Is Time Sentient? (Part 1)
Guest contributor Tom Norton takes a look.
I’ve been around on this site for a while but this is the first time I’ve tried doing an article. For some time now I’ve been wondering if Time is capable of thinking and acting for itself. This article will look at the evidence suggesting Time might be a sentient entity. The Doctor has displayed the arrogance to think he’s above the laws of Time but I believe Time is the one in charge. I’ll be examining fixed points in Time, the TARDIS, the Time Lords, the Universe and the Doctor’s companions, as well as including my two favourite Daleks. Let’s look at the evidence and please give your opinions, without being insulting.
Fixed points in Time
The Doctor has often spoken about fixed points in time. Dorium Maldovar mentioned that the Silence created the fixed point at Lake Silencio, but it appears that the Silence were as arrogant as the Tenth Doctor was in The Waters of Mars. They attempted to manipulate Time itself in their desperation to kill the Doctor but he outwitted them, despite having read records of his own death. Due to the events of The Angels Take Manhattan, one could see that as a continuity error or simply consider that the Silence didn’t specifically say if the Doctor would genuinely die or just fake his death. However, what if Time just didn’t like being told what to do? Remember how it reacted to the Tenth Doctor’s attempt to fight it in The Waters of Mars? It made Adelaide Brooke kill herself, meaning that the fixed point that was her death was altered slightly but not truly broken. And there was the time when Gantok tried to kill the Eleventh Doctor in the crypt where Dorium’s head was kept. Time opened that trap door and fed him to the skulls of the Headless Monks. Time may not have been able to completely stop the fixed point at Lake Silencio from happening, but it might have been capable of changing it to a degree which was subtle enough to convince the Silence their plan had succeeded but kept the Doctor alive.
We must also consider broken fixed points such as when River Song refused to kill the Doctor at Lake Silencio. Time started dying when she did so. Also think back to Father’s Day; the Ninth Doctor referred to Rose Tyler’s rescue of her father as a “wound” in Time, as though talking about a living being that could feel pain. Obviously the wound River caused was significantly larger because Time started disintegrating and taking the Universe with it, whereas in Father’s Day it simply summoned the Reapers to heal it. The events of Father’s Day were implied to be a fixed point, but to Time it probably seemed like a little cut which was painful but not fatal. When the Doctor, a man who was said to “burn at the centre of time and see the turn of the Universe” therefore making him far more important than Pete Tyler, was spared from his fake death by River, Time seemed to suffer damage much like a human being stabbed in the stomach and left to die slowly. The Reapers couldn’t help it so Time didn’t even bother to summon them; only the Doctor and River could stop it from dying and taking everyone and everything in creation with it.
We know that the TARDIS is sentient and her name means Time and Relative Dimension in Space. Thanks to The Doctor’s Wife, we also know that the Doctor’s TARDIS takes him wherever she feels he needs to be. As a Time Machine with the Time Vortex running through her Heart, the TARDIS can interpret the will of Time better than even a Time Lord.
When the TARDIS was wounded in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, she seemed to lose control of her power, with Time bleeding out through the Time Rift. The Eleventh Doctor, Clara Oswald and the van Baalen brothers all saw their future selves as Time Zombies but it seems to me that they were being warned what would happen unless they interrupted the timeline. I don’t know whether Time was being malicious or simply lost control due to the TARDIS’s wound (which was obviously much more serious than just a “small tear”). The TARDIS travels through Time but she also contains at least part of the Time Vortex inside her Heart and therefore contains part of Time itself.
Interestingly the Doctor and Clara actually went into the Heart of the TARDIS and were completely unaffected but when Rose Tyler merely looked into its Heart she nearly died and the Ninth Doctor was forced to regenerate. The Heart of the TARDIS must have bled out most of its power through the Time Rift, as if bleeding to death; either that or Time was feeling merciful and decided to keep Clara and the Doctor alive.
The Time Lords
The Time Lords thought of themselves as the most important beings in creation and, for the most part, Time seemed content to let them think that, probably laughing at their arrogance. But when Rassilon attempted to destroy the Time Vortex in The End of Time, it was not going to go down without a fight and thus summoned the Tenth Doctor to stop them. The Master helped by sacrificing himself to save the Doctor from Rassilon, leaving the Doctor alive so he could continue travelling and protecting the Universe, albeit in a different body.
Also consider the mysterious Woman who I think was either Romanadvoratrelundar (blimey that’s a complicated name; I could have just written Romana) or Arkytior (which was Susan’s real name) in their last incarnations. Whoever she was, the Woman was supposed to be inside the Time Lock but she was able to contact Wilfred Mott, implying that Time allowed her to briefly break out to help the Doctor. Once again we get the implication that Time can feel pain in The End of Time since the Ood stated that it was “bleeding”. Time also seems to be sadistic and during the Time War it was said to keep finding new ways of making people die over and over again instead of just putting them out of their misery. Possibly that was revenge for Rassilon’s insane attempt to destroy it.
Time gave the Time Lords the privilege of travelling through it, but eventually they grew so powerful that they became a genuine threat to the Universe. I have a feeling that Time realised this, and thus used the Doctor to Time Lock the Time War, although it let Davros and some Daleks out, probably due to fear of them realising they had the same goal of destroying the Universe and becoming allies with the Time Lords. Time might have allowed the Doctor to escape because it knew it would still need a protector even after the rest of the Time Lords were obliterated. As powerful as Time is, it isn’t invulnerable; there have been many occasions where it’s needed the Doctor to save Universe, and I think in return Time allows the Doctor to stay alive and continue travelling. It might have created regeneration for that exact reason; Madam Vastra knew that the Time Lords became what they were through prolonged exposure to the Time Vortex and River Song gained the ability to regenerate from being conceived within the Vortex so Time seems to have gifted Time Lord’s with regeneration in return for maintaining its laws.
The Eleventh Doctor stated in The Snowmen, that the Universe doesn’t care how often he saves it. It was then that Time reunited him with Clara Oswald. The Doctor had fallen into the deepest depths of depression, to the point where he would just sit in the TARDIS while the world, and probably the Universe, fell apart. Clara was the only person in the Universe who could snap him out of it. Besides running into her other incarnations, I honestly don’t know how the Doctor could cope if he lost the real Clara; it was hard enough for him to get over losing Amy Pond and Rory Williams, but Clara’s been watching over him at least as long as the TARDIS, probably longer considering she’s supposed to be scattered across the Doctor’s entire timeline. Personally I think Clara’s more like the Doctor’s wife than River Song is. The fact that he actually noticed Clara during The Snowmen, despite having millions of other encounters when he didn’t even know she existed, strongly implies that Time was hiding her from him until it felt it was time to show him that he’d always had a guardian angel.
The Universe is very closely related to Time but it’s hard to say if they are the same entity, assuming they are sentient. Perhaps they’re like Siamese twins; same body (so to speak), slightly different minds and they need each other to survive.