The Doctor: Loomed or Born?
Guest contributor Alessandro attempts to solve of one Doctor Who’s biggest continuity issues.
Before the episode The Sound of Drums first aired on June 23rd 2007, most of if not all of Wilderness Years fans had accepted as a fact that the Doctor was nothing but a reincarnation of an individual known as The Other, who lived sometime in Rassilon’s days and contributed with him and Omega to produce the powerful device called The Hand of Omega, which granted the Time Lords a perpetual power source thanks to the creation of the Eye of Harmony. The Other was later loomed, i.e. he committed suicide by throwing himself in one of the looms which had been invented by the Time Lords to procreate despite the Pythia’s curse, just to be reborn centuries later in the Time Lord renegade known as the Doctor. In case you don’t know, the concept was born during the last novels from the Virgin New Adventures range, when it was stated that a prophetess called the Pythia, who ruled Gallifrey before Rassilon’s rise to power, cursed the Time Lords with infertility before her defeat. The Looms provided a way to create new Time Lords in a way similar to Jenny, the so-called “Doctor’s Daughter” from the eponymous TV story.
Now, The Sound of Drums and A Good Man Goes To War openly contradict this concept, as the Doctor has his own cot and the Master appears in a flashback as a child, while the novel Lungbarrow shows the Time Lords being woven as full adults from the Looms.
Lungbarrow also contradicts the rest of the tie-in stories. The BBC Books Eighth Doctor Adventures clearly show that Flavia was the Lady President in The Eight Doctors, and they also claim that the Doctor had a mother called Penelope Gate. The problem would be easy to solve if the Big Finish range didn’t show us that the Doctor met companions from the BBC Books and Virgin New Adventures characters such Fitz and Bernice Summerfield, showing that the novels and audiobooks are part of the same continuity. Considering how RTD valued the audios to as genuine Doctor Who history, and how the BBC even broadcast them on BBC7, the matter just can’t be set aside and forgotten.
So, how could the Virgin New Adventures be saved and harmonized with the rest of the expanded Whoniverse? Here’s my solution to the problem – or, if you like, my modest proposal (hope J. Swift doesn’t take any offence for this stolen expression).
A possible solution: Grandfather Paradox
The Eighth Doctor Adventures show the Doctor being involved in one of the most complex and fascinating story arcs in the Whoniverse: the Faction Paradox menace. The latter is some sort of a sect trying to wreck havoc in history by the voluntary production of paradoxes. Their leader is found to be a former Shada prisoner called Grandfather Paradox. According to the few recordings in the novels, GP lived in Rassilon’s days and was the first Time Lord who had the courage to violate the First Law of Time in the most outrageous way, i.e. killing his own grandfather. Being stuck in a suspended condition between existence and non-existence, Grandfather Paradox became a living paradox (hence the nickname). The Time Lords feared him (the Doctor’s fear and disgust for Jack by the Tenth Doctor comes to mind) and, rather than killing him, they sealed him on Shada. Centuries later, Romanadvoratrelundar was released from E-Space by the Seventh Doctor and won the elections on Gallifrey. The new Lady President soon fell a victim of the Carnival Queen and involuntarily signed an edict to release hundreds of prisoners from Shada – including Grandfather Paradox (Christmas on a Rational Planet), who immediately ascended the hierarchy of Faction Paradox, being a paradox incarnate .
Now, we know that Grandfather Paradox was trying to manipulate the Doctor, resulting in his timeline being rewritten. By the time of the final confrontation between the Eighth and Grandfather Paradox (The Ancestors Cell), both had lost one arm; the Doctor was becoming similar to GP; and the Doctor claimed to remember two different origins for himself (one being loomed, the other being naturally born) and two different current Lady Presidents, Romana and Flavia.
So, here’s my theory: Grandfather Paradox is the original version of the Other…
In the original version of history, the Other lived in an early-Time Lord society where the Pythia died or was defeated without any possibility to curse the Time Lords. Natural birth continued as always on the planet until the Doctor was born. The Other had grown insane and possibly wanted to pervert history, and he did so by breaking the First Law of Time and killing his grandfather. As we said, he was put in the Shada prisons. Centuries later, the Doctor was naturally born; he somehow found the Hand of Omega and left Gallifrey with Susan. His peregrinations led the Doctor, now in his seventh incarnation, to save Romana II from E-Space. The Doctor’s actions in Christmas on a Rational Planet and Romana’s presidency led to the release of Grandfather Paradox from prison.
We might suppose that Grandfather Paradox simply wanted to rewrite Time Lord history. In the Faction Paradox novels and audiobooks, mostly written by Lawrence Miles (who invented the concept), we can see a whole new timeline where the Gallifreyans are called “The Houses” and are completely different from the original version of history. The Looms are still present in this version of the universe. I consider this timeline the result of Grandfather Paradox’s plans in case he managed to turn the Doctor into himself. We might presume he chose to become the Doctor just because it was he who made possible his release from Shada; had he changed the past in such a way that the Doctor was never born, the paradox would have led him back to prison. Forever. Turning the Doctor into himself (or the other way round, if you like) made it possible for Grandfather Paradox to “release himself from prison” in a circular, timey-wimey way not unlike the Eleventh Doctor’s escape from the Pandorica (The Big Bang).
But how was he supposed to do that? I believe that the paradox he originally created had made foretelling the future impossible, as there were now two separate timelines, one where GP lived, and another one where he never existed. Indeed, Lungbarrow clearly states that the Pythia’s premonitory powers had become useless, leading to her defeat by Rassilon and the following Curse. This turned out to form the Lungbarrow timeline, where the Looms had been invented to reproduce the Time Lords. The Other, rather than becoming “Grandfather Paradox”, just loomed himself and became the Doctor centuries or even millennia later, being woven in the House of Lungbarrow as one of many Cousins. This story, of course, collided with the original version of history, involving “our” Eighth Doctor. Grandfather Paradox wanted to change the Doctor into himself, so he altered his biodata within the Loom. The Doctor’s eighth incarnation started to remodel himself on GP’s persona, but since both timelines were still “real” although impossible to coexist, the Doctor experienced double memories of his past.
When the Eighth Doctor managed to defeat Faction Paradox, history rewrote itself in a more stable version where the Lungbarrow events (both in the past and in the Seventh Doctor’s era) never took place. Romana still was the Lady President of Gallifrey rather than Flavia, but the Doctor was naturally born from Penelope Gate (whom I believe to be a Time Lady who hid from the Time Lords using a Chameleon Arch, providing a solution to the “half-human on my mother’s side” question, but that’s something for another article, I guess). As for the Seventh Doctor, he presumably lived his last adventures as narrated in the Big Finish audios, where he appears to travel alone in the 1996 TARDIS version.
In the end, when history was rebooted and Gallifrey restored in the aftermath of The Gallifrey Chronicles, the incident in Lungbarrow left no trace at all either in the new Big Finish timeline; still, the Hand of Omega may have remembered this [missed/aborted] link between the Doctor and the Other, explaining how the device was well-disposed to follow the Doctor’s directives in Remembrance of the Daleks. Nevertheless, the aborted timeline is as necessary as the Year-That-Never-Was in The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords from the TV series.
I’m curious to know how much of this article makes sense from your point of view. I must say that my head still hurts after finding this possible solution. Which means that I’m either crazy (who would waste an hour to write such a long speculation on a work of fiction?) or that I’m a real Whovian. Or maybe both. After all, isn’t the Doctor himself a mad man (in a box)?