The latest Doctor Who tie-in novel, Dave Rudden’s The Wintertime Paradox, reveals how the Doctor really is responsible for the Time War.
Doctor Who has revealed the Doctor is indeed responsible for the Time War – but in a subtle, indirect sense. When Doctor Who returned in 2005, showrunner Russell T. Davies revealed a lot had happened to the Doctor in the years the series was off the air. The Doctor considered himself the last of the Time Lords, having brought the Time War to an end by destroying both the Daleks and the Time Lords alike.
It was a superb concept, drawing in old-school viewers and leaving them in the same position of discovery as new ones. Davies considered the Time War to have begun all the way back in the classic era, in the much-lauded story “Genesis of the Daleks.” There, the Time Lords had foreseen a time when the Daleks would threaten all life in the universe, and they sent the Doctor back in time to avert their creation. He came close to doing so – he literally rigged the Dalek incubation pods to explode – but ultimately decided not to obey his orders from the Time Lords. “I know that although the Daleks will create havoc and destruction for millions of years, I know also that out of their evil must come something good,” the Doctor explained, refusing to give up hope that all things can be redeemed in some sense.
The BBC’s latest Doctor Who novel, The Wintertime Paradox by Dave Rudden, finally explains how this led to the Time War – and why the Doctor considers himself responsible. The Wintertime Paradox is an anthology book, and one short story – called “Father of the Daleks” – sees the Doctor engage in a number of conversations with Davros, creator of the Daleks. During these discussions, he admits he has come to understand he is locked in a cycle of violence with the Daleks, one that began all those millennia ago when he held in his hands the power to destroy them. The Daleks are genetically programmed to consider themselves the supreme beings in the universe, and they never forgot that moment of vulnerability, hating the Doctor for being – in their view – superior to them. That hatred inspired them to go to greater lengths to demonstrate their superiority, only to be stopped by the Doctor once again, hating him all the more, and going even further next time. “You can continue to thwart my Daleks forever,” Davros admits, “but that will never change them. They will only hate more. Harm more aggressively. They know only one solution to being stopped, and that is to lash out more violently than before.”
The Wintertime Paradox tells a fascinating tale, because there is a sense in which it is impossible to say which of the two – Davros or the Doctor – is truly the titular “Father of the Daleks.” Davros may have created them, but it is the Doctor who inspired them to hate ever more aggressively. Without the Doctor, would the Daleks have ever become the cosmic threat they are now? Or would the genocidal creatures have settled in their own corner of the cosmos, confident in their own superiority? Realizing the Daleks cannot change of their own accord, the Doctor appeals to Davros to modify them genetically once again. He refuses to do so, of course.
And here is the catch; the end of “Father of the Daleks” confirms this story is set immediately before the beginning of the Time War. The Doctor has become aware his conflict with the Daleks is escalating to a horrific scale, and he is desperate to avert it. “I’m scared, Davros, of what might happen in the future,” he admits. But this last-ditch attempt to avert catastrophe fails – and Doctor Who’s Time War is the result.