Doctor Who Theory: What Happened to Gallifrey?

TV Doctor Who
TV Doctor Who

Fans of Doctor Who have long argued over how the Galaxy Eater actually destroys things. The Galaxy Eater, also known as the Moment, is the destructive weapon in Doctor Who that can wipe out time and space in one moment. But how did the Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey come to no longer exist and what does the Galaxy Eater have to do with it?

A Brief History of Time Lords

The Doctor comes from a technologically advanced race of aliens on a planet called Gallifrey. The ancients of Gallifrey made a weapon in the form of a time machine that could destroy themselves as both a race and a planet. They named themselves the Time Lords and ordered the Doctor to tamper with the history of a warrior race called the Daleks. The grand idea was to take out the entire race of Daleks, all in a single moment.

An artistic, rust-colored outerspace landscape appears in the background, as Doctor Who walks with his sport coat draped over his shoulder.

However, the Doctor failed his mission and when the Daleks found out, they declared war. The war lasted for so long that The Doctor was forced to use the Moment to end the war but at the cost of the lives of his people and his home planet.

Gallifrey Never Exploded

Fans have always argued about the exact nature of Gallifrey’s destruction. Was it the planet’s “self-destruct” button? Did it absorb Gallifrey and the Daleks into a black hole? Many agree that the Galaxy Eater simply burns its target out of reality, deleting it from existence. But, it didn’t just destroy a planet, it erased its history as well. 

In the episode “Death in Heaven“, Missy gave the Doctor coordinates to Gallifrey, claiming their home had returned to its original place. But when he got there, there was nothing – no rubble nor any remains of the planet. When something explodes, remnants are always present. But in this case, there was nothing there, only empty space, so we can conclude that Gallifrey did not explode.

The planet Gallifrey is seen exploding, its outer atmosphere shattered like glass.
Did Gallifrey actually explode or was it simply deleted?

One theory is that instead of being destroyed in an explosion, the planet vanished as if deleted from existence and its presence erased from space and time. Though it was remembered, it was no longer there. This also explains why the Ninth Doctor was surprised when he saw a Dalek in the episode “Dalek.”

Was Gallifrey Deleted?

In “The Runaway Bride“, the Doctor said that his planet was gone, and not destroyed. It is important to notice that the definition of gone is “no longer present”. The Doctor’s language alone gives us the idea that it was burned out of reality. When all of the Doctors saved Gallifrey in “The Day of The Doctor“, the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors said:

Eleven: Because the alternative is burning.
Ten: And I’ve seen that.
Eleven: And I never want to see it again.

The Moment is seen here as an ornate wooden box with metal elements, seen partially obscured by a burlap sack.
The Moment

Because the Moment is a piece of technology, we can compare it to a computer. When something is deleted from the computer, it is “burned” out of its memory. The computer remembers having done so, but the original file cannot be found. It can be recovered through a straining process. The Doctor did the same. He pressed the delete button and burned Gallifrey out of the universe. 

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