8

In Series One of the reboot, Rose and the doctor travel to the day Rose's father died (Father's Day) and she (against the Doctor's warning about changing fixed events) saves her father.

My question pertains to those dragon-like creatures that "clean the wound." Have they appeared in other episodes? If not, why not? The Doctor now frequently changes fixed points, but I have not seen them appear to clean the new wounds he has created.

8

No, they have not re-appeared.

The reapers were only ever seen on screen (barring flashbacks of that event in The Eleventh Hour) in Father's Day.

Prior to the Last Great Time War, the Time Lords (as part of their self-appointed mission to impose universal continuity; they basically invented the idea that paradoxes are bad) were able to prevent the reapers from attacking paradoxes, instead using their technology to avert, prevent, fix, heal, or mitigate such things depending on the needs of the individual situation. (This is the in-universe reason that time travel logic is totally inconsistent in the show: time was pretty laid-back about causality until the Time Lords made it their business to keep it in shape, and they have several different ways to do this, at least one of which probably partially survived the LGTW.)

As for why reapers haven't appeared since... well, the universe has been re-booted at least once and the history of the LGTW has been re-written, among other things which could justify the reapers no longer existing at all. But none of these is even hinted at on-screen. The reapers are just forgotten.

My personal theory is that they're basically vultures of the time vortex, and pretty rare, so it's possible but unlikely that they'll show up at any given paradoxical event--and they may shy away from the REALLY BIG stuff like the second Big Bang.

Practically speaking though, it's obvious why they never showed up again: they're a lousy concept to insist on in a show that's all about mucking around with time travel, because they put strict limits on how you can do that without winding up with the same basic plot every time. Doctor Who has never been interested in sacrificing cool ideas on the altar of continuity.

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  • "as part of their self-appointed mission to impose universal continuity; they basically invented the idea that paradoxes are bad" -- is this just your own interpretation or do you think some episode(s) suggested this was the Time Lords' invention? In The Angels Take Manhattan the Doctor said one more paradox "would rip New York apart", which suggests an objective danger rather than a mere Time Lord preference. – Hypnosifl Mar 20 '14 at 5:01
  • @Hypnosifl It's not really stated explicitly on screen, but the audio stories explore it pretty in-depth. If you want to know more, I suggest you start by reading about the Web of Time and the Laws of Time: The Time Lords imposed order on an unordered continuity. Without the Web of Time, "fixed points" and other paradox issues would be less important, if they existed at all. It's theorised that post-LGTW, the Web of Time remains--but in tatters, causing the weirdness we see in New Who time travel. – BESW Mar 20 '14 at 5:06
  • That is, the Web of Time trying to fix the paradoxes would be what rips New York apart, not the paradoxes themselves. But then, I'd prefer to pretend that whole episode never happened because it makes no sense but insists on explaining itself anyway. If you want more details, maybe take it to chat. – BESW Mar 20 '14 at 5:07
  • @Hypnosifl If you're willing to go to the more esoteric end of Doctor Who, it's explicitly stated that the Time Lords created history as we understand it. – evilsoup Mar 20 '14 at 15:46
  • Question are you stating that The Time Lords created the Reapers? Because you just said that Timelords basically invented the fact that paradoxes were bad, meaning that the Reapers were from the Timelords if they were the ones attacking anything that creates a paradox... If they weren't that would mean the the universe itself already disliked Paradoxes and used the Reapers to rectify any big paradox to begin with, so the Timelords didn't invent the idea of Paradoxes being bad. – DoctorWho22 Mar 26 '14 at 14:30
5

The Doctor doesn't "frequently change fixed points." The only occasions on which we have seen something that was explicitly denoted (either directly or indirectly) as fixed time be altered have been in "The Waters of Mars", "The Wedding of River Song", and "The Time of the Doctor", and in each instance, there is a potential solution for why the Reapers did not appear:

  • In "The Waters of Mars", the Doctor alters a fixed point by saving Adelaide from the Bowie Base One explosion, but Adelaide commits suicide and puts time back on the right track mere moments later. There simply wasn't enough time for the Reapers to manifest and caused any significant damage in that instance, and even if there were, Adelaide's suicide would have undone it just like in "Father's Day".
  • In "The Wedding of River Song", the disruption of the fixed point at Lake Silencio was destructive to the point of imperiling reality itself. It was said in the episode that a large portion of spacetime had already been engulfed by the distortion, so this was likely too big of a cataclysm for the Reapers to be able to interfere with, and that's assuming that they hadn't also been negatively affected by it.
  • In "The Time of the Doctor", the Time Lords directly assist in the alteration of the Doctor's fated demise on the fields of Trenzalore. It was explicitly noted in "Father's Day" that the Time Lords used to keep paradoxes in check and that their absence is what allowed the Reapers to emerge in that episode. In "The Time of the Doctor", however, the Time Lords were not absent.

More importantly than all of that, however, is that the circumstances in "Father's Day" were very specific and unlikely to be repeated. It wasn't just the prevention of Pete Tyler's death that attracted the Reapers. Rose asked the Doctor if he could take her back in time to the moment of her father's death, and she failed to do what she had intended (that is, speak to him as he was dying). She then asked the Doctor if they could try it again, and the Doctor hesitantly obliged. However, upon arriving the "second" time, he said:

Doctor: Right, that's the first you and me. It's a very bad idea, two sets of us being here at the same time.

And then later on in the episode:

Doctor: I know what I'm doing, you don't. Two sets of us being there made that a vulnerable point.

So by saving her father, not only did Rose create a paradox by changing her own personal past and contradicting their whole reason for coming there in the first place (Because if her father never died in that accident, then how could she ask the Doctor to take her to the day her father died in that accident?), but she also did it while there were two sets of the Doctor and herself present at the same time, which made it a "vulnerable point," and by running out in front of her past self, she changed her own personal past within that "vulnerable point" yet again, because when she was first standing on that street corner, she didn't see an older version of herself run out in front of her and save her father.

Such a pile-up of paradoxes and personal past revisions has yet to occur again in quite the same way. Other episodes with similar-but-not-exact circumstances (e.g. "A Christmas Carol", "The Girl Who Waited", "The Day of the Doctor", etc.) all have certain quirks or elements that can rationalize the absence of the Reapers.

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  • I like this answere not to be a stickler but you misspelled day "dy" at some point – giacomo casanova Mar 21 '14 at 3:24

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