Gallifrey Falls No More: Doctor Who’s Ontology of Time

Journal of Science Fiction and Philosophy 2:1-21 (2019)
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Despite being time-travel adventure series, both classic Doctor Who (1963-1989, 1996) and its reboot (2005-present) have not seen the development of a coherent ontology of time for their fictional universe. As such, it is extremely difficult to review established theories of the nature of time in an attempt to shoe-horn Doctor Who into an existing framework. Difficulties include the evolution of the views of the central character, the alien “Doctor,” from a position that insists “time can’t be rewritten” to its opposite as well as a curious anthropomorphizing of the temporal through show concepts like “fixed points in time.” I argue that one way to draw a coherent philosophy of time from the program is to treat the Time Lords as establishing not only the possibility of time travel but also the universe’s timeline itself. This leads to an examination of four-dimensional realism as characterizing the ontology of Doctor Who’s fictive timeline.

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Kevin Decker
Eastern Washington University


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