With Russell T Davies becoming the new Doctor Who showrunner in 2023, will the events of ‘The Timeless Children’ be undone?
The 2020 episode ‘The Timeless Children’ split opinion during its original broadcast. It rewrote a considerable chunk of Doctor Who history, revealing that William Hartnell wasn’t, in fact, the First Doctor, and that the Doctor wasn’t really a Time Lord. Well – she still is, in a way. But it turns out that she was partly responsible for the founding of Gallifreyan society, and the Time Lords’ regenerative abilities all stem from her. In reality, she comes from a different dimension, and was first discovered as a little girl by the traveller Tecteun.
Obviously, the events described in ‘The Timeless Children‘ are vastly different from the established Doctor Who canon. Certainly, Russell T Davies never revealed much (if anything) about the Doctor’s origins during his original tenure as showrunner. Indeed, he adhered quite strictly to Doctor Who lore, merely building on it rather than re-building it.
Will Russell T Davies retcon the Timeless Child?
There are certainly some fans who would like things to go back to the way they once were, with William Hartnell being the canonical First Doctor.
But at the same time, there are some who welcomed the brave new direction that this new backstory signalled. And it could prove difficult to rewrite a storyline of this magnitude, because the revelation about the Timeless Child came from deep within the Gallifreyan Matrix – a data repository that is difficult to tamper with.
At the same, we all know that time can be rewritten, and there are a number of routes that Russell T Davies could go down if he decided to undo ‘The Timeless Children.’
First, it’s important to remember that the revelation about the Doctor’s true identity came from her deadliest enemy, the Master. He is not known for his truthfulness, and he would have had every reason to fudge with the Doctor’s head. So, it could be that the Master simply made up this elaborate story and seeded it within the Matrix in order to taunt one of his oldest enemies.
But there are a number of problems with this idea. First, there is the Ruth Doctor, who is certainly not a fake. (In Series 12, she was revealed to be one of the Doctor’s many forgotten incarnations.) So we would still need an explanation as to how she fits into Doctor Who canon. We must also question if the Master would really go to such elaborate lengths to trick the Doctor. Would he really weave such a complex yarn and bury it within the Matrix? Wouldn’t there be easier ways to make the Doctor suffer?
Probably. But even if we assume that the Master was being truthful in ‘The Timeless Children,’ there is still the possibility that he was mistaken. How could he really be sure that the Timeless Child was the Doctor? And even if he was, we know from previous Doctor Who stories that the Matrix can be tampered with. So it’s possible that some other hostile agent could have gone into the Matrix and altered its records, unbeknownst to the Master.
Alternatively, there is the possibility that ‘The Timeless Children’ all took place in a parallel universe. This may sound far-fetched, but in reality it’s not too much of a stretch; parallel universes are aplenty in Doctor Who, and new timelines are constantly being formed. It’s possible that the Doctor and her companions could, at some point, have slipped into a parallel reality which contained an alternative version of the Doctor, with an alternative backstory.
And there could be more weight to this theory than you think. Remember, throughout Series 12 the Master is shown to be alive and well, despite having been definitively “killed” at the end of ‘The Doctor Falls.’ There should have been no way for him to regenerate, and yet he returns without explanation. It would make perfect sense if ‘The Timeless Children’ all took place in a parallel universe, complete with a parallel version of the Master.
But would Russell T Davies really go so far as to undo ‘The Timeless Children‘? It’s hard to say. The BBC’s Director of Drama Piers Wenger indicated that Russell T Davies’ Doctor Who would continue on the current trajectory, saying that “we are thrilled that Russell is returning to Doctor Who to build on the huge achievements of Chris and Jodie.” This suggests that the new Russell T Davies era could expand on the events of ‘The Timeless Children,’ rather than undo them. Although, in fairness, it’s hard to extract any kind of future plot details from a statement of this kind.
Plus, it may well be that Doctor Who fans don’t want ‘The Timeless Children’ to be retconned. The revelations certainly divided opinion, but there were some people who welcomed the changes. Equally, there were some who felt that ‘The Timeless Children’ veered too far from the Doctor they knew and loved.
Of course, Doctor Who will always divide opinion among fans, and whatever Russell T Davies (or any future showrunner) does, they are unlikely to please everybody.
How do you feel about ‘The Timeless Children’ situation? Would you like the events to be undone? Or would you like Russell T Davies to continue to explore the Doctor’s new backstory? Let me know in the comments below.
Click here for our other post: ‘One year on: How do you feel about The Timeless Children?’
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