The Day of the Doctor – a time structure analysis. An alternative “no-change” view

This is our first GuestBlogger post and is by @Nick

This is the first time I’ve attempted something like this, so apologies in advance if I fail to be concise enough or get a bit confusing in places.

After finally seeing the DotD via BBC DVD I read @Bluesqueakpip’s masterly analysis of how the story can be explained by sequential changes in the Doctor’s (and by inference the Universe’s) time line. I found the “bowler hat” diagram and the explanation (and subsequent discussion) convincing…

Looping through time

But I was left thinking whether we needed to postulate such a major change in the time line to accommodate DofD at all.

I postulate that the events shown in DofD (summarized above by Bluesqueakpip) happened pretty much in the way she describes, for the reasons she explains BUT that this is what always happened on the last day of the Time War in AG Who. Time therefore didn’t change as the Black Line always happened.

Let me try and explain:

I think the most critical question to ask and attempt to answer is “What changed” between the previously known version of events

The Moment is used and Gallifrey and the Daleks burn

and the DofD version

Gallifrey is removed from time/space and the Daleks are destroyed in their own cross fire.

For me, there are three major considerations (although I’m sure there are many others as well) which must be addressed before a scenario where Gallifrey was always removed from time/space can be accepted are:

  1. The actions of the Moment
  2. Does Doctor10 (Eccleston) realise that Gallifrey is missing rather than burned once the War Doctor regenerates ? and
  3. How can essentially all of the Daleks have been destroyed when all 13 Doctors/Tardis act together to remove Gallifrey from time/space ?

Considering each of these points, helps explain why the “best” explanation for DotD revolves around a nothing changed view of the timeline. Dealing with these in turn:

The Moment

In the DotD, we saw a sentient weapon of universal scale hyper-destruction that seems to need to test the resolve of any potential user before becoming self-armed and permitting itself to be used. As a sentient weapon, the Moment itself will also have its own point of view and preference.

The Moment brings the War Doctor in contact with Doctor 11 (Tennant) and 12 (Smith) to show him the effect on himself of using the Weapon and thus test his resolve based on his post-use guilt and remorse.

I assume that the Moment always forced to Doctor to undergo this test. Accordingly, I consider that

  • the War Doctor’s decision always happened in the way that DotD showed us and therefore this is what always happened in AG Who (the history of the Doctor and the Universe remains unchanged) OR
  • whilst the test always happened, originally the War Doctor wasn’t swayed enough by the guilt and regret shown by D11 and D12 to alter his conviction that ending the Time War by destroying Gallifrey and the Daleks, wasn’t the only sane option regardless of the personal consequences.

In the latter case, you have to conclude that something “timey-wimey” has happened to Doctor 12’s timeline, as Bluesqueakpip describes, which changed the circumstances of the War Doctor’s test and allowed the Doctors act together to change his personal past and that of the universe as a whole. It seems that this probably revolves around Clara “impossible girl” arc (Bluesqueakpip @Phaseshift) given what we have seen.

I think this is a reasonable argument, since the Doctor’s future can’t be written in stone yet. Therefore the Clara present/Clara absent options (and multiple others of course) should remain open in theory. However, in that case, there really must be multiple versions of DotD each version with a different outcome so far as the Moment is concerned whether this is the first, second or “X” possible future outcome, which the Moment “sees” simultaneously.

Using Time-Wimey words, from the perspective of the Doctor’s time line, it might be better to describe this as that the Moment fails to convince the War Doctor not to use the weapon, right upto the point the Doctor’s future changes (Clara survives if you like) when the change in the future simultaneously rewrites the past in accordance with the DotD version.

I think this view is subtly different from what Bluesqueakpip describes. For the Moment (like the Tardis perhaps) all possible futures remain open and possible and the weapon choses to pick the version where the weapon is never used as this is the Moment’s preference. Given the Moment picks the option then it seems to me that all the possible futures ceases to be possible and the Doctor’s future time line is fixed on the version AG Who has shown us instantaneously, the millisecond the Moment sees the only future time line that coincides with its preference. Simply, the Moment chooses Bluesqueakpips “black line option, and this is what always happens.

