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…
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:
- The actions of the Moment
- Does Doctor10 (Eccleston) realise that Gallifrey is missing rather than burned once the War Doctor regenerates ? and
- 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:
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.
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.
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?