Doctor Who © BBC

Theoretically Speaking


The Eight Doctors
"My theories appall you, my heresies outrage you, I never answer letters,
and you don't like my tie"

Footnotes in the Sands of Time

Doctor Who
, like any long-running series, has contradicted itself many times. There have also been occasions when viewers had to fill in the gaps and provide their own interpretations of events. This page contains details of my theories, as well as a few from other contributors. I've tried to provide simple explanations which fit the established "facts", and to avoid retconning (rewriting continuity) as much as possible. While reading these entries, please remember that this work is based on the continuity of the television series, and doesn't include material from the novels or other spin-offs.

Early Adventures

The Doctor's medical training
The Doctor has often given contradictory information about his medical qualifications. In The Rescue he tells Ian Chesterton that he didn't get a medical degree, while in The Moonbase he tells Polly that he did. This theory reconciles this discrepancy. I assume, as do the authors of The Discontinuity Guide, that his denial of having a degree in The Ark in Space is because he's traveling with Harry Sullivan, a qualified physician with more recent training. Incidentally, the Joseph Lister of our universe was no longer in Edinburgh in 1888 (an example of history in The Doctor's universe taking a slightly different turn from our own). Doctoral Studies

The TARDIS lands on Gallifrey during the Old Time
Remembrance of the Daleks and Silver Nemesis suggest that The Doctor was on Gallifrey during this period, and was involved in the experiments which provided the Time Lords with their power. The First Doctor's recognition of Rassilon's voice in The Five Doctors seems to support his presence in this era (the fact that none of the later Doctors share this knowledge suggests that it was either lost when The Doctor regenerated for the first time, or deliberately removed by Rassilon at the close of The Five Doctors). Since we know that The Doctor and The Rani are the same age (Time and The Rani), it's impossible that he lived through this time, so I've assumed that he traveled back to it. Admittedly, the suggestion that The First Doctor's ring was a gift from Rassilon is not supported by onscreen evidence, but its mysterious powers seem to fit in with the "artifact" nature of the Hand of Omega and the various items of Rassilon (Rod, Sash, Coronet, Ring, etc.) seen later in the series. Homecoming and Exile

 The First Doctor's Adventures

The Doctor and companions witness the relief of Mafeking
The Doctor mentions this to Steven Taylor and Sara Kingdom in The Daleks' Master Plan. Since he says in Planet of Giants that he's never been to Africa, the event must occur between televised adventures, and before Steven's first appearance in The Chase. Since there's evidence (The Ark, and others) that the TARDIS sometimes acts on The Doctor's thoughts and pilots itself, it seems plausible that the ship interpreted The Doctor's casual remark as a desire to visit Africa. The First Doctor 3

The Three Doctors and The Five Doctors
The Doctor is alone in a garden when first seen in both of these stories. Since The First Doctor is rarely alone, and since Paris is a city with many public gardens, this seems to me the best spot to place both these appearances. The President in The Three Doctors is probably an agent of the Celestial Intervention Agency, since The Doctor has no apparent reason to worry about being returned to Gallifrey. The villain of The Five Doctors chose to kidnap The Doctor from a time zone which would already be known rather than search for another point in his timeline. This has the double benefits of conserving the time scoop's power and of covering his tracks, since anyone who might be monitoring The Doctor's timeline would probably assume that the temporal disturbance was related to The Doctor's first displacement in time. The First Doctor 4

