CHRONOLOGIES AND TIMELINES:
THE HISTORY OF GALLIFREY
An essay written as a special request.
Brian Stewart - a local Windsorite who knows his Who almost as well as I do - asked if I could write something about Ancient Gallifrey and how I think this dark and mysterious period of Time Lord history played out.
I've gone one step further. I'm going to chronicle the full history of the Time Lords from the early days before Rassilon to the hidden Gallifrey that exists after the Time Wars. Some of this, of course, will be very straightforward - thanks to the concept of Gallifreyan Mean Time. But part of the point of doing this is to speculate on certain elements of the Time Lords' past and how it relates to continuity we've seen displayed in the show. In this installment, for instance, we're going to try to get some of the stuff we've seen hinted at in Seasons 25 and 26 to reconcile with continuity that has been established in the New Series that seems to be contradicting it.
While this will be a three part series (like Moff, I'm trying to do things in parts, now), I will only be presenting Part 1, for now. I'll post a few essays on other topics and then come back to this later...
EPISODE 1: THE DARK TIMES....
In the distant constellation of Kasterborous, in a time when the Universe was still young, a civilization evolved on the planet Gallifrey....
It grew in much the same way as any society matures. There were discoveries and inventions that improved their way of life. There were characters and personalities wise beyond their years who influenced various schools of thought. There was conflict. And there was progress.
There were two key factors that had the deepest impact on the evolution of Gallifreyans. Two things that made them different from so many other societies.
The first was the fact that Gallifreyans had just the slightest hint of telepathy. This meant that, even at the most primitive of stages, acts of aggression were just that little bit more difficult for them. While other societies on other worlds tended to advance through Right of Conquest, such tactics were far more difficult for the Gallifreyan. For the plain and simple reason that they were able to feel the pain of the people they oppressed.
No doubt, their earliest history still contained some of the same violence and bloodiness that any other primitive culture experienced, But there was considerably less of it. Empathy made the Gallifreyans a more peaceful people.
This enabled them to advance far more quickly. That sense of personal greed that so often slows progress down to a snail's pace in other societies was virtually non-existent among the Gallifreyans. Which meant they could just set themselves' upon the task of improving their conditions. While many of the societies on other planets around them were still just discovering fire, the Gallifreyans were perfecting the basic principles of trans-mat technology.
The second major difference that influenced their evolution was even more significant. While their first advantage was biological, this one was more geological. Or, perhaps, even cosmic.
For whatever reason, a very significant Temporal Rift had formed on the surface of the planet. The Rift was large enough and tangible enough for anyone who stood before it to see into the Time Vortex, itself. Such a natural circumstance had a tremendous impact on the Gallifreyans. The first ones to stumble upon it worshiped it like a god. But, because their natural telepathy had enabled them to advance so quickly, they soon came to understand it as a phenomenon rather than a deity.
Having such a huge Rift figure so prominently in their landscape enabled the Gallifreyans to rapidly develop a deeper understanding into the nature of time. It also bled into their very DNA. It made them "time sensitive" or enabled them to develop a sort of symbiotic relationship with time energy. Something that would heavily influence their development further down the road.
LORDS OF TIME:
Like any other blossoming civilization, the Gallifreyans went through a period of feudalism. Different bloodlines saw themselves' as natural-born leaders. They rose to positions of power and gave themselves' titles. Aristocracy reared its ugly head fairly quickly on Gallifrey. There weren't, necessarily, kings and queens ruling over the people. But there were lords and ladies. This is probably where we saw the most violence erupt in their early history. Clashes occurred between the various noble families as they all sought to rule over the greatest number of people and own the largest portions of land.
The names of some of these families would become immortal in Time Lord culture. Names like Prydon, Arcale and Patrex. More about them later...
Although feudalism was prevalent in these early days - the rapid advancement of Gallifreyan culture meant democracy arrived quite quickly, too. While the noble families did represent a ruling class, of sorts - there were systems of election that took place within the structure. Those who were being ruled had a strong voice in the policies and protocols of those who lorded over them. The result was a rare fusion between two seemingly-contradictory systems of government. But, somehow, the Gallifreyans got it to work.
