After "The Time of the Doctor", this seems very unclear. In "The Day of the Doctor", several references are made to the fact that by sealing Gallifrey in a pocket universe and changing the outcome of the Time War, the incarnations of the Doctor are changing history. Some of the indicative quotes are:

The Moment: It's history for them. All decided. They think their future is real. They don't know it's still up to you.

The Moment: They're you. They're what you become if you destroy Gallifrey. The man who regrets and the man who forgets.

Ten: You're not actually suggesting that we change our own personal history?

Ten: "This time, you don't have to do it alone."

Eleven: "This time, there's three of us."

Eleven: "Because the alternative is burning." Ten: "And I've seen that." Eleven: "And I never want to see it again."

However, the notion that time was actually changed seems to be contradicted by the events of "The Time of the Doctor", in which the Siege of Trenzalore is shown to be caused by the Time Lords, who are broadcasting the Question throughout the universe from within their own pocket dimension, which the Doctors put them into in "The Day of the Doctor." But since we saw a desolate, post-Siege Trenzalore with the Doctor's grave in "The Name of the Doctor", the Time Lords had to have already been saved in order for that version of the world to exist, which would mean that even then, the Doctor had been traveling in a timeline in which Gallifrey had been saved by his future (and past) selves.

This interpretation also has its merits, because shortly after the beginning of "The Day of the Doctor", the Eleventh Doctor sees a time fissure open up in the National Gallery and "almost" remembers it, as if he had been through it before (which, assuming that the whole thing is indeed a causal loop, would make sense, because he would have seen it from War's and Ten's perspectives). Additionally, we are not shown anything to suggest that this is the first time that the Moment has taken a stand against the Doctor's actions. Everything that the Moment does could reasonably be thought of as having happened in every past iteration of the event.

And then there is the "same screwdriver" gambit that the Doctors enact in the prison cell in 1562 - by scanning the cell door with the War Doctor's screwdriver, they can compress the time that it takes it to complete the calculations necessary for disintegrating the door due to the age of the Eleventh Doctor's screwdriver, which is implied to be a 400-years-older version of the War Doctor's. But logically, if it is a similar screwdriver from a different timeline, whatever the War Doctor does with his should not affect it.

So my question is, did the Doctor actually destroy Gallifrey in a previous timeline and rescue it in a new one, or do the events of "The Day of the Doctor" contain a circular loop that has happened and will happen every time?

  • 12
    Whoo. There's not going to be a definitive answer on this one, not for a long time anyway. I've been trying to write an answer, but it keeps turning into a full-on essay about the Web of Time and Fixed Points and dramatic irony and catharsis (and what a grand egotist Rassilon was), and I don't think it really answers your question anyway. I could give you at least three different contradictory theories, but nothing to recommend one over the other.
    – BESW
    Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 8:03
  • 2
    by even using words like "a timeline where" you're implicitly putting a human-invented interpretation (e.g. the many-worlds interpretation) onto the flow of time, which The Doctor will happily point out to you is small-minded and wrong :)
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 19:06
  • 6
    It's just Schrödinger's Gallifrey!
    – Izkata
    Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 0:29
  • 9
    Wibbly wobbly, timey wimey....
    – ewanm89
    Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 8:27
  • 2
    The answer to any sort of "was X true, or was its opposite Y true" question in Doctor Who is always "yes, yes it was."
    – Martha
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 2:24

10 Answers 10


It is ambiguous and difficult to reconcile but, in light of what was shown in The Name of the Doctor, history was almost certainly changed.

After closer investigation, I don't think there is any doubt that the Doctors changed their personal history in The Day of the Doctor. The answer is evident by what the audience is shown in the episode immediately preceding it. In The Name of the Doctor, the Doctor visits his grave on Trenzalore. He sees the results of the battle that the Silence was trying to avert and which their prophecy foretold; "On the fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the Eleventh...".

According to the prophecy, it is the Eleventh Doctor who ‘falls’ on Trenzalore. In this case, ‘falls’ is synonymous with ‘death’ and what the Doctor sees on Trenzalore when confronting the Great Intelligence certainly seems to enforce this idea. The presence of the Eleventh Doctor’s TARDIS on the ruins of the planet, along with the fact that Clara did not see any future incarnation within the Doctor’s time-stream (" I saw all of you. Eleven faces all of them you. You're the Eleventh Doctor."), is a solid indication that it is the Eleventh Doctor who dies on Trenzalore and not some future incarnation. In this version of events, the Time Lords did not grant the Doctor a second regeneration cycle and so he reached the very end of his life without being able to regenerate again.