Unrecorded events during The War Machines
The Doctor's scientific qualifications aren't questioned during this story, which indicates that he had some sort of official status. The explanation in the novelization, that he forged Ian Chesterton's name on a letter of introduction, isn't really satisfying. It assumes that Ian was acquainted with some of Britain's top scientists. Ian returned to Earth in 1965 and the story is set in 1966. It's doubtful that a former secondary A message from the futureschool teacher, even if he made use of knowledge gained in his travels with The Doctor, could have risen that quickly in the scientific community. It's also unlikely that The Doctor would have waited until his seventh persona to take care of the Hand of Omega unless he knew that it had already been dealt with. Finally, it's in character for The Seventh Doctor, the most manipulative Doctor to date, to have arranged things for his earlier self. The last name I've given to Harry, the owner of the cafe in Remembrance of the Daleks, comes from a scene in Planet of the Spiders in which The Third Doctor tries to remember the last name of a man named Harry who taught him escape tricks. Before he remembers that it was Houdini, he mentions three other people named Harry: Hopkins (an advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt), Hetherington (a Victorian-era publisher), and Hackenschmidt, a name for which I've been unable to find any historical reference. Speaking not as a serious historian, but as a shameless fanboy, the idea that he's remembering his old friend from 1963 was too good to resist. While I'm in fanboy mode, I'd also like to suggest that the credentials he uses in The War Machines refer to him as "Doctor Who", which explains why WOTAN asked for him by that name. The First Doctor 4

The Second Doctor's Adventures

The TARDIS lands at Det Sen monastery
As The Discontinuity Guide notes, The High Lama has met The Second Doctor at some point before The Abominable Snowmen, but Jamie hasn't been there before, so the adventure must occur during this period. The Second Doctor 2

Missions for the Time Lords
There are few gaps between The Second Doctor's stories, and this seems to me the best place for these adventures. (I'm ignoring the changed appearances of The Doctor and Jamie in The Two Doctors and assuming that the obvious aging of actors Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines in this story means no more than the aging of Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee does in the other multi-Doctor stories.)

  • In The Two Doctors, The Doctor and Jamie are sent to Space Station J7. In light of The Doctor's comment that "officially, I'm here quite unofficially", it's likely that this mission was performed for the CIA rather than for the High Council. The Doctor seems unable (or unwilling) to explain Victoria's sudden desire to study graphology to Jamie. Since we learn in The War Games that the telepathic abilities of Time Lords allow them to selectively erase memories, the idea that Victoria's decision was due to a telepathic suggestion seems plausible.

  • The Doctor's encounter with Shakespeare must take place after The Chase, in which The Doctor and companions see the Bard at Queen Elizabeth's court while using the Time-Space Visualizer. Had the meeting occurred before then, it seems certain that The Doctor would have mentioned it.

  • The Doctor's various adventures in China can only happen after Marco Polo, since The Doctor says in The Power of the Daleks that the adventure with Polo was his only previous visit to the country.

  • The Second Doctor mentions the Terrible Zodin in The Five Doctors.

  • There's no onscreen evidence to support a meeting with the Daleks on Mars, but since most of the Dalek defeats which The Fourth Doctor mentions in Genesis of the Daleks are those of which he has first-hand knowledge, it seems plausible, at least, that this is no exception.

  • The encounter with the Drogue of Gabrielides mentioned in The Sun Makers seems out of character for The First Doctor, who rarely interfered on such a grand scale.

  • The Master's desire to destroy The Doctor must date from The Second Doctor's era, since The First Doctor doesn't recognize his classmate in The Five Doctors, but by the time of Terror of the Autons they've become adversaries (and dialogue in The Five Doctors suggests that The Second Doctor is aware of his old friend's villainy).

  • The adventures in which The Doctor encounters Cleopatra's guard, visits the Pharos lighthouse, and is wounded at El Alamein, take place in Africa, which The Doctor doesn't visit for the first time until after Planet of Giants (see the relief of Mafeking above). I've placed them here because the first and third adventures seem out of character for The First Doctor, and because it's logical to assume that the visit to Pharos took place at the same time as the meeting with Cleopatra.

  • The Doctor's assistance with a cure for the space plague fits the idea that The Doctor was performing missions for the CIA, since without a cure it's unlikely the Draconians would be strong enough to assist in the Dalek wars mentioned in several stories.

  • The Doctor and Jamie's encounter with the Cybermen on Planet 14 is an unseen adventure, since none of their televised meetings with the Cybermen take place (in the Cybermen's timeline) before The Invasion.

