Iconic Words of Wisdom from Every Doctor

Get a preview of the new book 'Doctor Who: The Daily Doctor' with some memorable mantras from 60 years of Doctor Who.

To celebrate the release of The Daily Doctor: 365 1/4 Whoniversal Meditations on Life and How to Live it, you can read some exclusive excerpts from the book here on the Doctor Who website.

Featuring quotes from every leading Doctor - from William Hartnell's First Doctor to Jodie Whittaker's Thirteenth Doctor - this page-a-day collection of pearls of wisdom from the show's 60 years will help you stay inspired, remain ever the optimist, and travel hopefully.

Get your copy of 'Doctor Who: The Daily Doctor' here.

The Daily Doctor

Scroll on for some assorted words of wisdom from our favourite Time Lord...

The First Doctor (William Hartnell)


History sometimes gives us a terrible shock and that is because we don’t quite fully understand. Why should we? After all, we’re all too small to realise its final pattern. 
The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve by John Lucarotti (1966) 

The TARDIS lands in Paris in 1592, where the Doctor and his young friend Steven are soon caught up between warring religious factions. Steven befriends a serving girl, Anne Chaplet, but when events in the city turn especially violent, the Doctor tells Anne to go home. Steven and the Doctor leave in the TARDIS where the Doctor reveals that some ten thousand people will die in the massacre he and Steven just fled. 

Steven is furious that the Doctor left Anne in such potential danger but the Doctor insists (not for the first time) that history cannot be changed... The Doctor believes he’s made the right albeit difficult choice – but will come to rethink this kind of decision. 

It’s hard to understand events as they’re happening. Dramas and crises can be overwhelming. But later, looking back, we can gain perspective to make sense of what happened – and learn from the experience. 

The Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton)


Dastari, I have no doubt you could augment an earwig to the point where it understood nuclear physics – but it’d still be a very stupid thing to do! 
The Two Doctors by Robert Holmes (1985) 

Professor Joinson Dastari is Head of Projects at Space Station Camera in the Third Zone, a pioneer in genetic engineering and, according to the Doctor, has enough letters after his name for two alphabets. He’s exceedingly clever, as demonstrated by his fascinating work on rho mesons as the unstable factor in short-lived pin galaxies (which only exist for one quintillionth of a second). 

But even someone as bright as Dastari can be spectacularly dim. In technologically augmenting the Androgum known as Chessene o’ the Franzine Grig, he unwittingly creates a formidable villain. Then there’s the fact that he sides with the Sontarans because they will support his experiments, not considering what evil they might do with it. Dimmer still, he attempts to pit his wits against two incarnations of the Doctor at the same time! 

Even very intelligent, talented and experienced people can make mistakes or do daft things. Judge people by their actions not their accolades. 

The Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee)


Courage isn’t just a matter of not being frightened, you know. It’s being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway. 
Planet of the Daleks by Terry Nation (1973) 

Codal is part of a task force confronting the Daleks. He is captured in the Spiridon jungle while drawing pursuers away from his fellow Thals. The Doctor finds Codal in a Dalek cell and commends his bravery. 

Codal dismisses it, saying he didn’t think about his actions. He’s been terrified ever since landing on the planet. Unlike the others, he’s a scientist and not a soldier. He didn’t have the courage to be the only one in hundreds not to volunteer for service – even though the Thals have only recently developed space flight for a voyage of this length. The Doctor’s little tutorial on bravery reassures Codal that what he’s described, and what he did in the jungle, are certainly examples of courage. 

Being afraid of danger and uncertainty is natural, not a failing. Fear isn’t a weakness; failing to act because of it is. In any situation, true bravery appears when you’re understandably frightened but still choose to do the right thing. 

The Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker)


Never guess. Unless you have to. There’s enough uncertainty in the universe as it is. 
Logopolis by Christopher H Bidmead (1981) 

A pale figure on a bridge gestures towards the TARDIS on the river- bank far below. The Doctor goes to talk with the stranger, and Adric observes their conversation from a distance. 

Adric knows that they arrived by the River Thames to flush out the Doctor’s old enemy, the Master. The Doctor won’t tell him the identity of the mystery figure on the bridge, so mathematical genius Adric puts two and two together and makes five: it must be the Master. The Doctor admonishes Adric without correcting him about the stranger’s true identify. He’s spotting connections in a chain of circumstances that fragments the law that holds the universe together – and so guessing most certainly won’t help.

Expectation inspires us with possibilities in a way that dry facts do not. But random conjecture is no substitute for informed deduction, whatever the situation. Equip yourself with facts before decisions are made. 

The Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison)


THE DOCTOR: What is the one thing evil cannot face – not ever? 
THE DOCTOR: Itself. 
Kinda by Christopher Bailey (1982) 

The verdant planet Deva Loka, also known as S14, is home to the peaceful, enigmatic Kinda who turn out to be far more sophisticated than they first appear. A group of would-be colonisers from another world dismiss the Kinda as ‘primitive’ because they recoil from the sight of a mirror, fearful that it might somehow capture their soul. 

