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A Divine Currency: Mulling Over Regeneration, Rassilon, and the Timeless Child in Doctor Who

Through the annals of Gallifreyan history, very few names are more revered than Rassilon. One of the founders of Gallifreyan society, a contemporary of the great Omega himself, Rassilon was an engineer, architect, and politician. Once presumed dead, so the story goes, he ruled over Gallifrey from within the Matrix (the Time Lord repository of knowledge) and was then resurrected, surviving to this day, only now as a renegade. But that’s not the whole story. 

Once upon a time, while slogging through Gallifrey’s Death Zone on an adventure (The Five Doctors), the Second Doctor shared with the Brigadier that there were many conflicting stories about Rassilon through the ages. Some depict him as a great and benevolent hero, but others painted a much more sinister picture of the legendary figure. 

Those witnessing Rassilon’s confrontations with the Tenth Doctor (The End of Time), and the Twelfth Doctor upon his return to Gallifrey from his confession dial (Hell Bent) might tend to think those darker stories are true. 

But you may ask, how could Lord Rassilon be a major force back in the ancient days of Gallifrey, then millions of years later, preside over the Time War, and yet was still Time Lording it over his Gallifreyan subjects in modern times? How is he everywhere, and every when?

How does any Time Lord manage to live so long?

It’s very possible that Rassilon had a special arrangement with Tecteun, a scientist from the early days of Gallifrey, and another contemporary of Rassilon. Billions of years ago on a remote planet, Tecteun found an abandoned child. That child then had a fatal accident, and amazingly, came back to life, regenerating into a new, healthy body. Tecteun became obsessed with learning the child’s biological secrets. So Tecteun kept killing the child, over and over and over.

This prompted regeneration after regeneration after regeneration, until she learned how to duplicate the process in others. She then bestowed this miraculous gift to her people, who would one day become those dusty old senators we know as Time Lords.

Officially, from that moment on, each Time Lord would be granted one regeneration cycle of 13 bodies, extending their lives for potentially thousands of years. 

Rassilon, being such an important figure back then, would surely have had the power and influence to be first in line to be given this gift. However, even then, it would seem difficult to stretch the lives of just 13 bodies — or one regeneration cycle — across all the billions of years in which Rassilon has reigned.

We do know that the powers that be on Gallifrey have, on occasion, offered up whole new regeneration cycles to certain Time Lords. They once even offered a new cycle to the Master of all people in exchange for his assistance (again, The Five Doctors). You’d have to think that if that’s allowable, we can also assume that if you’re a well regarded Time Lord, or if you just happen to have the right connections, you can be hooked up with a new set of regeneration cycles when the time comes. 

As lord president emeritus of Gallifrey, who was better connected than Rassilon himself? Has he been treating himself to an ever-lasting diet of new regenerative cycles all this time? Or is it possible that he’s somehow, through artificial means concocted by Tecteun, been granted an extended cycle of some sort? The type of immortality that comes naturally to the Doctor? 

Just how close were these two? What all did Tecteun actually share with the Lord President?

And to that point… Of all the Time Lords that ever were, how many know about the Doctor’s condition and place in Gallifrey’s history? Of course Tecteun and now the Master, but beyond that, it’s difficult to say. The revelation of Timeless Child was kept secret for countless millennia, until the Master found out. He was so enraged by the discovery, that he burned down Gallifrey. 

But does Rassilon know? Given his confrontation with the Twelfth Doctor at gunpoint in the desert — asking him, “How many regenerations did we give you?” — I don’t think Rassilon has a clue. 

Imagine if he knew that about the Doctor. 

Ah, regeneration. The divine currency of Gallifrey. But who doled out these gifts? Tecteun? Rassilon? Other scientists? Was the sharing and distribution fair and measured? Was there a price to be paid?

Throughout the history of Time Lord civilisation, were less “important” Time Lords simply allowed to die at the end of their cycles, leaving only certain individuals to keep going on and on and on through the millennia? Or were Tecteun and Rassilon the only ones to take advantage of constant recycling?  

In fact, on Gallifrey, does anyone living anywhere outside the great dome ever even get offered a new life-cycle? Talk about the haves and have nots!

Is it possible that there’d been variations of these treatments created by Tecteun? One that creates just the 13 body cycle, and another “prime” version that imbues the host with an endless line of incarnations— meant for only the “best and most important” in society?

Or, going back to Rassilon’s question to the Doctor in the desert… “How many regenerations did we give you?” The way it was phrased makes one think you can actually pick a number, any number, pick a set, or perhaps a package deal. Well, as I say, divine or otherwise, it is a valuable currency. 

Normally, one would shudder to think of such power and ability in the wrong hands, but it’s arguably never been in the right hands. 

In the end, it sounds like Tecteun, Rassilon, and who knows how many others in this inner circle simply set themselves up with whatever they needed. And some evidently thought they “needed” immortality. 

Still… Living forever — wouldn’t you get tired? At some point, wouldn’t you have just had enough? I suppose that when faced with the alternative… But I suppose you only know how you’d react in the moment. 

I think it takes a certain type of personality to actually choose immortality. Where life might eventually become a never-ending grind of existence, with you purposefully denying, or rejecting the release —some might say the “gift” — of death. 

Ironic that the Twelfth Doctor spoke regretfully about taking that gift away from Ashildr when he made her an immortal, only to later find out that he’s in the same predicament. It must weigh very heavily on him now as his fifteenth incarnation spins out into the universe.

I could see Tecteun choosing immortality so that her hubris, her “vital” work, could go on forever. Although after having been utterly destroyed, atom by atom by the villain Swarm, Tecteun is finally gone, once and for all.

And I could easily see Rassilon seeking eternal life just for the power he could continue to wield. But again, he’s been exiled from Gallifrey, and with Tecteun gone… how many regenerations does he have left? A million? A hundred? None?

Right now, out there somewhere, is a vengeful, nervous and hate-filled Rassilon. Scheming and plotting. Planning his return to power, to being Lord President again. To the adulation, the pomp and circumstance. To a continued immortality.

But to paraphrase Rassilon himself, “Be sure… Be very sure…”

Rick Lundeen

A Divine Currency: Mulling Over Regeneration, Rassilon, and the Timeless Child in Doctor Who

by Rick Lundeen time to read: 5 min
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