Dec 29 2010 4:06pm

Wibbly-Wobbly Timey-Wimey: Top 5 Doctor Who Paradoxes

Doctor Who paradoxes

Yesterday, I traveled into the future and read a blog on about temporal paradoxes in Doctor Who. To my horror, I realized the blog was written by me! So without missing a trick, I copied and pasted the text into a Word document, copied that document to my flash drive, grabbed my vortex manipulator and popped back into this Wednesday and pasted the text into a blog. Whew! I’m pretty sure this is a predestination paradox, or maybe an ontological paradox. I mean when did I write this thing in the first place? What do I mean by first? Anyway, The Doctor has dealt with a lot more of these things than me. Here are five of the best.

Doctor Who episode The Big Bang

5. “The Big Bang” - Eleventh Doctor

The question of an ontological paradox is all about determining how something existed in the first place. In “Smith & Jones” the Doctor says you should never cross your own personal timeline, “except for cheap tricks.” In the most recent season finale, this cheap trick saves the day. The Doctor is trapped in the Pandorica, which can only be opened from the outside by his sonic screwdriver. Where is the sonic screwdriver? Why, it’s in Amy’s pocket of course! And in the future, Amy is in the Pandorica. How did Amy get there? Well, the Doctor put her in there, after Rory opened the Pandorica with the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. The Doctor got his sonic screwdriver from Amy’s pocket because he had Rory put it there in the past. So, how did the Doctor originally escape the Pandoria then? Rory let him out, right? But Rory couldn’t have let him out if it weren’t for the Doctor already being out to begin with! So where did the sonic screwdriver come from? As the adult Amy says to little kid-Amy, “Okay kid, this is where it gets complicated…”


Doctor Who episode Father’s Day

4. “Father’s Day” - Ninth Doctor

Because the Doctor is like, totally morbid or something, he agrees to take Rose back in time to witness her father’s accidental death in 1987. Though the Doctor supposedly just wants to give her a chance to be with him in his final moments (also creepy) Rose ends up rescuing her father, and nearly causing the universe to collapse. While Pete Tyler eventually makes the right call and sacrifices himself for the sake of the universe, Rose is still able to be with him in his final minutes of life. She then, retroactively remembers her mother telling her the story of a strange woman who held her father as he died. In addition to this retroactive memory paradox, there is the notion that the adult Rose imprints herself onto a toddler version of Mickey Smith, who as a result eventually becomes obsessed with her when he becomes an adult. So, did Rose really change history, or was she always meant to go back and be the woman who was there with her father? Does infant Rose remember being touched by her adult self? Does she remember being held by The Doctor? Is that why she trusts him so much? Of all the crossing-of-personal time-line stories, this one certainly raises more questions than provides answers.


Doctor Who episode The Seventh Doctor

3. “The Curse of Fenric” - Seventh Doctor

In the midst of vampires from the future, undercover World War II-era Russians, cipher machines, and an ancient foe, the Doctor’s companion, Ace, is faced with a kind of opposite of the grandfather paradox. Unlike “Father’s Day,” where Rose’s actions nearly destroy the universe, this paradox creates Ace’s very existence. Because Ace frantically sends her grandmother and the infant version of her mother, Audrey, to live in London, she ensures their safety from Fenric and the crazy future-vampires attacking her and the Doctor. This presents a closed-loop or predestination paradox, as Ace was always destined to save the infant version of her mother in order to ensure her own birth. The great thing is though, Ace doesn’t even know these people are her grandmother and mother when she puts them in a truck and instructs them to drive. She’s just doing it out of pure human compassion.


2. “Blink” - Tenth Doctor

Finally! The Doctor reveals to us how all this paradox stuff works with technical terms like “Wibbly-Wobbly, Timey-Wimey-stuff”! And this one looks like another ontological, or as Heinlein would call it—a “bootstraps paradox.” Anyway, the entire episode revolves around a transcript of a conversation between Sally Sparrow and the Doctor via hidden DVD extras. A future version of the the Doctor has an entire copy of the transcript which basically explains how everyone is going to get out of this whole Weeping Angels problem.

