TV As erstwhile Doctor Who writer Robert Shearman tweeted earlier “Looking forward to seeing Doctor Who tonight. Oh, hang on, it's finished. Well, bugger.” Well yes, indeed. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be a Doctor Who night, even if it’s just in the form of a list of content culled from a different website and so here we are.
Some of you will have noticed that when writing about the series, I tend to let the TARDIS Index File provide the expositionary background to stories of the past. It’s also a useful aid-memoir whenever I’m pointing out just how derivative a given new episode is or crew details when I’m being lazy (unless it’s got them wrong).
But the TARDIS Index File isn’t just about the odd synopsis and biography. It also offers entertainingly thorough articles about various aspects of Who arcania and I thought it would be worth gathering a number of these entertainingly thorough articles about various aspects of Who arcania in some sort of list. Five of them. Here they are.
(1) UNIT Dating Controversy
Might as well start with the big cahoona. The controversy surrounding exactly when the stories featuring UNIT are actually set has gained prominence again recently thanks to an in-joke during The Sontaran Stratagem ("the 1970s, or was it the 80s?") and a whole documentary with Toby Hadoke in the added value material on the Day of the Daleks dvd (material from which has subsequently been added to this very entry). Quite rightly, the TIF simply offers the “facts” though the section marked “minor dating problems” has anything but. So messy is this discussion, chronologist Lance Parkin agnostically gave it a whole other section in his book Ahistory. Personally I go with the view that they’re set at roughly the time when they were broadcast and any inconsistencies can be put down to this being a fictional universe with a whole set of its own problems. You can hardly complain about video phones in the 70s if the planet is also being invaded by Cybermen.
(2) River Song
Fittingly this entry’s been in a constant flux since the character’s debut in The Silence in the Library, with whole chunks being shifted about on a weekly basis (you can imagine what happened when it was revealed she was a Time Lord), but has finally settled down a bit thanks to the montage below from Doctor Who Confidential and a similar timeline in Doctor Who Magazine. If you need the order of events sorted out in your head, these are the places to look.
(3) Aliases of the Doctor
One of the questions which is still being asked is about when the Doctor will tell River his real name. Clearly it means the characters going to be back again next year. She’s the wacky nu-nu-Who equivalent of the Brigadier (or the Master). But what this article demonstrates is that even across the spin-off media, the franchise has been surprisingly consistent in the Doctor not using his real name. He’s told other companions before, but they’ve not been able to pronounce it. My favourite nugget is: “when the Doctor spoke his real name aloud in the novel Vanderdeken's Children it was not written in the prose, but represented by "—" instead.” The article also includes every time he’s used his other regular nom-de-plum “John Smith” and goes some way to explaining the Theta Sigma business (the nickname he was given at school).
(4) Eighth Doctor
Anyone who thought the life of the McGann version began and ended with his hour on television in 1996 is likely to look at this entry and boggle at the mass of companions and stories and just general stuff, but there were nine years between the tv movie with the Pertween logo and at least three different licensees generating stories. The best way to deal with the Eighth Doctor stories is to treat each media as self contained chunks which for me is the BBC Books, the comics and then the audios, a topic I’ve inevitably already covered in some depth here. One point of interest is that it assumes that when the Time Lords are talking about the Doctor in The End of Time, he’s in his Eighth incarnation. Although it’s implied in Rose he’s recently regenerated I’ve never been entirely convinced Eighth would be capable. My assumption has always been it’s the Ninth Doctor who was in the Time War. Ah, Mr RTD Russell Davies person and your ambiguous writing …
One of the reasons to love Doctor Who is that even one of its hard core bits of mythology happened due to the requirements for a change in casting and has never been inconsistent from year three. Can someone decided to regenerate or do they need to be in mortal danger? What’s with all the volcanic light these days? This entry offers few proper answers other than whatever makes for a good story. Not much more to add other than to suggest you seek out the section about I.M. Foreman which is pretty mind blowing thanks to the imagination of author Lawrence Miles who should definitely be coaxed back for another one in the anniversary year. It wouldn't be the same without him.