Fixed Points In Time: a subjective article by: GF Willmetts (article).

November 2, 2013 | By | Reply More

The Time Lord informally called the Doctor has pointed out that there are certain reference points in time that even he doesn’t dare interfere with. As he has an awareness of the time stream, this has to presume he is aware of the consequences of change in these areas. This might explain why he modified but didn’t stop the creation of the Daleks as despite the evil they did, his fourth regeneration explained a lot of good came out of their existence as well. Although the Daleks creation is a very minor point in time and insignificant to the rest of the cosmos then, the consequences that came later are of galactic scale affecting the lives of billions of people. Although the Doctor has rarely broached on alternative realities, having only been in a couple briefly himself, the awareness of them means alternative futures are never lost just diverted. Maintaining a single time-stream seems like a structurally sound idea until a time traveller arrives and remedies whatever is going wrong in the belief it’s not how things should be. Too many alternative reality streams must surely mean no steady river if you see the metaphor.

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If anything, the Doctor himself is interfering with the course of events but who’s to say that events aren’t supposed to happen that way? No one can say it can’t be for the better but it does change the course of events for any particular planet’s inhabitants. Although there has never been a formal recognition point of time where the Time Lords of Gallifrey live, if they are in some distant future, then all they have to rely on is the end points of where many species are going. Deviations from this just points out where the time-lines need correcting to maintain the best reality, no matter the cost of lives in the process.

One thing that was always laid down by the Time Lords was that they must not interfere with the time-lines. However, several Time Lords have done so. Not only the Doctor, but also the Meddling Monk, the War Chief, the Master, Cho-Je, Romana and the Rani, all to varying degrees. Although many of these renegade Time Lords could be seen from selfish and evil content, they haven’t affected alien species in the way the Doctor has when you consider the number of invasions he’s stopped or diverted. Discretely, as seen when the third and fourth regenerations of the Doctor was banished to Earth, the Time Lords themselves, through the Celestial Intervention Agency, even employed him to remedy some time deviation, so even they couldn’t honestly say that they never meddle or correct things. The selection of the time period on Earth was also rife with problems so one would also have to question whether the choice was arbitrary or deliberate. If they really wanted to keep the Doctor out of trouble, then it would have made more sense to place him in an earlier time without any technology to truly punish him.

However, this is moving away from the obvious question of where and what constitutes a fixed point in time or rather why it doesn’t pay to manipulate it? Is it the birth of someone vital to a particular effort or when they have risen to power? Either point could be crucial. If we use the Hitler scenario as an example that the Doctor said he mustn’t interfere with there are several alternatives. Although I doubt the Doctor would have killed off the baby Adolf Schicklgruber, he could have ensured that he stayed a house painter. Would this change history? Undoubtedly. Germany would still have been in a slump and growing resentment and someone else could or would have risen to leader with none of the character flaws Hitler had. No reliance on horoscopes or bad planning and even a proper military leader, the results could have been far worse as no one would have expected such an uprising. If their leader led Germany to an even worse defeat, the commercial future of Earth would also be far different to what we have now. A different consequence might have happened if Germany had not gone to war. The growing development of Soviet Russia would, under Stalin, surely have wanted to spread and would have also led to war. Again further changes. The dangers of just these alternatives would have far reaching consequences, especially when you consider that mankind would one day spread across the stars in its own form of empires and was a military dictatorship.

That being the case, why should these particular points be so important and not others? Without going into excess detail, without World War Two, we might not have had an atomic bomb, especially as the scientists involved wouldn’t have considered such an option in other circumstances and might have been slower in developing nuclear power. Kennedy’s assassination didn’t change the nature of the Space Race but would the President being alive mean an early trip to Mars before inflation out-priced such an option? Considering the third regeneration Doctor took a space flight to rescue astronauts who went to Mars from Earth orbit, this reality isn’t quite like ours anyway. Saying that, the parallels to our reality are still striking.

Whatever makes a fixed point in time then there has to be both good and bad results from any significant change to it. Changing the balance of either outcome would have significant ripples in time to events that the Doctor himself has remedied. As such, early changes would created alternative realities. If you consider that our reality has not had the interference of a Time Lord, then you can see the results here for yourself. Having seen some of these realities, including one where the Earth is destroyed, any time meddler wouldn’t want to tamper unnecessarily or it might also endanger their own existence. This certainly wouldn’t create a killing your own grandfather situation but would certainly bring a butterfly effect which could have a similar far-reaching effect. The isolation of the Time Lords on Gallifrey, for the most part, would prevent much of that happening to themselves.

If anything, the number of alien invasions of Earth could also be seen as the means to destroy or deviate mankind from this destiny. Whether those involved knew the consequences of such actions is hard to say. If humans were seen as a threat, wouldn’t they annihilate the planet rather than beat us? An alien species could even appear to be benevolent so we could ask them for advice and end up doing their bidding voluntary. Hmmm…that sounds a little too familiar. I suppose we should be grateful that that with a rare exception they’ve all been malevolent. Look at the Daleks having time travel capacity, I doubt if they cared either way because, after all, they were creating their own empire. Removing any species who would interfere with this aim would be their objective.

