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Gallifreyan Bubble Theory

By Alden Bates

Here's an interesting theory I worked out to explain why the Doctor hasn't met a future self (apart from the Valeyard).

When TARDISes were first built, their interior time didn't match up with Gallifreyan time. That is, if a Time Lord went on a mission which, to him/her seemed like one year, the TARDIS could return to Gallifrey only minutes before or after it left. So a Time Lord could return from a one year mission to find that only three minutes have gone by since they left.

What Rassilon did was enclose Gallifrey in a time bubble which standardised Gallifreyan time. This new time was a translation of the time dimension in the continuum.

I'll explain it this way: when a TARDIS makes a trip, its passengers perceive the trip as taking a certain amount of time, say three hours. This passage of time is measured in the Space/Time Continuum, a sort of 'Continuum Mean Time'. With the time bubble, the trip is observed on Gallifrey to take three hours as well. Necessarily, time spent on alien worlds and on the return trip is the same as time spent on Gallifrey. Now the Time Lord returning from a one year mission will find that exactly one year has passed since they left. (Naturally this only applies to Gallifrey, as other planets aren't in a similar time bubble.)

The time inside TARDISes, on Gallifrey and in the Continuum move at the same rate. This means that a Time Lord can't travel to Gallifrey's past or future. (Witness in The Invasion of Time, the Doctor has to consult Rassilon's mind in the Matrix because he can't go back and ask him personally.)

As Gallifrey time is constant with TARDIS time, the Time Lords can't scoop up the Doctor's future incarnations, only past or present ones. The future ones can be seen, when their TARDIS is out of the Continuum and landed. However it would be a mammoth task to search every point in space at every point in time for a future incarnation. Previous incarnations can be scooped because the location of each of their landings will be held in the Matrix (presumably from the bugs in the TARDIS mentioned in Trial of a Time Lord). They can't be scooped from the Continuum because that's like trying to get in your car today and then pick someone up from the movies yesterday.

The Doctor could meet a future self while exploring an alien planet but, considering the multitude of available planets to land on, such an encounter would be improbable.

This may also explain why the meetings between the Doctor and the Master are in order. The Master can only track the Doctor's current position with respect to Gallifrey time. He could find a past incarnation if he kept records, but, like the Time Lords, he can't track a future Doctor. Perhaps the Master doesn't have time to keep records, or can't be bothered stealing them from the Matrix when he can find the Doctor's present self more easily.

Why, in multiple Doctor stories, the Doctor can't remember the adventure happening already? Well, as Gallifreyan time is constant with TARDIS time, the Doctor's previous incarnations weren't originally scooped out of their time streams until the story in which the scooping takes place. Following The Five Doctors, the Fifth Doctor will remember experiencing the adventure as each of his previous selves.

In The Five Doctors, the First Doctor asks "where the little one is?". The Third Doctor already knows. He remembers the Second Doctor's role in the story up to the minute but not after. Both Doctors remember the events of The Three Doctors because it already happened. Perhaps, however, the Doctor's memory is not quite as good as he thinks, the Second Doctor can't remember the inscription which the First Doctor had been examining moments before.

A small note however: in The Five Doctors, it is the Third Doctor who describes the Fourth Doctor as "all teeth and curls". Sarah merely gestures vaguely towards her hair. How was the Third Doctor aware of his next incarnation's appearance as he hasn't met him at that stage. Unless there's an unseen multi-Doctor adventure involving the Third and Fourth Doctors.

This also does not explain The Two Doctors unless the Doctor and Jamie were contacted/scooped by the present day Time Lords. If this were the case, then the pair would not originally have been contacted like in the other multi-Doctor adventures.

Somehow, the Valeyard has managed to alter his TARDIS to travel back into the past of Gallifrey. Either that or the Time Lords actually managed to find him while his TARDIS had landed. I prefer the former explanation. If that is so, and the Valeyard is the Doctor's second to last incarnation, perhaps his final incarnation may pop up some day.

The Vardans in The Invasion of Time were able to invade through the time bubble as they did it via the Matrix. Opening the force field around Gallifrey also opened the time bubble and both the Vardans and Sontarans could get in.

Omega did it via the Matrix in Arc of Infinity from within his TARDIS. The Master, of course, always uses his TARDIS, but what about Omega's attempt in The Three Doctors? Perhaps the anti-matter world is also linked to the Space/Time Continuum in some way.

This item appeared in TSV 33 (April 1993).