In addition to avoiding any change to the Doctor’s past, I think it also gets around having to consider why the end of the Timewar, the destruction of Gallifrey and the Daleks isn’t a fixed point in time, with all that entails.


AG Who initially showed us a post time war Universe free of the Daleks, from the very start with Dalek. Since then, we have seen various Dalek time war survivors (The Emperor Dalek, Cult of Skaro and Davros) managed to survive and secretly rebuild an army, only to be beaten by the Doctor each time, before re-establishing a Dalek Empire.

The first time we see a rebuilt Dalek empire is in Asylum of the Daleks. Quite how this came about is unclear to me as the premise seems to ignore the Time War arc entirely (sorry not being on here or the Guardian thread back then I haven’t caught up with fan thinking here). Perhaps the new Paradigm Daleks have gathered together various stragglers from pre-Victory of the Daleks to rebuild a “democratic” Dalek empire.

If the Moment wasn’t used to burn the Dalek empire and “time-lock” it as we previously understood, then can we explain the Dalek timeline as seen in AG Who so far ?

My answer is YES, but only with special pleading:

One has to assume that every Dalek in existence was gathered above Gallifrey immediately before the Time War ended with Gallifrey being removed from time/space allowing them all to be caught in their own cross fire and destroyed. I believe an argument can be made that the Daleks would indeed have gathered their entire force to destroy Gallifrey in order to become the undisputed Masters of all Time and Space. Their goal must be considered so important that leaving forces elsewhere and failing to destroy Gallifrey and the Time Lords for the absence of such force would demand such a concentration as part of their strategy ? To potentially lose and leave the TimeLords able to strike back would be unthinkable.

However, you may not find such an explanation satisfactory as I said, there is an element of special pleading.

The Doctor

In DotD, the War Doctor and Doctor 12 make it clear that no Doctor prior to Matt Smith will remember what happened around the War Doctor’s decision to use the Moment along with all 13 Doctors coming together to save Gallifrey. Whilst we can debate whether the un-remembering effect has been present on previous multi-Doctor stories, Steven Moffat has made this effect unambiguously clear this time. There can be no debate about this then.

In my opinion, one really clear change between pre and post DotD then should be what Doctor 10 (Eccleston) sees and remembers after the War Doctor’s regeneration.

AG Who makes it clear that he remembers causing and seeing both Gallfrey and the Daleks being destroyed and is imbued with a mixture of survivor and perpetrator guilt from causing this very act, creating a depressed, angry, lonely, PTSD personality that all AG Doctors’ have shared since the destruction of Gallifrey in their own unique way.

Doctor 10 on regenerating must remember stealing the Moment and his intention to use the weapon to end the Time War. On surveying the post DotD battlefield does he realise he has indeed perpetrated two acts of genocide or does he see Gallifrey disappeared, the wreckage of the destroyed Dalek fleet and realise miraculously that something else happened instead and that he didn’t undertake genocide even if he is completely unclear what exactly happened.

In my opinion, if he sees a time locked genocidal end to the Time War (regardless of whether it happened that way or not) on the Tardis scanner then his personality and his subsequent motivations stand. However, if he sees something other than that, then in my opinion, we have to assume that his personality and motivations change. He can no longer be an agent of genocide and even if he is now the lone TimeLord in the universe, surely he now lacks the guilt, the PTSD, the anger and self-loathing that we know he once had ?

I conclude that so long as Doctor 10 on regeneration can’t distinguish between Gallifrey burning and being removed from time/space then at a personal level his personal history will seem unaffected by the events in DotD. In this case, I think you can conclude that either the events shown in the DotD always happened or that events in DotD had no discernable effect so long as Doctor’s 9, 11 and 12 are concerned.

However, if Doctor 10 does understand that Gallifrey no longer burned, then his personality and that of Doctor’s 11 and 12 must be fundamentally changed.