But there’s another lifeform on Deva Loka: the evil Mara. It usually inhabits ‘the dark places of the inside’ but succeeds in making a telepathic connection with Tegan using her dreams as a conduit. The Doctor realises that the Kinda’s fear of mirrors is a clue to their power. To defeat the huge, snake-like manifestation of the Mara and free the people it has possessed, he traps the creature within a circle of polished solar generator panels. The Mara is faced with infinite reflections of itself and can only escape by withdrawing to the dark place from which it came. 

Most of us like to think that we’re basically good people. However, we might occasionally behave badly and not necessarily be aware how we’re affecting others. Every now and again it’s a good idea to hold up a mirror to our own actions and see ourselves as others do. 

The Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker)


THE DOCTOR: You know, I’ll never understand the people of Earth. I have spent the day using, abusing, even trying to kill you. If you’d have behaved as I have, I should have been pleased at your demise. 
PERI BROWN: It’s called compassion, Doctor. 
The Twin Dilemma by Anthony Steven (1984) 

The newly regenerated Sixth Doctor is liable to sudden, dramatic changes of mood. At one point, he even attacks his poor companion, Peri. Horrified by his own actions, he heads to the desolate asteroid Titan 3, to live a repentant life as a hermit. Poor Peri has no choice but to go with him. 

Soon they are caught up in a sinister alien plot, and find themselves trapped in a base which has been set to self-destruct. With typical quick thinking, the Doctor finds a way to transmat Peri to safety, but the base apparently explodes before he can join her back in the TARDIS. 

The Doctor is amazed by Peri’s relief when he then turns up alive; it’s not at all what he deserves. But her compassion transcends such small concerns. Don’t take pleasure in the suffering of others, no matter what they might have done. 

The Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy)


Funny old business, time. It delights in frustrating your plans. All Kane’s bitterness and hatred thwarted by a quirk of time. 
Dragonfire by Ian Briggs (1987) 

The vicious criminal Kane was captured by his people on Proamon and exiled to the frozen, dark side of the planet Svartos. 
For 3,000 years Kane plotted revenge against his own people – without knowing that he was wasting his time. A thousand years after he was exiled from his home world, its local, cold red star turned supernova and all the planets were engulfed in the explosion. Kane finally realizes that for two-thirds of his imprisonment, there has been no one to avenge himself on. All his efforts and diabolical schemes have been for nothing. 

The Doctor is also long-lived and has suffered all kinds of loss and injustice. Yet his behaviour on Svartos is completely different to Kane’s. The Doctor explores, makes new friends and even goes on a treasure hunt. 

Humans don’t live as long as the Doctor or Kane. We don’t know how long our lives – or those of others – will be. Don’t waste time in bitterness. Move on and make the most of what you have. 

The Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann)


Four minutes? That’s ages! What if I get bored. I need a television, couple of books. Anyone for chess? Bring me knitting! 
The Night of the Doctor by Steven Moffat (2013) 

The Doctor comes to the rescue of a young woman called Cass on a gunship racing out of control through space. Unfortunately, Cass wants nothing to do with any Time Lord – she thinks they’re no different from Daleks now, in the midst of the raging Time War. After the Doctor is unable to persuade her that he only wants to help, the ship smashes down on to the surface of the planet Karn. Cass is fatally injured in the crash. So is the Doctor. 

Yet the infamous Sisterhood of Karn use their Elixir of Life to restore him for a brief time. Anyone else would surely be horrified to learn they have just four minutes to live. The Doctor, however, immediately thinks of all the fun things he can cram into that time. 

In fact, this is a central idea in the philosophy of Stoicism, which flourished among the ancient Greeks and Romans. One Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, put it like this in his famous book, Meditations: "Don’t act as if you were going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good."

The Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston)


Time travel’s like visiting Paris. You can’t just read the guide book, you’ve got to throw yourself in. Eat the food, use the wrong verbs, get charged double and end up kissing complete strangers. Or is that just me? Stop asking questions, go and do it! 
The Long Game by Russell T Davies (2005) 

Adam Mitchell is overwhelmed by his first trip in the TARDIS. In the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire, planet Earth is at its height. It’s covered with mega-cities, has five moons, a population of 96 billion, and is the hub of a galactic domain stretching across a million planets and a million species. 

On closer examination, the space station they’re on doesn’t exhibit the culture, art, politics, fine food and good manners Adam’s been promised. But the Doctor gives him a credit card for pocket money, tells him to stop asking nagging questions, and sends him off to explore for himself. 

When you visit a foreign country, don’t just head for familiar burger and chips in the nearest themed pub. Make it your opportunity to understand a culture, language, architecture and cuisine different to your own. Who knows how your own tastes will be changed by the experience. 

