10 Times Doctor Who Has Broken Its Own Rules

From messing with time to killing in cold blood, these are some of NuWho's worst rule breaks.

Doctor Who Death in Heaven Missy Twelfth Doctor
BBC Studios

Doctor Who is known for its timey-wimey, high concept, madcap adventures, but sometimes the show doesn't like to play by its rules.

Despite the Eleventh Doctor once demanding 'Never tell me the rules', Whovians have noted an abundance of discrepancies, inconsistencies, and space-time-shattering plot holes throughout the show. Whether these are creative decisions between production teams, lazy or forgetful writing, or even just abandoned storylines, Doctor Who has seen its fair share of rule breaks.

Due to the programme's love for technobabble, complex time travel plots, and in-universe explanations, Doctor Who was bound to come across some strange moments. Since the 2005 revival series, when Doctor Who began a new continuity, many problems and inconsistencies from the classic run were deleted in favour of a blank slate. However, when you establish rules in any series, you really should keep to them.

From messing with the rules of time travel to the Doctor betraying personal rules such as killing in cold blood, these are 10 Times Doctor Who Has Broken Its Own Rules.

10. The Rule Of Thirteen

Doctor Who Death in Heaven Missy Twelfth Doctor
BBC Studios

A long-established Doctor Who rule is the Time Lord 'Rule of Thirteen' - that is, twelve regenerations, thirteen lives. A rule carried over from the classic series, modern Doctor Who has been playing hard and fast with it.

When the Doctor first appeared in his Ninth incarnation at the beginning of NuWho, without a regeneration from the Eighth, it wasn't before long that a secret Doctor was introduced to audiences. 2013 revealed a hitherto incarnation - known as the War Doctor - who had existed between the Eighth and Ninth Doctors.

When the Tenth Doctor regenerated for the first time in 2008's Journey's End, that was another regeneration used up. By the Eleventh Doctor's demise, he had apparently used up all of his regenerations and was on his last life.

However, a friendly deus-ex-machina in the form of a brand new regeneration cycle was granted to him by the Time Lords. This allowed him to regenerate into his Fourteenth and Fifteenth incarnations - the Doctors we refer to as the Twelfth and the Thirteenth.

However, this apparently wasn't the first time the Doctor had been awarded a new set of regenerations - if Series Twelve is to be believed. Introducing the 'Ruth Doctor' in 2020's Fugitive of the Judoon, fans have been scratching their heads deciding where she fits into the Doctor's already packed regeneration cycle.

Furthermore, The Timeless Children stated that the Doctor has regenerated possibly thousands of times before the First Doctor, but had their memory wiped. But how? What other rule-breaking deus-ex-machinas have occurred in Doctor Who's murky history?

Fans are just going to have to wait and see to find out how many other rules have been broken to satisfy these plot twists...

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Eden Luke McIntyre is a Scottish writer, editor and script consultant, with an MA in TV Fiction Writing. He writes content for TV, radio, stage, and online, and was appointed as a BBC Writers Room Scottish Voice in early 2020. Eden can usually be found rambling about Doctor Who, The Beatles, and obscure things that no one cares about.