  • The meeting with Lady Peinforte is suggested by her statement in Silver Nemesis that The Doctor is "still little", a description which could only apply to The Second Doctor. Since that incarnation is almost as manipulative as The Seventh Doctor, the other events would seem likely as well.

  • Since the dual controls in the TARDIS aren't seen in later stories, they must have been removed, and since Jamie hasn't heard of the Time Lords in The War Games, his memory must have been altered. The Doctor remembers these missions, although he does forget that he once owned a Stattenheim remote for the TARDIS. (The Sixth Doctor says in The Two Doctors that "I've always wanted one of those".) The memory may have been deliberately erased, or possibly forgotten, either as a side effect of the memory-altering drug he's given in The Two Doctors, or as a result of his next regeneration. Victoria's decision to leave The Doctor in Fury from the Deep may also be due to a telepathic suggestion by the Time Lords, but is more likely to be the result of her frightening experiences during her travels. The Second Doctor 3

The Three Doctors
The Second Doctor's appearance in this story takes place after The Invasion, since he recognizes Benton. I place it here simply because the brief shot of The Second Doctor we see before he is lifted from his timeline shows him in a landscape similar to that seen in The Krotons. The Second Doctor 4

The Five Doctors
Since I'm assuming this story's villain is trying to conserve the time scoop's power and to cover his tracks, this seems a logical point for him to retrieve Four of The Five Doctors The Second Doctor. He wouldn't have to track him down, since this is a point in his timeline that is precisely known, and yet it would also be unlikely to be closely monitored, since The Doctor is being exiled to Earth, and the Time Lords at this point seem unable to conceive of a technology which could interfere with their own. With the almost-magical power of Rassilon's devices, however, it would be relatively simple to delay The Doctor's regeneration and control the TARDIS. The fact that The Doctor knows that Jamie and Zoe's memories were erased, knowledge he could only have gained during The War Games, seems to support this theory as well. (The Doctor simplifies his explanation of why he knows they're phantoms for the Brigadier's benefit.) Finally, The Third Doctor uses his watch to trace the TARDIS in Spearhead from Space, but The Second Doctor doesn't wear such a device, so it could only have been acquired after The War Games. The Second Doctor 4

The Third Doctor's Adventures

Dates of the UNIT stories
The UNIT stories were regarded by the Pertwee-era production staff as taking place in the near future, though none of them mentions a specific date. The Fifth Doctor story Mawdryn Undead establishes that Lethbridge-Stewart retires from UNIT in 1976, which would place the UNIT stories firmly in the early 1970s. Since my general approach is to accept the latest version of events as most accurate, and since many Pertwee-era stories include details which point to the early 1970s (Jo's wardrobe, her mention of the Age of Aquarius in The Daemons, the use of pre-decimal currency, the mention of Mao Zedong as the Chinese leader in The Mind of Evil, vehicle license plates, and others), I've treated the Earth-based Third Doctor stories as events which happened in the recent past (that is, shortly before their broadcast). Three stories in which UNIT doesn't appear make this approach difficult. The Web of Fear, the Second Doctor story which introduces Lethbridge-Stewart, is a sequel to The Abominable Snowmen and establishes the date of that story as 1935. Professor Travers, seen in both stories, remembers the first as occurring about 40 years before the second. Travers, however, seems a bit senile in the later story, though he has retained many of his faculties. In light of Mawdryn Undead, I've assumed that, like many who suffer from senility, his memory is sharp in some areas and lacking in others, and that he's simply misremembered the date. The other story which causes a problem is the Fourth Doctor story Pyramids of Mars, in which Sarah Jane Smith, seen in several UNIT stories, says that she is from 1980. See the "I'm from 1980" entry below for details. The Third Doctor 2

The Doctor learns to play cricket
The Fourth Doctor shows his skill with a cricket ball in The Ark in Space and The Hand of Fear. Since the first two Doctors show no interest in the sport (The First Doctor, in fact, is completely unfamiliar with cricket in The Daleks' Master Plan), The Doctor must have learned the game during his third incarnation. The Third Doctor 4

