Steven Moffat On How The Doctor Changed His Trenzalore Fate

By David Wharton | Published

This article is more than 2 years old

TrenzaloreThe one-two punch of The Day of the Doctor and The Time of the Doctor ticked off some major bullet points for the franchise. Paid homage to the show’s five decades of history? Check. Reunited several Doctors past and present? Yup. Revised the Who mythology so the show can keep on trucking for another 50 years? You bet. But they did leave a few unanswered questions. For one, how did the Doctor avoid the death on Trenzalore that he’d already seen the evidence of only a few episodes before?

If you recall, the seventh season finale “The Name of the Doctor” presented the time lord with a grave fate, both literally and metaphorically. On the bleak surface of Trenzalore, he saw his own final resting place, entombed within his TARDIS, grown to gargantuan size after the loss of its master. Inside, all that was left of the Doctor was a “temporal fissure” representing his timeline. So…how exactly did he avoid that fate, which had been previously categorized as something that he couldn’t avoid? (And yes, we realize the futility of asking questions like that in a show about time travel…)

Well, a recent issue of Doctor Who Magazine cornered showrunner Steven Moffat and asked that very question. But Moffat decided to hand the question off to somebody with a more intimate knowledge of the situation: the Doctor himself. So here’s what Moffat the Doctor had to say:

Changing time is tricky. It’s a bit like a detective story: so as long there isn’t an actual body, you’ve got a certain amount of wiggle room — for instance, if the body has, rather conveniently, been burned on a boat in Utah. Here’s the thing: I can change the future so long as the future has not already been established as part of my own past. I can’t rescue Amy and Rory because I already know that I didn’t.

But what do I know about Trenzalore? There’s a big monument that looks very like my Tardis. There’s a temporal fissure leading to my timeline. Maybe it’s my grave. Maybe, one day, it’s my burial ground. Maybe it is something else entirely, and we got it all wrong. Don’t know. Don’t plan to find out for as long as possible. The main thing is, Clara still jumped into my time stream, and ended up helping me through all of my life. All that is established, unchanged – but there’s wiggle room!

Never, ever underestimate the importance of wiggle room.

Well, that’s one lingering question (sort of) answered by one half of the Doctor (the mind). So why not toss another one at the other half (the body)? I’m talking here about the Eleventh Doctor himself, Matt Smith, who was asked at Calgary Expo a while back why more of the Classic Doctors weren’t brought in for the Day of the Doctor anniversary special. Honestly, it’s sort of an unfair question to lob at him, since that sort of decision was above his pay grade, but he was quick to say how happy he was that they did get to bring in David Tennant and Tom Baker (not to mention John Hurt as the new/old War Doctor). “I think there’s always an argument to say ‘get as many Doctors in as possible,’” said Smith, “but I also think practically there are constraints.”

Smith did, however, specifically address the absence of Ninth Doctor Christopher Eccleston, who would have completed the trifecta of the three “modern” Doctors. “It would have been nice to get Chris Eccleston,” said Smith. “I love Chris’ Doctor and I think he’s great. Maybe one day.” Sixtieth anniversary, anyone? Sadly, Eccleston seems to be very much done with the show, so we’re not holding our breath.

As for the other classic Doctors, The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot was a pretty satisfying consolation prize if you ask me.