My conclusion

In my opinion, it is possible to hypothesize that the events shown in the Day of the Doctor were always those which happened on the final day of the Time War and that this is at least as viable explanation as that set out by Bluesqueakpip in her blog post The Day of the Doctor – a time structure analysis.

Furthermore in some ways, I find this to be a more preferable explanation given that it can be interpreted to leave the personality of the Doctor and the time line shown in AG Who largely untouched. For me, potentially the most problematic element of changing the Doctor’s timeline is that it really should result in a fundamental change to the personality of the Doctor compared to that shown by AG Who as well as a rewrite the Daleks time line at the same time. In this case, I have to ask myself what other elements of AG Who would remain unchanged or unaffected?



  1. @Nick  –

    Your theory is sort of plausible. It doesn’t really endear as a story, though. It’s a bit like Scrooge realising that he’d never actually been a grumpy git, but had just believed that he had been (Or- ‘It’s not really redemption if Hurt always never did it’).


    AG stories we’ve seen could be ‘pre’ or ‘post’ TDOTD change (if there was one). It is probably more Timey-Wimey than that, though.

    Time War refugees (Dr, Daleks, Master, Davros) could be from a destroyed Gallifrey or a Cup-A-Soup Gallifrey, because they perceived that the Dr had done the dirty deed. The Hurt Dr clearly stated that he wouldn’t remember that he hadn’t done the deed.

    Hence he, Ecclestone, Tennant & Smith (until now) have been unaware of that fact.

    Presumably, the Time-Lock must stand in an always Cup-A-Soup timeline. This is because the Time War refugees have  mentioned (and/or we’ve seen them) having to escape the Time-Lock.

    Similarly, I imagine for any (pre TDOTD) AG episodes (that mention the Time-Lock) to be set ‘after’ a TDOTD change, the Time-Lock must stand after that change (if there was one).

    If this is so it means that it’s no easier for anyone (Including Daleks) to escape the Time-Lock now that we know the Dr didn’t do the deed; unless there has been a change – one which resulted in the Time-Lock  breaking after Cup-A-Souping Gallifrey.

    It could also be that (pre-change) the Dr actually blew up Gallifrey (as seen in the comics) and that events before & after that event were what was ‘saved’ in the Time-Lock, hence Gallifrey could return in ‘The End of Time’. Was Rassilon thrust back into the Time-Lock just in time to be Cup-A-Souped?


    Also – The 1st time we see a rebuilt Dalek Empire (not a religiously insane one) is actually ‘The Stolen Earth’.

    That’s enough now. I’m fed up typing ‘Time-Lock & ‘Cup-A-Soup’……..

  2. @wolfweed

    My main aim is to suggest there is a viable alternative to the “Doctor changes his own timeline” that fits with what we saw and not to prove which alternative is correct/wrong. There are, I know, other views out there as well (@Thomnck for starters).

    My question is that if Doctor 9 Hurt regenerates into Doctor 10 (Eccleston) and he sees no change in the apparent universe post the DotD event(s), then is it actually possible to distinguish between the scenario where the Doctor’s past timeline changed because of DotD events and an alternative where the timeline was always like that ? I’m not sure I can.

    IMO, the “nothing changes” scenario works because the events in DotD always happen, but they happen in Hurt Doctor’s “present day” rather than in Smith Doctor’s present day. This is timey-wimey, but because the perspective is different, it is the (possible)  future which is changed rather than the actual past. This allows AG Who as we know it to happen as we saw/see it. It avoids any fixed point in time issues and considering any AG Who timeline differences. This is the principal advantage for me.

    The alternative, Doctor 10 (ecclestone) appreciates he no longer destroyed Gallifrey/Daleks and didn’t commit Genocide, has extremely significant consequences for AG Who as we saw it. We really ought to have seen a completely different “happy” Doctor in AG Who (ie more BG Who like) and as a consequence I ask whether any AG Who story line we saw can remain unaffected (in addition to whatever changes the GI/Clara impossible girl arc did anyway).



