Doctor Who? The Time Lord Revealed

Doctor Who (1963)

Who is the Doctor?

The Doctor

“The Doctor” was the primary alias of a renegade Time Lord from Gallifrey who travelled through time and space with various companions in his obsolete and “borrowed” Type 40 TARDIS. He was the universe’s “greatest defender”, having saved the cosmos thousands of times throughout his long life, becoming a great legend across the whole universe.

Though largely a believer in non-violent conflict resolution, he was, when absolutely necessary, a great warrior. Indeed, some civilisations in the universe (e.g. the denizens of the Gamma Forests) translated the word doctor as warrior, (TV: A Good Man Goes to War) whilst others saw him as a compassionate benefactor, worthy of their admiration and compassion. (TV: Last of the Time Lords, The Wedding of River Song)

The Doctors (Eleventh, Tenth and War)

The Eleventh, Tenth and War Doctors
(The Day of the Doctor – 50th Anniversary Special)

Although he had saved millions on his travels, he was thought to have caused the deaths of billions at his conclusion to the Last Great Time War. (TV: Dalek) Though most of the Daleks were killed in the crossfire, Gallifrey — disappearing, rather than being burned — was hidden thanks to the efforts of all thirteen of his incarnations, eleven of these incarnations whose memories of this event were lost. (TV: The Day of the Doctor) Several individuals, including Jabe, (TV: The End of the World) Brother Lassar, (TV: School Reunion) the Beast (TV: The Satan Pit) and the Doctor himself prior to the eleventh incarnation to go by that name, (TV: The End of the World, The Day of the Doctor) considered the Time Lords to be extinct as well.

However, the Daleks kept returning despite his actions. (TV: The Parting of the Ways, Doomsday, Daleks in Manhattan, The Stolen Earth, Victory of the Daleks)

From the latter years of his first incarnation onward, he had a pronounced affinity for Earth and the human race. After departing Gallifrey, he voluntarily chose to spend time on the planet, (TV: An Unearthly Child, AUDIO: Summer, The Haunting of Thomas Brewster) choosing it as the place of his exile during most of his third incarnation, (TV: Spearhead from Space – The Three Doctors) and even owning property in Kent (COMIC: Fellow Travellers, PROSE: Verdigris, Warlock, Warchild, The Dying Days, Mad Dogs and Englishmen) and New York City. (PROSE: The Forgotten Army) He favoured Great Britain as a frequently visited location, taking most of his companions from there. (TV: An Unearthly Child, Spearhead from Space, The Time Monster, Rose, Smith and Jones, Partners in Crime, etc.) Even before the disappearance of Gallifrey, the Doctor spent much more time on Earth than on his homeworld.


Time Lord Regeneration

Regeneration was the process by which Time Lords renewed themselves, causing a complete physical and often psychological change. It could happen because of severe illness (TV: Planet of the Spiders, The Caves of Androzani, The End of Time, Day of the Moon), old age/fatigue (TV: The Tenth Planet, The Day of the Doctor, The Time of the Doctor) or injury. (TV: Logopolis, Time and the Rani, Doctor Who, Utopia, Let’s Kill Hitler) It could also be invoked by choice, whether voluntary (TV: Destiny of the Daleks, The Night of the Doctor, Nightmare in Silver) or involuntary. (TV: The War Games) Conversely, regeneration could be prevented by choice, although failure to regenerate from fatal damage was essentially a choice to die. (TV: Last of the Time Lords)


How regeneration worked

Different explanations were given for the process of regeneration.

