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Doctor's Dilemma

By Jon Preddle

Welcome to the first ever three-page Doctor's Dilemma! There was such an influx of questions (five from Philip Gray!) we decided to put them all in this issue! The Daleks and the Cybermen (of course!) both get coverage this issue, but first a question that involves the Sontarans: 'Why is Sarah given a sack of potatoes to peel in The Time Warrior,' Philip asks, 'when surely potatoes were not brought to England (by Sir Walter Raleigh) until the reign of Elizabeth I?'

The answer is simple, she wasn't! In my book, Doctor Who-lore is solely based on what we see on the television. Therefore, anything else - the comics, the annuals, and the novels cannot be considered as part of the over-all universe of Doctor Who. On television, Sarah does not peel potatoes; instead she is given the more arduous task of stirring the stew! It is only in Terrance Dicks' novelization (pages 121-124 to be precise) that potatoes are mentioned. This oversight can be attributed to poor research on Dicks' part. However, it has been suggested that the Earth seen in Who is not ours but a parallel, so who is to say that potatoes weren't introduced to the England of that world in the 13th century..?

On a less than serious note, did you know that the Sontarans were indirectly responsible for the naming of potatoes? In The Mind of Evil the Doctor tells Jo that he met Raleigh when they shared a prison cell. When Raleigh told the Doctor about these potatoes, the Doctor may have mentioned that he had once been held prisoner in Spain by creatures that looked just like potatoes (The Two Doctors). Jamie had even referred to the Sontarans as 'potato-heads' in the same story.

Now, consider this: when Raleigh was looking for a slang name for potato, he recalled the Doctor's story about the Spanish potato-heads, the Spanish sadros? No, the Spanish spodrats..? Not quite right... the Spunpud sadrads? The Spodish sodnods...? It was no good, he just couldn't remember the exact word but he decided that 'spud' was close enough, and it stuck..!

Philip's next query is also connected to a book. He asks about the reference in Jean-Marc Lofficier's updated Programme Guide (page 166) to a cameo at the end of The Ultimate Foe which shows Peri happily married to Yrcanos. Philip does not remember seeing this on TV, so was it cut, he asks?

No. Lofficier is wrong. He has mistaken the small slow-motion shot of Peri and Yrcanos (which appears when the Doctor is told that Peri is not dead) as a specially filmed piece. The 'flashback' is actually a short segment lifted from episode 4 of Mindwarp, with Peri and Yrcanos in the dungeon.

Philip notes that at the end of episode 2 of The Abominable Snowmen the Doctor opens the inert Yeti and pronounces it to be 'more like a robot.' Travers then says 'A robot? My dear chap, don't let your imagination run away with you.' What Philip wants to know is how Travers knows what a robot is considering the story is set in 1935 and the word robot wasn't coined by Karel Capek (from his play R.U.R (Rossum's Universal Robots)) until 1938?

Hmm. I think Travers has been hanging around those monks too long and sniffing incense in an enclosed room! He probably misheard the Doctor, thinking the Time Lord said 'it's more like Robert', Robert being the name of Travers' brother. Travers had obviously thought the Yeti to look more like an Otto! But seriously, R.U.R was written in 1921, Philip, not 1938 so Travers would certainly be familiar with 'robot' in 1935.

And here's Philip's fourth query: The city and the inhabitants of Castrovalva were all mathematical projections created by the computations of Adric and the Master. If they were all destroyed, how did the stick of celery taken by the Doctor survive and be pinned to his lapel at the end of the story?

The Monitor in Logopolis says that structure is the essence of matter, and the essence of structure is mathematics. This is known as a Block Transfer Computation (BTC) ie computations that can be used to create or duplicate anything. The copy of the Pharos computer room created by the Logopolitans was a solid entity. Castrovalva was the product of Adric's mind, and since it too was a BTC it was real. The celery stalk taken by the Doctor was a real piece of celery. When the city collapsed due to recursive occlusion everything within it vanished too. Since the celery was no longer inside the occlusion zone it 'survived'. Similarly, the Master was last seen trapped within the city but he somehow survived. Was it because he managed to escape before Castrovalva vanished, or was it because he wasn't a part of the city that he survived? I would think that the former was most likely. After all, he was the Portreeve and had a presence within the city. Also, the Castrovalvans were capable of venturing outside the city walls to hunt. If they could exist outside, then so too could a stick of celery!

Philip's final poser concerns the TARDIS. Although in several stories we have been told that there was a 'state of temporal grace' in place in the control room which stopped any weapon - mental or physical - being used, how is it that in Attack of the Cybermen the Cybermen can fire their weapons?

The state of temporal grace was first mentioned in the 1976 story The Hand of Fear when Eldrad tried (unsuccessfully) to use her/his mind-powers on the Doctor in the secondary console room. In episode 6 of The Invasion of Time (1978) the Sontarans had little difficulty firing their guns in the TARDIS corridors, even when the Doctor had told Andred a few episodes earlier that the relative dimensional stabilizer field (RDSF) prevented all guns from being fired (note that K9's stun facilities remained unaffected!). This means that the temporal grace works anywhere in the ship, not just the console room.