This is where things get ‘timey wimey’. In The Day of the Doctor multiple incarnations of the Doctor are required to be present around Gallifrey in order to successfully seal the planet away in a pocket universe. One of these incarnations includes Peter Capaldi. If Gallifrey had always been saved then there should only have been twelve incarnations present. The thirteenth incarnation, played by Peter Capaldi, shouldn’t be necessary and, indeed, shouldn’t be possible given what clearly happens on Trenzalore according to what was shown in The Name of the Doctor. His presence among the other twelve is only possible if time is being re-written in the process and the events on Trenzalore have consequently changed.

There is, of course, only one possible explanation; the Doctors changed their history. By saving Gallifrey, the Doctor opened up the opportunity for the Time Lords to intervene on Trenzalore, save his life, and subsequently change the future. This allows for Peter Capaldi’s incarnation to exist and be present at Gallifrey with his previous twelve selves to save the planet.

The major roadblock which needs reconciling is what, then, was the original nature of the conflict on Trenzalore before these events were re-written? How could any of it have happened if the Time Lords hadn’t always been on the other side of the crack in a pocket universe to ask The Question? All we have is conjecture. The best answer I can formulate revolves around the ‘Web of Time’ concept which re-writes and re-contextualizes events in Time when paradoxes arise. When the Doctors changed history by saving Gallifrey, ‘The Web of Time’ adapted for the paradox by altering and re-contextualizing both the past and the future (especially in relation to forthcoming the events on Trenzalore) to avoid impeding on the general integrity and flow of Time.

For example, perhaps when the Doctor originally arrived on Trenzalore the crack did not lead to the pocket universe in which the Time Lords are now hidden away. Perhaps the crack led to Gallifrey from before it was destroyed. Despite this difference, the basic details would remain the same; the Doctor need only speak his name to bring abck the Time Lords and unlock the Time War and the alien forces above the planet would be doing everything possible to prevent the Doctor from doing so.

I personally prefer this interpretation because I have never been comfortable with the idea that the Doctor had, for centuries, been living under the delusion that he had destroyed his own people. There would have been a strong negation of consequence and a dilution of everything the audience had seen on-screen since 2005. Though it presents similar problems, I believe the idea of the Doctor changing history is a better compromise.

  • 2
    Thank you for the good, thorough answer. However, if it was, as you say, interpretive immediately post-"The Day of the Doctor", and if one of those interpretations was seemingly made certain by the events of "The Time of the Doctor", then surely there is no question that Gallifrey was saved all along? Personally, I do not think that that would erase the significance of Series 1-4; rather, it gives me a new perspective on them, but my confusion stemmed from the confusing presentation of what was actually happening. They say that history is changing, but show that it is being perpetuated. :)
    – Amy
    Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 4:13
  • @Amy I've edited the answer and taken some of your thoughts into consideration.
    – Bboynexus
    Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 5:55
  • The one big thing I don't really like about that whole "story arc": In the past we've seen that it's impossible to change your own past without causing significant problems (e.g. Father's Day). Since then I always considered the doctor can change things, but only as long as they don't directly affect him (or a companion) in a direct and permanent way. This is no longer true given these latest developments.
    – Mario
    Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 9:01
  • 1
    @Mario: Well, these were weird circumstances, as were the ones in "Father's Day". If Gallifrey's fate really was changed, then it occurred during the Time War, where basically anything went as far as the creation of paradoxes go. And Trenzalore's fate was changed by the Time Lords who can manage that sort of thing. Father's Day was actually a rather unique instance, because Rose actually changed her past twice-over (saving her father, giving her no reason to be there, and running out in front of her past self) during a weak point in time caused by two sets of them being present.
    – Amy
    Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 13:28
  • @Amy also don't forget what The Doctor said in the episode Father's Day in which there was now a person who existed in the universe who didn't before (i don't remember the exact quote). no one actually knew it was The Doctor and The Moment who destroyed Gallifrey and the Darleks. the plan was to seal Gallifrey away in it's own universe at the final moment when, with Gallifrey gone, the Darleks would fire at each other looking as if the 2 destroyed one another, more than likely looking similar to what The Moment would've done.
    – Memor-X
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 5:03

The Doctor would have wound up on an entirely different Trenzalore for different reasons. The crack has changed all of Trenzalore's history from the moment it opened. The irony is that the Doctor still winds up there and still thinks he's seen his future in this timeline, but all that has changed.

