In season 5 of Doctor Who, the Doctor is sealed in the ultimate prison (the Pandorica). It can only be opened from the outside (one wonders why the Pandorica would be designed to be opened after being sealed at all, but I digress). The Doctor manages to escape by travelling to the past and leaving clues for his companions so that they can let him out so that he can travel to the past and leave clues for his companions so that they can let him out so that he can travel to the past and you can probably get the point I am trying to make now. How did the Doctor manage to get out of the Pandorica to set this infinite loop into motion?

  • 14
    Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey?
    – Kris
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 8:22
  • 8
    Because terrible writing.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 8:29
  • 3
    “I cannot deny that this is incredibly lazy writing” — lazy how? Time travel is fictional, it’s not like we’ve tried this sort of time travel in real life and established that it’s not the sort of time travel that can work. What sort of explanation would you want? Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 12:38
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    @MagikarpMaster The point of the ontological paradox is to present a story that is internally consistent but has no beginning nor end. It's similar to a stage magician's tricks; they lose some of their appeal if you know how they're done.
    – phyrfox
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 16:47
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    Nope, The Doctor got all the info, including the full script, from Sally herself, who had compiled it all at the end of the episode and handed it to a version of The Doctor who had not yet been zapped by the angels, and was at the time dealing with 4 things.... and a lizard. Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 14:37

2 Answers 2


This is a case of the writer paradox.

The events can only unfold because the events have already happened.

This type of paradox has been use multiple times throughout the series. But they clearly point it out in the episodes Under The Lake and Before The Flood in season 9.

In these episodes, the Doctor clearly insists on the fact that they experienced a paradox, but leaves it at that. And even though he followed the paradox, he never created it.

On a meta level Events that are shown to us are only the most entertaining timeline/alternate reality. So every timeline where it is interesting to see this paradox happen, we see it.

Digression : That's why we follow the Curtis family in the movie 2012, because they are the one who makes it. Similarly, we only see the reality where the Doctor makes it (most of the time).

The Pandorica is a special case though Indeed, every reality where this paradox didn't happen has been destroyed. So the paradox must happen. So there is no other reality to show us.

  • 2
    Great answer. My one quibble would be the fact that saying "the paradox must have happened" carries no explanatory power, and is instead a statement of fact. But this is a small quibble as there may in-fact be no actual explanation. Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 8:48
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    @MagikarpMaster : True that it is not an explanation, but in this vision of the show where "we see only the interesting timelines" it is a particularity worth noting.
    – Edelk
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 8:54
  • I could not agree more @Edelk Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 8:57
  • A great example of this paradox are the mini-episodes "Space" and "Time", aired during the 2011 BBC Comic Relief. The Doctor literally sets a looping event in motion by simply expecting it to happen. He doesn't know which control he needs to use, until he realises he can find out from his future self, because his future self has already solved the problem. Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 14:34

Technically, the reason the Doctor went back in time was because he had a mop and fez, and Rory pointed out that was how he looked in the past. This is what is referred to as a “temporal causality loop.” In other words, The Doctor getting freed from the Pandorica and him going back in time are both the cause AND effect of the other. It’s similar to the ending of the Doctor Who short “Time,” in which the TARDIS was inside itself but a little bit in the future, meaning if you entered it you would be transported slightly back in time. At the end, the Doctor needed to know which lever to push, and the future Doctor comes in and tells him, after which the present Doctor goes into the police box. Neither of these events could have happened without the other.

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