When Rose possessed the Time Vortex, she said she could see all of spacetime:

Rose: I can see everything. All that is, all that was, all that ever could be.

The Doctor: That's what I see all the time.

The Doctor said he sees all of Spacetime all the time. Is this true? I think NO, because seeing everything is a kind of god-like superpower and there are times when The Doctor just doesn't know anything about the situation.

But, on the other hand, bluffing without reason isn't The Doctor's style. Why would he say this about his fake omniscience?

Out of universe, this looks like immaturity of the writers when they set up the franchise. While this happened in season 1, Doctor Who was a decades-old franchise having lots of established materials. Everyone knows The Doctor isn't omniscient. Why did writers add that line?

  • 6
    Even if you can see everything, you don't necessarily know what a schnitzel tastes like. You only know what it looks like. This is but one example, but it shows that omniscients is not implied by that statement.
    – Einer
    Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 12:11
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    If you can see everything that has been and can be, how can you know which future is the one to pass?
    – Zavior
    Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 17:10
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    All-seeing != all-knowing. Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 17:52
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    @SachinShekhar Taste is not in spacetime. At least it is doubtful if qualia are. And even if qualia are: It is not said that he or Rose sees spacetime. And even if he could see spacetime itself (something like a four-dimensional bended grid), it is not said, that he sees everything within it - even the invisible stuff like emotions or ideas.
    – Einer
    Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 19:21
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    Well, I wouldn't say he was bluffing so much as he was speaking poetically. He is a time-traveler, after all, who spends all of his time wandering around the universe. He's seen so many worlds in so many times in so many timelines, and can see all of the fixed and fluxing points in his head, that his statement may as well be true, in a sense. He has that capacity, and it all blurs together for him in his mind.
    – Amy
    Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 2:54

4 Answers 4


I think the quote is ambiguous. It could be taken as omniscient conscious awareness of everything throughout spacetime, but it could also be taken as a more limited awareness concerning any specific event in one's spacetime vicinity--seeing not only what actually happens at that event (what 'is'), but also some of the past sequence of cause-and-effect that led up to it (what 'was') and the alternate possibilities for that event that could have happened but didn't (what 'could be'). And even if Rose-as-Bad-Wolf is actually talking about all events throughout spacetime, one could interpret the Doctor's statement as meaning that he has the same type of awareness about any specific event in his vicinity, without this awareness being as broad as hers.

Consider this similar statement from the transcript of "The Fires of Pompeii", in which Donna is trying to convince the Doctor to save the population of Pompeii from being killed in the volcanic explosion that's supposed to happen the next day:

DONNA: But I'm history to you. You saved me in 2008. You saved us all. Why is that different

DOCTOR: Some things are fixed, some things are in flux. Pompeii is fixed.

DONNA: How do you know which is which?

DOCTOR: Because that's how I see the universe. Every waking second, I can see what is, what was, what could be, what must not. That's the burden of a Time Lord, Donna. And I'm the only one left.

In this context it seems quite possible that he just means that when he's in Pompeii the day before the explosion, he can see the various possibilities and necessities for what's going to happen tomorrow. Or perhaps it's a bit like vision where we can choose to focus our attention on things near us or things far away, but with limits on how much fine-grained detail we can see for faraway things like distant mountains--he could have a very broad sense of the type of future that would arise if the volcano was prevented from exploding by the Pyrovile aliens in that episode, without seeing the details of every life and every event in that possible future.

This is all fairly speculative since I don't think the nature of Time Lord "vision" has ever really been spelled out (maybe some of the non-TV stories dealing with the concept of the Web of Time could give more hints), but the point is that both quotes are ambiguous and don't necessarily mean he has complete conscious awareness of every detail of spacetime at every moment (in fact there are many scenes of him not knowing things or arriving in a new time and being excited to learn what's out there, so I think we can safely rule out that type of omniscience).

  • It's worth pointing out that the Doctor turned out to be wrong about Pompeii. Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 17:04
  • @Lightness Races in Orbit - How so? The fact that the Pyroviles were attempting to change it doesn't mean that it wasn't a fixed point, maybe it was inevitable they would fail.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 17:09
  • My interpretation has always been this too. That the explosion, which was inevitable, was the result of the Doctor stopping the pyroviles.
    – Nigralbus
    Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 17:10
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    @Lightness Races in Orbit - He never said his "involvement" would be bad, he just vetoed the idea of changing the fixed outcome by saving the people of Pompeii, as Donna urged him to do. So I don't see any reason to say 'his "vision" was quite seriously wrong'. If you disagree, please look over the transcript and point to a specific quote that you think suggests his vision of Pompeii as a fixed point was flawed.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 18:10
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit: It's not that he thinks getting involved is "bad". Just that it is pointless.
    – slebetman
    Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 2:53

The Doctor certainly isn't omniscient. In fact, in the Moffat/Smith, he constantly seems surprised by events happening, not remotely aware of them in advance, to say nothing of being in control.

My understanding of it, mentioned in a different, related question, is that the Doctor has an innate, instinctive sense for time. He can tell when an event is a Fixed Point in time, like he does in The Fires of Pompeii, and there's nothing he can (or should) do to change it. Likewise, in the end of Eccleston's run, he sees what the Human empire has devolved into brainless decadence, and has a line to the effect of "this isn't how this was supposed to be".

This doesn't come from studying huge libraries of Time Lord history books, since there's simply too much of it, past and present. It's a Time Lord's affinity with time, possibly gained through exposure to the Time Vortex through the Untempered Schism. This is what he means by "seeing everything" - this feel for the vast shape of the time stream, of how things should turn out, if undisturbed.


Seeing what is and what was are simple enough. But "ever could be" isn't the same as seeing the future.

It's like Schrodinger's cat. He would see both the living and the dead cat. But he doesn't know which one will be until the reality settles. He wouldn't have any advantage in playing the Lotto because all he sees are the possibilities - basically every combination of balls that could be picked. He wouldn't be able to pick the winner of an election because that winner would be the result of millions of individual decisions, and he doesn't know what each individual involved is going to decide. He might have an advantage the more he knows about a situation. Particularly if it involves predictable or calculable behavior. Something like this asteroid is going to hit this planet with this much force at this position, causing this much damage. But he would still be far from omniscient.


As the quote itself points out, he can see "all that ever could be.", not all that will be.

That is a long way from omniscience. It is certainly superhuman, but nowhere approaching God-like.

See Galadriel, the Jedi/Sith, the guy from MiB3. Those guys still manage to be surprised pretty frequently.

  • 2
    This is a good point. Before I roll a die, I can "see" all of the possible results that could appear on the die, but that doesn't mean that I "know" which one it will turn out to be.
    – Roger
    Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 14:23
  • @Roger- Good analogy. Commented May 9, 2016 at 3:03

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