Spoilers for The Name of the Doctor

It is unclear to me what are the exact effects for someone who enters the Doctor's time stream.

Clara goes in to save the Doctor. But given the two scenarios we know (Dalek asylum and victorian London), she doesn't even remember the Doctor. Yes, she saves him, but not because "oh boy there's the Doctor, I came here to save him", but rather because of a certain turn of events throughout the episodes (a.k.a fate/luck).

So what guarantees that Clara's sacrifice to save the Doctor would actually work, if none of her copies actually remember a thing about the Doctor?

A possible answer would be "well, the fact that the Doctor reached Trenzalore alive proves that her clones did the job correctly, one way or another". Which makes sense, but, is there not a better explanation?

5 Answers 5


It's the souffle.

Her echoes don't actually know they exist for the purpose of saving the Doctor. Remember that Clara actually became an expert in computers in her first true apparition, when her mind was taken by WiFi in the cluster. This makes her an expert in making recipes.

Being capable of seeing all of the Doctor's timeline, Clara makes her echoes with the purpose of saving the Doctor, but they don't actually know about it. Like the souffle is not the souffle but the recipe, the echoes are not the purpose but the recipe that involves the possibility to save the Doctor -- or the impossibility of the "Impossible Girl".

Echoes will be always cooking the souffle possibility, even without milk.

  • 8
    I think this is the right answer-- it's very much a "feels" answer, which is the kind of thing Moffat loves-- but it suffers from terminal formatting and I'm not sure I can salvage it without putting too much of myself into the answer. Please try to edit it yourself, because the content of this answer deserves so much more in presentation.
    – BESW
    Commented May 20, 2013 at 14:39
  • 1
    Is this the new "Timey wimey"? :) Commented May 20, 2013 at 15:27
  • 2
    Crikey, that's a really beautiful answer. I think you nailed it. "Echoes will be always cooking the souffle possibility, even without milk" - I'm having that for my gravestone. Commented May 21, 2013 at 9:40
  • 1
    I speak Spanish, I really appreciate your edits Commented May 21, 2013 at 14:36

Edit: I think @gustavodiazjaimes's answer nails it.

given the two scenarios we know (Dalek asylum and victorian London), she doesn't even remember the Doctor

We know at least one other scenario though:

When the first Doctor was about to steal a Tardis, Clara deliberately advised him to steal a different one. Therefore presumably this fragment remembered the Doctor, and the fact that he stole a defective Tardis.

The episode said that when Clara entered the Doctor's time stream, she was split into a million pieces, and scattered throughout his timestream, in order to stop the Great Intelligence from destroying him throughout it.

Thus it's kind of wrong to think of one Clara travelling through his timestream - it's more like lots of fragments of Clara, some presumably with more memory of her purpose and origins than others. (For example, Dalek Asylum Clara was a computer genius. That might be because she was actually a Dalek, or because she retained the computer skills that Original Clara gained in The Bells of Saint John.)

It's possible that for the fragments with less memory, something in the back of her mind encouraged her to pursue and/or help this strange man, despite not being consciously aware of why.

I don't think anything guaranteed that the sacrifice would work:

The Doctor's time stream is his corpse. It's there because he's dead. It’s not situation that's been encountered before. The Doctor told Clara that entering his timestream would kill her, but at the end of the episode she met the Doctor, and remembered what her fragments had done. Presumably her fragments were put back together again, and encountered the Doctor - still, it seems, inside his own corpse - so I think we're somewhat through the looking glass on this one.

  • 7
    But there's an alternative explanation for the 'other scenario', which is that in this life she was presumably born and raised on Gallifrey, which could have given her more knowledge of the time stream. Commented May 20, 2013 at 14:58
  • @DanielRoseman: aha, very true. Commented May 20, 2013 at 15:45
  • My problem with the 'other scenario' is that we have no idea what happened before that scene (maybe Clara met the Doctor and became friends and thus she wanted to help him just 'cause etc)
    – Saturn
    Commented May 21, 2013 at 6:16

When the Great Intelligence steps into the Doctor's tangled timeline, it inserted its vast intellectual and mental capacities directly into the Doctors most critical moments. Being an entity with vast powers itself, it could rewrite any history not fixed in space-time. There were plenty of moments which relied on the Doctor making a single decision which had the potential to alter the very fabric of the Universe itself.

The Great Intelligence's snowglobe in Dr Walter Simeon's institute. (TV: The Snowmen)

The Great Intelligence's snowglobe in Dr Walter Simeon's institute. (TV: The Snowmen) 19th Century Earth, the second critical juncture where the Doctor becomes aware of Clara's importance/curiosity.

  • The goal of the Great Intelligence was to undermine the Doctor's work. As an enemy of the Time Lords, the Great Old Ones were a formidable threat. The Great Intelligence has no vested interest in our Universe, so its destruction is of no concern, it will simply move on to the next.

  • It is immaterial that Clara remember who she is or why she is there. As a matter of fact, it might be best for her if she did not remember. It would likely be a burden to her to spend her fragmented lives wondering when or if she would ever see the Doctor.

  • Her very presence in all of the places she will eventually appear gives the Doctor's timeline a form of temporal immunization. Her efforts will not always be successful, but without her, the Great Intelligence has the ability to ensure his efforts will always thwart the Doctor's because he has foreknowledge of what will occur (being at all places in the Doctor's timeline)

  • Why Clara matters is she has/will pique the interest of the Doctor enough to slowly realize she is the "Impossible Girl" appearing all across time and space and eventually in enough critical junctures for him to realize there is something wrong and right about her. It does not mean he can correct the efforts of the Great Intelligence, only that he will eventually know of his existence in the Doctor's timeline and the Doctor will attempt/has attempted to compensate over his life.

  • Think of the Great Intelligence as a temporal infection and Clara's presence as a form temporal serum. Won't always work, but without her coaching, cajoling, teasing, intriguing and occasionally actual help, the Doctor might be more vulnerable to the constant hidden threat of the Great Intelligence.


She answered: "I don't know where I am, I just know that I'm running [...] to save the doctor." She remembers to save the doctor, even if she doesn't know him. It's like an instinct she had in all her echoes.


I guess this answer is a bit simplistic, but I have decided not to over think it. I say that when the GI entered his time stream, he changed all of the doctors successes into failures, but by the mere fact that Clara entered the time stream, the Great Intelligence's presence throughout the doctor's life was replaced with hers. She doesn't necessarily need to do anything. The fact that she is there, and not the GI, is what makes the difference. She always has the inclination to "save" him, because that was Clara's intention when she entered the stream. But most of the time she does not have to do anything but be there. I think that makes sense?

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.