The Sontarans' tracers also didn't work within the ship. It was only when Castellan Kelner switched off a force-field from the ancillary generator room that the tracers could work again. It is therefore possible that this switch also deactivated the RDSF. The question is, did the Doctor ever re-activate it? Knowing the Doctor, probably not, and this would certainly explain how the Cybermen, in Earthshock and later in Attack of the Cybermen, were able to fire their guns in the console room. In Arc of Infinity Nyssa asks the Doctor precisely that; how had it been possible (in Earthshock) for the Cyber-leader to fire his gun if the RDSF had been in place, but the Doctor simply tells her that "nobody's perfect"!

And while we're on the subject of Cybermen, Jonathan Park wants to know how Revenge of the Cybermen can be called that if revenge is an emotion; emotion being something the Cybermen don't have.

In episode 3, Tyrum wonders if Vorus has 'brought down the vengeance of the Cybermen upon us again' (on page 73 of the novel it has been changed to 'the revenge of the Cybermen'). This is the only instance in which 'revenge' is mentioned in the story. The story title (devised by script-editor Robert Holmes) therefore relates to the Vogans' point of view, not the Cybermen's. It could be that the Vogans are unaware that the Cybermen are emotionless and Tyrum is misinterpreting the attack of the Cybermen to be revenge. What we must also consider is the possibility that the Cybermen are no longer emotionless. The Cyberleaders in The Five Doctors and Earthshock say 'Excellent' a lot. Excellence is an emotive word meaning great pleasure. Hmmm.

Jeff Stone wants to know why the Doctor can't speak French or German in The War Games when he has the Time Lord gift to understand any language.

I think that in that adventure, the Doctor wanted to feign ignorance of his ability to speak any foreign language. He has, after all, arrived during World War I and proficiency in the enemy's German tongue is likely to be a first class ticket to a firing squad!

And now for a real stumper: 'The Time Lords know all about the Daleks (as evidenced in The Five Doctors and Genesis of the Daleks),' says Jeff. 'So,' he asks, 'why does the Doctor know nothing of them when he meets them for the first time in The Daleks (1963)?'

A very good question, Jeff. And, after a lot of thought on this, I'm afraid the only satisfactory answer I could come up with involves mind-wiping. But before I begin, the Doctor's lack of knowledge about the Daleks is also shown in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, where the Doctor says that their encounter with the Daleks on Skaro took place in the Daleks' future, when it is clearly obvious that the invading Daleks come from a time after that previous adventure.

Back to Jeff's poser, my answer involves the Hand of Omega. It is still a mystery to us as to why the Doctor and Susan left Gallifrey. We do know that the Doctor came to Earth in 1963 with the Hand, but did he have it when he left Gallifrey, or did he 'find' it later? (During the very first season, the Doctor and Susan mention visiting other planets and other Earth-times before arriving in 1963. Did they gain possession of the Hand in one of these 'adventures'?) In Remembrance of the Daleks the Hand obeys the Doctor's commands, and the implication is given that he had played some part in its construction, so clearly he has some power over it, and it over him. According to Remembrance, the First Doctor had made arrangements to bury the device, but he had to 'leave in a hurry.' But why was he going to bury it? The Hand Of Omega has intelligence. Maybe it 'knew' that the Daleks were coming to steal it and instructed the Doctor to hide it. Once the Doctor had left the casket at the funeral home, the device placed a block on his and Susan's minds so they wouldn't give away its location if they were tortured by the Daleks. Unfortunately, the block accidentally deleted other parts of their memory including all knowledge of the Daleks, the operational codes for the TARDIS controls, and the Doctor's true identity. Susan's knowledge of Earth history and science was affected, hence her odd behaviour at school which aroused Ian and Barbara's curiosity. The Hand realized what it had done but before it could reinstate this lost memory, Ian and Barbara stumbled upon the TARDIS forcing the Doctor to leave suddenly (during his subsequent travels, the Doctor meets the Daleks on several occasions and 'recovers' parts of his knowledge of them). In an act of desperation, the device transmitted the missing memories into space and time in a bid to locate its master. However, it was the Seventh Doctor who 'received' the signal. The Doctor had now regained his full memory - and his identity. This would certainly explain why this persona of the Doctor has powers and knowledge that his other selves never had. The Seventh Doctor arrived in 1963 and completed the 'mission' that the First Doctor had been forced to abandon. For the Doctor, many years had passed since he originally left 1963, but for the Hand only a few weeks had passed.

And for our final question, Matthew Akersten wants to know how old the Doctor is in Survival?

Although the Doctor is never specific in Survival, in Time and the Rani he says he is 953. Unless he has aged a few years before Survival, I would say he is still 953. The Doctor's age is mentioned in several other stories, Matthew, mainly during the Tom Baker era. To fully answer your question, I had prepared a note every time in which the Doctor's age is mentioned. But due to its length it has been necessary to hold this over until next issue. See you then...

This item appeared in TSV 29 (July 1992).

Index nodes: Doctor's Dilemma