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Esedess's avatar

Doctor Who: Why can The Doctor suddenly travel back on his own timeline?

Asked by Esedess (3439points) February 1st, 2012

Prior to the Matt Smith seasons of Doctor Who, The Doctor had never been able to travel back on his own timeline (or that’s how I took it). I never quite understood that point to be honest, but just accepted it as a way around the inevitable question of “why not just going back to 5 minutes before sh*t hit the fan and stop it before it even began?”. Now, in episodes like “The Pandorica Opens” and “Big Bang” he’s jumping back and forth all over the place, even seeing and talking to himself… Someone please explain to me how this isn’t breaking the rules of time travel as it’s portrayed in the show, and if he can do these things, how/why he can’t go back and stop things ahead of time as I mentioned above.

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12 Answers

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

The Tardis ‘sploded, ending the universe. No rules apply.

jerv's avatar

Eccleston did it. Then there are the 10th and 20th anniversary episodes that had three and five Doctors respectively. There is no “suddenly”, only precedent.

dappled_leaves's avatar

Meeting other Doctors is a violation of the First Law of Time, and carries consequences – but @Imadethisupwithnoforethought is right. Those laws no longer apply since the explosion.

fundevogel's avatar

Continuity and Doctor Who are not the best of friends. Given that the Doctor is always fucking around with time I think this is for the best.

psst @dappled_leaves the Doctor met up with himself tons of times before the TARDIS exploded.

troubleinharlem's avatar

Hold on, @Imadethisupwithnoforethought, when did the Tardis explode? I think I missed that episode. I feel like I would have remembered it if it were Tennant or Smith.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

@troubleinharlem the Tardis ‘splode in the very two part episode the OP is describing. River Song was trapped inside. The cracks he had been encountering since the beginning of the season were backwards ripple effects of the “Big Bang”.

troubleinharlem's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought: Ah… I haven’t seen that episode yet (I’m introducing my friend to Doctor Who and we’re in the middle of season 5, so we haven’t gotten to that episode yet). Thanks!

MrItty's avatar

My take on it is that the whole “I can’t [anything]” was one of the “Rules” of time travel. Back in the day, it was the Time Lords who decided how and when to break these rules (hence the specials like The Three Doctors and The Five Doctors). After they were destroyed in the Last Great Time War, The Doctor himself felt it incumbent upon him to maintain those rules. So “can’t” meant more like “am not allowed to”, rather than “am not able to”.

Then the 10th went through his whole moral crises after losing every companion, culminating in the Waters of Mars episode in which he changed history, coming to the realization that with the Time Lords no longer existing, he was in charge of the Rules of Time, and he could choose to obey or ignore them at his whim. He died, and the 11th was born with this new knowledge that travelling back within his own time stream was a rule he didn’t have to follow.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. :-)

Esedess's avatar

@jerv What episode did Eccleston do it in? I can’t seem to remember an instance…

MrItty's avatar

@Esedess “Father’s Day”, but only kinda. He went back a few minutes after Rose choked on the whole “say hello to my father” thing, so that she could try again. He and Rose then saw their past selves’ first attempt. Then Rose went and fracked everything up by letting old-them see current-them. Old-them disappeared into the wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimeyness of the universe, and beasts arrived to take advantage of the frack-up.

Esedess's avatar

Ohhhh~ Ok. I remember that. I was kinda half watching during that episode. Thanks!

Esedess's avatar

@MrItty I re-watched a lot of episodes last night, including Waters of Mars. I like your take on things. Continuity has been restored. thank you!

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