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  • Writer's pictureAaron Fonseca

Doctor Who: How the Doctor Started the Time War

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When Doctor Who returned to television in 2005, there had been a major change to the sci-fi series' status quo. The Doctor was still a Time Lord, traveling through time and space in his TARDIS with a human companion, fending off the forces of evil. Now, though, he was the last of the Time Lords.


In the classic series of Doctor Who, the Time Lords were very much alive and well. They were the cause of the Second Doctor's regeneration into the Third and a frequent source of frustration for the Doctor, who had long been rebelling against their arcane laws. However, when Doctor Who returned after its 16-year hiatus, the Time Lords had been annihilated along with the Doctor's greatest enemy, the Daleks. The Doctor himself had dealt the killing blow, in order to bring the Last Great Time War to an end. What the series didn't reveal, however, was that the Doctor was also the one who started the war.


Russell T Davies Confirmed the Fourth Doctor Started the Time War


The origins of the Time War have not been directly addressed in any televised Doctor Who stories. However, writer and returning showrunner Russell T Davies once hinted at the war's origins in one of Doctor Who's best loved classic serials. In a piece titled "Meet the Doctor," written for the 2006 Doctor Who Annual, Davies examined the events that led up to the outbreak of the war between Time Lords and Daleks. In particular, he pointed to the Fourth Doctor serial "Genesis of the Daleks" as "the first shot" fired in the Time War.

"Genesis of the Daleks" saw Tom Baker's Fourth Doctor tasked with a covert mission by the Time Lords. The Doctor's people had foreseen a time in which the Daleks would destroy all other life, becoming the dominant life form in the universe. In order to prevent that eventuality, they sent the Doctor back to the Daleks' beginnings on Skaro in an effort to prevent or alter their creation, or at least to discover a weakness that could be exploited. Davies referred to this effort as an "act of genocide," provoking the Daleks to declare all-out war on the Time Lords.


From Genesis of the Daleks to the Time War


Russell T Davies' explanation of the Time War's origin also includes references to other key Dalek stories from Doctor Who history. Davies mentions an effort by the Daleks to replace members of the Time Lord High Council with Dalek duplicates, as seen in 1984's "Resurrection of the Daleks," as well as the Dalek Emperor's open declaration of hostilities in 1988's "Remembrance of the Daleks." However, it is the Fourth Doctor's intervention in the Daleks' creation that lays the earliest foundations for conflict between Skaro and Gallifrey.

The Time War offered a shakeup that Doctor Who needed when the series came back to television. It reinvigorated the Doctor as a character and infused his confrontations with the Daleks with a fresh, personal pain. Casting the Doctor as the Time Lord who ended the war, killing his own people and billions of Daleks, also added new depth and darkness to his character, retooling him for a more dramatic role in a version of Doctor Who that had been retooled for modern audiences. The subsequent revelation that the Doctor was also the cause of the Time War further develops his inner conflict, as well as his outward conflict with his greatest enemy.



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