The Five Doctors
Since he knows Sarah Jane, The Third Doctor's appearance must date from Jon Pertwee's final season. I've placed it here since there are direct continuity links between the first four stories (Invasion of the Dinosaurs has the TARDIS returning from the Middle Ages, and ends with The Doctor offering to take Sarah to Florana, a destination they fail to arrive at in the next two stories). The Third Doctor 5

The Fourth Doctor's Adventures

The Doctor programs the Mordee computer
There's no indication onscreen of when this occurs. Terrance Dicks, the writer of Robot and author of most of the Doctor Who novelizations, placed it here in his adaptation of Chris Boucher's script for The Face of Evil. The explanation is an almost universally-accepted part of the show's mythos, and I see no reason to contradict it. The Fourth Doctor 2

"I'm from 1980"
When we meet Sarah Jane Smith, in The Time Warrior, she's a struggling journalist so desperate for a story that she impersonates her aunt to gain access to a secret facility, yet by the time of K-9 and Company, set in 1981, she's successful enough to take time off to write a book. Nearly all of her Earth-bound adventures with The Doctor would have been censored by UNIT for security reasons, and her off-planet adventures wouldn't be suited to serious journalism, so the question arises of how (and when) she acquired this success. At the end of Terror of the Zygons she agrees to travel in the TARDIS only if The Doctor returns her to modern-day London, which he can't do because of the Morestran distress signal in Planet of Evil. When they do finally return to modern-day Earth, in The Android Invasion, she promptly leaves again. Why? Because there's a break between televised adventures in which Sarah does return to her own time and resumes her career. Following this, she and The Doctor pick up where they left off. Their next adventures on contemporary Earth, The Android Invasion and The Seeds of Doom, take place within a few months of the other UNIT adventures (before the Brig's retirement from UNIT in 1976, as established in Mawdryn Undead). Since another version of Sarah already exists in this timeline, she cannot stay on Earth, and she is only returned to her proper timeline in The Hand of Fear, which takes place in 1980. The Fourth Doctor 2

The Brain of Morbius
The unknown faces seen during the mind-bending contest were intended by the production team to be pre-Hartnell incarnations of The Doctor, but this is contradicted by both earlier and later stories. The Three Doctors specifically says that the Hartnell Doctor is the first, and other stories, including Mawdryn Undead and The Five Doctors, support this. The common alternative explanation for these faces is that they are earlier versions of Morbius, who simply doesn't realize he's losing the contest, but this seems unlikely since The Doctor has already collapsed before Morbius's brain case shorts out. I suggest a third possibility: that the game was rigged. The Doctor is clearly aware how dangerous Morbius is, and is willing to kill to stop him (the cyanide gas). I believe that while he waited to see if the gas worked, The Doctor used the equipment in the lab to rig up a mind-bending device (there's certainly no reason for one to have been in the lab already), and briefed Sarah on his plan to goad Morbius into the contest if necessary (she helps do this, though she has earlier been quite frightened of the Morbius creature). The Doctor rigs the device to show other faces, perhaps those of people he's met during his travels, in an effort to convince Morbius to prolong the contest, knowing the brain case would eventually short out. It's a desperate gamble, and one that nearly costs The Doctor his life, but it seems a more likely explanation to me than the alternatives. The Fourth Doctor 3

The Hand of Fear
The Doctor's decision not to take Sarah to Gallifrey seems strange in light of both previous and later stories. The Time Lords themselves bring Jamie and Zoe there in The War Games, and no objection is raised when Leela goes (and stays) there in The Invasion of Time, or when Nyssa arrives in Arc of Infinity. Clearly there is a reason why Sarah cannot go to Gallifrey, but it cannot be the result of an official policy. My belief is that The Master, who sent The Doctor the telepathic summons to Gallifrey, and has ample cause to regret the interference of The Doctor's companions (as seen in all his previous appearances), implanted a hypnotic suggestion in the summons, and The Doctor, under its influence, believed that he had to leave Sarah behind. The Fourth Doctor 3

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