These noble families naturally recognized that this rift in the time/space continuum represented knowledge and power if they studied and understood it. At first, battles erupted between the various noble houses for ownership of it. But, again, the Gallifreyans learnt to get along. The families came up with a treaty that allowed equal access to the rift. In fact, everyone started sharing so nicely that all of them centralized their estates around the whole thing. The Lords and Ladies of Gallifrey all started basing themselves' in that one location. Soon they amalgamated into a huge structure that they christened: "the Panipticon".
Knowing that knowledge was power, the noble families took a stronger and stronger academic bent to them. They all began to sponsor specific schools or chapter-houses that were in their name. Understanding that intelligence could be just as easily found outside of their bloodline, "commoners" were allowed to apply as students at their academies. The trappings of royalty fell away more and more. Very soon, the titles these families bore had less and less meaning. Anyone that applied to their chapter would be considered a member if they passed. Which caused a slight bastardization of the family titles (Prydonians, Arcalians, Patrexes....).
Naturally enough, many of the studies that were undertaken focused on the properties of this rift in time. They gave it a name - The Untempered Schism. Staring into the Schism became an important test for anyone seeking initiation into a school. Only if they showed the proper reaction to the ritual would they truly be allowed to study at the academy.
Minor breakthroughs in time travel started to occur at this point. The Time Scoop was probably discovered. Perhaps even some primitive Time Corridor technology came into use. This new Gallifreyan society, seeing how distinct it was becoming from the rest of its people, decided to give themselves' a special title of their own. One that showed a unity among the noble families but also held on, ever-so-slightly, to these feudalistic roots.
They called themselves' Time Lords.
As the Time Lords rose up, two great heroes immediately emerged from their culture. Each of these heroes dealt with a specific form of problem that the Time Lords were facing.
Omega handled external issues. Gallifrey, by this point, had conquered the challenges of interstellar travel and had started exploring other worlds. Probably even setting up trade agreements with some of them (the Sisterhood of Karn, for example). Omega began a very specific push to explore the furthest reaches of the Universe and understand it better. He became something of an expert on stars.
Other species that were evolving at a similar speed to the Time Lords began to covet their technology. More than likely, an invasion attempt or two might have transpired at this point. Omega rode in to save the day. He not only repelled the attacks but he did something to ensure no further invasion attempts would occur.
On one of his exploration campaigns, he discovered a rare sentient metal on a distant planet. He dubbed the substance: validium. The mineral was spread across the planet. In this state, it was useless. But Omega assembled it into a critical mass and it became a fully-functional sentient being possessing enormous destructive power. Thankful for finally being given a proper existence, the Validium offered its servitude to the Gallifreyan Hero. Omega set the strange being into orbit around his homeworld to act as its protector.
The validium, being in a constant state of flux, acts in a very interesting way. It takes on the form of the worst enemy of any approaching invader and delivers to them the most terrible fate when they try to attack Gallifrey. The Validium garners itself a nickname. It starts being called Nemesis.
This became the first form of defense the Time Lords created against potential enemies who might seek to rob them of their power. Other security systems would come into play later. In many ways, how Gallifrey protected itself marked different eras of its long history.
Rassilon, our second great Gallifreyan hero, dealt with problems from within.
Those early experiments in time travel created all kinds of complications. There were paradoxes and all sorts of other damage to the time lines that started occurring more and more frequently. Rassilon recognized that the Panipticon would soon turn into a temporal mess if he didn't do something about it. So he created a series of laws by which all Time Lords must govern themselves'. Some of these rules were more of a code of honor. Others were absolutely necessary - they were tenets that couldn't be violated or there would be all kinds of nasty consequences.
The Time Lords, seeing the problems their expeditions into the Fourth Dimension were creating, embraced the charter Rassilon presented them. His Laws of Time were immediately implemented. This gained Rassilon great prestige.
That melding of democracy and feudalism continued to be at work throughout the Time Lord way of life. Various councils that governed different aspects of Gallifreyan society existed within the Panipticon. Both Rassilon and Omega moved swiftly among these groups and held all kinds of different titles. Both were huge social climbers because of the credit their achievements had given them.
Rassilon's Laws created an even greater sense of distinction between Time Lord and Common Gallifreyan. We even started seeing various types of ceremonial garb that the Time Lords would wear as a way elevating their status. Eventually, the "non-Time Lords" of Gallifrey created a second city for themselves'. They named it Arcadia and the bulk of their population lived there. Only a small segment stayed within the Panipticon. They worked as a sort of servant class to the Time Lords. Some were technicians put in charge of the more menial tasks that the Upper Class couldn't be bothered with. Others were there simply to work as a security force. More times than others, handling legal issues the Common Gallifreyans were disobeying.
