19

Whenever someone asks The Doctor, "But, you look human?", he replies, "You look Gallifreyan."

Has this ever been mentioned in the canon why this resemblance between two different races exist? Do they share the same origin or, is the human race an accidental by-product of an ancient cloning experiment, or something?

13

No explanation has been given for this in the TV series. But there is no official "canon" in Doctor Who, so if you choose to incorporate spinoff media like novels or audios into your personal headcanon, the Doctor Who novel Lucifer Rising gave an explanation for the similarity in terms of morphic fields. The idea of morphic (or 'morphogenetic') fields was a real proposal by Rupert Sheldrake (generally seen as fringe science, similar to ESP and such) that there is a sort of force of "habit" in the laws of nature, so for example after one member of a given species learns something, other members of the same species will learn it more easily (the supposed hundredth monkey effect). Sheldrake also imagined morphic fields had a major role to play in shaping the body of a developing embryo, so that this mysterious field would explain the similarity of offspring to parents as much as DNA. [according to the summary on this page, Sheldrake's idea of the role of DNA is that "a newly forming system 'tunes into' a previous system by having within it a 'seed' that resonates with a similar seed in the earlier form. Thus, from this perspective, the DNA in the genes of a living system (like an oak tree) does not carry all the information needed to shape that system, but it can act as a 'tuning seed' that tunes in the morphogenetic fields of previous systems of the same type. Morphogenetic fields are thus the repository of what might be described as genetic habits."]

The Seventh Doctor explains the connection to his companions Ace (the Seventh Doctor's main TV companion) and Bernice (a companion invented for the novels who later appeared in some audios with the Seventh and Eight Doctor, although Eight didn't mention her in his list of past companions in the webisode The Night of the Doctor) on p. 250 of Lucifer Rising, which can be read on google books here:

'I hate to act the dumb brunette,' Bernice said, 'but morphic fields?'

'An interesting, but obscure offshoot of biology,' the Doctor said, grasping hold of his lapels and leaning forward in his best lecture-room manner as if nothing else were happening around him, 'first put forward on Earth by a scientist named Sheldrake in the twentieth century. The theory states that all living beings have a field associated with them which defines their entire biology, just as an electric field defines an electron. Humans are the way they are because there's a morphic field for humans, just as there's a morphic field for Alpha Centurians and Arcturans and, Rassilon help us, Daleks, and just as there was one for sparrows and for sheep. Morphic fields are reinforced by every successive generation, so that human babies look the way they do because the human morphic field influences the development of the embryo in the womb.'

He looked over at an astounded Bernice, and smiled briefly, like a flash of summer lightning.

'And that is why there are so many humanoid races in the universe. The Gallifreyans evolved first, and thus created a morphic field for humanoids. That made it more probable that the next race to evolve would be humanoid, and that made it much more likely that the next race would be humanoid. The majority of non-humanoid races developed in environments where two legs, two arms and a head would have been a positive handicap.'

For what it's worth, the idea of morphic fields was incorporated into the fourth season of the spinoff show Torchwood, where a change in humanity's morphic field was suggested as an explanation for the strange event of that season, the fact (revealed from the start but I'll put it in spoilers anyway) that

Humanity had suddenly become incapable of dying.

From the transcript of the second episode "Rendition" (the same very minor spoiler as above appears in Jack's last line, so don't read if you want to be 100% unspoiled):

JACK: So is anyone doing investigations on morphic fields?

REX: On the what fields?

JACK: The Sheldrake theory. The passing of connective information through the process of morphic resonance.

REX: I'm sure it is.

JACK: The theory states that a bunch of monkeys on an island learn how to use a rock as a knife, then a bunch of monkeys on another island ten thousand miles away also learn how to use a rock as a knife, because they're connected through a morphic field.

REX: Come on now, that's just science fiction.

JACK: Except it's not a theory. It's a fact. And the amazing thing about the Miracle is not that no one's dying, it's not that the human race has become immortal. It's that it happened to everyone at the same time. Don't you see? It was instantaneous. And that's a morphic event on a scale that I have never seen before. So whatever's happening to this planet, it is massive.

And--I'll put this in spoiler text since it gives a little info about the cause of the mysterious event that the season revolved around--the last episode "The Blood Line" had this dialogue:

REX: So, you found The Blessing and you worked out this morphic field. COUSIN: The Blessing exists in a symbiotic relationship with the human race. It transmits a morphic field around the planet, binding us together like magnetism, like sunlight. ESTHER: But finding it wasn't enough. You had to experiment on it. COUSIN: No, we fed it. MOTHER: We fed it the blood of an immortal. We had one remarkable artefact. We found a second remarkable artefact. The combination was inevitable. GWEN: So The Blessing absorbed the blood, copied it like a new template. So, the system changed its setting.

