If there’s one thing we can all agree on about drama, it’s that nothing ruins a film/book/comic/anecdote-told-at-a-party more than a gaping plot hole.
You know the type of paradox we are talking about….a event that occurs in a story, despite the fact that the rules of the fictional universe in which the story takes place expressly forbid it. That’s not to be confused with a nonsensical plot point, which ruins a film/comic/dirty-joke on a equally deep level.
As an example, a plot hole is Superman almost dying just by being in the same room as a Kryptonite spear, yet then being able to safely hold that spear for several minutes while attacking Doomsday.
A nonsensical plot point is Dumbeldore permitting Hermonine Granger to use a magical watch to travel back in time to earn extra class credits, yet not using it to travel back in time and kill Voldemort when he is taking a nap.
Now, in a show about time travel that has been running for over half a century, a few plot holes are to be expected. Nobody has the time to cross check the entire continuity of DW lore to ensure what they are writing has not been contradicted in a previous episode. Yet, there are several occurences of plots negating themselves that detract from the viewer’s experience….and here’s 5 of them.
Early on in Classic Who, it was established that Time Lords “have this little trick, sort of a way of cheating death” and that said process can be repeated 12 times, permitting Gallifreyans to live 13 lives. NuWho laid out some exceptions to the rule, for instance if death was instantaneous or if too much damage was done to the body, regeneration might not suceed. Yet one thing that was maintained throughout Classic and Nu was the rule of 13 being the end for a Time Lord.
Through the course of NuWho, we witnessed the Doctor change from 9 to 10, half regenerate in The Stolen Earth, and when Name Of The Doctor ripped a hole through our minds by revealing that a previoulsy unseen (and grumpier) version of The Doctor had fought in the Time War, well you can do the math; Matt Smith should have been the end of the road.
Except that…. on several occasions, 11 mentioned that he could in fact, regenerate. In Let’s Kill Hitler, while talking to the TARDIS, he suggests regenerating to vanquish the poison River Song injected into his blood stream. And later, in Nightmare in Sliver, while mentally battling a Cyber doppleganger, he again claims that he could “regenerate any time I like” to escape. But 11 clearly also knows he is the last one…by The Time Of The Doctor he insists to Clara that 10’s meta crisis and the War Doctor both counted as regenerations, thus leaving on him death’s doorstep. Was 11 (really 13) lying to himself? In denial? Suffering temporary amnesia?
Of course, the real world answer was that at the time of those episodes contradicting the Regeneration Rule, the writers had no idea the War Doctor existed, thus making The Name Of The Doctor one of the genre’s biggest retcons.
It’s too bad this plot hole cropped up, as these inconsistencies (and the fact that the Time Lord council can apparently pony up a new regeneration cycle to anyone, anytime they like) has watered down Regeneration’s dramatic tension.
POSSIBLE RESOLUTION: Steven Moffat meekly attempted to counteract this by claiming The Doctor doesn’t keep strict track of his bodies, but other than that, umm….no, got nothing.
REAPING OF DESPERATION
In Series One of NuWho, Paul Cornell’s 80’s centric episode Father’s Day set about to fiirmly establish what happens in the Doctor’s universe in the event of a temporal paradox. The tear jerker story laid out that some events were fixed; The Doctor could see that certain points in the timeline must always happen, lest flying bat creatures that looked like rejects from a Jurrasic Park audition would come soaring into seal the fracture and kill anything that shouldn’t be there. Which is exactly what happens when Rose alters time and saves her Dad from dying.
Except…the Reapers were never seen or mentioned again. This despite the fact that The Doctor expressly alters “fixed” events in The Water of Mars and The Wedding of River Song, and that Rory and Amy do so again in Angels Take Manhattan. And then in Hide, it’s mentioned that paradoxes basically “resolve themselves”.
It’s too bad that the Reaper issue damages the otherwise touching story of Father’s Day (which we think is one of the more dramatic moments in the series)
POSSIBLE RESOLUTION: The Reapers were sucked into the Void in Doomsday.
Every Whovian worth his/her salt knows that the Doctor’s police box is in fact an ancient ship with an acronym for a name; TARDIS was established in the very first episode of the series by the very first companion, Susan. And she should know, since according to the dialogue in an Unearthly Child, Susan came up with the title for her Grandfather’s ship.
Except…when Gallifrey and the Time Lords are introduced, they also refer to their own vessels as TARDIS, which doesn’t make sense if Susan was the one who devised the moniker. It’s unlikley that a random girl on a planet of billions would be charged with the responsibilty of naming the species most important vessel.
POSSIBLE RESOLUTION: The TARDIS translation circuit translates any word the Time Lords have for “TARDIS” into a acronym to help humanoid’s understand the principals of the operation of the ship, as opposed to it’s actual Gallifreyan “name”
Episode 2 of the Classic series was by far the most important in the entire show’s existence, in that it introduced one of Sci-Fi’s greatest villains and (literally) overnight propelled Doctor Who from obscure Saturday afternoon show to mega hit in the UK. Without the Pepper pot baddies, there is no way The Doctor would have carried on for five more decades. Yet in the continuity of the series, these very famous best enemies have a contradictory backstory.
In The Dead Planet, it’s established that the Daleks had mutated from an ancestor species called the Dals who had been forced into war but became monsters after attempting to poison their atmosphere.
Except…in Genesis Of The Daleks the Fourth Doctor travels back to the time of the Dalek’s birth and finds that the Daleks were in fact, genetically engineered by Davros as offshoots of a race called the Kaleds, not Dals.
POSSIBLE RESOLUTION: Luckily, this discrepancy is easier to resolve than others, as it is established firmly in The End Of Time that one “front” in the Time War was history itself, implying that the Time Lords altered Dalek history during the conflict. (Indeed, Russel T Davies suggested that the Doctor’s mission in Genesis might have been the catalyst for the war itself)
Another possibility is that the Daleks wiped Davros and Kaleds from their official history to distance themselves from the idea that a “pure” race such as themselves could have evolved from inferior beings or been the brainchild of a single mind.
UNITS OF MEASUREMENT
Probably the most famous plot hole in the series is the confused history of Earth’s Unified Intelligence Task Force. Introduced in 1968’s The Invasion (although Lethbridge-Stewart and the roots of the organization firs appeared first in the The Web of Fear) the organization eventually offered the Doctor a “job” as a Scientific Advisor for the years of his Earth exile.
Although a firm date is never specified in the early years of the show, in Madrwyn Undead it is established that the Brigadier retired from UNIT in 1976, thus placing the on screen events of Spearhead From Space to Terror of the Zygons before then.
Except….in Pyramids of Mars, Sarah Jane explains that she is from 1980, even though she clearly knew the Doctor during his time with UNIT. There are plenty of other references to the “dating controversy” in NuWho, but nobody offers any kind of explanation as to why the timeline is so distorted.
POSSIBLE RESOLUTION: The Doctor’s constant attempts to get the TARDIS working during his time with UNIT resulted in minor temporal changes to the immediate timeline.
Are there plot holes that drive you crazy in DW? Let us know in the comments! And if you have an idea for a topic, please get in touch with us! We’d love to feature your stuff!