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More Time Travel in Doctor Who

By Nicholas Smeaton

In the last issue of TSV both Matthew and Richard came up with conflicting ideas about time travel in Doctor Who [Time - Who's Worried? and Time Travel in Doctor Who]. Being knowledgeable about matters scientific and having read a wide range of time travel stories a lot of which have nothing whatsoever to do with Doctor Who (I apologize to anyone to whom I've just given culture shock.) I feel it is time I put my opinions on the subject forward.

The idea of time being like a river flowing in a set course or being like a cat's cradle with events moving with precision and momentum towards a predetermined pattern are both outdated. The newly developed Chaos theory states that chance plays a much larger role in running the universe than previously suspected. This means that the future can't exist until we get there at which stage it has become the present. So we need an alternative view of time.

Picture this: a long narrow pond, the water in it is so calm its like a sheet of glass, now imagine a wave traveling along this pond. That wave is the present and the pond is time, the present is moving through time from the past into the future, but there is no reason why we can't have more than one wave or present traveling through time. If we hop from one wavecrest to another we can travel backwards and forwards in time, although all we are really doing is just jumping between alternate realities. Since these presents are independent of each other we could do whatever we like in each present because it will have no effect on our present. E.g. I throw a banana peel five minutes back into the past, it lands in that present which causes someone (lets say its Richard Scheib) to trip up, Richard gets mad about it and thumps me, but he hasn't he has thumped the me in his present not the me who threw the banana peel, causality is not violated because his future is not my past. Now let's suppose Richard realizes what really happened and tosses a half brick five minutes into the future at the me who threw the banana peel - it hits Matthew Goodall in the small of the back (Sorry Richard, better luck next time) because both presents are moving through time at the same speed (but always five minutes apart) cause still follows effect. (My throwing away a banana peel results in Matthew collecting a half-brick in the small of the back a couple of minutes later - the time it took Richard to pick himself up and find and throw the half-brick). Cause preceding effect would still be preserved even if the presents were traveling at different speeds, if Richard's present was traveling faster the half-brick lands in my future and materializes when my present catches up to it, i.e. it just takes a bit longer turn up. If his present is moving slower than mine the half-brick falls short and materializes in the next present to come along i.e. Richard's which has moved forward in time five minutes - Richard threw the half brick and it landed five minutes later - on the back of Richard's head. (He should have remembered where he threw it.) At this point we'll leave them - Richard is out cold from his own half-brick and Matthew is curled up in a ball moaning in agony (he shouldn't turned around to see where the first half-brick had come from!).

It is pretty obvious that the theory of time presented above doesn't allow for scenarios like Pyramids of Mars and Day of the Daleks but it is possible for two presents to affect each other if they are linked. The best way to link two presents would be to use a time machine, thus in Pyramids of Mars when the TARDIS went to 1975 to show the effects of a victorious Sutekh it created its own 1975 that was linked to the 1920's it had just left, such was Sutekh's power that the TARDIS could not leave that particular present until Sutekh was defeated. In Day of the Daleks the Present and the Dalek controlled 'future' are linked by the Dalek time corridors and it is obvious that the guerrillas unaware of the dangers of temporal travel unwittingly catch themselves in their own time loop (remember our past includes the results, successful or otherwise, of any attempt to change it) the irony of course been that they caused the very thing they attempted to stop. A Media example of this theory is The Terminator.

So we have our theory of parallel presents which can be linked together in order to influence each other does this mean we can go back in time and change things? Sorry, no. As I said before our past includes the results of any attempts to change it. Say you went back in time to 1930's Germany in order to kill Hitler thereby saving the life of your Uncle who died in World War II. Chances are not only would you fail but you'd in your failure give Hitler the support he needed in order to become Fuhrer.

One last note about time travel, because everybody has two parents (You have two parents who have two parents each (your grandparents) who in turn have two parents each and so on) it means that if you go back in time far enough everybody will be an ancestor of yours (if you go back 1500 years (Sixty generations) you have a million, million, million (10 18) ancestors because there were only about a thousand million (10 9) people alive at the time this means that many people must count more than once i.e. billions of those ancestors are the same person.) so as you can see you don't have to go back very far to be in grave danger of creating a grandfather's paradox no matter you kill. So it is not a good idea to take a gun along if you ever take a trip back in time.

This item appeared in TSV 19 (June 1990).