  3. @Nick – As I tried to say (probably not very well), I think your ‘Always Cup-A-Soup’ alternative seems technically viable.

    I’m not sure it makes good storytelling sense that the Hurt Dr always changed his mind before acting.

    If the Dr always never did it, then this is not a tale about an exceptional second chance.


    Ecclestone, Tennant (& Smith until TDOTD) don’t appreciate that they didn’t do the deed (in a rewritten timeline) because Hurt says that he won’t remember. I don’t think he meant only  Hurt (who only last a couple more minutes), he meant the Dr. That’s why whatever the scenario, (Until the end of TDOTD) the Smith Dr is convinced that he did do the deed.

    (If time has been rewritten) As far as everyone is concerned (until the Dr & co. realise in TDOTD) nothing has changed. The Dr seemed to destroy Gallifrey. As far as I can tell, no other AG stories’ timelines or fixed points are affected.


    In response to your PM:

    The ‘Fully fledged Dalek Empire at the height of it’s power’ (as Tennant describes it) in ‘Journey’s End’ was capable of stealing 27 planets & building a weapon that could destroy all of reality. They were defeated by relying on an insane augur & the fact that the meta-crisis Dr was happy to kill them all – ‘coz with or without a reality bomb this Dalek Empire is big enough to slaughter the cosmos’.


  4. @Nick – nice work. I’m with @Wolfweed in that my main complaint would be that ‘the Doctor never really destroyed Gallifrey’ is a bit too close to ‘and then Clara woke up and it was all a dream’. It’s a storytelling objection, rather than a technical objection. Not that I have any real objection to Matt Smith doing another shower scene, but still. 🙂

    Of course, we may find out if there are two timestreams or only one next week.

    The technical objections to your theory are:
    The Doctor consistently describes Gallifrey as having ‘burned’, going so far as to say ‘I’ve seen it’.
    The Visionary in End of Time sees Gallifrey “Ending. Burning. Falling. All of it, falling. The black, and pitch. And screaming fire. Soul burning.”
    The two ‘younger’ Doctors are convinced they’re not going to remember any of this – but in Time Crash the ‘younger’ Doctor expects to remember the events. So what’s the difference between Day of The Doctor and Time Crash that means the Davison Doctor knows he’ll remember, but the Tennant and Hurt Doctors know they won’t?

    The Doctor is acting like Amy in the ‘Night and the Doctor’ minisodes – she states that she remembers both always having had parents and never having had parents. Or rather, he’s acting like pre-change Amy; he remembers always having burned Gallifrey.

    The Visionary is acting like the seers in Pompeii – who were unable to see the future correctly because it was about to be changed.

    The Doctor’s memory behaves like Kazran’s in A Christmas Carol. He can remember changes as they happen if they happen in his ‘past’. But not when they happen in his ‘present’.

    In Time Crash nothing has been changed (indeed, nothing can be changed unless you want to say ‘Goodbye, Belgium!’) – so presumably, something’s changed in Day OTD.


    There is, incidentally, no particular need in physics for there to only be one time-line. We’ve seen centuries long alternate futures before in Who – it’s one of the standard rebuttals to ‘but there wasn’t a nuclear war in 1983.’


  5. @wolfweed

    There’s nothing you say above that I disagree with, sort of, except I see the story as much about Hurt redeeming himself than Smith redeeming Hurt, (and this is subtle emphasis in how you see the story rather than a big difference in fact).

    But if you prefer the Smith changes his own past version of events (which I think is fine too) then I think you have to ask what differs from first time round. I think we have to assume the Moment brought Tennant, Smith and Hurt together (a al DotD) but there was a missing ingredient first time round which resulted in Hurt pressing the Big Red button, which wasn’t there second time round as we saw in DotD. [The simple answer to this problem is to say Clara, but then Clara is already in the Doctor’s timeline by the time of DofD happens to Doctor 12, so I find it hard to believe such a simple answer is anything other than contrived convenience].

    The alternative I suggest avoids this “problem” and is (IMO) just as redeeming to the War Doctor as the other is, although when you simplify the narrative to its core as you suggest it doesn’t quite feel that way :).



