In the television movie "Doctor Who" (1996), which introduced the 8th regeneration of the Doctor (Played by Paul McGann), it was stated that he is half-human.

GRACE: Oh, Professor Wagg. This is Doctor Bowman. He's from London. He was just going to share a secret with us.
DOCTOR: Yes. Er, Professor, is there a chance of a closer look at the clock?
WAGG: No! No, I'm afraid that I am the only person allowed up there.
DOCTOR: Oh, can't you just bend the rules a little?
DOCTOR: Oh, but you see...
WAGG: Grace says you have a big secret. What is it?
(The Doctor takes the Professor's shoulder and moves him to the side.)
DOCTOR: I'm half human. [A Beat] On my mother's side.
(They laugh. Professor Wagg no longer has his ID clipped to his lapel.)
WAGG: Very clever. Happy New Year.


[Cloister room]

(The Master has released Lee. Suddenly an image of the seventh Doctor appears above the Eye.)
LEE: Whoa! There's the guy I took to the hospital.
MASTER: The Doctor's past live.
LEE: The Doctor?
MASTER: That's what he calls himself. Doctor.
(The image is replaced by the eighth Doctor.)
MASTER: The new Doctor.
LEE: He's so young.
MASTER: Fascinating. See that? That's the retinal structure of the human eye. The Doctor is half human! No wonder.

Has that been made canon in the revival New Who series that started in 2005? In general, which of the older, Classic Who material remains canon?

  • 4
    Any question about Doctor Who canon needs to be read in light of this question and its various answers. The tl;dr version is a quote from the current showrunner Stephen Moffat: “It is impossible for a show about a dimension-hopping time traveller to have a canon.” May 30, 2016 at 11:44
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    I always thought, or interpreted that half-human line, as post regeneration craziness from the Doctor.
    – tilley31
    May 30, 2016 at 20:46
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    The Doctor lies.
    – Eevee
    May 30, 2016 at 23:14
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    The most straightforward and recent confirmation I know of was The Husbands of River Song showing us photos of all previous "numbered" Doctors.
    – Ixrec
    May 30, 2016 at 23:16
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    You seem to be asking two questions. 1) Is the 8th Doctor canon, 2) Is the 8th Doctor being half human canon. If you intended the latter, you should probably change the title to better reflect that. The answer to question 1 is yes (warning: possible spoilers, 8th Doctor's 100% canon regeneration).
    – Pharap
    May 30, 2016 at 23:36

4 Answers 4


Considering the nature of the show, everything is canon, and can change at any moment via timey whimey wi... er, time travel.

8's movie is obviously canon. As are some if not all of his Big Finish radio stories, courtesy of his inclusion in the 50th anniversary special, "Night of the Doctor" and "Day of the Doctor."

The specific "half human" thing has not been mentioned again, but it has been shown as false either, in show.

The two show runners are just as unkeen to say yes or no. RTD said he was, but isn't any more. He refused to contradict it in episodes because that was disrespectful the movie and 8. But his run of 9 and 10 was based on the premise that the Doctor was all Time Lord. Moffat has also decided to avoid the situation.

Russell T. Davies says we can’t ignore it. While chatting on Toby Hadoke’s Who’s Round, Davies was asked about the line and its implications for the character of the Doctor and the show.

I don’t like the half-human thing. He certainly isn’t half-human, but it’s less interesting to say it simply doesn’t count. I always wanted to put in a line where someone says to the Doctor ‘are you human?’ and the Doctor says ‘no, but I was once in 1999. It was a 24 hour bunk.’ Part of the reason I never put that in was it was a bit too self-referential but also I thought I’m spoiling the TV movie if I do that. In that time, like it or not, the Doctor was half human. Everything in that story says he was half human, so you can’t not count it. I don’t think we can ignore it.

As to how much of the Classic Who is canon, it is all canon until contradicted on screen. And even then, it's still canon.

Note, there have been two instances where Time Lords have become human in the new Who. The "Human Nature"/"Family of Blood" and "Utopia" showed that a Chameleon Arch can basically make Time Lords human while keeping their Time Lord parts in a fob watch. Or where two humans have a Galifreyian (River). Or where all humans on Earth become the Master Race ("The End of Time"). Or the Meta-Crisis Doctor, half Time Lord, Half Chavette, er Donna. So its completely possible that some mixture of genetics has happened in the past, it happens all the time now.