One theory held that Cardinal Rassilon had been investigating a method of regenerating decayed and diseased tissue via a series of self-replicating, biogenic molecules. The cells of a Gallifreyan body would be repaired, restored and re-organised, resulting in a wholly new physical form. The brain cells would also be rearranged, though to a lesser extent; the new incarnation would retain the memories of the former incarnation, though the personality of the Time Lord or Lady could change, the degree of this change depending upon the Time Lord or Lady in question. Rassilon intended this mechanism only for the Gallifreyan elite. He also input a parameter of twelve regenerative cycles to avoid decaying biogenic molecules. (AUDIO: Zagreus)

Another explanation stated that Time Lords had triple-helix DNA: the third strand was added by Rassilon to enable regeneration. (PROSE: The Crystal Bucephalus)

According to Madame Vastra, the Eleventh Doctor theorised that exposure over billions of years to the Untempered Schism contributed to the Time Lords’ ability to regenerate. (TV: A Good Man Goes to War)


Time Lords released massive amounts of a hormone called lindos in moments of extreme trauma, and it was this hormone which triggered regeneration. Newly regenerated Time Lords could be identified by elevated levels of lindos in their system. (PROSE: The Twin Dilemma, AUDIO: Unregenerate!)

Time Lords were also said to have “packets” of regeneration energy in their bodies, one for each life. These packets could be physically removed from a Time Lord’s body, essentially robbing them of their regenerations. (TV: Mawdryn Undead)

Process & Appearance

During a regeneration, the appearance can be as below:

A Time Lord’s body could shine with milky white light, (TV: The Tenth Planet, Logopolis, PROSE: The Indestructable Man)

A swirl of rainbow colours, (TV: Time and the Rani, Utopia)

crackle with electricity, (TV: Doctor Who)

Or, as we can see after the 2005 revived series, with a seemingly violent discharge of energy, capable of causing damage known as regeneration energy. (COMIC: The Forgotten, TV: The Parting of the Ways, Utopia, The Stolen Earth, The End of Time, Day of the Moon, Let’s Kill Hitler, The Night of the Doctor, The Day of the Doctor, The Time of the Doctor)

In other cases, there was little visible energy discharge, (TV: The Time of the Doctor) or even no apparent energy discharge at all, just a fade away to the next incarnation. (TV: Planet of the Spiders, PROSE: The Ancestor Cell, The Touch of the Nuzrah)

On the occasion that the Doctor had just been granted a brand new regenerative cycle, he initially emitted a large eruption of energy in an almost liquid form. Sometime later, when his actual shift to a new body occurred, there was only a very short, almost negligible discharge of energy. (TV: The Time of the Doctor)

Some regenerations occurred with other individuals in close proximity. These times, the energy from the Doctor’s body wasn’t particularly violent. (TV: The Tenth Planet, Planet of the Spiders, Logopolis, The Caves of Androzani, Time and the Rani, The Time of the Doctor) However, from his eighth incarnation onwards the Doctor warned anyone in close proximity to a regeneration to keep away. This happened with members of the Sisterhood of Karn prior to the Eighth Doctor transforming into his so-called War Doctor incarnation (TV: The Night of the Doctor), with Rose Tyler just before the regeneration of the Ninth Doctor, (TV: The Parting of the Ways), with Jack Harkness, Donna Noble, and Rose when the Tenth Doctor regenerated during the 2009 Dalek invasion of Earth, (TV: The Stolen Earth), and when the Eleventh Doctor realised that Mels was regenerating. (TV: Let’s Kill Hitler) Why he thought this was necessary became clear when the damage from the Tenth Doctor’s regeneration into the Eleventh caused enough damage to the TARDIS to force a complete reconstruction into a different design. (TV: The End of Time) The Doctor is confirmed to have regenerated alone at the end of his seventh, War Doctor and tenth incarnations.