  6. yes @Nick, what you’ve written and how you’ve analysed it is very interesting. My concern would be in the substantive nature of the storytelling: the fact that the Doctor must act according to his own knowledge and volition. Conditioning is the key, it is what he has been conditioned to believe which then causes him to act/react according to his own belief of what happened and therefore his volition and action frames the story (yes, it goes round & round!). I think,  ultimately, the story must manifest first, rather than any technical aspect. The redemptive power of the possible future needs to be evident to give the arc momentum, to give the different Doctors their ‘colours’ if you will.  The complexity of the doctor works better with the earlier theories, I believe. And complexity and dramatic irony are key to a successful, ongoing story where we, the Greek ‘chorus’, know the ‘real’ truth.



  7. @nick

    Many thanks for this, and for being our first Guest Blogger!

    I think my fundamental problem with this approach is that it’s made pretty clear that both War Doctor and 10 will not retain these memories when they return to their own periods. As I said on @bluesqueakpip s piece, this actually makes a lot of sense when you approach it from the Second Doctors perspective in stories like Three Doctors and Five Doctors. If he retained the memories of those stories it should impact the thirds lifespan pretty profoundly.

    In order to reset those memories, they really need a chain of events to reset to, and therefore they must have played out differently. They remain distraught at the choice they were made to make, not realising that by the time they reach the end of the 11th Doctor, they’ll have an opportunity to correct that choice. For me, that seems the most logical option.

    I had a follow on piece from the Time Lords: Time Locked and I’m Loving it piece that talked about Daleks that remains unfinished at the moment, as I was reyinf to work out how to present some elements of it. I may rewrite it because it addresses some of your points about the Dalek Empire. Just to say, although it’s not the best episode, Victory of the Daleks contains a lot of answers. Maybe the Mark Gatiss retrospective is a good idea?

    I’ve also got a blog in the works about Time, but I’m moving away from this particular issue (I think you and @bluesqueakpip have captured the main philosophies on this one) to talk about how Time is portrayed generally in the Moffat era, making use of a lot of the watery metaphors in Series 6.

  8. @Phaseshift

    Thanks. No Xmas is over, I can reply to something you mentioned, which I have to say I didn’t interpret quite in the same way as you did it appears.

    I agree it is unambiguous that Moffat tells us that Hurt Doctor (I’m afraid numbering them doesn’t seem to cut it anymore) won’t remember (his role) and I think its fair that Tennant Doctor won’t whether (although I don’t recall whether this is stated absolutely or not). However, I took this to mean they wouldn’t remember their specific roles – presumably all 13 Doctors involved (or is it 12 plus 1 these days) don’t either – rather then the outcome itself. It seemed entirely possible to me that both Eccleston Doctor would be aware that Gallifrey had “disappeared” rather then been destroyed by himself prior to his regeneration.

    For me, this is actually the bigger conundrum here. If Eccleston is aware that Gallifrey has disappeared from the universe rather than been destroyed then I can’t believe he would have the same personality that he did have (lacking genocidal guilt). If he can’t tell the difference, then I’m not sure I see how you can actually distinguish between @Bluesqueakpip explanation and this one.


  9. @Phaseshift

    I’m looking forward to reading both your posts on the Dalek and the Moffat era’s view on how Timey-Wimeyness has been portrayed and used. My impression on the Timey-wimey front (and it is no more than that) is that there is a bit of underlying inconsistency in there somewhere (or perhaps that is just how he ties up – or doesn’t – loose ends).



  10. @purofilion

    I think I follow you and I certainly agree with gist of your comment (as with Bluesqueakpip, Wolfweed and Phaseshift) regarding the narrative power working best with Smith Doctor changing the past from the future. The question I have then is whether forcing the narrative to have this effect from a story telling point of view, when its clear the story is set in Hurt Doctor’s present (the Moment brings Smith and Tennant to him) has other wider narrative consequences for AG Who. I worry it could do.

    Thanks Nick

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