One of the many images available in the gallery for Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS is the picture shown on the left – that of an ancient book entitled The History of the Time War. Now i don’t remotely think we will learn anything of the Time War from this episode and I am sure this is just a teaser, however it did make me think about the Time War (or Last Great Time War) itself and that I hadn’t, until now, blogged about it…
The Time War – what we know
The Time War is the great off-screen reset that ushered in the RTD era and allows for discrepancies to be swept aside. It also provides a useful phase change between old and new Doctors (though Time Crash and the Destiny of the Doctor range also cross this divide).
Fans of course want both more and for it to remain a mystery. We know that the the war was between the Time Lords and the Daleks, resulted in both sides being consigned to history and that the rules have been broken with many Dalek stories and the Master re-appearing briefly.
The Time War also saw the return of Rassilon to an active role, the Master given more lives (we assume) and we have to presume Susan was also folded back into Gallifrey and is now time-locked (though I can’t rule out her re-appearing in the anniversary [dream on!]).
We also believe that the Eccleston Doctor is the Ninth Doctor running directly on from Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor; the McGann / Eccleston regeneration happened off-screen so there is some room for debate. We also suspect that the Eighth Doctor fought in the Time War though the beginning of Rose does confuse in that Eccleston appears to be treating his face as new although we later find out his Doctor has been seen at many historic events.
What we might like
For every hard-core fan there is a theory – was there another Doctor (or more) between McGann and Eccleston, what happened to Susan, what exactly is a Time War…
Quickly into the mix comes the Cartmel Masterplan and the ideas in Lungbarrow about the true nature of the Doctor – maybe his nature as ‘The Other’ best places him to time-lock the whole war?
Conceptually time travel is not simple (and in the show the Doctor is not set out as the brightest Time Lord in that regard) and a Time War would be complex. In a minor way Big Finish have shown how a Time War skirmish might work with their connected early stories that led to Dalek Empire (see here) and there was a time war in both Eighth Doctor books and also in a comic strip. Beyond that there is a danger that any meaningful time war either degenerates into battle TARDIS fires time-torpedo and Dalek time-ship breaching the time-shields along with lots of going back in time killing Davros as a child and so forth.
Clearly there is scope to set some tales near the boundary – a random thought would be a Doctor goes back to stop Davros becoming the creator of the Daleks by changing events to (for example) stop the events that led him to being disabled. Of course the Doctor would end up causing the events or finding out that this version of history was worse.
For most fans I suspect we would rather speculate than have things spelled out – Big Finish are perhaps as well placed as anyone to bring us a Time War and Nick Briggs frequently dismisses the idea as something best left untold. This does thought make it one of the show’s biggest mysteries, perhaps up there with The Name of the Doctor?
What are your pet theories? Do you ever want the story told? Let me know!