Keep in mind that the "same screwdriver" thing didn't exactly work, since the door was unlocked anyway. Still, it could be explained that as the War Doctor makes decisions, the present 10th and 11th Doctors simultaneously change with those decisions. Interacting with yourself by crossing your own timestream can cause funny things.


I can't necessarily explain how or why any of this is supposed to make sense, but I think I can at least answer your immediate question.

Based on the actual dialog between the three Doctors as they prepare to use the moment, I'm pretty sure they actually did go back in time and change their own past. Ten and Eleven both use words to that effect, e.g. "not alone this time", "changing my mind", etc.

While it may not make sense if you try to put together a coherent history of The Doctor's life, I think the intent of the writers in that episode is pretty clear: there is only one timeline, and it used to include the destruction of Gallifrey, and now it does not.

As far as how that affects the things that Nine/Ten/Eleven had already done on the assumption that Gallifrey had been destroyed, if you accept the Doctor Who concept of time and history, there really isn't much of a conflict. In the Who world, The Doctor can go back in time and change things that would clearly change events he's already seen. (If you read any of BESW's excellent answers to other related questions, you'll see that the people writing the supplemental material have gone to great lengths to try to explain how this stuff is supposed to work, but in general, on the TV episodes, the writers just hand-wave it away with words like "timey wimey" and "fixed point" and whatnot.)

The problem is that any one explanation you try to put in place will eventually contradict itself, at some point. In this case, it seems pretty clear that The Doctor originally destroyed Gallifrey using The Moment, then spent hundreds of years regretting it, then went back and fixed it. In particular, notice that Clara, whom The Doctor did not meet until three incarnations after the Time War, played a key part twice in saving Gallifrey. First, she's the one who convinced Eleven that WarDoctor hadn't yet killed everyone and he could go back and "fix it", and more importantly, it was her objections that stopped Ten and Eleven from just blowing Gallifrey up all over again.

So, from that perspective, it was Eleven meeting Clara that triggered the chain of events that caused him to retroactively change his own past. The problem is, Eleven remembers the holes in time that he used to meet his former self, but is surprised when WarDoctor shows up from one. Those two things contradict each other almost directly. Again, we could make up many explanations that work -- perhaps Eleven remembers the events as Ten sees them happening, similar to how The Doctor changed Kazran Sardick's memories in real-time in A Christmas Carol, but that explanation doesn't explain how he knew to throw his fez into the hole, etc.

Ultimately, there isn't going to be a satisfactory explanation that will make sense and completely line up with everything we've seen on television. At some point, we have to take the advice of MST 3K: "It's just a show; I should really just relax." Or, as Moffet himself put it (in 1996, when he was still just a fan):

Why all this fuss about canon - and, indeed, continuity - in a show about a man who changes history for a living?


Just rewatched Day of the Doctor the other night, and it reminded me of my own theory about this. The abundant references to changing their personal history make me think that, yes, they did do things differently than they originally happened, saving Gallifrey instead of destroying it. But, at the same time, almost all of the 11th Doctor's plotline relies on Gallifrey having been saved so that it could send out the message at Trenzalore. Since the show involved time travel, we can get around this by saying "Gallifrey was always destroyed first, but was also always saved later", but that's kind of a messy solution.

So I have my own pet theory to explain how Gallifrey was destroyed before the 9th Doctor, but saved before the 11th, and it revolves around Rose Tyler/Bad Wolf. When Rose became the Bad Wolf in "The Parting of the Ways," she travelled through time and space to help the 9th Doctor defeat the Daleks. But, maybe she did more? Though she didn't know the details, Rose was aware of the Time War and of the toll it had taken on the 9th Doctor. It's not too much of a stretch to think that becoming one with time and space, she was able to subtly influence "the Moment" at which the War Doctor ended the Time War. I'm not saying that the manifestation of The Moment in Day of the Doctor was the actual Rose Walker/Bad Wolf, but that she subconsciously affected the Moment's programming and consciousness to choose it to take on her form and to push the Doctor toward a less destructive solution (by putting him into—and suggesting the solution to—the "same screwdriver" puzzle that became the basis for saving Gallifrey.

