As detached viewers of the Doctor Who universe, we’re usually pretty sure that we know what’s going on. For example, we can watch the events of series 6 (all of the Impossible Astronaut, River Song, and the Silence) over and over again and plot out what exactly happened, and we probably understand it a lot better than the people who lived through it. However, in general, we view the show as a series of events, and even we can get confused as to what’s happening when. Here are a couple of things I thought I knew that I was wrong about.
When we watch the show, we assume that events that take place in the companion “present day” are also concurrent with our real timeline. For example, when “Rose” was first broadcast, it was April of 2005, and we assumed that the Doctor met Rose in 2005. Some episodes have clues to time of year (snow, for example), but the year is assumed to be the year of the broadcast. Did you know this isn’t true for most of the Ninth and Tenth Doctor’s run? First, let’s assume that “Rose” did take place in 2005. In “Aliens of London,” we discover that Rose has been gone for a year, so that episode takes place in 2006. Then the Doctor regenerates and returns to London at Christmas. He couldn’t have gone back in time, because Rose was still missing at Christmas, 2005, so the earliest it could have been is Christmas, 2006. The next Christmas episode was “The Runaway Bride,” in which the Doctor specifically states that he met the robot Santas “last Christmas,” so this episode must be Christmas, 2007. Then, the next Christmas episode was “Voyage of the Damned,” in which Wilf describes the previous two Christmases, so the present one is 2008. The next Christmas episode, “The Next Doctor,” is set in the Victorian era, so now we finally have the ability to resync the show’s time to our time. The End of the Time, which was broadcast on Christmas, 2009, could have happened on Christmas, 2009.
Then, the Eleventh Doctor appears and takes on Amy as a companion in our 2010. Again, we assume that their adventures happen in the same time frame that we watch them in, so, for example, the day before Amy and Rory’s wedding and the day of Amy and Rory’s wedding, we believe that happened in 2010. This means that the Atraxi, which were looking for Prisoner Zero two years before the wedding, threatened to incinerate the human residence in 2008. Thus, if you are a citizen of Earth in the Doctor Who universe, this is the order in which these major events happen:
- 2005: The Doctor meets Rose. (Not that you, as a random citizen, would know this.)
- Christmas, 2006: The Sycorax invade.
- Christmas, 2007: The Webstar attacks London and the Thames is drained.
- 2008: Huge spiky spaceships with eyeballs appear in the sky.
- Christmas, 2008: An enormous Titanic nearly flattens Buckingham Palace.
- 2009: The Earth is moved to a different place in space and Daleks attack.
- Christmas, 2009: A huge red planet appears in the sky, then disappears.
Had you noticed that the Atraxi actually happened before the starship Titanic? I certainly didn’t. I just sort of assumed that things happen in the order that they happen in the show, but really, the order in which they happen in the show is the order in which they happen for the Doctor, which isn’t the order it happens for anyone else. I have to say, though, figuring out things like this half the fun of watching the show.
One last thing: Never, ever, be in London during Christmas.