It’s generally accepted that, when asked who their favorite Time Lord is, 9/10 Whovians will gladly tell you it’s the Doctor (note: for every fan that loves Batman, there’s always one or two that think the Joker is the hero of the story. Applying that logic to my approximation).
That’s fair; after all, television shows rarely last over 50 years without a protagonist as endearing as the Doctor. However, that span of years has also given us a wealth of Gallifreyan mythos; a mythos that has spawned legendary Time Lords (and Ladies) ranging from powerful to completely insane. Dear readers, as we enter this season of celebration, join us in celebrating this storied race with a top ten list of Time Lords that have appeared in Doctor Who, as chosen by yours truly! A disclosure as we begin; we’re sticking with Time Lords that have appeared on screen over the past 51 years. While there exists quite a few other notable Time Lords in other media (novels, Big Finish, etc.), we’ll stay with in the framework of the main television programme for our list. Savvy?
10.) The Rani
Cold, calculating, brilliant, and primarily known for big hair and starring in one of the worst classic Who serials, Time and the Rani, the Rani crossed paths only thrice on screen but has left a large impact in the Whoniverse. Willing to sacrifice anything, including morality, in the pursuit of science, the Rani’s dedication to her experiments often put her at odds with the Doctor. She is one of only remaining major Time Lords that hasn’t appeared in the revival series, though many thought that she may have been Missy in Series 8; granted, we know how that turned out.
Best portrayed by Timothy Dalton in the Tenth Doctor’s final adventure, The End of Time, legends of Gallifrey’s most powerful and ruthless leader span throughout all of the show’s continuity. While his history is at times contradictory, Rassilon’s contributions to Gallifrey and Time Lord technology are vast. What is also vast is the incredible array of accessories that are attributed to him and are begging to be used as exclamatory phrases by Ron Burgandy. Events in The Day of the Doctor have left room for Rassilon’s return, should Gallifrey be found.
8.) The “Crack in the Wall” Time Lords
This is a bit of cheating I suppose, but these Time Lords may have played the most important Time Lord role in modern Doctor Who. As the unknown and unseen catalyst for most of the events during the Eleventh Doctor era, their mere presence in the universe caused the Doctor’s enemies to try and use him and the Pandorica as a bomb to stop the crack and an entire sect of the Church dedicated itself to keep the Doctor from speaking his name and bringing the Time Lords back from the pocket universe, reigniting the Time War. Not all bad though; they were also the “Game Genie” solution to the Doctor’s “out of extra lives” regeneration problem. We may seem them again, we may not.
Who knows, hmm?
7.) The General
Coming in at seven may very well be one of my favourite Time Lords in NuWho. While only appearing once, in the 50th Anniversary special, the General was full of piss and snark and provided comedy and gravitas in the face of his planet and peoples’ annihilation. Should we live to see the return of Gallifrey, I sincerely hope that the General makes a return to our screen.
Depending on your preference (Romana I or Romana II), this is one of the most attractive Time Ladies to appear on the countdown. Not seen on screen since deciding to stay in E-Space rather than return to Gallifrey, spin off media tells us that she eventually did go home and went on to become Lord President. While this wasn’t the case during the end of the Time War (The End of Time/The Day of the Doctor), there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that she didn’t survive the Time War and may yet come around to visit us on the television. Of note, Romana was also a candidate for Missy’s true identity up until the reveal cliff hanger at the end of Dark Water.
The other super Time Lord on the list, Omega, is almost as steeped in legend as Rassilon and is one of the three founders of the Time Lords. Omega is also credited for creating the black hole that allows the Time Lords to travel through space and time, and also credited by the Third Doctor as their greatest hero. In spite of such accolades, Omega only appeared twice in the classic series and, while rumored, has yet to appear in the revival series.
It’s a bit unfortunate, honestly, because while we’ve had a brief run with Rassilon at full power, Omega hasn’t been given the same chance with updated visual effects and the character deserves an opportunity for redemption. After all, leaving the “Time Lord’s greatest hero” insane and either destroyed or stuck in an antimatter universe is hardly befitting his legacy.
4.) The Valeyard
Am I cheating now? While technically an “amalgation” of the Doctor, he’s really not the Doctor. Thus, his place on the list stands. While much of the Colin Baker era was left wanting, the Trial of a Time Lord was a rather enjoyable serial and the Valeyard’s reveal is also praiseworthy. Of course, the real issue now is what happened with the Valeyard? As regenerations progressed towards the end of the Doctor’s first cycle of regenerations, most Whovians (this writer, included) were anxious to see how this twisted version of the Doctor came into being between the 12th and final regeneration. The character even got a name drop in Series 7’s The Name of the Doctor, so we waited and are still waiting. It’s only more problematic now because the Doctor is on into his new set of regenerations.
While it would have been easy to place him against Matt Smith’s Doctor, revisiting with Capaldi or a future incarnation will require a bit of plot gymnastics to understand why we’re just now seeing the Valeyard. Then again, we do have Moffat in the driver’s seat for now and that’s the kind of plot twist he may relish.
3.) The Woman
An odd choice, perhaps, but I remain to this day intrigued with her inclusion in Rassilon’s coterie during The End of Time. She never spoke, but the look between her and the Tenth Doctor spoke many volumes. The most popular theory is that she may very well be the Doctor’s mother, but that remains conjecture at this point and will be until Gallifrey is found and assuming that the Woman survived the events of story she was in.
It would be interesting to see the interaction between her and the Twelfth Doctor, with his no hugging stance and general dislike of eyes getting bigger.
2.) Susan Foreman
The Doctor’s very first companion and granddaughter; how could she not be towards the top of the list?! She is also one of the few Time Lords with no recorded regeneration. Inquistive, slightly quirky, and loyal to the Doctor, Susan is (in my estimation) of the reasons for Doctor Who’s early success. Much in the same manner that Capaldi’s Doctor needed Clara for interfacing with other people, Susan played a similar role for her grandfather, most notably seen in the earlier serials as Hartnell’s Doctor was very gruff and contakerous. Time for a confession from your writer: I had secretly hoped that it was Susan who was actually Missy. Spending a good portion of her televised time travelling with the Doctor as sweet and naïve.
How amazing would the turn have been had Susan actually resented being locked out of the TARDIS and wanted to exact revenge for the slight. Completely out of character? Oh, yeah. Worth the price of admission? Without a single doubt. There has been only brief mentions of her in NuWHo, but it would be great if a new incarnation encountered the Doctor, maybe even travelled with him a bit.
1.) The Master
This was the only obvious choice for this spot on the list. How could it be any different? To revisit the comparison from the opening, this is the Joker to the Doctor’s Batman. Forever destined to tangle with the Doctor through time, space, and gender changes, the Master is the ultimate Time Lord (that isn’t the Doctor). No other Time Lord has graced the screen with his/her presence as much as the Master and it would be hard to argue that there is another more popular Time Lord (again, discounting the Doctor). While she appears to have met her doom (yet again) at the close of Death in Heaven, the Mistress is rumored to be back soon (crossing my fingers for Series 9).
A few honorable mentions: The Inquisitor, the Monk, the Halflings (River Song, Donna Noble).
That’s a wrap, my esteemed fellow Kasterborites! With a list like this, I’m sure some of you may have called it differently or added some I omitted. Please feel free to hash it out in the freshly regenerated comments section below!