Regenerative Cycle

Time Lords had a limited regenerative cycle of twelve regenerations, similar to the twelve hours on a clock, consisting of thirteen incarnations, after which they would suffer permanent death. (TV: The Deadly Assassin, Doctor Who, The Time of the Doctor) Time Lords could will themselves to die by regenerating when they had no more regenerations left to use, as Azmael chose to do. (TV: The Twin Dilemma) Rassilon apparently had physical reasons to impose this restriction. (AUDIO: Zagreus)

As with most such “rules”, there were occasionally exceptions to the twelve regeneration limit. The High Council offered the Master a new regenerative cycle if he rescued the various incarnations of the Doctor from the Death Zone. (TV: The Five Doctors) Although he did not receive this award on that occasion, during the Last Great Time War the Master was given the ability to regenerate at least once more. (TV: Utopia) It was implied he could regenerate further. (TV: Last of the Time Lords)

The Eleventh Doctor once claimed he could regenerate five hundred and seven times. (TV: Death of the Doctor) It was later revealed to not be true and that he only had thirteen lives and due to his becoming the War Doctor and his biological Meta Crisis, the Eleventh Doctor was actually his last body. However, the Time Lords granted him a new cycle of regeneration before he could die once more. (TV: The Time of the Doctor)

Time Lords could be revived with regeneration energy. Doing this, Melody Pond (in her third incarnation) burned up her remaining regenerations to save the Doctor’s life and was hospitalised as a result. (TV: Let’s Kill Hitler) The Doctor later used his regeneration energy to heal River Song’s broken wrist, although she was angered at what she considered a waste of the energy. (TV: The Angels Take Manhattan)


Doctor Who - Contemporary Regenerations

The Eighth Doctor

Doctor Who - The Eighth Doctor Regeneration

Regeneration: The Night of the Doctor

The Eighth Doctor led a life of unusual temporal complexity. It so frequently involved time paradoxes and parallel universes that it was impossible to know with certainty how the major epochs of his existence fitted together. Complicating the matter even further were his frequent bouts of amnesia, as well as several phases of his life where he lived in one place for more than a hundred years. Though asserting the Doctor’s age was always a problematic issue, the likelihood was that he was one of the longest-lived incarnations — simply by virtue of the time he spent on the planet Orbis alone.

He was utterly unique amongst incarnations of the Doctor in that he was technically dead both when he regenerated from the Seventh Doctor and when he regenerated into the War Doctor. Indeed, his fateful choice to have the Sisterhood of Karn turn him into a warrior would have repercussions for several later regenerations. The angst felt by the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors over the destruction of Gallifrey in the Last Great Time War lead directly back to this Doctor’s after-death decision to regenerate into the War Doctor. (TV: The Night of the Doctor)

Still, that decision did not typify his life. The Eighth Doctor was inherently a happy adventurer, having many points in common with the Tenth Doctor. Indeed, like his successor, he fell in love with an early companion, Charlotte Pollard (AUDIO: Scherzo) and was not averse to bouts of very human emotions, from kissing human women (TV: Doctor Who) to providing psychological support to traumatised companions (COMIC: Beautiful Freak), to seeking solace in a bar after losing a companion (COMIC: Where Nobody Knows Your Name), to attending football matches. (COMIC: Doctor Who and the Nightmare Game) So strong was his affection for humans, that he even claimed to be half-human (TV: Doctor Who) — though this was later revealed to be a clever lie to stop the Master. (COMIC: The Forgotten)

Additional factors made him unique. He was the only Doctor to travel with an Ice Warrior, the first to have significant interaction with his granddaughter after his first incarnation left her behind on Earth, the first to radically and completely transform the console room, one of the few to actually have companions die while under his watch, and the incarnation to go for the longest periods of time without access to a working TARDIS. As befit his more romantic nature, he was the also the first Doctor who knowingly allowed his companions to have sex in the TARDIS. Indeed, he was the first incarnation of the Doctor who was confirmed to have had sexual relations with at least one of his companions. (PROSE: The Dying Days; AUDIO: Benny’s Story)


The War Doctor

Doctor Who - The War Doctor Regeneration

Regeneration: The Day of the Doctor

The “War Doctor”, also known as “the Renegade”, was a warrior-like incarnation of the renegade Time Lord who referred to himself as the Doctor throughout most of his different lives. However, the War Doctor stood apart as the sole exception; he was the incarnation who fought in the Last Great Time War. To endure the psychological climate of the massive conflict, he was deliberately cultivated to be a warrior, not a healer.

