There's two parts to your question, I think: why does The Doctor always appeal to authority, and why does he appeal to that authority so frequently?

The Doctor's Behavior

The Doctor doesn't really assume that everyone abides by the law; he is giving them the chance to abide by the law. One of the few consistent aspects of his personality is that he really would prefer to let "bad people" correct their own behavior before he has to step in. We see this from the very first revival episode all the way through the confrontation with the Silence. He calls out his opponents behavior for several concurrent reasons:

  • Give then notice that he's detected their bad behavior and knows that it's a crime, as @Keith points out.
  • Make it clear that he has a greater awareness of the larger universe than the victims (who are often humans), with the unstated implication that he's more capable of fighting back.
  • Give them notice that he, personally, is planning to try and correct their behavior if they don't correct it first.

It's possible that he's hoping to "scare" the enemy into running away, the way Eleven did in his first episode or Ten did with the Vashta Nerada, without him having to actually do anything. I doubt he actually expects the Shadow Proclamation to arrive, or plans to "turn them in". I suspect he's already resigned himself to having to take action, but his own personal moral code means he has to give them a chance to do the right thing first.

The Shadow Proclamation

However, the biggest question you're asking, I think, is why that authority should make any difference to anyone.

We don't really know much about them, just bits and pieces. There's more information in related media but I haven't read much since the revival. The TARDIS Wikia lists a bunch of off-screen mentions of them, including an IDW comic where Ten is put on trial (meaning he apparently does recognize their authority as legitimate).

The Shadow Proclamation appears to be the closest thing in the universe to a globally established police force. There's some sense that they "replaced" the Time Lords after they disappeared but I don't know if that's "canon". We do know that the first time we hear of them is from Nine, who also mentions later on that then the Time Lords were around they acted as a kind of universal police force. It seems likely that The Shadow Proclamation popped up to fill in that void.

They were around at least as early as 1 BC -- the possessed priestess in Pompeii knew of them. We know the Judoon work for them, and they appear to have both the technology and motivation to act as a global police force. Other races (like that Adipose lady) do appear scared of them. They appear to have highly advanced technology, lots of historical knowledge (one of the few races that knew about Time Lords in any detail), and pretty solid information gathering when we see them in Stolen Earth.

Where they get their authority isn't as clear, but it seems like the same place any police force does. If enough people simply accept the Shadow Proclamation's right to enforce their rules by force, that makes them de facto authorized to do so because no one's going to stop them. It's entirely possible that they are just strong and scary enough that any space-faring or time-faring races knows of them and is scared of them, and that might be exactly what The Doctor is hoping for.

  • Great answer. Thanks. (no I don't remember the Eleventh Doctor mentioning it by name)
    – bitmask
    Sep 5, 2012 at 20:34
  • 1
    11 mentioned it in the "Eleventh Hour" S5E1. Sep 5, 2012 at 22:38
  • 1
    "Global" police force. That gave me a chuckle.
    – FreeMan
    Sep 24, 2015 at 12:48

The Doctor is a man of action, and a man of justice. He sees an injustice taking place and he doesn't see anyone else doing anything about it, so he acts.

His first action is always to inform the perpetrator that they are breaking a law. I would assume this is to make sure that everyone is aware of, or remembers that particular law. Then he gives them a chance to cease their illegal behavior.

Once it is clear that the perpetrator is aware of the law in question and has no intention of abiding by it, then and only then does The Doctor act to stop them. Admittedly, he generally looks pretty harmless, but he has an exceptionally good record at stopping people.

  • Yes, that does make sense. However, the question remains why everybody should be bound by this law. Maybe that's a different question, though.
    – bitmask
    Sep 5, 2012 at 13:27
  • It would be a different question, but I'm pretty sure there's no canonical answer for it. In the case of The Doctor, I think, as a time traveler, he doesn't necessarily feel greatly concerned about many of the smaller details but focuses on the Big Picture. When he trots out the "Shadow Proclamation" it's usually for something big like genocide. Sep 5, 2012 at 13:33
  • He sometimes does also use it to justify intervention (especially in fixed points) like in the Pompeii incident.
    – bitmask
    Sep 5, 2012 at 13:51

I think you are over-thinking this slightly -- it's not that he expects them to obey the law all the time.. it's that many people (beings/races/etc) will try to get away with something when they think they can. He is advising them that he is a witness to them violating the laws; i.e., 'Gotcha!'

Given his reputation (legend, even), most creatures respond by trying to 'Whups! Sorry!' or otherwise cover things up. It would be logical enough to try to eliminate the witness is other cases, but with the Doctor... Well, that could be worse than being caught.

His statements are usually meant to draw attention to the fact that he has

1.) Seen (witnessed) the crime
2.) Knows that it is a crime
3.) Is a being with the resources to report the crime and see that it is dealt with.

Once they realize WHO they are dealing with, it's usually enough to at least make them play 'by the book', if not actually scare them off.

  • Do you remember any example where "scaring them off" or "making them play by the rules" actually worked?
    – bitmask
    Sep 5, 2012 at 20:25
  • 2
    The last two incarnations introductory episodes leap to mind. The most recent one, he actually called them back to make the threats to ensure they stayed away.
    – K-H-W
    Sep 5, 2012 at 21:14
  • Didn't watch the new season yet.
    – bitmask
    Sep 5, 2012 at 21:47

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