The downside of this theory is that it makes Rose even more important than she already is/was, and her deus ex machina moment with the Daleks turns into something expanding over all of time and space, not unlike the controversial "Impossible Girl" moment in "Name of the Doctor". On the upside, though, the timing works out pretty well—Gallifrey was destroyed before 9, but saved before 11, so that many (though not all) of the paradoxes fall away (there's still the matter of the TARDIS explosion, for instance).


The original universe was changed by spewing into another universe it which Galafreywas always saved. Its whibbly whobbly timey whimey stuff but in a theoretical point of view the second you time travle you create a parallel universe that will accomidate the reality of your existance, so in short Galafrey was always saved in the universe that it has been saved in and history for that universe remains un altered


That's a tricky one, but my guess is that Gallifrey was always saved, it's just that when the War Doctor regenerated, he just remembered all the horrible things that happened in the Time War (Ninth Doctor: "You all burned! All of you! Ten million ships on fire, wiped out in one second!, and when the Master asks the Tenth Doctor about how Gallifrey can be gone, he responds with "It burnt"), and not the rest of it. Though in Stolen Earth and the End of Time, he mentions that the Time War and Gallifrey was timelocked, because as he says, the war "turned into Hell". Maybe that shows that his memories of the true events are returning at that point, but so far he can only remember little fragments.


Although the multiverse/parallel worlds/different histories is a neat way to look at this, I don't really think history was changed. It always happened this way. Gallifrey was always there to create the Question and all that lot. There's a bit of a paradox being created, though, because of the artifice about the Doctors not remembering what they've done to end the Time War. Since Gallifrey isn't destroyed -- since the Warrior/John Hurt Doctor hasn't pressed the button and destroyed the planet, why would the later Doctors remember it differently? Then, there's the painting -- Gallifrey Falls No More. Who created and titled it?

The other way to resolve this would be to say that the Question was something that the Time Lords set in motion somehow on their own, just as the John Hurt version was setting about destroying Gallifrey. That they somehow anticipate their salvation and maybe seek to eliminate a future threat?

Or, history was changed in some way, but really before the appearance of the Eccleston Doctor, somehow the Doctors don't remember it -- or, really remember this incarnation who exists betwixt and between the Eighth and Ninth Doctors -- and yet the "change" is already affecting the events in the time-stream of those future Doctors, especially the "Eleventh." Or, history was changed, but that change came after the timeline of the Ninth and Tenth, but not the Eleventh/Matt Smith Doctor. But, you can't change history.


"Why all this fuss about canon - and, indeed, continuity - in a show about a man who changes history for a living?"

Changing history is one thing, changing established rules is an entirely different matter. For example the ninth doctor was always extremely cautious when it came to paradox as was the 10th but to a lesser degree. As with the 11th doctor they just stop caring and try to make the paradoxes as ridiculous as possible.

It's already been established with the 9th doctor that interacting with your own past is apocalyptic bad and we even got an example of it. Meanwhile the 11th doctor has a party with not 1 but 2 past incarnations of himself simultaneously and time remained perfectly stable

  • 2
    While this is a very accurate observation, it could do with some editing to more directly answer the question of whether Gallifrey was always saved.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 11:42
  • If you watch the classic series, or read/listen to other formats, several stories feature multiple Doctors. Time Lords seem to have an exception to the rules...
    – Adeptus
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 6:57

Perhaps it was always saved. Pros: If the Doctors thought they had destroyed Gallifrey, then every time we heard about the destruction, it was always what the doctor 'knew'. If the doctor thought he originally destroyed Gallifrey, then he would have had the same effect as if he had actually done it. To explain why they have different memories: Their memories could have been changed by the moment, or by time to try and preserve the time stream. Cons: The only problem I see with this argument is that the doctor's grave is still on trenzalore, and since the Timelords saved him, why is his grave there? Unless he eventually comes back and dies on trenzalore.

  • 1
    If you're going to go with 'perhaps', then you might want to break your answer into a 'yes' and 'no' section, with your arguments for each.
    – Longshanks
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 20:41
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    – Edlothiad
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 21:07

The cracks in the universe only exist because The Silence caused the TARDIS to be destroyed. What changed isn't that Galifrey was saved but that the pocket universe where it exists has now access to ours.

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