And yet, the Doctor doesn’t get the complete transcript and the whole lowdown on what happens until the end of the episode when Sally gives it to an earlier version of him. For the Doctor at this point, none of this has happened, and yet he is the author of half of the transcript via the DVD extras which he ends up creating. But he only knows to create those because of the complete transcript Sally gives to him, and she only knew about the transcript from the Doctor, who only knew about it from her…jeez. Forget about not blinking, my head is spinning…


Doctor Who episode City of Death

1. “City of Death” - Fourth Doctor

This episode presents another closed-loop paradox, with a bit of a twist. Combining various elements of great time-travel stories, the Doctor, Romana, and their 20th century friend Duggan, in the final moments of the episode, are tasked with preventing all of history from being changed. As it turns out, the origin of all life on Earth can be attributed to Jaggaroth spacecraft exploding in low orbit, thus providing various amino acids with the right amount of radiation that caused them to form into proteins. Now, the villainous Scaroth wants to prevent this explosion from happening, and save his people. Luckily, via TARDIS, the Doctor, Romana and Duggan show up to stand between Scaroth and the Jaggaroth ship. Duggan heroically punches out the one-eyed Scaroth, thus keeping history on course. Indicating this paradox has always existed, the Doctor remarks “that was probably the most important punch in history!” The bumbling Duggan becomes in a roundabout way, the reason for everyone’s existence on Earth, even though he’s from the future. So what existed first? Duggan’s punch or the explosion?

What about the Doctor’s presence in Paris to begin with? If he hadn’t been there, the Scaroth’s plot would have never been uncovered, and Duggan would have never started hanging out with our favorite Time Lord and Time Lady. So, was it the Doctor, in a roundabout way, the reason for the evolution of life on Earth just because he was on holiday in Paris in the 20th century? But wait, how could there be a Paris of the 20th century without life on Earth evolving in the first place? It can be argued that the Scaroth’s splintering into Earth’s future always happened, and Duggan, the Doctor and Romana are there, in the first scene of the episode, just a little to the left and off camera. Or something.


There are of course more paradoxes in Doctor Who, so if I missed your favorite, I’m sorry. But keep in mind; I don’t actually know who wrote this to begin with, as I just copied it from my future self…

Ryan Britt’s writing has appeared here as well as, Clarkesworld Magazine, Opium Magazine and elsewhere. This blog is not the only thing he has copied from his future self. In fact, he frequently takes trips into the future to get an idea as to what he should be working on. He lives in Brooklyn.

1. wandering-dreamer
I've heard someone take the Blink one even farther and point out that any image of a weeping angel becomes a weeping angel and if Sally gave the Doctor a picture with a weeping angel on it then that's where this whole thing started!
Chris Meadows
2. Robotech_Master
I'm a little surprised you missed the 10th Doctor/5th Doctor paradox in Time Crash, which was basically the punchline to the entire shaggy dog dual-Doctor episodelet--in which the only way the Tenth Doctor can prevent the Tardis from exploding in the future is remembering what he saw himself do when he was the Fifth Doctor. Another one of those terrific little crosses-own-timeline paradoxes. (Tenth: "Wibbly-wobbly..." Fifth: "...timey-wimey!")
Alex Brown
3. AlexBrown
Hmmm...I could've sworn the earth was created when the Mice commissioned the Magratheans...somehow I'm not surprised the Doctor was involved.
4. SunnyReads
"Timey-Wimey" might possibly be the best Doctor Who gibberish phrase ever!
Ciel F.
5. Shadaras
The entirety of what the Eleventh Doctor did to Kazran in A Christmas Carol totally counts for this, too. And it was utterly epic.
Ryan Britt
6. ryancbritt
2. Robotech- I totally thought about Time Crash, but I figure the episode is only like 5 minutes or something, so I didn't make my top 5. Maybe in a top 10!

3. Milo- Douglas Adams all the way!

5. Shadaras- I actually crossed my own timeline and caught myself watching Christmas Special, but was too afraid to mention it as to not ruin the special for myself.
7. Marilynn Byerly
"I hate temporal mechanics!" --Chief Engineer Miles O'Brien, STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE

"My brain hurts!" Gumby, MONTY PYTHON

The parody of all time travel paradoxes is in RED DWARF where Lister is his own father and mother.