Originally young and robust, this incarnation disavowed the name of “the Doctor,” setting upon the warrior path for which he had been created (TV: The Night of the Doctor) although Rassilon and other Time Lords continued to refer to him by that name. (TV: The End of Time) After becoming old and tired of battle and faced with the end of reality, this incarnation considered activating the Moment, to end the Time War by committing genocide against both the Daleks and his own people. After viewing his own future, this incarnation helped to save Gallifrey from destruction, although he was not able to retain these memories. Because of this, his later incarnations disowned him, believing him to have destroyed Gallifrey. The Eleventh Doctor would retain the memories, and eventually remembered him as the man who saved Gallifrey. (TV: The Day of the Doctor)

This incarnation eventually regenerated due to advanced old age, shortly after he had saved Gallifrey. He remarked before regeneration that he was “wearing a bit thin,” a nod back to the regeneration of the First Doctor. (TV: The Day of the Doctor)


The Ninth Doctor

Doctor Who - The Ninth Doctor Regeneration

Regeneration: The Parting of the Ways

The Ninth Doctor was a direct survivor of the Last Great Time War, but also its Pyrrhic victor. Emotionally haunted by its apparently catastrophic outcome, he entered a darker period of his life where he tended to brood and act crossly to those who rubbed him the wrong way. Despite this, he remained jovial and quite friendly towards anyone he took a liking to. Rose Tyler was his most constant companion, although he did share several adventures with Jack Harkness as well. During the Slitheen’s attempt to destroy the Earth for profit, he gained temporary allies in Rose’s mother Jackie, Rose’s ex-boyfriend Mickey, and Harriet Jones. He also had a single adventure with Adam Mitchell, an employee of Henry van Statten, at Rose’s request.

He regenerated after he directly absorbed time vortex energy that had converted Rose briefly into the Bad Wolf entity. Though this saved her, it caused massive damage to his body at the cellular level.


The Tenth Doctor

Doctor Who - The Tenth Doctor Regeneration

Regeneration: The End of Time (Part 2)

Unlike his immediate predecessor, who was plagued by melancholy due to his actions during the Last Great Time War, the Tenth Doctor possessed an outgoing, lively and genial demeanour that hid his “survivor’s guilt”. For most of his incarnation, he was able to successfully project a convivial and even frivolous front.

Unlike most other incarnations, he had the ability to flirt successfully with humans, such as when he wooed Madame de Pompadour (TV: The Girl in the Fireplace) and his eventual wife Elizabeth I. (TV: The Day of the Doctor) His personal magnetism was so pronounced that some women, like Clare Pope and Christina De Souza, proactively came on to him. (TV: Partners in Crime, Planet of the Dead) Some men, like Jack Harkness, were able to easily admit their attraction as well. (TV: The Sound of Drums)

Late in his life — and especially when he was travelling without companions — the weight of being the last Time Lord became much more pronounced. If prodded too much, he would erupt in an almost righteous sense of fury. Indeed, as compared to the Eleventh Doctor, the Tenth Doctor was described by the Moment as “the man who regret“. The fact that he was instantly able to recall the number of Gallifreyan children an earlier life had killed during the war indicated just how keenly he actually felt those horrendous memories. (TV: The Day of the Doctor)

He travelled mainly with three companions: Rose Tyler, Martha Jones and Donna Noble. Each relationship was shaped, to one degree or another, by romance. He seemed to genuinely love Rose as the person who helped heal some of the scars of the Time War, he was completely oblivious to Martha’s obvious affections, and he insisted upon a platonic relationship with Donna. After he was compelled to wipe Donna’s memory completely, he entered a period in which he shunned long-term companions altogether — making an exception only for Majenta Pryce, who essentially forced her way into the TARDIS.

