In Season 3 of the the revived Doctor Who, the Doctor and Martha Jones go back in time to 1599 London, where they defeat the villainous Carrionites, who were most likely going to destroy, or at least take over, Earth. With all that not happening in the events of "Turn Left," why doesn't the world end?

  • 3
    Well, the world still existed before the Doctor went back to beat up the Carrionites, so apparently they just cancelled the appointment when he didn't show.
    – Radhil
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 3:46
  • Can you please explain why you believed the world should have ended? Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 6:42
  • 21
    "People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually — from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint — it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly... timey-wimey... stuff." - The Tenth Doctor. It's better not to think too hard about the mechanics of time travel in the Doctor Who universe. The general principle is "yes, there are rules how it works, but those rules are incomprehensible to anyone who is not a timelord".
    – Philipp
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 12:06
  • @Philipp aaahh, the old "wibbly-wobbly... timey-wimey" school of temporal Physics. Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 17:08
  • 1
    @Philipp In other words, there are no real rules, whatever the writers think will make a good episode is what the "rules" are, regardless if it contradicts every other instance of time travel in the show. This is true of everything in Doctor Who, the whole show is just a performance piece on how you can get people to watch the hackiest writing imaginable if you make it seem "epic" enough.
    – GreySage
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 22:21

2 Answers 2


It is true that, in the Turn Left universe, the Doctor died during the events of The Runaway Bride and so was not able to take part in any of the events shown in seasons 3 and 4. In Turn Left we see the consequences of the Doctor not intervening in the events of Smith and Jones, Voyage of the Damned, Partners in Crime and The Poison Sky.

I think it is wrong to assume that because the Doctor could not help to foil plan of the Carrionites (as described in the Season 3 episode The Shakespeare Code), that the plan must necessarily have succeeded. As the Doctor tells Donna at the end of Turn Left, the universe is capable of compensating when time is interfered with.

Just got lucky, this thing. It's one of the Trickster's Brigade. Changes a life in tiny little ways. Most times, the universe just compensates around it, but with you? Great big parallel world.

So if the Doctor wasn't able to intervene, we can assume that the universe compensated by having the Carrionites plan fail for some other reason. Perhaps Shakespeare figured it out on his own, or Captain Jack showed up instead of the Doctor. Or perhaps the Carrionites were distracted by a butterfly that Martha would have stepped on if she had been there with the Doctor.

MARTHA: It's like in the films. You step on a butterfly, you change the future of the human race.

DOCTOR: Tell you what then, don't step on any butterflies. What have butterflies ever done to you?

  • 1
    one can say the universe was already compensating in Turn Left where in Smith and Jones if i recall half the world didn't burn thanks to the Plasmavore (remember her plan was to wipe out the Judoon, steal one of their ships and escape, she was setting this up before The Doctor found her), in The Poison Sky Tourchwood sacrificed themselves to stop the Sontarans with Rose saying Jack teleported to the Sontaran homeworld and i recall Sarah Jane Smith being reported as being killed at some point (i think it was Smith and Jones)
    – Memor-X
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 5:39

It's basically a grandfather paradox.

  • The alternate timeline of Turn Left was created when (alternate) Donna chose to turn right instead of left.
  • If the (alternate) world had ended in 1599, then (alternate) Donna would never have been born.
  • So, she would not have been able to make the decision to turn left or right.
  • So, the alternate timeline could not have been created.
  • 4
    This, plus the fact that the universe of Doctor Who is documented to have a self-editing capability that resolves paradoxes.
    – Jules
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 13:13
  • 2
    I disagree. An alternate timeline was created, which resolves paradoxes. Donna from the original timeline caused the creation of the altered timeline, not some hypothetical non-existent Donna from the altered timeline itself. Either way, this does not address the question. Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 14:11
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit It does answer the question, just not in a way that you agree with. "Why didn't the world end? Because that would have been a paradox." (and the other answer says a similar thing, just with more quotes and better wording)
    – Adeptus
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 23:52
  • 1
    @Adeptus: No, it's not that I disagree with the answer (though I do, for the given reason), I'm saying it's not an answer to this question at all (for the other given reason, which I introduced with the phrase "either way")! Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 1:28
  • Updated. "Real" Donna turned left. "Alternate" Donna turned right, which changed the sequence of events / created the alternate timeline. (And "Either way, this does not address the question" does not give a reason)
    – Adeptus
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 2:08

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.