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Throughout series 8 of Doctor Who, we see phone calls from Danny to Clara while she's travelling with the Doctor in the TARDIS. Now it's clear that when the TARDIS has stopped at somewhere reasonably (temporally) close to home, the phone call is received at the same time it's made. But what happens when the TARDIS is in mid-flight through time, or in some wacky place (e.g. the Orient Express) which is temporally God-knows-where and unlikely to be in Danny's home time?

When Danny calls Clara while she's not in her home time, what considerations decide when she gets the call?

It can't be according to her perceived time, because she often returns to the same time and place as she started at and sometimes gets a call from him immediately after returning.

(Obviously this question doesn't just apply to Danny and Clara, but I put it in that context since series 8 is the only one I'm really familiar with other than some of the Christmas specials.) Is there any sensible answer to this question, or just some wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey plot device that makes sure calls always gets through when they 'should'?

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    Unfortunately, the only meaningful answer to this question is that it happens in the perceived time for the viewer, and in such a way as to not cause temporal paradoxes for the particpants. – KutuluMike Apr 6 '15 at 23:21
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    The TARDIS did it? – Jason Baker Apr 6 '15 at 23:29
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    The Doctor provides the technology and the TARDIS provides the connection. Nothing happens to her (the TARDIS has been depicted as female), through her, unless she allows it. It's really that simple. The Doctor is the Time-Lord, but the TARDIS is the TIMETECH. Nothing that uses technology which supports the Doctor happens without her cooperation. – Thaddeus Howze Apr 6 '15 at 23:37
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tl;dr: For calls to the TARDIS itself, the TARDIS appears to route them "intelligently", patching them through when they are most needed. For calls using the souped-up cell phones, they appear to happen in "real companion time".


TARDIS Direct Calls

As far as we can tell, phone calls into the TARDIS get connected "when they're supposed to be", without any good rules behind it. However, there is a lot of evidence that the TARDIS herself is responsible for this fortuitous timing, and routes calls to the point in The Doctor's timeline when they would be most directly useful.

The reason we know that the TARDIS itself plays a role in routing the calls is from "The Pandorica Opens". When Churchill has found Van Gogh's painting of the TARDIS and tries to call The Doctor to warn him. For whatever reason, The Doctor isn't available, but the call ends up going to Storm Cage, to the phone outside River Song's cell, where this exchange happens:

Guard: Cell 46. The Doctor? You mean Dr. Song.

River Song: Give me that! Seriously, just give it to me. I'm entitled to phonecalls. {he gets the phone} Doctor?

Churchill: No. And neither are you. Where is he?

River Song: You're phoning the Time Vortex. It doesn't always work. But the TARDIS is smart. She's rerouted the call.

Since the TARDIS exists in some sense "outside" of normal space/time, the most obvious explanation is that she is able to determine, based on the originating space/time coordinates from the call, when it would be most appropriate to connect to the Doctor.

Some examples of very fortuitous call timing seem to bear this out:

  • When Marth & Torchwood called The Doctor in "The Stolen Earth", the call connected to the TARDIS at the exact moment that he and Donna had lost the trail to Earth.
  • When Clara called The Doctor for internet help, she connected to him at a point after he had lost Amy Pond and had met two previous Claras.

Companion Universal Roaming

In addition, The Doctor has hacked up each of his companions cell phones to allow them to call home from any "time zone". As far as we know, these calls always connect to their destination at some point where the person receiving the call would "expect" to get it. For the most part, they seem to work in "real time" -- whatever time the call would have been made, had the companion stayed on Earth. With Rose's phone I think this was explicit, but the other cases of companions using their superphones seem to bear this out:

  • One-time companion Adam called his mother on Rose's phone, from the distant future, and she got the calls in their correct relative order. (She knew he was in the future and he was feeding her information).
  • Martha called her mom rather frequently, and the calls seem to reach her mother in chronological order from Martha's perspective.
  • Wilfred claims he was keeping track of Donna's whereabouts from her calling him on her phone, implying that he was also getting those calls chronologically from Donna's perspective.

You're correct that this would seem to open up the possibility of a paradox, if Clara were to call Danny after being on the TARDIS for days, then return home minutes after she left. Why this doesn't happen is never explained, though it's possible that the TARDIS also steps in here and prevents it, possibly by refusing to land at a point where a paradox might happen.

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    So, as I said...timey-wimey, right? – tilley31 Apr 6 '15 at 23:59
  • Nice answer, well fleshed out with examples. I'll wait a day or two to see if anything better comes along, then probably accept this - sorry @tilley31 :-) – Rand al'Thor Apr 7 '15 at 0:22
  • No problem. I do agree this is a better answer. – tilley31 Apr 7 '15 at 0:27
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    I'm sure they get charged one heck of a monthly roaming charge :P – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Apr 7 '15 at 0:31
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    Monthly roaming charge?? You must be kidding -- the Tardis has all of eternity to spread out the minutes, so I doubt if she EVER goes over her monthly allotment in a single month! :-> – Ralph J Apr 7 '15 at 0:42
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All the way back, in series 1 (of the 2005 reboot), second episode, "The End of The World", the Ninth Doctor tampers with Rose's cellphone to allow her to call her mom back home. Now, consider that at the time the TARDIS flew all the way to the year 5 billion, in the day the Sun finally expanded and destroyed Earth, and she was able to phone her mom in the present day, in -probably- 2005.

The Tenth Doctor did the same with Martha Jones' phone in series 3, and I kind of remember Eleven doing just that for Amy. So obviously the Twelfth Doctor did the same for Clara...or maybe it was Eleven, I don't remember if it was shown in an episode at this time.

Now, for your question, "how does it work?" I'll have to use the same old "it's all timey-wimey" excuse. The Doctor just points his sonic screwdriver to the cell phones, and they can call anyone, anywhere in space and time.

  • Nice answer and +1, but I think Michael's is better due to the fuller explanation and more quotes and examples to back it up. – Rand al'Thor Apr 7 '15 at 0:21

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