Nonetheless, Rassilon saw the importance of the security forces that patrolled the Panipticon and implemented statutes that increased their sense of purpose. They were given special uniforms and an impressive-sounding title. The Chancellory Guards were born.
THE HEROES WORK TOGETHER
At last, Omega and Rassilon reached the apex of their social climbing. Both were given seats on the High Council - the most powerful group of Time Lords on the planet. Here, they were given insight into the deepest secrets and greatest challenges their blossoming culture faced.
The biggest issue was the fact that the Time Lords' ability to travel through the Time/Space Vortex was still rudimentary, at best. The High Council sought to gain full mastery of time. Other cultures that had advanced quickly in the galaxy were pursuing similar ambitions but were not interested in adhering to Rassilon's Law (or, quite simply, the Laws of Time - as they came to be known). The High Council was sure that if an alien species developed time travel technology superior to the Time Lords, they would make an absolute mess of the Universe. They had to get there first. It was a bit like the Space Race between the Soviets and the Americans during the mid-to-late 20th Century. Except, in this case, the Time Lords really did need to win.
The problem, of course, was finding an adequate power source that could fuel deeper exploration into the Vortex. So far, no one had been able to find something that could accomplish this. But with Rassilon's deeper knowledge of the Nature of Time and Omega's amazing technical skills, the obstacle seemed easily surmountable.
Pooling their resources, the two heroes came up with a plan. Omega created a remote stellar manipulator. Similiar to the validium that guarded Gallifrey's heavens, it was quasi-sentient. He could send it to any star in the universe and cause it to go super novae. The Time Lords nicknamed the artifact the Hand of Omega.
Rassilon, on his end, created a technology that would enable the Time Lords to harness the energy of an exploding star and use it to their advantage. His research into this science would expand in later years. But, for now, he had a system in place that would absorb the power of a super novae that Omega would engineer using his Hand.
Selecting a distant star, the experiment was initiated. In many ways, it was a success. The Time Lords gained the raw energy they needed to gain full mastery of time - but there had been a horrible accident. A miscalculation had caused Omega to be swept up into the star's destruction. He was believed to be dead.
Rassilon would have to continue building Time Lord culture all on his own.
THE DOCTOR'S INVOLVEMENT - THE NEW ADVENTURES VERSION
And so we reach a moment of heavy speculation that must dabble into areas that I have officially declared as non-canon.
During the later years of the Classic Series, this absolutely wonderful arc was starting to develop in various storylines that came to be known as The Carmel Masterplan (named after Andrew Cartmel - one of the best script editors Classic Who ever had. When he accepted my friendship request on FB, I may have squealed a bit). For years, it was merely a set of vague references made during Seasons 25 and 26 that suggested the Doctor was more than just a Time Lord. Eventually, however, Virgin's New Adventures series of novels revealed the full extent of the plan.
We would learn in the novel Cat's Cradle that the people of Ancient Gallifrey had been rendered sterile from a curse placed on them by a being known as the Pythia. Rassilon counters this problem by creating Genetic Looms. As a Time Lord's life ends, he/she re-intergrates into the Loom so that their genetic material can be used to create a new Gallifreyan. The population never grows. But, at least, it sustains itself.
Various Target and New Adventures novels that were written in the late 80s/early 90s start mentioning a third Gallifreyan Hero meant to have existed around the Dark Times that was simply called the Other. Little is known about him or what he did to contribute to Ancient Gallifrey - but he was a respected figure. As important as Rassilon or Omega.
At last, the Other's true nature is revealed in the novel Lungbarrow. Contrary to Popular Fan Theory, the Machiavellian Seventh Doctor does not go back into time and become the Other. In fact, it's the exact opposite. The Other, discontent with the society Rassilon is creating, intentionally joins himself with the Loom while he is still alive. He re-emerges years later and becomes the Doctor (I'm summarizing, here - it's bit more complex than this but this is the basic idea). The Doctor has only half-memories of his existence as the Other. But, in Lungbarrow, he finally gains full knowledge of who he once was. It's a real cool concept that was meant to get fleshed out more and more in what would've been Season 27 - had it not been cancelled.
