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Go Back   The Trek BBS > Entertainment & Interests > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Doctor Who

Doctor Who "Bigger on the inside..."

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Old February 3 2013, 10:55 PM   #1
Procutus
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Timeframe question - Tom Baker Era

OK, this is something I don't recall picking up on back in the PBS days when I first discovered the Baker stories. I had always assumed that when the Doctor was back on Earth in the 'present' it was reflective of the time the show was made; in other words, with Tom as the Doctor, the show's present was in the mid-70s.

But while watching The Pyramids of Mars last night on DVD, Sarah Jane states not once, but several times that she's from 1980, five years ahead of when PoM was aired. So does that mean that the original first season Hartnell stories were set in 1968? When was the first time that the show's present was established?

This really threw me a curve, as I recall that in nuWho, the Doctor made references to meeting Rose in 2005, which corresponded to real-time.

Just curious. It's probably one of those things we're not supposed to think about too hard.

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Old February 3 2013, 11:16 PM   #2
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Re: Timeframe question - Tom Baker Era

This has been a long-standing controversy in DW fandom. At the time they came out, the UNIT stories in both the Third and Fourth Doctor's eras were assumed to take place in that nebulous "near future" that a lot of SF productions are set in, close enough that they can use contemporary fashions and cars and props and such, but with new technologies and sci-fi trappings added. For instance, in the Third Doctor's era you had Britain sending expeditions to the Moon and Mars, you had various technologies beyond what Earth had in the '70s like advanced robots and computers and time-travel experiments, etc. So it was always assumed to be a few years ahead, which is why Sarah gave that 1980 date in "Pyramids of Mars."

However, a few years later, when they brought back the Brigadier in "Mawdryn Undead" in the Fifth Doctor era, the producers of that time had forgotten about the UNIT dating policy of the past, and claimed that the Brigadier had retired from UNIT in 1977, putting the UNIT stories in roughly real time and creating a contradiction. And it's never been satisfactorily resolved. I think the modern shows and tie-ins are generally agnostic on the UNIT timeframe.

As for the new series, usually in the Russell T. Davies era, the stories set on Earth were consistently set one year in the future of real time -- starting with "Aliens of London," which came out in 2005 and was set in 2006. I think that Moffat-era "present-day" stories have generally been set in the same year they came out, though.
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Old February 3 2013, 11:18 PM   #3
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Re: Timeframe question - Tom Baker Era

Britain already had a female PM in Terror Of The Zygons so it was set alittle in the future, but really earth time was pretty useless on the original series.
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Old February 3 2013, 11:55 PM   #4
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Re: Timeframe question - Tom Baker Era

DWF wrote: View Post
Britain already had a female PM in Terror Of The Zygons

Did everyone know who she was?




Thanks to both you and Christopher for your response. Didn't know that bit about the UNIT stories being slightly ahead of real time, so that does explain Sarah Jane's comment.
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Old February 4 2013, 12:01 AM   #5
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Re: Timeframe question - Tom Baker Era

Christopher wrote: View Post
I think the modern shows and tie-ins are generally agnostic on the UNIT timeframe.
"I used to work for UNIT in the 1970s. Or was it the 80s?"

Seriously though, I think the new series assumes UNIT stories were set in the years they aired, to hell with original intent and continuity concerns. Certainly, Jo Grant's appearance in SJA seems to imply The Green Death did take place in 1973. And in The Snowmen, the London Underground map the Doctor had was taken from 1967, when Web of Fear originally aired.
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Old February 4 2013, 12:58 AM   #6
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Re: Timeframe question - Tom Baker Era

Anyone seriously interested in this question needs this, the most well-thought-out of books: http://www.amazon.com/AHistory-Unaut.../dp/1935234110

There is a whole essay of "UNIT dating," and you can even pick your own solution. (I favor "UNIT Year Zero" as 1976 because it is more interesting than the present day.)
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Old February 4 2013, 02:06 AM   #7
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Re: Timeframe question - Tom Baker Era

The Doctor Who Wiki has an article on the UNIT dating controversy.

Personally, I like to just put any discrepancy like that down to the Time War or the cracks in time. As Steven Moffat once said; ""In the end, a television series which embraces both the ideas of parallel universe[s] and the concept of changing time can't have a continuity error - it can't."
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Old February 4 2013, 02:55 AM   #8
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Re: Timeframe question - Tom Baker Era

Of course the presense of Kate Stewart messes up the Unit dating thing even more.
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Old February 4 2013, 03:12 AM   #9
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Re: Timeframe question - Tom Baker Era

I always just assumed it was airdate, and never worried about the discrepancy between show science and Real World science, since it is a SciFi/Fantasy show, afterall.

