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Since the 1960s the Time Lords have occupied a unique place in the mythology of Doctor Who, as well as helping to define our perceptions of the Doctor himself.
The Doctor (Tom Baker) in The Deadly Assassin (1976), Lord President Rassilon (Donald Sumpter) in Hell Bent (2015) and the ruins of Gallifrey during the Time War in The Day of the Doctor (2013).

An Unearthly Child (1963), the first episode of Doctor Who, revealed that the Doctor and Susan were “exiles… cut off from our own planet,” with Susan confirming, “I was born in another time, another world.” So the old man and his granddaughter weren’t just travellers from Earth’s future, but unequivocally alien. In subsequent episodes there were teasing references to the Doctor’s home world: in The Sensorites (1964), for example, Susan describes it as being “quite like Earth, but at night the sky is a burnt orange, and the leaves on the trees are bright silver.”

A publicity shot of Carole Ann Ford as Susan and William Hartnell as the Doctor from the series’ first episode, An Unearthly Child (1963).

The series aired what in modern parlance would be described as a gamechanger in July 1965. In The Time Meddler the Doctor discovers a TARDIS belonging to ‘the Monk’, thus revealing that his own ship is not unique. The Doctor admits that he and the Monk “come from the same place”, the Monk possibly having left 50 years later, but very little else is established. The Doctor protests to the Monk that “the golden rule of time travelling” is “never, never interfere with the course of history.” The Monk retorts, “And who says so?” Who indeed.

The Monk (Peter Butterworth) and his disguised TARDIS in Checkmate, the fourth episode of The Time Meddler (1965).

The answer finally came in The War Games (1969), where we learned of the Time Lords. First mentioned almost off-handedly by a scientist in the first few minutes of Episode Six, they have influenced the series – and the character of the Doctor – ever since.

The reveal of the Doctor’s reasons for setting off to wander time and space – boredom and righteous indignation in the face of the Time Lords’ policy of observing but never interfering – brought closure to the series’ original premise for those who had been watching since the beginning.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

The Doctor’s own people, and his home planet, were introduced in 1969 as a major chapter in the series’ history came to an end. Five decades later, the Time Lords and their devastating war with the Daleks are still essential parts of Doctor Who’s mythology. This special publication analyses every story set on Gallifrey, reveals previously unseen images from the making of the episodes and interviews key players in the Time Lords’ fascinating story.