The Rare Case of the Doctor Altering His Own Timeline: "Dalek" vs. The Battle at Canary Wharf

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Summary: Doctor Who plays fast and quite furious with causality, and for every time the Doctor whips out some speech about the Web of Time (see, amongst many others, The Resurrection of Mars audioplay) there is some other time where he is offering some advice to a painter or tweaking something he thinks is broken. Still, he tries to go on and on about impacting his own time stream. There is one place where this rule is violated, maybe, and you can trace it with me.

BLOT: (19 Feb 2011 - 02:57:22 AM)

The Rare Case of the Doctor Altering His Own Timeline: "Dalek" vs. The Battle at Canary Wharf

Now, before I go any further, I do want to say I am going to be casually discussing some plot points from a couple of Doctor Who episodes. new-Who. If you have not seen the first two seasons, and you have an utter aversion to any spoilers but also do plan on watching them sometime, you might want to skip this post. I'm not going to go into any super-specifics, but sometimes just finding out that something or another is a few episodes down the road kind of junks up your ability to go with the here and now. Caution over.

To preface, you would go mad if you tried to trace the varied time lines of Doctor Who. I'm not even tossing in spin-off or semi-spin-off media. I mean the actual show itself. Mad. The Doctor's age is all over the map, the way that Time and the TARDIS and probably every other force and gadget have swapped about (see: sonic screwdriver); and the Time Lords have been retconned a couple of times (pun intended!). With that in mind, trying to assign a discrete, simple time-line to the Doctor's activities is bound to fail. If nothing else, the creators can wash their hands of the whole thing and just say that someone tweaked it. There is some dribble that stops the whole series from veering off into uncontrolled fits of insanity, namely that the Doctor is not supposed to cross his own time-stream, but let's assume that's as open to re-interpretation as everything else.

What is curious, though, is there is at least one case where the events of a later episode to some degree invalidate the events of an earlier one. In "Dalek" the Doctor (ninth incarnation) and Rose enter into a museum deep underground where Henry van Statten keeps his alien play things. One of which, the prize of the collection, is a Dalek that was cast down to Earth, presumably blasted out by the cataclysm that ended the Time War. van Statten, who is man powerful enough to "own" the Internet, and both highly intelligent with a dedicated network, has not heard of the Daleks. This implies that whatever the Time War final moment did, involving the "time lock" and such, it has removed Daleks from time and memory. Did "Remembrance of the Daleks" still happen (Daleks return to the school from the beginning of "An Unearthly Child" 25-years later)? I don't know, but there is no record of them on the Internet or in van Statten's intel.

Fast-forward a year, to the second episode of the second season: "Tooth and Claw". The Doctor (now tenth) and Rose get involved with a monstrous plot while at a country estate with Queen Victoria. Their reaction to the danger and the darkness terrifies the Queen as much as the monster itself, and she bans them from the British Empire. What's more, she starts the formation of a group to combat the strange threats she has now witnessed: Torchwood.

At the end of the second season, "Army of Ghosts" and "Doomsday", the machinations of Torchwood are responsible for bringing both the Cybermen (by widening a crack between dimensions) and the Daleks (by housing the "sphere"). In the midst of these two episodes, the Daleks launch a small but poignant invasion and engage in a battle with the Cybers.

The important thing to remember here is that "Dalek" takes place in 2012. "Army of Ghosts" takes place in 2007. Had van Statten been in the same universe as the Battle of Canary Wharf, he likely would have known what a Dalek is since there was a big battle five years previous. Also, since Torchwood's mission is to collect and use alien tech, and in the series Torchwood they have been shown to interfere with collectors, it seems really unlikely that van Statten's universe had The Battle of Canary Wharf in existence. It also seems unlikely that his museum, and the events of "Dalek", would make a lot of sense afterward. Black hole in the Doctor's past? Maybe he can recall things that no longer all. Maybe his presence there locked the other bits in place. Don't know, but the world the earlier episode took place in has been altered, for sure.

To recap, the Doctor's inspires the creation of Torchwood. Torchwood brings together the tech that leads to the Cyber/Dalek battle. This battle is most likely incompatible with the events of "Dalek". Neat, huh?

LABEL(s): Doctor Who


Written by Doug Bolden

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