Mark McCullough examines the continuity of the Moffat Era so far. Does it all add up?
DISCLAIMER: The intention of this article is not to criticise Steven Moffat. A more apt description would be an analysis of the implications of one of his creative decisions. I would hope that the topic will be a source for lots of discussion in the comments section.
Throughout the Eleventh Doctor’s era, showrunner Steven Moffat decided to adapt a different approach in terms of story arc. Each of the three series whilst standalone in their own arcs, joined together to form one massive story setting up the return of the Doctor’s home planet Gallifrey. A fundamental aspect to this arc was the cracks in time. However, perhaps rather unfortunately in terms of continuity it doesn’t come together as well as one would have hoped.
The Cracks in Time
Before I get into why the cracks don’t fit into the continuity of the show, let’s take an opportunity to remind ourselves what we actually know about them. Caused by an exploding TARDIS, the cracks represent two parts of space and time that should never have touched. It is established by the narrative of the show that once someone enters a crack one of two things can happen:
- The crack opens to another part of space and time. This is evidenced by Prisoner Zero in The Eleventh Hour and by the so called Vampire in The Vampires of Venice. The implication is very much that travel through the cracks is a possibility
- Anything that enters a crack can potentially be erased from time, meaning they have never existed. (This occurred to multiple characters in Flesh and Stone and then to Rory in Cold Blood. It was also implied to have happened to the Cybermen in Victorian London, and to the Dalek invasion of The Stolen Earth/ Journey’s end.
In The Big Bang the Doctor used the Pandorica to close the cracks in the skin of the universe. In theory the light from the Pandorica shone through the cracks in the universe and its restorative properties essentially rebooted the universe. According to the Doctor himself this was actually a complete reboot creating a new reality. This is evidenced in A Good Man Goes to War. Where the Doctor explains the first time the Ponds where on board the TARDIS in the rebooted universe was their wedding night. Incidentally this means that River Song was conceived within the new universe, something which I will focus on later.
The main question raised is why Moffat would want to reset the universe. Besides the obvious answer of giving him a clean slate to work with, there were other advantages too. Of these the biggest was the fact that humanity could go back to not knowing about aliens (Presumably that has now changed in lieu of Death in Heaven). In fact, Moffat himself used his personal twitter account to tweet the following: “The whole universe came exactly as it was. Except for any continuity errors I need to explain away.” Granted this was probably intended to be a little tongue in cheek, however the actual change in continuity is quite interesting to consider.
The Inspiration Conundrum
The Waters of Mars focuses on the story of Adelaide Brooke, and how her actions ultimately inspire humanity to begin their journey across the stars. Much of The Waters of Mars’ critical acclaim stems from the pathos of Adelaide’s sacrifice along with its chilling antagonists, and a great new take on the Doctor. So it’s more than fitting that it left a lasting legacy on the Whoniverse. Sadly it didn’t, Series Eight episode Kill the Moon replaced the impact of The Waters of Mars and gave humanity a new reason to venture into the stars. Surely there is a way to make them both work?
By my calculations it isn’t actually the case. As stated earlier in the article, Moffat’s universal reboot meant that the events of the Series Four finale either didn’t happen or Earth wasn’t involved. The latter is most likely due to the Doctor’s regeneration number, therefore the event still happened. The implications of Earth not being involved means that Adelaide was no longer orphaned and did not encounter a Dalek. By extension her timeline could have been changed to the extent that she never ended up on Bowie Base One (If that even existed in the new reality). Without Adelaide, that aspect of humanity’s inspiration to travel the stars would not have stood, leaving the Kill the Moon option as the real reason. This would fit with the in-universe description of time being fluid and capable of being rewritten, yet leading to the same outcome.
I doubt it would be too much of a stretch to imply that the reason behind Moffat’s universal reboot was to set up his planned return for Gallifrey. Going back to his twitter quote, this provides an example of how he used it to explain away a continuity error, the Time Lock. Throughout the RTD era of the show, the events of the Time War and by extension Gallifrey were inaccessible. However by Series Eight this is shown to have changed, without any real explanation as to how. However you can apply the fact that the universe was rebooted to come up with a reason of sorts for how Clara was able to visit the Doctor’s past.
There are a couple of narrative issues which don’t quite fit when you look at the full picture. One of these is River Song, who appears to cross both versions of reality. In the old universe, she meets the Tenth Doctor in the library, the Eleventh Doctor in the Byzantium and the Eleventh Doctor again at Stonehenge when the Pandorica is discovered. In the new universe she is heavily involved in the Silence arc, but ultimately meets the same fate in the Library. This would be expected as Moffat claimed that the universe rebooted as it was. So River’s story is the same regardless of how the universe around her changed.
But it didn’t, we are led to believe that none of the RTD era invasions of Earth happened (yet UNIT somehow has knowledge – perhaps extracted from the Doctor’s companions.) This is not the only thing to have changed in the universe: Amy’s parents have returned (granted this was under special circumstances) and it has to be assumed that the Weeping Angels did not return to the Byzantium. So why have some events returned as they were whilst others have changed?
Perhaps a spanner in the works is the fact that there is still a crack open in the so called new universe in The Time of the Doctor. This closes, but is shortly followed by the opening of another through which the Doctor is gifted a new set of regenerations before it too closes. The fact that cracks are still able to be opened and closed suggests that the boundary between the two universes may be a lot more subtle than we would think. Looking at time as a more fluid substance, it would follow that it could be moulded or shaped.
Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Moffat decided to create a universal reboot in order to bring back the Time Lords, because at the end of day what is a Time Lord? Based upon what the show have established for them, we can assume that they are capable of manipulating Time, which would make sense given their name. So with the Time Lords’ return imminent and the possibility of a reality in flux, it very much looks like the wider consequences could be fascinating.
To conclude I will suggest that the cracks will never be fully filled in in order to give one complete picture. This is not a bad thing though, as it means the universe in which the show is set is an ever changing mosaic. Again I would like to emphasise the point that I think this is an enormous positive that Moffat has introduced. It opens up an infinite number of possibilities for interpretation of the show. I’m really looking forward to seeing what you think in the comments section.
Posted on March 4, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged BBC, Cardiff, companion, Doctor, Doctor Who, doctorwho, fandom, History, Jenna Coleman, Peter Capaldi, Steven Moffat, TARDIS, The Doctor, The Master, Time Lord. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.