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    It may not have explicitly contradicted it, but the scene in Listen where Clara meets a young version of the Doctor seems to strongly imply that he is simply a regular member of Gallifreyan society at that age...
    – Jules
    May 30, 2016 at 9:31
  • Also consider that, if pressed, the show would probably have no problems coming up with an explanation for "half-human-ness" that does not actually involve parentage. For example, River's parents are both 100% human, yet she is obviously (at least part) Time Lady... I could have picked other examples where similar "species-bending" has been done on the show... May 31, 2016 at 7:49
  • @OliverGiesen you missed the best one, where the doctor and the master become human.
    – cde
    May 31, 2016 at 8:19
  • Tegan once asked the Fifth Doctor if he had any Australian blood (in Four to Doomsday I think). He gave her a withering look and replied "Hardly!" I'd always interpreted that as the Doctor saying it's impossible for a Galifreyan to have any human DNA, although he's merely ruling out being part Australian, not part human.
    – CJ Dennis
    Jul 31, 2018 at 2:12

The 8th Doctor is indeed half human and canon at the same time.

The movie is now generally considered canon, and its star - actor Paul McGann - as one of the eleven actors to officially play the lead role, although it is the only time he has played the part on-screen.

In order to argue that the Doctor is not half-human, and is instead a thoroughbred Gallifreyan, one must fundamentally assert that the TV movie is just plain wrong. Some fans have attempted to argue that the Doctor is joking, or mistaken, but this hardly holds up when we see the Master stating the same thing.

The Doctor has some human ancestors, but his mother was not necessarily fully human herself? Maybe he had a human grandfather, or great-grandfather, and is otherwise fully Gallifreyan. It's an interesting question, and one which I suspect will never be answered - and indeed, never should be answered.

The question of canonicity seems to have been raised only for the TV Movie and not the previous Doctors.

The accepted view of the Doctor considers him to be a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. Although his race were not named until the end of show's sixth season in 1969 (in The War Games), and his home planet until Season 11 in 1974 (The Time Warrior), it was established as early as the very first episode (An Unearthly Child, 1963) that the character was from a planet other than Earth. The revelation that the Doctor was, in fact, half-human was met with uproar in fan circles, and the fact that the canonicity of the TV movie was in question due to other factors was not helpful.


I think, they could write it in. And in order to do so,we have to see the reason why the 4th Doctor left Sarah Jane: Humans were not allowed on his home planet. But why? (Now I am just guessing here) Was it because a certain Time Lord, fell in love with a human woman, and brought her to Gallifrey because she was pregnant? Of course that was not a problem at first, but then, he wanted the same rights for his son, to attend the Academy, and than we see 2 plausible options:

  1. He had to bring her back, and abandon him, so his record could be spotless enough to attend the academy(or just a deal or something)

  2. It all happened before, and his father fell in love with a human anyway, after that; and they abandoned him, so no one would find out(could also explain why he was a some sort of orphan house as a kid).

May be they did know why he was left, and is that the reason why the man said in Listen "He'll never make a Time Lord", because he was half-human, and if anyone found out, he'll be kicked of the planet. But wait, WHAT IF: this works out to be true, and be the reason why he stole a T.A.R.D.I.S in the fist place? The High Council finds out where he came from, imprison Susan's parents, but before they could take her and the Doctor, they steal the first T.A.R.D.I.S that happens to be unlocked(he seemed pretty nervous when he stole it, and if it was just for the "Hybrid" He could comfortably pick any other proper functioning ship he wanted, but he didn't, because he was on the run.

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    Welcome to Movies Stack Exchange! This answer looks like it's entirely speculation, and we try to find answers that are backed up by sources. Please take the site tour and review the help center to better understand how this site works differently than forums and other such sites. Jan 11, 2017 at 15:52

From the dialogue in the movie, it's absolutely inconclusive whether or not the Doctor is half human on his mother's side. In the context of the dialogue, the Doctor is most likely being facetious because there's no logical reason why he would tell a complete stranger such a personal secret that he's never mentioned before or later to anyone else.

It was the intention of the producer, Philip Segal, that the Doctor was half human on his mother's side, and this is documented in his earlier attempts at Doctor Who revivals in the book "The Nth Doctor" by Jean-Marc Lofficier.

However, when fandom found out about this there was a huge backlash online and it seems he (or someone else involved in the movie) backed off this when he started to realize that the idea Segal thought was "obvious in retrospect" wasn't so obvious to many others. There's a line in the movie where the Doctor mentions he can "change species" when he dies, and the only purpose this seems to serve in the movie is to give an alternative explanation as to how the new Doctor can be half human, but the previous ones weren't.

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