We wondered throughout the Wilderness Years what the exact linear timeline of the 7th and 8th Doctor might be. Here’s a story of why there isn’t one.
The Doctor took in a deep breath of the air in his TARDIS as he hung his umbrella on a rack next to the door. There was always something welcoming about the atmosphere; maybe it was that with every new curveball life throws at him, the trusty Type 40 TT capsule had a place where he could step back, which is easy to do when the inside of your ship is its own dimension. As he made his way to the console in the center of the room, he thought about his most recent encounter with his other selves while it was still fresh in his mind. While gently stirring the old girl from her slumber, he thought fondly of his next incarnation. The newer model seemed much more energetic and hopeful than he felt in this body. Definitely needed a change of outfit, though. He looked like he was going to a costume party. And that hair…
The Doctor struggled to finish the thought he was forming. One shouldn’t dwell on these things too long; meeting your other selves is like a dream, in that sometimes the details of the encounter just slip from your fingers. The struggle propelled him deeper in concentration, to the point where he instinctively reached for the telepathic controls. His fingers were only lodged in there for a second, but it was a second too long. The TARDIS shuddered and jolted, almost knocking the Doctor’s head against the controls. Almost. Oh no you don’t, he thought while getting back his footing. I’m not doing that twice in a row. His hands moved across the control panels much more fervently, but still maintaining precision. See, reaching for the telepathic controls in this state is quite the no-no, as one of his instructors told him as a Time Tot, “The telepathic controls should only be used with a clear mind.” What’s worse, he was thinking about one of his other selves! Meeting you at different points in time is one of the easiest things to understand Not to do as a time traveler, and the Doctor accidentally tried to do that after having just met that incarnation!
The Doctor tried as best he could, but this was ever so slightly out of his grasp, figuratively and literally. Sometimes, he didn’t like being so short. Pulling up the scanner just got a lot of static, but as he concentrated he could almost make out a planet, maybe Gallifrey? Are those ships? The saucer shape didn’t exactly narrow it down, maybe the Krillitane? Jathaa Sunglider? No, it couldn’t be-Are they firing at-? Right before he could properly make out the picture, something pulled on the ship, directing her course the way he was trying to, away from wherever this was, though now the Doctor’s attention was piqued. When the static cleared away, it showed another TARDIS tethering itself to his like the rings in Knuckles Chaotix, much to his dismay. What unnerved him the most was that he couldn’t make out whose TARDIS it was. Were the Time Lords going to put him on trial again for being even more careless than they’re used to? Has the Master roped him in to some other overcomplicated scheme? If so, hopefully it won’t involve random teenagers he picked up at the gym again. What was he thinking? Before his mind could wander too much, both TARDISes landed. The Doctor breathed a sigh of relief. The Eye of Orion. If it was Gallifrey, they would’ve just pulled him down to the surface, so at least there’s that. Not really able to think of much else to do, he grabbed his umbrella and walked outside the door.
Even after such a tense situation, one couldn’t help but feel all their troubles melt away here. Positive ions bombard the senses at every step, the weather was always the perfect temperature for a stroll in a modest sweater, and the view of the nearby planets paint quite the picturesque scene. The Doctor wondered why nobody bothered to put a hotel here, but quickly threw away that thought and marvelled at an untouched spectacle of the cosmos. He marvelled in it so much, that he almost didn’t notice the Monk stepping out of his own TARDIS. “Care to explain yourself?” When the Doctor turned around, his first thought was that the Monk’s mustache looked weird, although that might’ve been a combination of getting used to his new incarnation while also Loathing that phase he himself had early on in his first body. “Ah, the Meddling Monk.”
“Enough, Doctor. This is serious. Why were you trying to do that?” His arms were folded and he began tapping his toe. The positive ions must not be affecting him as strongly.
“Ah. Well, in truth, that might have been an accident.”
“An accident, Doctor? Come on, you’re better than that. Maybe if it was the tall one in the scarf or the even more flamboyant version of Commander Maxil I could understand that, but you? We learned this as Time Tots, for Rassilon’s sake! The Telepathic controls should only-”
“-be used with a clear mind, yes, yes, I know, Mortimus. I don’t want to hear the lecture from you of all people. You didn’t get Meddling put in your name for nothing.”
“Yeah, I got meddling put in there because I stick to small scale stuff. I don’t try to break the First Law of Time twice in a day.”
The Doctor bowed his head slightly, not able to come up with a retort, “Point taken. But I’ve broken it before, what’s the worst that can happen?”
