The Day of the Doctor: Sorting Out The Time Differentials
Gustaff Behr tackles the timey wimey of The Day of the Doctor.
Wow! Eh? Tell me it wasn’t wow. Go ahead! Try! Worth 50 years of waiting in my opinion; even if I wasn’t even alive for half of it. The Day of the Doctor gave me what I wanted; managed to tick every box on my list. True, it didn’t feel like a traditional anniversary special because…let’s be honest – it wasn’t! Steven Moffat wanted a story that was as much about the future as the past; so this story at times felt like a regular episode but with a tremendous amount of “extra” pushed into it.
Unfortunately, and this is nobody’s fault, the episode did leave some lingering questions behind. As often with Moffat storylines, people tend to become fixated on “plot holes” and “gaps” in the storytelling. For some, it’s just a case of not being able to fully comprehend the use of time travel. For others…well they just want something to complain about. This article doesn’t address the latter issue, but it is here to help explain what you might not have understood the first time round:
The presence of the fez is an ontological paradox. The Eleventh Doctor finds it in the museum and throws it back to 1562 where his Tenth incarnation picks it up. Presumably, the Queen takes possession of it and puts it in the museum until the Eleventh Doctor shows up in 2013 to collect it and start the cycle once again. The reason why entropy doesn’t kick in is unclear, but who cares right? It’s fez!
The Moment looks like Rose Tyler
I have seen some procrastinate about this more than a quantum physicist, which is odd considering the Moment actually explained that the form was taken from the Doctor’s timeline – specifically his future – so there shouldn’t be any breaking of the brains trying to figure this one out. As for why the Moment behaves like the TARDIS… well it is a Time Lord creation with consciousness. It’s not that far fetched that they’d both behave in the same omni-scientific relationship to time.
Same software, different phase!
This is Doctor Who’s spin on the whole Write Back to the Future trope. The Hurt Doctor starts the chain of events by scanning the door. A second is all that’s needed before the Sonic begins calculating. This calculation is carried over to the Tenth Doctor’s screwdriver and finally finishes sometime in the Eleventh Doctor’s timeline. However, you will remember that the screwdriver was destroyed in Smith and Jones, as well as in The Eleventh Hour, so how did the information not disappear along with it? After all, it’s not the same screwdriver anymore. This one takes some imagination, but it isn’t that hard to imagine the TARDIS has a copy of the “current” calculations. After all, software is useless without hardware and it’s already been confirmed that the Doctor gets his screwdrivers from the TARDIS (at least from his later lives on), so presumably the TARDIS installs the necessary “One Size Fits All Usage” software, along with the calculations when the Doctors upgrade.
The Wedding of Queen Elizabeth the 1st!
This one is rather tough. The Tenth Doctor indicated that he’d forget about the events of The Day of the Doctor, but later mentioned that he remembered marrying the queen in The End of Time. This looks like a clear contradiction. The most logical explanation would be that the Doctor will only forget about the lion’s share of this adventure – specifically his interactions with his other selves and what they did together. The Eleventh Doctor also mentioned earlier that he “sort of” remembered the events of this story from his tenth incarnation’s perspective in a very (I repeat – very) modest capacity, so this explanation looks as though it might fit best.
Breaking the Time Lock…again!
It was a stealth explanation, but it was the Moment who let the Doctors back in if you missed it. If you’re wondering how it was able to do it…who cares? The Time War is a cardboard prison in this show as most people have been able to enter/leave it, albeit temporarily, which is what happened this time.
Doctors – ASSEMBLE!
The biggest piece of timey-wimey ball occurs at the climax when the Doctors come up with possibly the cleverest plan of their entire lives. The Doctors start the calculations needed to save Gallifrey at the First incarnation, which shouldn’t be possible. This trick is actually borrowed from the Destiny of the Doctor audio series. In it, the Eleventh Doctor communicates with his past selves, allowing them to see what one of their future incarnations will look like, but by the time of The Eleventh Hour, the Doctor still doesn’t recognize himself, despite having seen himself nine times over. Evidently, any knowledge from contact involving future incarnations that are not the same incarnation is wiped clean from a Time Lord’s memory until the current incarnation’s adventure takes place. The same thing happens here. The First Doctor must’ve been told of the Time War by his far future at some point in his life and started the calculations in his TARDIS. After which, he forgot about the foreknowledge. But these calculations continued to run up until they reached the Eleventh Doctor’s TARDIS. All the Doctors presumably learned of the Time War just long enough to play their part in saving it before the knowledge was deleted from their memories and history was set back on track.
Rewriting the Time War
Phase Two of Doctors Assemble borrows from The Wedding of River Song. The Doctors didn’t change history. It may be hard to wrap your head around it, but this ontological paradox has always been present, ever since Rose back in 2005 – unbeknownst to the Doctor – until now. The Doctors saved Gallifrey without detectably altering the past as they understood it before this story started. The War Doctor witnessed an explosion that enveloped both the Daleks and Gallifrey in an instant and ended the war forever. The past was left where it belonged – in the past! Just as the Doctor was able to deceive the universe at Lake Silencio, here he needed to deceive himself. As said in the episode, the War Doctor’s memory would not include the deception, so from his point of view, he did what he said out to do and ended the war using the Moment.
Undoing Rassilon’s Escape!
So if Gallifrey was whisked away to heaven knows where, how did Rassilon and company escape and confront the Tenth Doctor. Again, this is rather easy to explain and a little bit silly once you’ve read it. The escape takes place on the last day of the war, but it most likely took place sometime during this episode while the Hurt Doctor was with the other Doctors away from Gallifrey. If you want a timeline, then: The War Doctor messages the Time Lords before joining his future selves on Earth. Rassilon, fearing the worst, escapes to Earth on Christmas 2009. Tenth Doctor sends them right back into the war. Doctors Assemble saves Gallifrey. This is the order in which the events take place.
There! Hope it makes a little more sense now. If it did, watch the special again and bask in the glory of Who. If you’re none the wiser – read it again and then go watch the special. Afterwards, rinse and repeat!