He met his end after he absorbed a huge quantity of nuclear radiation whilst saving the life of Donna Noble’s grandfather, Wilfred Mott.


The Meta-Crisis Tenth Doctor

Doctor Who - Tenth Doctor Regeneration (Meta-Crisis Creation)

First Appearance: Journey’s End

The Meta-Crisis Tenth Doctor was a Time Lord/human hybrid, who possessed one heart, aged as humans did and had no regenerative ability to avoid death. He was created by an instantaneous biological meta crisis.


The Eleventh Doctor

Doctor Who - The Eleventh Doctor Regeneration

Regeneration: The Time of the Doctor

The Eleventh Doctor was a capricious and adventurous incarnation of the renegade Time Lord known as the Doctor. He was the last incarnation of the his original regeneration cycle. According to the Moment, he so wished to put the days of the Last Great Time War behind him that he became “the man who forgets” (TV: The Day of the Doctor), but later became a man fond of remembering his precious life. However, by this point in his life, his reputation had grown immense, attracting a new strain of conflicts in place of the war. Wishing to withdraw from the dangers it created, he became a secretive and guileful individual for the sake of himself and those he held close. He was possibly the Doctor’s most long-lived incarnation, as well as the final incarnation in the Doctor’s original regeneration cycle.

Within minutes of his fiery regeneration, he began a long, multi-century war with the Silence that critically involved companions Amy Pond, Rory Williams and their daughter, River Song. Ultimately, the significant, but likely not total, defeat of the Silence required him to marry Song in a dubiously legal ceremony, (TV: The Wedding of River Song) but one that they both seemed to regard as genuine. (WC: Asylum of the Daleks, TV: The Angels Take Manhattan, The Name of the Doctor, The Time of the Doctor)

When River refused to become his permanent companion after the touch of a Weeping Angel robbed him of Amy and Rory, (TV: The Angels Take Manhattan) he retired to Victorian London and become an ex officio member of the “Paternoster Gang”. During this period — which he called “the dark times” — he rediscovered a woman named Clara Oswald, whom he thought long dead (TV: Asylum of the Daleks); she once again died. Fascinated by this “impossible girl”, he set off on to solve the mystery of her multiple lives, (TV: The Snowmen) and take her on as his latest travelling companion. (TV: The Bells of Saint John)

It was, as he put it, “the only mystery worth solving”. (TV: Hide) The Doctor later discovered he kept meeting Clara because she entered his timeline, scattering echoes of herself throughout his life to save him from the machinations of the Great Intelligence. He extracted her one, true self from his time stream. (TV: The Name of the Doctor)

In the last years of his life, he battled against aliens to protect the planet of Trenzalore, causing his body to grow old and weak. At the cusp of dying of old age, he was granted a new regeneration cycle by the Time Lords, restoring his youth and triggering his eventual regeneration. (TV: The Time of the Doctor)


Doctor Who - The Question: Doctor Who?

The Question was, according to the Teselecta‘s computer, “the first question, the oldest question in the universe, hidden in plain sight”. It was the organising principle for the religious movement known as the Silence, who believed that “silence will/must fall when the Question is asked”. Accordingly, they called themselves the “Academy of the Question”.

More specifically, the Silence believed that:

“… on the Fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the Eleventh, when no living creature can speak falsely or fail to answer, a question will be asked — a question that must never ever be answered: “Doctor who?”