Never noticed the Pyramid of Mars 1980 comment compared to airdate, though.
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Old February 4 2013, 03:31 AM   #10
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Re: Timeframe question - Tom Baker Era

DWF wrote: View Post
Of course the presense of Kate Stewart messes up the Unit dating thing even more.
How so?
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Old February 4 2013, 04:01 AM   #11
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Re: Timeframe question - Tom Baker Era

Iamnotspock wrote: View Post
DWF wrote: View Post
Of course the presense of Kate Stewart messes up the Unit dating thing even more.
How so?
She was a child in Downtime and I remember the thread at Outpost Gallifrey to where he age now was figured out and she's too old somehow.
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Old February 4 2013, 07:04 PM   #12
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Re: Timeframe question - Tom Baker Era

The Wormhole wrote: View Post
Christopher wrote: View Post
I think the modern shows and tie-ins are generally agnostic on the UNIT timeframe.
"I used to work for UNIT in the 1970s. Or was it the 80s?"

Seriously though, I think the new series assumes UNIT stories were set in the years they aired, to hell with original intent and continuity concerns. Certainly, Jo Grant's appearance in SJA seems to imply The Green Death did take place in 1973. And in The Snowmen, the London Underground map the Doctor had was taken from 1967, when Web of Fear originally aired.
The Sarah Jane Adventures comes down pretty clearly on the 68(Invasion)-75(Zygons) side thanks to the various references to Sarah's childhood, and how old she was in which years, in the various Trickster episodes. They put her birth at 1950, so Invasion of the Dinosaurs must be 1973-ish (she gives her age as 23 when she's arrested). Of course, that doesn't rule out the possibility that it's then seven years till Pyramids of Mars...
The new series does have several references suggesting that UNIT was founded in 1968 (eg: President Winters's reference to the UN treaties on alien contact), but they're finessable (and would put Invasion a little later, as UNIT's been watching Vaughn's operations for some time). As is the 1975 Cyberhead in Van Stratten's museum - obviously it's meant as an Invasion reference, but as it's the wrong design of helmet, it could be from an unseen Cyberstory.
Similarly, the tin in The Snowmen doesn't prove anything either way, just that the Doctor got the tin in 1967. The thing that is certain is that there's 'a good four years' between Web and Invasion, so if Web is 1967 then Invasion is 1971/72 (depending on whether Web is late or early in the year: the Christmas posters on the underground stations show it was November/December when the crisis began), so a few years ahead, though not as many as usually suggested. If Invasion is contemporary, in 1968, then Web has to be set in Winter 63/64!
And if you take the "1935, more than 40 years ago!" lines in Web of Fear as gospel, then even the 1980 reference from Pyramids is far, far too early!

DWF wrote: View Post
Iamnotspock wrote: View Post
DWF wrote: View Post
Of course the presense of Kate Stewart messes up the Unit dating thing even more.
How so?
She was a child in Downtime and I remember the thread at Outpost Gallifrey to where he age now was figured out and she's too old somehow.
No, she was a young mother with an eight year old child in Downtime. Probably late 20s, so she's maybe born around 1967 (so either a baby or a schoolgirl when her father's career takes an unexpected turn), and would be in her mid 40s by Power of Three.
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Old February 4 2013, 10:22 PM   #13
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Re: Timeframe question - Tom Baker Era

Here's a side question I've always wondered about - how many other Who stories feature a scene like Pyramids of Mars where the Doctor travels forward to see how the world would be if he doesn't intervene?
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Old February 4 2013, 10:26 PM   #14
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Re: Timeframe question - Tom Baker Era

None, I think. There was one in the outline for "The Unquiet Dead," but by the time of scripting all we got was the Doctor's promise to Rose that her world could change "like that."
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Old February 5 2013, 04:59 PM   #15
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Re: Timeframe question - Tom Baker Era

diankra wrote: View Post
DWF wrote: View Post
Iamnotspock wrote: View Post

How so?
She was a child in Downtime and I remember the thread at Outpost Gallifrey to where he age now was figured out and she's too old somehow.
No, she was a young mother with an eight year old child in Downtime. Probably late 20s, so she's maybe born around 1967 (so either a baby or a schoolgirl when her father's career takes an unexpected turn), and would be in her mid 40s by Power of Three.
Indeed. Check out her Wikia page. There's no discrepancy that I can see.
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