Doctor Who spoilers: Who are the Morbius Doctors? How The Timeless Children answered a decades-old question

Series 12’s finale featured a lot of surprises. One of which answered a question raised in Doctor Who decades ago: who are the Morbius Doctors? (Spoilers follow.)

The Timeless Children was an episode that featured some major surprises for Doctor Who. Not only did it reveal that the Doctor was far, far older than she believed. Not only did it reveal that were entire incarnations of her life that even she didn’t know about, back when she was “the Timeless Child”. But, more surprising than that, it acknowledged the Morbius Doctors.

For those of you who don’t know, in the classic Fourth Doctor story The Brain of Morbius, during a mental battle between the Doctor and the ancient Time Lord criminal Morbius, we saw images of the Doctor’s lives. Naturally, these images included the four faces we knew. But we also saw images of other men, too. It was subtly implied by Morbius that these were incarnations of the Doctor, all taking place before William Hartnell, and producer Philip Hinchcliffe even stated that that was what they were initially going for.

Of course, with later stories like The Five Doctors firmly establishing that Hartnell’s Doctor was “the original”, the faces that appeared in Morbius were essentially theorized as being the faces of Morbius himself. That wasn’t what the episode implied, but it was the general fan theory for that discrepancy.

Doctor Who

The classic Tom Baker story The Brain of Morbius strongly hinted at unknown incarnations of the Doctor in a big way.
(Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Acknowledging history

However, The Timeless Children didn’t just hint that those Doctors were canon, but completely acknowledged them. For most of the episode, the Doctor was trapped inside the Matrix on Gallifrey – a computer formed from the sum of all Time Lord knowledge.

During a sequence where the Doctor attempts to escape the Matrix by giving it all of her memories, we see the Doctor’s history. We see the friends she’s made and the enemies she’s faced. More than all of that, however: we see her lives. All the faces that we know and love, all the lives of the Timeless Child, even Jo Martin’s incarnation, as seen in Fugitive of the Judoon. But, most exciting of all, we see the Morbius Doctors.

He did it. Chris Chibnall actually did it. He not only acknowledged but also explained such a tiny moment in Doctor Who history in a big way. However you feel about The Timeless Children‘s biggest revelation, it has to be said that the way it directly acknowledged the show’s canon was nicely done. Plus: Terrance Dicks, Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes are officially incarnations of the Doctor, now. Considering their impact on Doctor Who, that feels like a nice tribute.

(Oh, and just to remind you: we totally called it.)

Next: Who is the Timeless Child?

Were you glad that The Timeless Children directly acknowledged The Brain of Morbius? Or do you think it would have been better left ignored? Let us know in the comments below.

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