Dorium Maldovar

Doctor Who - Dorium Maldovar - The Question

Doctor who ?
(6×13 – The Wedding of River Song)

The Silence planned to kill the Doctor, whom they believed was the only one who knew the answer to the Question. (TV: Let’s Kill Hitler) At one point, they attempted to do this by turning Melody Pond into a weapon to kill the Doctor. Her first attempt was in 1938 Berlin and then again in 2011 on the beach of Lake Silencio. Although this attempt also failed, the Silence (as well as the rest of the universe) believed it was successful. Unbeknownst to the Silence, the Doctor had used the Teselecta to fake his death at Lake Silencio. (TV: The Impossible Astronaut, Let’s Kill Hitler, The Wedding of River Song)

Dorium Maldovar told the Doctor that “silence will fall when the question is asked” was a poor translation. A better translation would be “silence must fall…” Although the Teselecta‘s databases were unable to identify the Question, Dorium claimed to know it. According to him, the Question was actually, “Doctor who?” (TV: Let’s Kill Hitler, The Wedding of River Song)

Some of the events described in Maldovar’s “prophecy” apparently came to pass when the Eleventh Doctor and several companions were drawn to Trenzalore by the Great Intelligence. There, a future version of the Doctor’s TARDIS was found, but the doors were sealed and the only way to enter was by answering the question, “Doctor who?” — uttering the Doctor’s true name. The Great Intelligence threatened the lives of the Doctor’s companions unless he revealed the answer; however he did not need to as River Song, due to being noncorporeal at this point in time, and who was aware of the Doctor’s true name, (TV: Silence in the Library) was able to utter it from outside the TARDIS, opening the doors and preventing the Doctor from having to reveal the secret. (TV: The Name of the Doctor)

It was revealed that the question was actually a transmission that traversed all time and space, used as a code by the Time Lords on Gallifrey who were sealed inside a pocket universe. They were transmitting this message to every point in existence at once as a code word: when the Doctor would speak his true name, the Time Lords would know it was safe to return. The Silence, an offshoot of the Papal Mainframe, decided that if the Doctor were to return Gallifrey to the universe, the Time War would begin anew, and so they vowed to ensure that he never spoke his name, answering the oldest question in the universe. (TV: The Time of the Doctor)


Doctor Who - The Time War - No More

The Time War must end.

Doctor Who - The Answer

Doctor Who - HORUS (Ancient Egyptian Sun God) - The Doctor

Horus himself is sometimes called ‘the physician’


Horus is one of the oldest and most significant deities in ancient Egyptian religion, who was worshipped from at least the late Predynastic period through to Greco-Roman times. Different forms of Horus are recorded in history and these are treated as distinct gods by Egypt specialists. These various forms may possibly be different perceptions of the same multi-layered deity in which certain attributes or syncretic relationships are emphasized, not necessarily in opposition but complementary to one another, consistent with how the Ancient Egyptians viewed the multiple facets of reality. He was most often depicted as a falcon, most likely a lanner or peregrine, or as a man with a falcon head.

The earliest recorded form of Horus is the patron deity of Nekhen in Upper Egypt, who is the first known national god, specifically related to the king who in time came to be regarded as a manifestation of Horus in life and Osiris in death. The most commonly encountered family relationship describes Horus as the son of Isis and Osiris but in another tradition Hathor is regarded as his mother and sometimes as his wife. Horus served many functions in the Egyptian pantheon, most notably being the god of the sun, war and protection.

[ The following screencaps are examples of both Egyptian themes and solar symbolism encoded into Doctor Who and are not directly related to the corresponding mythological information found in this section ]

The Doctor defeats Akhaten - 7x07-The Rings of Akhaten

The Doctor & Clara stand before a defeated Akhaten (APEP)
(7×07 – The Rings of Akhaten)


Horus is recorded in Egyptian hieroglyphs as ḥr.w; the pronunciation has been reconstructed as *Ḥāru, meaning “falcon”. Additional meanings are thought to have been “the distant one” or “one who is above, over”. By Coptic times, the name became Hōr. It was adopted into Greek as Ὧρος Hōros. The original name also survives in later Egyptian names such as Har-si-ese literally “Horus, son of Isis”.

