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Aside from any two parters, are the Dr. Who episodes intended to represent a consistent beginning-to-end timeline for The Doctor, or do they bounce around willy nilly, or rather, timey whimey?

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    It does seem that earlier episodes happen earlier for the Doctor than later ones (our main Doctor, let's just ignore complications like the 200 year later No. 11). Eg, The Master makes reference to the Lazarus incident in one of the last episodes of the series, indicating that the Doctor dealt with Lazarus earlier in his timeline than dealing with Saxon. I would say episodes happen for him in order, just as they do for us the Viewer, but I'm interested in seeing someone destroy my theory with well-founded evidence :-)
    – Mac Cooper
    Aug 26, 2014 at 9:43
  • @MacCooper There is not really a complication with the 200 years later 11th Doctor, because we never saw that one, we saw the Tesselecta :P When we finally see him (we do it as River does through the eye), but later on.
    – BMWurm
    Aug 26, 2014 at 12:52
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    In the strictest sense, it's hard to see how they could be in chronological order...even the episodes aren't... May 22, 2023 at 20:36

4 Answers 4

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Yes, in general, the shows are intended to follow The Doctor's own personal timeline. In addition, the show tends to follow a chronological progression of the companion(s) lifetime, at least while they are with The Doctor. In general, The Doctor does not bounce around back and forth within a companion's life.

There have been a few exceptions to those two rules, though they're clearly called out when they happen:

  • Father's Day: The Doctor and Rose traveled back along Rose's personal timeline, causing bad things to happen.
  • The Big Bang: The Doctor traveled into Amy Pond's past (as did Rory and Amy, technically, though they took the really long way).
  • The Impossible Astronaut: The Doctor that was present in the beginning of the episode was from hundreds of years later in his own timeline than The Doctor that appeared in act II. (Specifically, the initial Doctor was from the same point as in future episode The Wedding of River Song).
  • Any of the The XXX Doctors; The Day of The Doctor: Obviously, any episode that includes more than one Doctor on-screen at a time will be a violation of this rule, if nothing else than for practical reasons: the "future" Doctor would not have been cast yet at the point in the "past" Doctor's timelines where that episode occurs, so we must be seeing it from the timeline perspective of the most recent Doctor in the episode.

Note that River Song is the huge huge exception to this rule: for most of her tenure as a recurring character, River's past experiences were always The Doctor's future, working roughly backwards. The two of them met, technically in The Impossible Astronaut, but more "officially" in Let's Kill Hitler; from there things seemed to progress roughly forward for the two of them, but in a much more haphazard way.

Also, while we are meant to assume that the adventures with The Doctor and Clara are both progressing in the same direction, there was at least one throwaway line of dialog that went like this:

Clara: See you next Wednesday

The Doctor: Well, a Wednesday

However, we haven't seen any indication that he might travel back to a previous Wednesday and retrieve her; she generally remembers everything that happened in previous episodes and does not ever mention things that will happen in future episodes.

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  • Also, the two Brigadiers in Mawdryn Undead. And City of Death. Aug 31, 2014 at 0:35
  • A Wednesday is any Wednesday in the future (perhaps 3 weeks from now), while next Wednesday is the very next one to appear in the calendar and is no more than 7 (Earth timeline) days from now.
    – FreeMan
    Apr 18 at 17:54
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It's a show about time travel. They visited the formation of the universe in the first Doctor story The Edge of Destruction and the Tenth Doctor story New Earth is set at some huge number of years into the future (beyond the destruction of Earth) as is the First Doctor story The Ark - so no, I don't think they're in any kind of externally consistent chronological order. or yes, but time isn't a strictly linear progression of events.

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    Obviously, they travel all over the timeline in the episodes, but that wasn't the question. The question is, do we see the episodes in roughly the same order as the Doctor experiences them?
    – Martha
    Aug 30, 2014 at 17:38
  • @Martha in the impossible astronaut definitely not. Other examples don't occur off the top of my head. Aug 30, 2014 at 17:41
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    Also Smith and Jones, like this; with the tie. Aug 30, 2014 at 18:03
  • @ElliottFrisch But that is strictly forbidden, except for cheap tricks, of course ;)
    – BMWurm
    Aug 30, 2014 at 18:13
  • @BMWurm And Father's Day, when Rose saved her dad (and seemingly erased a time-line). And The Name of the Doctor, The Time of the Doctor, The Two Doctors, The Three Doctors and The Five Doctors (and Time Crash). It's done a lot for something that's forbidden. Aug 30, 2014 at 21:35
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There was a theory in season 7 that the Doctors timeline was in reverse to the episodes (while Amy + Rory were forward). This is based on props from later episodes showing up in another.

Also some of the Doctors dialogue in earlier episodes makes more sense if you realise that the doctor knows the outcome of his travelling companions.

There is another theory that because his companions become locked in time when he meets them, that he knows that his companions are immortal until a certain time/location (like the Doctor going to Trenzalore)

It also appears to be hinted at in Season 8. Episode 2 the doctor does the following:

After realising the Doctor has to heal the Darlek, he instead time travels back to England to pick up a school teacher, and tells her to solve the situation (but doesn't know how she should do it). It is possible the Doctor is aware when Clara will die, so in doing this he knew that she could not be stopped in recovering the Darleks memory.

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  • sounds kinda flimsy. Sep 1, 2014 at 4:59
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Generally it seems that the episodes chronologically follow the events the doctor experiences, except in a handful of cases but the masses of these all are meant for story telling. Watching them in order is the overall best way to watch them because it is the way the creators intended.

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F. This doesn't seem to say anything that's not already better described in the existing answers; please don't post duplicate answers unless you have something new to add.
    – DavidW
    May 22, 2023 at 0:37
  • Thank you David, I am just getting use to how this works so I will remember not to repeat any answers too similar to other ones. Thank you. May 22, 2023 at 0:58
  • Shouldn't really matter what site you're on, repeating what others have said doesn't add much...
    – FreeMan
    Apr 18 at 17:56

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