Pythia of Gallifrey
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Pythia is a fictional character in the extended universe of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who. In the backstory of the programme, she was the dictatorial ruler of the original tribes of Gallifrey, and was overthrown by Rassilon. Rassilon led a revolution against the Pythia, eventually causing her to kill herself and send her followers to the planet Karn. However, before she died she cursed Rassilon and all future Time Lords to sterility.
Pythia is most thoroughly discussed in "The New Adventures", a series of licensed spin-off books, in particular the Virgin New Adventures and Virgin Missing Adventures novels and, to a lesser degree of consistency, their successors, the BBC Books Doctor Who novels. Due to Virgin's low print runs, their general non-availability outside of Britain, and the fact that the vision has never been translated to screen, their influence is uneven within the global Doctor Who fan community.
The Virgin novels, and by extension the BBC novels, took heavily from the so-called "Cartmel Masterplan" devised by former Doctor Who script editor Andrew Cartmel, which was supposed to explain the Doctor's origins and his ties to Gallifrey's ancient history. Elements of the Masterplan were supposed to be revealed over the course of Cartmel's tenure on the series, but ultimately, as the programme ceased production in 1989, only hints of it surfaced in Seasons 25 and 26 and were never made explicit.
According to the novels, some millions of years ago the planet Gallifrey is home to a civilisation that can see all of the past and future. Ancient Gallifrey is also a matriarchy, ruled over by a mystical religion consisting of a cult built around the Pythia, a great and powerful priestess. Among the ancient Gallifreyans are time-sensitives, marked by their red hair, who pilot early Gallifreyan time machines. Rassilon is rumoured to have been one of these time pilots, who are known as Heroes (as much a title as a term of adulation). Rassilon, as a scientist, opposes the religious and monarchical power wielded by the Pythia.
Gallifrey begins its wars against the Great Vampires during this period. Rassilon commands a fleet of Bowships that wins the first war and his rationalist movement gains popular and political support as a result. The rule of the Pythia is finally overthrown by Rassilon and two other scientists, Omega and "the Other", a mysterious figure whose actual name has been lost to history. This marks the start of the Intuitive Revolution, turning Gallifrey into a society based on rationality and a republic with an elected President, although a caste system remains. The three are ultimately responsible for Gallifrey's move towards a purely scientific society.
However, when overthrown the Pythia curses the people with sterility before casting herself into an abyss. The curse results in the still birth that night of every unborn child on Gallifrey, including Rassilon's own son. Persecuted, her priestesses and acolytes flee to a nearby planet where they become the Sisterhood of Karn (The Brain of Morbius).
The Pythia's curse forces Rassilon to find a new way to reproduce, leading him to create the Looms, cloning machines that can create new Gallifreyans to replace the dead. The Looms are eventually incorporated into great Houses of Cousins, to regulate the population levels and organise the new society. Time Lords are born fully grown from the Looms, although they still need to be educated.