Horus was also known as Nekheny, meaning “falcon”. Some have proposed that Nekheny may have been another falcon-god, worshipped at Nekhen (city of the hawk), with which Horus was identified from early on. Horus may be shown as a falcon on the Narmer Palette dating from the time of unification of Upper and Lower Egypt.

TARDIS Console Room - 1x01-Rose

The TARDIS’s Console Room design represents sun symbolism
(1×01 – Rose)

Note of changes over time

In early Egypt, Horus was the brother of Isis, Osiris, Set and Nephthys. As different cults formed, he became the son of Isis and Osiris. Isis remained the sister of Osiris, Set, and Nephthys.

Queen Nefertiti - 7x02-Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

The Doctor rescues the Egyptian Queen, Nefertiti
(7×02 – Dinosaurs on a Spaceship)

Horus and the Pharaoh

Pyramid texts ca. 2400-2300 BCE describe the nature of the Pharaoh in different characters as both Horus and Osiris. The Pharaoh as Horus in life became the Pharaoh as Osiris in death, where he was united with the rest of the gods. New incarnations of Horus succeeded the deceased pharaoh on earth in the form of new Pharaohs.

The lineage of Horus, the eventual product of unions between the children of Atum, may have been a means to explain and justify Pharaonic power; The gods produced by Atum were all representative of cosmic and terrestrial forces in Egyptian life; by identifying Horus as the offspring of these forces, then identifying him with Atum himself, and finally identifying the Pharaoh with Horus, the Pharaoh theologically had dominion over all the world.

The notion of Horus as the Pharaoh seems to have been superseded by the concept of the Pharaoh as the son of Ra during the Fifth Dynasty of Egypt.

Egyptian Coffin - 5x13-The Big Bang

An Egyptian Coffin is featured at the National Museum
(5×13 – The Big Bang)

Origin mythology

Horus was born to the goddess Isis after she retrieved all the dismembered body parts of her murdered husband Osiris, except his penis which was thrown into the Nile and eaten by a catfish or sometimes by a crab, and according to Plutarch’s account (see Osiris) used her magic powers to resurrect Osiris and fashion a gold phallus to conceive her son (older Egyptian accounts have the penis of Osiris surviving).

Once Isis knew she was pregnant with Horus, she fled to the Nile Delta marshlands to hide from her brother Set who jealously killed Osiris and who she knew would want to kill their son. There Isis bore a divine son, Horus.

Area 52 (Great Pyramid of Giza) - 6x13-The Wedding of River Song

Area 52 (Alternate Timeline), located at the Great Pyramid of Giza
(6×13 – The Wedding of River Song)

Mythological Roles

Sky God

Since Horus was said to be the sky, he was considered to also contain the sun and moon. It became said that the sun was his right eye and the moon his left, and that they traversed the sky when he, a falcon, flew across it. Later, the reason that the moon was not as bright as the sun was explained by a tale, known as the The Contendings of Horus and Seth, originating as a metaphor for the conquest of Upper Egypt by Lower Egypt in about 3000 BCE. In this tale, it was said that Set, the patron of Upper Egypt, and Horus, the patron of Lower Egypt, had battled for Egypt brutally, with neither side victorious, until eventually the gods sided with Horus.

As Horus was the ultimate victor he became known as Harsiesis, Heru-ur or Har-Wer (ḥr.w wr ‘Horus the Great’), but more usually translated as Horus the Elder. In the struggle Set had lost a testicle, explaining why the desert, which Set represented, is infertile. Horus’ left eye had also been gouged out, then a new eye was created by part of Khonsu, the moon god, and was replaced.

Horus was occasionally shown in art as a naked boy with a finger in his mouth sitting on a lotus with his mother. In the form of a youth, Horus was referred to as Neferhor. This is also spelled Nefer Hor, Nephoros or Nopheros (nfr ḥr.w) meaning ‘The Good Horus’.