Torchwood never mentioned the idea of a connection between morphic fields and the similarity of humans with Gallifreyans though, so a Doctor Who fan who only wants TV stuff in their headcanon could accept that humans get their traits partially from "morphic fields" without necessarily accepting Sheldrake's idea that morphic fields are reinforced by habit and that the evolution of one species can thereby affect the evolution of a later one on a different planet.

4

No canon answer has ever been given as to why the external appearance of humans and Gallifreyans resemble each other (other than the completely inexpensive production aspects of making the people of Gallifrey look Human). It is most likely explained by the scientific theory of convergent evolution.

  • The Gallifreyans were classified by humans as Dominus temporis. (PROSE: The Last Dodo) Despite appearances, the Gallifreyans were more closely related to Terileptils than Humans. (TV: The Visitation) REF: The TARDIS Data Core
  • Given the Gallifreyans have existed for hundreds of millions of years before Humanity did, it is more likely we resemble them, than the other way around. Gallifreyans have superior durability, resistance to injury, heat and cold. They possess senses far beyond the human norm and have an intellectual capacity exceeding that of even the most intelligent Humans.
  • 2
    In real life, convergent evolution is fantastically unlikely to create two species from different planets that resemble each other closely enough that a human can't tell the difference -- unless something messed around with the laws of probability. – Keith Thompson Mar 18 '15 at 18:33
  • @KeithThompson: something, or someone? The Doctor is fond of his little jokes, after all. – Jeff Mar 18 '15 at 19:40
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    @KeithThompson - A little known fact is that the Timelords were involved in the development of the Infinite Improbability Drive. – Omegacron Mar 18 '15 at 21:15
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    I understand the unlikely nature of convergent evolution producing two radically different species having a similar appearance. It is the only theory that makes sense besides the idea that the Gallifreyans CREATED the human race... – Thaddeus Howze Mar 18 '15 at 21:29
  • Or some(one|thing) else created both of us. One might also speculate that the Tardis's Chameleon Circuit is involved somehow. Then again, making sense is not necessarily a prerequisite. – Keith Thompson Mar 18 '15 at 21:37
2

Forgive me if I am wrong.
The similarity in appearance of both Gallifreyans and Humans had long since been insinuated in "The Image of Fendahl".
It has been a long time since I last watched it. But from what I recall, the Fendahl would have effected both the evolution of both Humans and Gallifreyans to be similar in appearance.
I recall it was explained that the Fendahl scull that was found on Earth had deliberately interfered and manipulated the physiology of human evolution. Some of the symbolism insinuated that it had some influence on mythology too. The Doctor recalls the myths and fairy tales from his youth on Gallifrey that were based on the Fendahl, thus why he feared them greatly at first. There was probably more explained in the story, I will have to watch it again some time.
When I first watched it when I was young, it seemed to answer the question for me quite clearly for me at the time.

  • 1
    Wow. Can you please give some citations? – Captain Cold Jan 10 '16 at 14:36
  • The Doctor did say he'd heard of the Fendahl in "my own mythology", but I don't think it was because they influenced the Time Lords' evolution in the same way they humans'; rather, the Doctor says that on the Fendahl's home planet there evolved a malignant being that absorbed "the energy wavelengths of life itself", and that "the Time Lords decided to destroy the entire planet, and hid the fact from posterity", but the Fendahl had already escaped to Earth and created a "biological transmutation field" that made our ancestors evolve "into something suitable for the Fendahl to use". – Hypnosifl Feb 6 '16 at 1:04
  • @SS-3 The transcript is here, you can do control-F on a PC or command-F on a mac to search for the phrases I mentioned above to see their full context. – Hypnosifl Feb 6 '16 at 1:04
  • Also, the plot summary here may be helpful. You can see that the Fendahl was a sort of hive being composed of 13 separate beings, 12 non-humanoid "Fendahleen" along with a "core" who had a humanoid form. The latter is probably why, when the skull of a Fendahl core arrived on Earth, it influenced our evolution to produce a similar humanoid form (us), but it may have just accelerated a process that was happening naturally since it arrived 12 million years ago when their would have already been apelike human ancestors around. – Hypnosifl Feb 6 '16 at 5:49

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