Whether it’s Daleks, Cybermen or fill in the dotted line alien army, all these invasions could potentially have made Man extinct. The fact that they didn’t ensures a continuation of Mankind’s existence and their spread across the galaxy at the right time. They might not be as invasive as, say, the Daleks, but there must be some reason why the Doctor is letting a single species spread across the galaxy other than like the fact that they brew a nice cup of tea.

As has been revealed in the ninth and tenth Doctor regenerations, there has been too much reliance on his intervention when mankind has been seriously invaded and yet he is surprised when the British Torchwood organisation destroys an alien starship. This is hardly a sign that the Doctor is aware of every single significant event and this has to be considered a significant event that Man didn’t have to rely on the Time Lord. You would have thought that Man showing he can fend for himself is rather a good than a bad sign and why he doesn’t necessarily have to rescue him from every single event. Even the Doctor points out that this isn’t a good thing because mankind would rely far too much on his aid. Whether this is still true after the eleventh Doctor essentially recreated the universe only time will tell. Although there is no proof as yet, it would be unlikely for the Doctor to change too much from the original version of the reality he had to recreate, even if it maintained the death of his own species. Another Time Lord in such a position could have remapped the crucial points in time or just hung the recreated reality on the bits that needed to be in place, which would also include his own movements in space and time. It would undoubtedly have altered his own time-line. I suspect, the Doctor just threw everything up in the air, figuratively speaking, knowing that it would follow the same pattern as before.

It should be pointed out that although the Doctor has significantly contributed to and ensured human development and spread across the galaxy, that he has also done the same to other races, including the aforementioned Daleks, although more to their detriment. One would have to wonder how devastating they might have been had he not tampered with their genesis and prone to making wrong tactical mistakes.

Even so, for us non-Time Lords, how could we recognise a significant point in time? Would it help understand the Doctor’s decision process? Having knowledge of the future and a feeling of what is right no doubt helps. Some decisions the Doctor has made have turned out to be wrong recently and he has had to learn he cannot be absolutely right on everything. Indeed, this has resulted in playing down his existence although this in itself is a little confusing. I mean, he’s either all over the place or not because his time-line is across time and space, it can’t be a simultaneous thing that people know of his whereabouts or even death, simply because other species aren’t temporally aware.

Objectively, not tampering at all should be regarded as the ideal situation but it doesn’t allow for the fact that time travel is possible. It might not have been caused by any of the renegade Time Lords, but those of the Gallifrey High Council exploring before their realisation that they cause more trouble than worth if there was too many of them about making adjustments. As such, they would not want any damage done to be extrapolated and hence the restriction but far too late, as it had already happened. Although the Doctor didn’t know it when he started to interfere and correct various things, the random circuit in his stolen Type 40 TARDIS always sought out these trouble spots. Maybe this was the actual fault or best thing about its mechanism. Even when the Doctor turned off the randomiser, it didn’t stop the TARDIS from redirecting him when needed. This would explain why after the Doctor having served his exile, he was allowed to continue to his tampering or correction.

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There has to be some convergences in the time stream that are stronger than others. We would need a time traveller’s perception of past, present and future to see what shouldn’t be tampered with. In the end, it’s all down to probabilities. A being such as a Time Lord would not need to know the entire history of the universe just where the convergences of all realities dip into. These he has to keep away from. All other points of time are open game. Having a TARDIS that can distinguish these has enabled the Doctor to do what he does, even if he might not have been fully aware of it when he started his adventures. Even at his trial, he pointed out that he was fighting evil but the fear of the official side of the High Council punished him and yet none of the other renegades, including the Master, were ever sought or punished in a similar way and who surely must have done far worse than the War Chief, who was wiped from time. Then again, one has to consider that by his actions, having the Doctor intervene actually did more good correcting things and had to be tolerated accordingly.

Examining the Master’s career and the number of times he has been thwarted, he must have been incredibly optimistic to keep going, failure after failure. Unless, of course, he realised that was his purpose in life or that he might win eventually. It’s either that or his own ego believing that eventually he would be successful and just discovering which of his plans would succeed, which might explain why he always had an escape plan.

Why didn’t the Time Lords do more such activities as it would have been in their self-interest? As pointed out above, the mayhem and keeping track of a half dozen renegade Time Lords was hard enough but better than the entire population doing such activities. Having more actively pursuing such aims would be chaotic. Hence it made more sense to enforce the ban on most of their population and let their civilisation fall apart. As such, the Time Lords only ever needed one temporal surgeon and that was some chap called the Doctor.

 

© GF Willmetts 2013

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Category: Doctor Who

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About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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