What Is the Doctor’s Real Name?

What Is the Doctor's Real Name?

It is a common trope for superheroes to have some sort of an alias to protect their real identity for one reason or another. Although the Doctor may not be considered a superhero by the typical standards one thing he definitely shares with them is the bit regarding secrecy of his real identity. So the most frequent question regarding this quirky time traveler is what is Doctor Who‘s real name?

No one really knows what Doctor’s real name is. Although there are many theories that are trying to solve this mystery it is the simplest answer and the one that makes the most sense.

Despite this, there are many different aliases the Doctor uses to avoid having to reveal his real name. This much may not be a mystery to you but if you would like to learn more about why the Doctor ones to keep his name a secret and if there is anyone who actually knows his real name, look no further than this article.

What is the Doctor’s real name?

Throughout the show, our charming protagonist is only known as the Doctor, which almost always brings out the famous question, Doctor Who? Although some people theorized that this may in fact be his real name since we don’t know much about Gallifreyan society.

This was disproven by the show many times. The Eleventh Doctor revealed in the conversation with Clara that he chose the alias of the Doctor to remind himself of what he wanted to be.

It served as a sort of promise to himself, a promise that he will never be cruel or cowardly and that he will never give up fighting for things he deems worth fighting for.

This was further confirmed by River Song, who revealed that the Doctor’s alias serves as a sort of descriptor which is given by the people he helped throughout the time. The word represents a wise man and a healer.

Aside from this alias Doctor also likes to introduce himself as John Smith. This common human name is his go-to Earth alias, although the twelfth Doctor seems to enjoy getting a bit more creative with his pseudonyms, usually opting for the first thing which crosses his mind.

One name he often gets referred to as is Theta Sigma or ΘΣ. It is the name River Song uses to address him when she writes a message to him during one of their many meetings.

This seems to be a genuine attempt at creating a backstory for the Doctor since it was introduced during the Fourth Doctor’s run when he bumps into Drax.

Drax is introduced as a Time Lord as well and one that actually knew the Doctor back on Gallifrey. He reveals that Theta Sigma is actually the nickname Doctor got while at the Time Lord Academy.

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Since we do not know much about Gallifreyan, besides the fact that it works as a combination of music and math, it isn’t outside of the realm of possibilities that this is a shortened form of the Doctor’s real name.

This is also supported by the fact that Gallifreyan can not be translated into any other language and the closest we could get to have the name written in a remotely understandable form is “Earthern” which is similar to the ancient Greek.

Luckily, this idea was abandoned and most of the fans treat it as a joke since it was referred to as such once the seventh doctor was confronted with it.

After careful consideration, it becomes clear that we don’t know what Doctor’s real name is. Upon closer inspection, it seems he wants it that way and actually prefers his name of choice.

The show makes it clear that the Doctor chose to keep his name a secret and wants it to stay that way. When River revealed that she knows his real name the Doctor is left utterly shocked, pointing out that there is only one possible situation that would cause him to reveal that piece of information to someone.

If you are willing to look into the non-canonical material sources you may come across a novel called Lungbarrow. Despite not being canon the novel was a huge reference for one of the most memorable creators of the Modern Who, Steven Moffat.

What is the doctor’s real name in Gallifreyan? 

Since we do not know Doctor’s actual name there is no way we can trace it back to learn its Gallifreyan form. However, after some recent developments to the plot, during the episode The Timeless children in series twelve, many fans believe that his Gallifreyan name may not be his real name either.

If you haven’t seen the episode yet, here is a quick rundown of everything important, so beware of the spoilers which lay ahead.

Basically, the episode reveals the fact that while the Doctor did grow up on Gallifrey, he is not in fact a Time Lord in the sense we considered him to be up to that point. 

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During this episode, the Thirteen Doctor learns that she was an orphan who somehow ended up on Gallifrey, but instead of a Time Lord, the Doctor is actually a Timeless Child.

Since no one knew anything about her when they found her, any Gallifreyan name the Doctor may have was probably assigned by the Time Lords and since the Doctor was just a child at that point she most likely doesn’t remember her real name.

Why is the Doctor’s name a secret?

It seems that such secrecy over a simple name may be a little bit abundant, but this is the Doctor we are talking about and if he is keeping something a secret there is probably a good reason for it.

One of the most popular theories trying to explain this lays in the way Gallifreyan writing works. It’s been shown in the show a few times and if you managed to catch it you will agree that it looks more like a child’s geometry project than actual letters.

This is due to the deep connection Time Lords have with the time itself. The letters are meant to symbolize clocks which in turn means that each name written in Gallifreyan may be of significance to that person’s timeline.

Because the name could potentially be the key to entering someone’s timeline, it is understandable why the Doctor doesn’t want it in the hands of someone who is not his friend.

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Another possible explanation is that his real name is the code that opens Doctor’s tomb. This tomb was set up in a storyline during which the TARDIS gets stuck in a time loop and the only way to reset the universe and save everyone is for the Doctor to lock himself up in that tomb, effectively cutting himself off from this newly created world.

It was mentioned a few times during the show that the Doctor’s real name will explain a terrible fate that has come over the Time Lords which may be another reason why the name is a secret.

However, the most likely explanation is the one that doesn’t come from the show’s lore and that is that the character of the Doctor is much more interesting if we do not know his full origin story.

Who knows the doctor’s name?

Although the name itself is never explicitly said in the show, the plot implies that there are a few people who know the Doctor’s real name. Popular believe often included River Song, The Mater, and the rest of the Time Lords.

However, due to this new addition to the Doctor’s origin that we talked about earlier, it is unlikely that the mater or the Time Lords actually do know it. They may know the name which was given to him, but it simply wouldn’t make any sense if they knew his real name.

This leaves us with River Song alone. During series six, when River and the Doctor get married the show implies that when the Doctor whispers something in her ear he reveals his real name to her.

However, the fans remain divided over this theory, since River later says that he did not actually tell her his real name but rather his plan for the predicament they found themselves in.

However, it was later revealed that Doctor was saved from his tomb once it was opened using his real name as a code which complicates things just a little bit.

In the end, the most fitting answer to this question is that no one actually knows Doctor’s real name, not him, none of his companions, and perhaps neither do the writers of the show themselves and maybe it’s for the best.

  • Hrvoje Milakovic is co-owner of Fiction Horizon and a big cinephile. Apart from that, he likes to read comics, play games and collect action figures. He has been featured on LifeWire, Yahoo and IMDb, to name a few.