Why do the Gallifreyans use the Swastika insignia on their clothing?

The Day of The Doctor features a sequence where the Doctor(s) decide whether or not to use the Moment to destroy Gallifrey, thus ending the Time War.

During this decision there are a number of overlay sequences which show the various citizens of Gallifrey taking cover from the war.

Some of the people within this sequence seem to have a Swastika insignia on their clothing:

enter image description here

It may just be a costume quirk, but it seems bizarre that such a loaded piece of iconography would be associated to the Time Lords by accident.

Is there a precedent, or reason for this in any of the Doctor Who timeline?

Possibly in the Gallifrey radio series, perhaps?

I know the symbol comes from a very different culture and has alternative etymology, but to modern audience the Swastika is synonymous with the Nazi Party first and foremost, and the program makers must be aware that this is the case...

  • @MrLister, if memory serves, the Swastika was the name of the shape, regardless of orientation. The Nazi party took the swastika and rotated it to make it the Hakenkreuz, the flag of their party; but it is a swastika nontheless... Commented Nov 23, 2013 at 22:26
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    Hm, a quick Google led to, of course, Wikipedia, which indicates you're right and I was remembering wrongly. Sorry.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Nov 23, 2013 at 22:33
  • A note on your bounty; According to WP, the left-facing swastika is a mirror, but the right facing one in Indian culture is usually accompanied by four dots inside the empty spaces. Also, if your bounty runs out without good answers, I'd like to offer an additional bounty. Just ping me, if I don't remember.
    – bitmask
    Commented Dec 4, 2013 at 20:33
  • Nice attention to detail! Commented Dec 5, 2013 at 11:54

7 Answers 7


The swastika is a symbol that long pre-dates the Nazis.

Hindus, Buddists, and Jains have used the symbol long before World War II, and will likely continue to use it long after. Note also the direction of the swastika (facing the left) is indicative of its Hindu origins, and not the right-ward facing Hakenkreuz of the Nazis.

The fact that it arose in cultures as disparate as Indians, Chinese, Africans, and even the Celts shows that it would be a symbol that need not be earth-centric.

But, as a symbol associated with peace and rebirth, it actually makes sense for the Gallifreyans to use it.


To be honest, I didn't even notice it while watching the episode.

Is it intentional? I don't think anyone can answer this without speculating, unless being part of the crew (and even then... take River Song's background as an example: even the staff has been lied to).

Right now I could imagine three different explanations:

  • It's a quirk and slipped through. Do you have a HD capture of that scene? It would still be ambiguous, but I could as well imagine the lines being round and it just appearing like that due to the lower resolution, aliasing, and associating it with known symbols.

  • It's a hidden feature further explained in a future episode? I'd like to explain this theory a bit more:

    Could it be that the Swastika is indeed considered to be a Gallifreyan symbol or icon in the first place? Consider the following: The TARDIS typically modifies perception of whoever's travelling with it (including the audience). This includes spoken and written language as long as the language isn't older than the Time Lords (or the universe as it's known to them).

    If you consider the Swastika to be some kind of letter or symbol with some meaning, I'd expect the TARDIS to actually translate it, which doesn't happen (e.g. Let's kill Hitler got lots of Swastikas all over the place). Of course, out-of-character it happened due to being iconic and you should see it as what it's meant to be. But in-character?

    Compare this to the War Doctor's writing on the wall ("NO MORE") as well as the holo display on the table ("GALLIFREY STANDS" IIRC). Could it be that the Swastika is of Gallifreyan origin? Maybe some "future" survivor of the Time War convinced Hitler (or the ancient humans) to use it in the first place?

    What's especially interesting for me is the fact it's on some kind of leather or cloth strip, worn in a similar way than parts of (some of) Nazi Germany's uniforms.

    Although, to be honest, this doesn't explain why the Swastika isn't "translated", other text is however. Maybe the Swastika is the translated icon/symbol already and there's actually been something different?

  • There's no reason at all and it's just been hidden to cause discussion and speculations between fans. This wouldn't be the first instance of something like this happening in the show. While trying to find more example images from yesterday's episode, I've found the following note about the series two episode The Idiot's Lantern:

    • All the television aerials seem to resemble Nazi swastikas. On the DVD commentary, one of the set designers mentions that this was done to evoke the post-war era.

    I noticed that in the past, but I never considered it being something intentional and just some form of classic antennae.

  • Good Answer +1! For the record, that is a HDRip, the child is in motion/slightly out of focal range so that's the clearest cap I could obtain. It happens at 1:02:26; when watching the clip it is irrefutably a Swastika.. I like your 'Swastika' grand narrative arc theory, by the way. That would be an amazing amount of foreshadowing... Commented Nov 24, 2013 at 11:41
  • Ah, okay. I remember the camera's movement, just didn't really look for details.
    – Mario
    Commented Nov 24, 2013 at 16:23

If this was intentional, it could be that before the Nazis adopted the swastika as their symbol it was a Hindu sign of peace and spirituality. So it could have been put in there as the Hindu symbol.


Perhaps to place the moral conflict inherent in the Doctor's decision - killing children (bad) to end a war (good) - in a context we can relate to? Having the boy wear a swastika perhaps references acts such as the Allied bombing of German towns, which inevitably caused civilian deaths but were arguably justified in terms of bringing a quicker end to WWII.

This doesn't explain why the production team would be so subtle though. I (and probably most of the audience) entirely missed the symbol, and therefore any symbolism.


Merely speculation but... Movie and TV shows often include semi-subliminal information in an effort to evoke an emotion in the viewer, your senses are 'filtered' through the amygdala before the hippocampus. This is why a person who is afraid of snakes may initially be scared of a snake-like stick before the brain has fully processed the image. The inclusion of emotionally charged symbols can help the emotional brain pre-consciously assess the circumstances in a story quicker than by conscious processing alone thereby bringing the state of mind the author wishes the audience to have.
OR They were saving on the costume budget by recycling from a WW2 show. Happens all the time.

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    ...That does look like a Nazi Bandolier, doesn't it? I hope that's not the case though. Would be a shame if they blew all their budget on CGI. Commented Nov 27, 2013 at 22:21

It was symbolic of what the Time Lords had become during the war, it was also exactly why the Doctor hated it all and didn't want to get involved. And the reason the pilot let herself get killed instead of going with the 8th Doctor. Hell, the leaders wanted to purify themselves and become energy or whatever.

  • Why is that symbolic? Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 13:38
  • @DVK-on-Ahch-To One theme throughout the show is that the Doctor really dislikes the other Time Lords. Whenever characters ask him about it, he responds that the Time Lords have become haughty and proud, thinking that they are Ubermensch and thus using their superior technology to exploit other nations. In other words, he thinks that they are a bunch of space nazis. Commented Mar 25, 2020 at 23:43

The symbol also has roots in pre-Christian Germanic tribal groups and in esoteric occultism, which the Nazi leaders were obsessed with before gaining power. And then choosing to reflect a more Christian image. The black sun would be another example, you can find a description here.

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