Because these events never occurred in a transmitted episode, many fans (including myself) do not consider it canon. Even the production teams behind New Who appear to have rejected this idea. Another important revelation that is made in Lungbarrow is that Susan is actually from the Dark Times and is the Other's granddaughter - not the Doctor's. The Doctor stops off briefly in Gallifrey's past just after he escapes from the Panipticon. Susan meets him and can tell that he is, somehow, her grandfather. New Who clearly establishes, again, that Susan is actually the Doctor's granddaughter. The Doctor claims he was a father (Fear Her) and then, later, claims that he is also a grandfather (Rings of Ahkathen). There's no talk of Looms, anymore. Gallifreyans seem to reproduce in much the same way as humans do. So what was discussed in Cat's Cradle and Lungbarrow no longer holds water.
Still, we have some problems. Clues are given in proper episodes during Seasons 25 and 26 that point towards the Doctor's involvement with Ancient Gallifrey. Some sort of backstory must be provided to get these references to make sense.
THE DOCTOR'S INVOLVEMENT - THE TYMECIAN VERSION
In Season 25, we learn that the Doctor is in possession of a couple of significant Gallifreyan artifacts that a mere Time Lord should not be able to control. Again, had the Cartmel Masterplan succeeded, we would've learnt that the Hand of Omega and the validium obeyed the Doctor because, like Susan, they could also see that he was the Other. But since that reality has become invalidated, we must come up with a new explanation.
The Seventh Doctor of Season 24 does show hints of deviousness to him (the way he tricks the Rani into blowing up her Brainiac, the fact that he's trying to hide from Mel that his visit to Svartos is intentional) but he's much more treacherous as Remembrance of the Daleks rolls in. Something must've happened after Dragonfire that changed him.
I suggest that he, somehow, made a visit into Gallifrey's past - either by accident or by intention. I'm inclined to believe that it happens by mistake. He's trying to make some sort of repair to the TARDIS and it goes haywire - flinging him into Gallifrey's past. Perhaps the damage to the TARDIS is so severe that the Doctor tries to take it back to Gallifrey to fix it properly with specialized equipment that exists only on his homeworld. But the TARDIS, in its malfunctioning state, skips some time tracks and goes back to the Dark Times.
He arrives right about where my current narrative in this essay ends. Rassilon and Omega have just completed their super nova and harnessed its energy. Omega has been lost. The Doctor arrives from the future and, perhaps, even lends a hand to Rassilon for a bit with holding Time Lord Society together in its infant stages. Perhaps he even, reluctantly, allows Rassilon to make certain choices that he doesn't agree with. That he knows will lead to a civilization whose basic tenets he will reject in the far-flung future. These ideologies that are born in the Dark Times will compel him to, one day, leave Gallifrey. But the Doctor respects that this future must happen and doesn't interfere.
Although Ace is now travelling with him, he manages to keep her out of the action. For the most part, at least. Ace gets hints of what he was up to - which is why she presses him for more information any time he starts talking about Ancient Gallifrey during Seasons 25 and 26. She knows he's keeping stuff from her about this visit that he made and wants to learn the full story.
Again, if we're going with my "repairs gone bad" theory, perhaps she is actually trapped aboard the TARDIS while it's malfunctioning. The Doctor manages to make it out of the console room to get help. Ace, however, is stranded in some way. But she still learns a bit about what the Doctor is up to outside. Perhaps she can still get the scanner to work and sees a hint of where she is.
After spending some time with Rassilon, the Doctor finally chooses to re-board the TARDIS and return to his own proper place in his timeline. Once more, if we continue with the malfunctioning TARDIS idea, he is finally able to make the necessary repairs to his vehicle and leaves. Perhaps he even caused certain technological strides to be made on Ancient Gallifrey so that he can acquire the equipment he needs to effect those repairs (how's that for devious?!).
Before he leaves, though, he takes Nemesis and the Hand of Omega with him. There could be any number of reasons why he does this. My personal theory is that the Hand of Omega has been raging out of control since the loss of it creator and now represents a threat to Gallifrey. Nemesis, being Gallifrey's defence system, is trying to contain the stellar manipulator as it lashes out. The two artifacts are battling in Gallifrey's heavens. They are evenly matched, however, so the fight is a stalemate. The Doctor, somehow, lures both of the artifacts aboard the TARDIS. TARDISes are probably only in a prototype phase at this stage of the game and haven't even made a proper journey in time, yet. So, to suddenly see one in transit piques the curiosity of Nemesis and the Hand. Once onboard the TARDIS, the Doctor is able to subdue the stellar manipulator by letting it know that its creator has survived.