The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant)


Thing about me, I’m stupid. I talk too much. Always babbling on. This gob doesn’t stop for anything. Want to know the only reason I’m still alive? Always stay near the door. 
Forest of the Dead by Steven Moffat (2008) 

The Doctor and his party flee through the linked skyscrapers of the biggest library in the universe. He sends the others ahead of him while he tries to talk to the creature hot on their heels. 

River Song isn’t convinced the Doctor can reason with a carnivorous swarm in a suit. Nevertheless, the Vashta Nerada tell him new information about their origins – but not before they consume another victim and close in. The Doctor distracts them by chatting as he prepares to open a trapdoor beneath him and escape. 

Don’t be afraid to try something novel, go to a place you’ve not visited before or meet different people at a party or an event. You’ll learn new things, make fresh connections and maybe change your perspective. And if things don’t go too well, you can always prepare an excuse that allows you to pop out at a moment’s notice. 

The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith)


What’s the point in them being happy now if they’re going to be sad later? The answer is, of course, because they are going to be sad later. 
The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe by Steven Moffat (2011) 

The Doctor says this to Madge Arwell, who is desperate for her children Lily and Cyril to have the best Christmas ever – before they learn the terrible news that their father has died. All Madge wants is for her children to be happy but she finds herself shouting at them instead. The Doctor gently explains the turbulent brew of emotions we call grief.

In time, we all lose people dear to us. Sometimes we simply drift apart or move away; sometimes people die. Grief can smother everything for a while, leaving us upset and angry and numb all at once. It’s awful and exhausting. If you don’t understand that already, sadly you will someday... 

But that’s all the more reason to cherish what we have. Recognise the good times as you’re having them. Tell the people you love that you love them. None of us know how long we’ve got together, so make the most of it while you can.

The Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi)


THE DOCTOR: I have a time machine. I can be back before we left. 
BILL POTTS: But what if you get lost, or stuck, or something? 
THE DOCTOR: I’ve thought about that. 
THE DOCTOR: Well, it would be a worry, so best not to dwell on it. Look at this building. Look at it. You know what I like about humanity? Its optimism. Do you know what this building is made of? Pure, soaring optimism. 
Smile by Frank Cottrell-Boyce (2017) 

The Doctor tells Bill Potts that a journey back to his office in the TARDIS for a cup of tea can encompass everything that ever happened or will happen – all before the kettle boils. Where would she like to go? 

He dismisses Bill’s worry that something could prevent them returning, instead pointing out the beauty and wonder of the futuristic colony city in which they have just arrived. 

You’ll enjoy life more by assuming a positive outlook. Take sensible precautions, but don’t let fear of a worst-case scenario spoil your enjoyment of the moment. 

The Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker)


Something seems impossible. We try – it doesn’t work, we try again. We learn, we improve. We fail again, but better. We make friends, we learn to trust, we help each other. We get it wrong again. We improve together, then ultimately succeed. Because this is what being alive is. And it’s better than the alternative. So come on, you brilliant humans. We go again. And we win. 
Eve of the Daleks by Chris Chibnall (2022) 

It’s déjà vu all over again. The Daleks track the TARDIS to execute the Doctor as punishment for destroying their war fleet. They succeed immediately, exterminating the Doctor and her friends in a storage facility. The End. 

Well, not quite. The TARDIS traps them inside a time loop. The relentless Daleks learn the Doctor’s tactics each time the loop repeats. But it shortens on each reset, so they only have so many chances. The Doctor uses the penultimate loop to plan tactics that make the most of time available to each of them. Six previous failures are acceptable if it makes a final seventh attempt successful.

If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Don’t just repeat your actions. Learn from your mistakes, work out whose help you need, picture a successful outcome and go for it. 

Every Doctor (Almost)


The Faceless Ones by David Ellis and Malcolm Hulke (1967)
The Three Doctors by Bob Baker and Dave Martin (1972–73)
Image of the Fendahl by Chris Boucher (1977)
Four to Doomsday by Terence Dudley (1982)
Vengeance on Varos by Philip Martin (1985)
Paradise Towers by Stephen Wyatt (1987)
Doctor Who by Matthew Jacobs (1996)
Rose by Russell T Davies (2005)
New Earth by Russell T Davies (2006)
The Eleventh Hour by Steven Moffat (2010)
Robot of Sherwood by Mark Gatiss (2014)
Rosa by Malorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall (2018)

Here’s a useful fact for you. The First Doctor never tells anyone to run in any of his TV adventures – he’s more likely to tell them to wait so he can catch up. But every other Doctor has yelled this instruction, and so saved someone’s life. 

There’s an awful lot of running in Doctor Who. After all, there’s a whole universe of deadly creatures and robots to escape from. But look again and that’s not always what’s happening. Sometimes the Doctor runs headlong into danger, eager to help those who need it. We could all be a bit more courageous and active in helping. So imagine the Doctor taking hold of your hand – and run. 

Get your copy of 'Doctor Who: The Daily Doctor' here.

More on Products

more from the whoniverse

More From Read and Watch

from the store

More from the store