Sometimes, it's best not to think about it, or it makes you crazy.
Alex Brown
8. AlexBrown
Marilynn@7: I had totally forgotten I got that phrase from Monty Python. It's one of those things I've been saying for so long that I completely forgot where it originated. Thanks for the reminder :)
10. sofrina
i just couldn't understand how they could have Amy Pond repeatedly touch Amelia in "Big Bang" after the whole "Rose - don't touch the baby. That's a paradox!" debacle. If Rose nearly destroyed the universe by touching her younger self, how did Amy get a free pass on that? If your story can't make sense, at least let it be consistent.
11. MTSBspidey
sofrina - Amelia was from a different timeline than Amy (no stars in that universe) so they weren't really the same person. As for why Kazran could hug Kazran, I'm stumped.
Ian Tregillis
12. ITregillis

I've been known to forget myself and say aloud, in public, "I'VE GOT MY HEAD STUCK IN THE CUPBOARD!" I am glad to say this hasn't happened in a while.
13. MysterOctober
I am amazed that Turn Left was not mentioned at all here..

I mean the time beatle is only there to disrupt the time lines so that the doctor could not be there for some of these time paradox.

Can I change this blog by making you decide to not copy paste?
14. Charles England
Actually i was going to mention the fifth doctor episode where the two Brig's touched and created the bang that converted to regeration energy that allowed the zombie's to die. Rose and Amy touching themselves (no puns, and get your mind out of the gutter) could be written off due to extended time in the Tardis. But it did they not explain the big bang episode with the plague ship with the fifth doctor and the emergency exit created by the tardis as well. But okay, we are having to put alot aside for modern story writing, but dont forget our favorite bombshell timelord is in E-Space .. Wonder if they are going to drag her out for a future episode.. Modern Romana comes to get timelord seed to have a child or something??? Hummm
Ryan Britt
15. ryancbritt

You are totally right, I should have probably included it. But, I felt like if I was going to include ONE paradox from the 10th Doctor era, it had to be "Blink".

I love Turn Left. I remember being worried about my decisions for days after that one.

I do like your idea for a blogger Doctor Who episode entitled "Don't Paste".
16. Anwar Jones
I'm not sure if this is actually a paradox per se but I'm just trying to get the Dr. Who history of the earth straight. At the center of the planet are the spider creatures who form the core (S4 ep 1), Scaroth is responsible for the spark of life and there are lizard people too who used to dominate but are now sleeping underground but will awaken in 1,000 years to see if the planet can be shared(S5 eps 4&5). Am I missing anything?

To Charles England: it may be that Amy touching Amelia doesn't matter because at that point in the timeline, Amelia is already an afterthought in the universe that is burning out. She eventually fades out of existence later in the episode. So, that's a convenient explanation.
17. Ema
Talking about mini-episodes, the whole "Time&Space" (between 5th and 6th new seasons) is based on a paradox. The Doctor of the future tells the Doctor of the past to use the wibbly-lever. And who told him? No-one but his past-self. After knowing it form the future-self. Who knew it from...
Ok, timey-wimey.
18. iso 9000
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19. LikeAGeek
@MTSBspidey I don't know. Maybe Kazaran had a towel on him...
20. tardis-traveler
21. Thedarb
it was missed because this was written two years ago. I think if the river song saga was out, it would take precedence, because her whole life is a paradox.
22. Rodolfo Piskorski
Not to mention that, if Rose was next to her father when he died, there would have been no reason for her to go back in time so that he wouldn't die alone. That is classic Grandfather Paradox.
23. Capricorn3
Nice post, and very complicatedly done... I'm writing my own time travel novels, "A Connecticut Vampire in King Arthur's Court", and they now involve my hero going back in time to save himself in an ending that already happened half way thru the book. But after reading your post, and remebering the Dr Who paradoxes, I'm only a child at this!
24. Kitwench
Nah, the 11th Doctor's got it covered -
"The thing is Amy, everyone's memory is a mess - Life IS a mess.
Everyone's got memories of a holiday they couldn't have been on or a party they never went to or met someone for the first time and felt like they've known them all their lives. Time is being rewritten all around us, every day. People think their memories are ~bad~ but their ~memories~ are *fine*. The past is really like that. "

Amy "That's rediculous."

11th Doctor "Ah, now you're starting to get that."

(Doctor Who - Night and the Doctor - Good Night)
25. Daniel Buth did the Doctor get out of the Pandorica? It is solved in the "Doctor Who Experience" in Cardiff. Go there - find out!

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