Debts and the Doctor

This week Whovian Leap wonders if there are any payments outstanding in the Whoniverse.

Greece and Europe are wrangling over debt repayments in the real world, but let’s as always pose the question, “What about the Whoniverse?” Doctor Who has often been a reflection of reality, but are there debts due in the midst of all the monsters? Is it the Troika as well as the Myrka at the bulkhead doors? Are there loan sharks in the show or just the flying variety? 

Our first example comes in “The Reign of Terror”. The First Doctor is on his way to Paris when he encounters some labourers alongside the road. They are tax dodgers, forced into hard labour to work off their debts. The Doctor helps them escape.

Worker Cordo is our second example. He owes thirty one talmars in outstanding taxes in “The Sun Makers”. The authorities tell him “You must manage without sleep until the debt is paid”. In desperation, Cordo attempts to jump off a building, but the Fourth Doctor and Leela save him. In this tale author Robert Holmes was taking a swipe at the UK government which in the late seventies made citizens pay an extortionate amount of tax.

“Assassins, like debt collectors are rarely welcome!” notes Orcini in ‘Revelation of the Daleks’. Loveable intergalactic rogue Sabalom Glitz would wholeheartedly agree. He has some serious grief with the grotzis in ‘Dragonfire’, owing a debt to Kane on Iceworld. He has sold off his mercenary crew in part payment. The Seventh Doctor starts to reveal his darker side as he advises Glitz to “Pay Kane back his debt, even if it costs a thousand crowns, ten thousand crowns. Pay back the debt.” He then tells Officer Belazs who has sold herself to Kane and wants to escape his service, “As for you, your debt to Kane, I don’t think you’ll be able to pay it off. Ever!”


In ‘A Town Called Mercy’ Jex works as the local physician and cares for the local townspeople. He wants to atone for creating the murderous Gunslinger, but the Doctor tells him, “You don’t get to decide when and how your debt is paid!”

The most common occurrence of debt in the Whoniverse, however, is a moral one. After saving race after race,  planet after planet, the whole galaxy is indebted to the Doctor. The Inquisitor in the final scenes of ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ tells him, “We owe you an immense debt of gratitude,” and without the slightest hint of irony, “which I can partly repay by telling you that the young woman Perpugilliam Brown is alive and well and living as a warrior queen with King Yrcanos!”


The Eleventh Doctor calls in some of these debts in ‘A Good Man Goes To War’ as he turns to Dorium and Strax for help. Not to mention a certain lizard lady. Spotting the Tardis in her drawing room, Madame Vastra realises, “A very old debt is to be repaid.”

But is the Doctor himself in debt? The Time Lords certainly think so. In ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ they remind him, “You enjoy the freedom we allow you. In return, occasionally, not continually, we ask you to do something for us.”


In ‘The Caves of Androzani’ the Fifth Doctor is indebted to Peri, who is dying of Spectrox Toxaemia. In Part Three’s classic cliffhanger, the Doctor screams that he needs to find the antidote, “I owe it to my friend to try, because I got her into this. So as you can see, I’m not going to let you stop me now!”

In ‘The Vampires of Venice’, the Eleventh Doctor tells Rory that he owes Casanova a chicken over a bet, but it is a long story. The First Doctor, on the other hand, owes absolutely nothing in ‘The Gunfighters’. Dentist Doc Holliday has removed the Time Lord’s tooth, but tells him it is on the house as he is their first customer!

In conclusion, let’s not forget that is the fans themselves who owe the biggest debt. To Verity Lambert and Sydney Newman for inventing Doctor Who. To RTD and Steven Moffat for breathing life back into it. We are forever in their debt.
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