The Monk clapped his shoulder, “Theta, you splintered your own timeline.”
The Doctor can recall a time he spent with Dodo where she told him about how sometimes when she gets particularly anxious, she’ll freeze up for a bit. She had also told him some things she’ll do to keep that in check, but he wasn’t paying attention to that, because he was a doddering old fool back then. He wished he could remember Dodo’s advice, as it would be particularly useful in this instance. He couldn’t bear to move; sure, he’d been careless before at times, but he always tried his best to uphold the Laws of Time. Well, the important ones anyway. After what felt like an eternity, he spoke again, “This couldn’t have just happened by jumping over to my future. The planet I was heading to before you caught me, was it Gallifrey?”
“Of course it was Gallifrey.”
“What was happening to it?”
“I don’t know, and I’m not particularly interested in finding out.”
“But what if they’re in danger? What if we can save-”
“Enough, Doctor. You’ve already messed things up as it is.”
“What exactly did I do?”
“Well, until you get to whatever point in your timeline you were hurtling towards, the normal way might I add, things are going to branch out for you, as it were. Once you go back inside your TARDIS, things will start happening congruently. You could have one of your little humans sent off to school one minute, and in the next, they’re turned into a Cyberman or starting up a charity or who knows what else? Seriously, Doctor, you need to pay attention to-”
“I understand, Monk. No offense, but I think I’m a little better at minding the Laws of Time than you are.”
“You’re just as bad as I am, sometimes even worse depending on the day. I just like screwing around on backwater planets.”
The Doctor put his foot down. Not literally, mind you. “Earth is not a backwater planet. You know very well its significance in the web of time.”
“Oh? Tell me, do you go there so frequently because of its importance, or is it so important because you go there so frequently?”
There’s a lot of things that the Doctor really doesn’t like, and one high bullet point on the list is admitting when the Monk was right. He continued, “You know, I’m getting kind of sick of you thinking you’re better than all of us.”
“The Master? Fine, he’s a tool anyway. The Rani? I can see where you’re coming from. But you hardly ever seem happy to see any of the other middle-ground type renegades. Me, Drax, Iris, you almost seem like you’re happier with whichever human you have on board.”
“I prefer the company of my companions because they-”
“Because they what? They aren’t renegades? You wear that title like a badge of honor and yet you avoid any other Time Lord with that same label! If we were all on Earth, do you have any idea how stuck up you’d seem? Trying to be the most honorable of the college dropouts just because you don’t step on ants intentionally?”
There are very few times that the Doctor genuinely felt like he lost, and most of them were when he was playing chess with K9. He didn’t like the Monk’s comparison of other species to ants, but that was a nitpick at best. He bowed his head. “You’re right, Monk. I apologize for my behavior towards you.” He went to sit down at a nearby cliff, and the Monk soon joined him. Neither spoke for a while. The sky had just turned a brilliant shade of fuschia, and the wind was gently lapping at the grass. Eventually, the Doctor broke the silence with, “This isn’t the first time I’ve been made aware of what’s to come.”
The Monk sighed. “You feel it too?”
“Ever since my first body, I’ve been fed inklings of a war breaking out. Can I tell you something?”
“I can’t really stop you, can I?”
“I’m afraid of what will happen to Gallifrey. I may avoid it as much as I like, but a part of me will always think of it as home. I don’t know what I’ll have to do, but I think I may be the only one to stop it.”
This made the Monk think for a moment. “I know that you want to save as many people as you can, and if I’m being honest a part of me has always admired you for that. When the moment comes, I have faith that you’ll do what you think is best for the universe.”
“I hope so. A universe like this one is truly special.”
And they sat there. Not as rival Time Lords, or as one scolding the other. Simply as friends, enjoying each other’s company in a way they don’t get to do as often as they should. The Doctor eventually asked, “What will you do when it begins?”
“I think I’ll go into hiding. If there’s one thing I agree with you on, it’s that we’re not meant for war.”
“I see. Once I step back in my TARDIS, the splintering takes effect?”
“I believe so, yes.”
“What does it feel like?”
“If I’m being honest, disorienting. But you get used to it.”
“How do you know so much about this phenomenon?”
“The same way I learned about a lot of the consequences of messing with time. The hard way.”
They both laughed at that. The Doctor then tipped his hat, and went back to his ship. His beautiful Type 40 TARDIS. As it made its great, elephantine roar, the Monk said to himself, “He really needs to stop leaving the brakes on.”
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This story is great! I enjoyed it thoroughly and it clarifies things greatly while still leaving things open. I love it. Thank you.