The Eye of Horus is an ancient Egyptian symbol of protection and royal power from deities, in this case from Horus or Ra. The symbol is seen on images of Horus’ mother, Isis, and on other deities associated with her.

In the Egyptian language, the word for this symbol was “Wedjat”. It was the eye of one of the earliest of Egyptian deities, Wadjet, who later became associated with Bast, Mut, and Hathor as well. Wedjat was a solar deity and this symbol began as her eye, an all seeing eye. In early artwork, Hathor is also depicted with this eye. Funerary amulets were often made in the shape of the Eye of Horus. The Wedjat or Eye of Horus is “the central element” of seven “gold, faience, carnelian and lapis lazuli” bracelets found on the mummy of Shoshenq II. The Wedjat “was intended to protect the king [here] in the afterlife” and to ward off evil. Ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern sailors would frequently paint the symbol on the bow of their vessel to ensure safe sea travel.

The Doctor & River's Wedding (Great Pyramid of Giza) - 6x13-The Wedding of River Song

The Doctor & River’s Wedding atop the Great Pyramid of Giza (The Eye of Horus)
(6×13 – The Wedding of River Song)

God of War and Hunting

Horus was also said to be a god of war and hunting. The Horus falcon is shown upon a standard on the predynastic Hunters Palette in the “lion hunt”.

Thus he became a symbol of majesty and power as well as the model of the pharaohs. The Pharaohs were said to be Horus in human form.

Furthermore Nemty, another war god, was later identified as Horus.

TARDIS Neon Console Room - The Time of the Doctor (2013 Christmas Special)

The TARDIS’s Neon Console Room floor design represents more sun symbolism
(The Time of the Doctor – 2013 Christmas Special)

Conflict between Horus and Set

Horus was told by his mother, Isis, to protect the people of Egypt from Set, the god of the desert, who had killed his father Osiris.

Horus had many battles with Set, not only to avenge his father, but to choose the rightful ruler of Egypt. In these battles, Horus came to be associated with Lower Egypt, and became its patron.

According to Papyrus Chester-Beatty I, Set is depicted as trying to prove his dominance by seducing Horus and then having intercourse with him. However, Horus places his hand between his thighs and catches Set’s semen, then subsequently throws it in the river, so that he may not be said to have been inseminated by Set. Horus then deliberately spreads his own semen on some lettuce, which was Set’s favorite food. After Set had eaten the lettuce, they went to the gods to try to settle the argument over the rule of Egypt. The gods first listened to Set’s claim of dominance over Horus, and call his semen forth, but it answered from the river, invalidating his claim. Then, the gods listened to Horus’ claim of having dominated Set, and call his semen forth, and it answered from inside Set.

The Eye of Harmony - 7x10-Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

The ‘Eye of Harmony’ represented as a star/sun at the centre of the TARDIS (Solar Barque)
(7×10 – Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS)

However, Set still refused to relent, and the other gods were getting tired from over eighty years of fighting and challenges. Horus and Set challenged each other to a boat race, where they each raced in a boat made of stone. Horus and Set agreed, and the race started. But Horus had an edge: his boat was made of wood painted to resemble stone, rather than true stone. Set’s boat, being made of heavy stone, sank, but Horus’s did not. Horus then won the race, and Set stepped down and officially gave Horus the throne of Egypt. But after the New Kingdom, Set still was considered Lord of the desert and its oases.

This myth, along with others, could be seen as an explanation of how the two kingdoms of Egypt (Upper and Lower) came to be united. Horus was seen as the God of Upper Egypt, and Set as the God of Lower Egypt. In this myth, the respective Upper and Lower deities have a fight, through which Horus is the victor. However, some of Horus (representing Upper Egypt) enters into Set (Lower Egypt) thus explaining why Upper Egypt is dominant over Lower Egypt. Set’s regions were then considered to be of the desert.



Learn more about the other Gods from Egyptian Mythology and how they are also represented though Hollywood films:


First Published: Jan 15, 2014

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