Doctor Who Blog

Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers! (Part 1)

Despite the fact that we have received a lot of answers to questions previously posed in the Matt Smith-era, a number of new questions and theories emerged from the end of the most recent season. Our forthcoming TARDIS File for the final episode (which has been written not yet been coded to be uploaded) reviews the episode, but doesn’t have the space to go into some of the more complex questions, speculation and theories that arose. We will do so here, not because such explanations and speculative theories are “needed”, but because they are fun! Here’s the first part of this entry, starting off with the question:

1) Was the future Doctor always inside the Tessalecta robot in The Impossible Astronaut or did he originally die, just as Canton said?
Also known as “Was Canton lying/mistaken, or was he in fact telling the truth”? As yet, there is no definitive answer to this in the narrative, either answer remains a possibility because both answers fit. There would appear to be three timelines for that scene - #1 is what we first see in The Impossible Astronaut, #2 is when River is able to prevent herself from shooting the Doctor which causes all of time to pause and start happening at once at 5:02pm (which does not happen in timeline #1), and #3 when River shoots the Doctor in the Tessalecta “suit” after the two have gotten married and touched by kissing each other.  Some may argue that timeline #3 is the same as #1 and is in fact a case of the timeline being reversed back to #1. Either way, the question of what could possibly have changed to cause timeline #2, as River failing to shoot the Doctor most definitely does not happen in timeline #1. The only person to be seen to deliberately interfere with his own previous timeline (and everyone else’s) is the Doctor, so it seems by changing his own past he’s created an altered timeline in which he can re-write time so that he doesn’t die, one which also inspires River to change her timeline by not shooting the Doctor (which the Doctor, now in the Tessalecta suit, doesn’t count on, thus causing the 5:02 universe). If we remember the dialogue in The Time of Angels at the end of the story when River confirms to the Doctor that he has been imprisoned for killing a good man who was a hero to many, the best man she ever knew (which he had to have guessed might very well be him) shortly afterwards (once River has departed) the Doctor cryptically says, when Amy asks him what he is thinking about, “time can be re-written”. This would appear to be a clue that he’s already starting to think that he’s going to need to change time in order to prevent himself from getting killed by River. As such, one could argue that the following is what really happens:

(1) The Doctor really and truly dies in The Impossible Astronaut  (just like Canton said and for that matter, as author Steven Moffat apparently claimed at the time).
(2) But before that point, he interferes with his own past, by inviting himself along with his friends to see it happening, in the hopes that his younger self can figure out a way out of it.
(3) This results in (among other things) his younger self meeting the Tesselecta and learning the details about his impending doom.
(4) It also results in the Doctor realizing that he’s “gotten too big” and needs to retreat into the shadows.
(5) It also results in a “farewell tour” which includes a meeting up with Craig, whose pep talk sparks him to not just take the whole thing lying down but investigate further (the news of the Brigadier’s death may also be seen as a possible inspiration here). At some point the Doctor must decide he can fake his death, which will be useful not just for fooling the Silence, but also to allow him to step back into the shadows (which he may have decided that it was something he needed to do before he found out why the Silence wanted his death)
(6) As specifically mentioned in The Girl Who Waited (possibly another bit of foreshadowing), you can change your future if you know it’s coming.
(7) So he decides to try and fool the Silence, because he realizes the fixed point is really the fact that he’s seen to be shot and the belief/knowledge of his own death (as such, a convincingly fake death would have the same effect as a real one).
(8) However the changes he’s made to his past have also changed River, who now has the willpower to over-ride the suit (probably from her earlier self now having met the younger version of the Doctor who has been sent back to 1969), thus breaking time and causing the 5:02 universe
(9) Which ends when the Doctor lets River in on his secret that he’s actually inside the Tesselecta robot.

Alternatively, the simpler explanation is that the Doctor was the Tesselecta version all along, and that Canton is not telling the truth in that scene (either knowingly or just going by what the Doctor says when he gets his invitation). This simpler explanation has a few fans in a bit of a tizzy, as they feel that they were lied to by the narrative. Which may be the case or may not be (see above). If it was the truth, and people believed it was, the only two possible outcomes from this are (a) with the death of its main and only constant character, the show being wrapped up/cancelled at the end of the 2011 season, or (b) time is re-written so that the Doctor doesn’t die - which is the scenario outlined above. If it was a lie/mistake, there has to be a good reason in the narrative why the character would do so. Having just arrived on the scene due to the invitation, it is apparent that Canton doesn’t actually know any more than what the Doctor has told him in the invite. And there is easily a good reason within the narrative for the Doctor getting him to lie (if that is what happened) - it is important that the Silence – who have arranged this apparent death and are watching on the hillside (if not also through Amy who is still a Ganger at this point) – are convinced that the Doctor is dead and that his body is burnt to a crisp until it doesn’t exist anymore. And implicit in this is that Amy and Rory and River have to believe that he’s dead, so if someone isn’t there to say “He’s most certainly dead” they take his body off to be examined in the TARDIS or somewhere else and discover that it is in fact a robot suit, the whole plan of the Doctor to fool people (esp. the Silence) into thinking he is dead (and to slip back into the shadows) is ruined.

What I think is fun about thiis that (unless future stories state otherwise, which I hope they don’t), both explanations fit and fans can take the one they prefer.

Part two (answering other questions) of this entry will be up later in the week.



Thanks Luca for your thoughts.

All this business about fixed points and time being rewritten is so hard to sort out. It might be interesting to hear Steven Moffat’s opinion on what we witnessed: a) Was the Doctor really killed in Episode 1 and the series the story of his successful attempt to avoid this fate, or b) was the Doctor already really safe in the Tesselecta when we saw him being shot?

I’ve been favoring option b) but you’ve got me thinking again about option a).

I guess I find it hard to imagine how River could flirt so much with the Doctor in sereies 4-6 if she knew she’d really killed him. (although on the overhand, she seemed in The Impossible Astronaut to be pretty cross with the younger Doctor after having just witnessed the older Doctor’s “death” or death)

I’m looking forward to further posts and Tardis files…

Posted by Andrew B  on  10/12  at  02:22 PM

It was the fake Doctor all along in The Impossible Astronaut because of what he did in The Wedding of River Song. We the viewers, along with Amy and company, just didn’t know it yet.

Posted by Doug Grandy  on  10/13  at  06:41 AM

I have to go along with Doug. I think we’re overthinking it. Although Moffat has brought in some very complex plotting (so much so the UK media is questioning DW’s appropriateness as an, ahem, kid’s show) I don’t think there’s anything overcomplicated about this. The Doctor we saw shot had always been the robot, there was a brief moment where a “Turn Left” scenario occurred because River refused and THAT was the part of the timeline that was rewritten, and the Teselecta ended up getting “cremated”. That was obviously River helping the cover-up because why would she be so insistent on getting the robot out of there otherwise (and Canton was simply a late addition to the “Doctor’s Army” of the mid-season finale).

It was circular storytelling at its best.

Now, on the other hand, the question is whether or not Amy and Rory, as seen at the end of TWORS, experienced the events of The Doctor’s Wife, The God Complex, Amy becoming a fashion model superstar, etc. I’d hate to think those events (especially the Doctor’s Wife) have been wiped clean.

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