Pair of Docs Paradox?

Blue Box Bill's picture

Blue Box Bill - Posted on 16 October 2011

In a story called Dogs Of Doom, in the December 1984 Marvel Doctor Who Comic, Vol. 1, No. 3, the 4th Doctor remarks to Sharon, "It's high time the Tardis had its ten thousand year service." At the 4 minute mark of the televised episode Time And The Rani, the 7th Doctor comments that he has to book in a bicentennial refit of the Tardis.

At first glance these two facts of fiction could seem paradoxical. You'll give yourself a headache if you over-think it, so don't, because there's room for both truths in the Whoniverse.

A 10,000 year service of the Tardis has nothing to do with the age of the Tardis, rather it is the amount of time through which (via the space time vortex) the Tardis has traveled, whereas a bicentennial refit would include maintenance or repair of those bits and systems which need replacing or servicing over the course of time, not time travelled.

Unlike an automobile, which transports its occupants from one place to another in a linear sense over distances in units of measurement we call miles, the Tardis traverses time, space, or time and space, but not in a linear sense for it dematerializes at the point of departure and then materializes at the point of destination. It did so at the conclusion of "An Unearthly Child" when it traveled back in time, but not in space, to the point in history contemporaneous with "The Cave Of Skulls."

An automobile travels in the present and only in the present. In a physical sense the Tardis can travel the same way as an automobile, from Point A to Point B, but it can also travel in time, so it would make sense that service intervals for a Tardis would be measured in years, not miles.

Personally I'd like to see more on screen Tardis maintenance. The new series has from time to time given us peeks at the inner workings of this fantastic machine and once every so often we see the Doctor and even a companion involved in repairs and maintenance. The amount of maintenance a typical earthbound auto requires is not insignificant. Something as complicated and sophisticated as a Tardis would seem to give new meaning to the phrase "high maintenance"... so why not make it part of the lore?

Happy Travels!

Troy Baker's picture

What is a tune-up and what is a refit?

A tune-up is just regular maintenance, but a refit... that's a whole new can of worms.

A refit (for this example) is taking an existing vehicle and doing upgrades to it - usually installing new hardware or machinery that should work more effectively. It's something that is usually done by the manufacturers of a product, where-as a tune-up can be done by the owner. Using your automobile analogy - a tune-up is like changing the oil checking spark plugs, etc... while a refit would be like taking your car to the dealer having them upgrade the computer programming on your vehicle's computer, or replacing your brakes system (or any other system) to a newer type (with cars, usually by a recall) - it's something you couldn't or shouldn't really do yourself.

Now I like to look at these things in two types of time - years traveled time and linear time. The tune-up should be done in terms of years traveled time, but the refit should be done in linear time (in respect to the TARDIS's time). The TARDIS can travel many thousands (or millions) of years during it's flight - but to the TARDIS's linear chronometers it is a short time to take that trip. This illustrates how a trip in the ship can be both types at the same time.

What I just said is pretty close to what you posted, but I just made a more defined explanation of the refit and tune-up.

BTW: The comics aren't really considered canon, just like the Big Finish audios the books, etc... aren't considered canon either. To many people, only the televised episodes are considered canon, but with me - if I can fit it in someplace where it doesn't mess up continuity, I'll work with it.

Blue Box Bill's picture

I concur with your explanations which define the difference between a refit and a tune-up.
Funny you should mention canon. I understand as well as accept the notion that only televised episodes of Doctor Who constitute canon. One has to draw the line somewhere. When I first mulled over this potential paradox, which we both appear to agree is no paradox at all, canon was a consideration that couldn't be ignored.
Canon, like dogma, can be a convenient means of dismissing whatever doesn't fit or conform. Whether a bit of dialogue in a comic book would be accepted as canon was not as important as understanding whether both scenarios could peacefully coexist, and in my opinion, they can. The Doctor in his 4th persona can bear witness to a 10,000 year service of the Tardis just as a bicentennial refit of the Tardis is possible with the 7th persona of our favorite Time Lord.
Doctor Who has a habit of bending continuity to the breaking point, literally, and sometimes within a single episode, so while I appreciate your comments about continuity, I don't let the absence of it get in the way. I may chuckle about an obvious breakdown in continuity (especially in an episode from the classic series) or even sound off about it here in the hallowed halls of the Gallifreyan Embassy, but the way I see it an occasional misstep in continuity is easily forgiven, after all, this is "make-believe" that's on a grand scale and a shoestring budget!
Continuity is a flexible commodity throughout the Whoniverse. We accept the flow of the series from one episode to the next as an ongoing storyline... but is it? Occupants of the Tardis seldom sleep or eat. That's not plausible. And when we notice that a regular member of the Doctor's entourage is wearing new threads, do we question the change or just accept it?
I'm not suggesting that the televised storyline should include scenes showing the Doctor or his companions sleeping, eating, changing clothes, etc., but because these activities are conspicuously absent it becomes obvious that life goes on during the time between televised episodes. There's plenty of time and space between one episode and the next for the odd side step or short trip without ruining series continuity, don't you think?

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