For whatever reason, though, the Doctor must take both of these super-weapons with him. Maybe he doesn't trust the ancient Gallifreyans with these devices, anymore. Or maybe he needs to leave because of something to do with the repairs he's made to the TARDIS. He doesn't want the Gallifreyans to see too much of the TARDIS now that it's functioning properly so he just departs after he's brought the Nemesis and the Hand onboard. Or, maybe, because his ship is working again - he can only stay in Gallifrey's past for so much longer. Gallifreyan Mean Time is forcing the TARDIS to return to its proper time and place and he can't drop off the Hand and Nemesis before he leaves. We can't say for certain what it is. But the Doctor must depart the Dark Times with both of these artifacts in his possession.
Knowing he can't hold on to these two powerful devices for too long, he makes one brief stop in his own past and gives the Hand of Omega to his First Self - telling him to bury it in a graveyard on 20th Century Earth (the time and place the First Doctor and Susan have been living for quite a bit, now, when the Seventh encounters him). Violating his own time line might have something to do with the TARDIS still not quite working properly. He's still trying to get her to run smoothly but she experienced a hiccup and broke some more Laws of Time. It is, after all, her first trip since the necessary repairs were made. Maybe there still needs to be some tweaking done. The Doctor finally accomplishes this and the TARDIS will start flying properly, now.
Finally returning to his own proper place in his time stream, the Doctor also sets up a weird asteroid-like spaceship to hold the Nemesis in. He then sends it off into orbit around Earth. He sets the validium into orbit in the 1800s, though, so that Nemesis will be near the Hand in case it starts making trouble again as the 1960s approach. Nemesis will re-activate and contain the stellar manipulator if it starts to act up. Thankful for being liberated from its great fight with the Hand, Nemesis has now pledged its servitude to the Doctor. So it obeys his instructions when he orders it to watch over the Hand. But Nemesis doesn't like the fate that's been handed to it and can be unruly in its own way. It affects the aggression of humans when it flies too close to the Earth. During its brief stay on Earth in the 1800s before it was shot off into orbit, it also told the Lady Peinforte some rudimentary principles of time travel and shared the secrets of what the Doctor did during Gallifrey's Dark Times. Maybe it was trying to use Peinforte to free it from the boredom of resting in orbit around Earth and would then pledge servitude to her.
Again, the Doctor was able to keep Ace out of the way during all this. Any number of tricks could've been employed. He probably went with something simple like putting her into a hypnotic state while he went about dealing with Nemesis and the Hand of Omega. Snapping her out of it once he was done. But then, as the adventures of Remembrance of the Daleks and Silver Nemesis occur, he's willing to finally fill her in on things a bit (but only a bit - he still wants to keep most of his secrets if he can). This might also help account for why Ace is so intensely curious about these relics. She knows they have something to do with a lost memory...
While we can't say exactly how or why he meddled during one of Gallifrey's most crucial periods of development (I have tried to provide both general ideas and specific theories for this) the whole experience definitely turns the Doctor into a darker man. His behavior becomes more manipulative or even ruthless as he combats the evils of the Universe. He even decides to take these two powerful Gallifreyan artifacts that he's frittered away and use them as weapons against two of his greatest enemies. It's here that he first earns such nicknames as the Cosmic Chess Player, Time's Champion or the Oncoming Storm.
And it's my belief that those experiences happened right around this era of ancient Gallifreyan history. That the Doctor even creates a bit of a bootstrap paradox (a term we'll all start using far more often thanks to Before the Flood). He causes Time Lord Society to evolve in certain directions because he knows, already, that these things must happen. He creates the Gallifreyan equivalent of Beethoven because he knows the Gallifreyan equivalent of Beethoven must exist.
But now that he's left the Dark Times, Rassilon must forge on by himself, again...
And so endeth Part One of The History of Gallifrey (that was one hell of a footnote, wasn't it?!). We'll pick up where things left off a bit further down the road. Other topics need to get ranted about first!
As I mentioned in the intro, this was written as a special request. Is there anything you'd like me to, specifically, write about? Feel free to make your suggestion in the comments or email one to me at:
Want to see Episode 2? It's right here: