PART ONE: GETTING DAY OF THE DOCTOR AND END OF TIME TO LINE UP
Those final minutes of Day of the Doctor are so triumphant, aren't they? All thirteen incarnations of the Doctor come rushing forward to seal Gallifrey in a stasis cube and save it from impending doom at the hands of the Daleks. Then, just a few minutes later, we get a gorgeous cameo from the Great Tom Baker telling the Matt Smith Doctor that he appears to have succeeded in saving his homeworld and that he ought to go out and find out where it is, now. After seven seasons of a Doctor being haunted by the guilt of almost committing genocide twice over, he gets the most perfect present on his anniversary: Gallifrey Stands.
Except, of course, that there's been a few niggly points that have been going on since this triumphant moment. Even in Day of the Doctor, some stuff didn't quite jibe with the last time we took a peak into Time Lord culture during the Time Wars. Forget the fact that things have made even less sense since Gallifrey was sealed in a stasis cube. Bottom line: the whole storyline with saving the Time Lords has been suffering from some major continuity glitches.
For the next few paragraphs, we're going to try to make sense of this.
Wish me luck.
As part of his present to the fans during the 50th anniversary, Moff allows us a glimpse into those mysterious Time Wars that we were never allowed to see much of. RTD offered us a similar gift as he and Tennant were bowing out back in 2009 with The End of Time - Part 1 and 2. In that particular tale, he's even nice enough to get Timothy Friggin' Dalton to play Rassilon, himself (although, to his credit, Moff got the equally stellar John Hurt to play the War Doctor). This is all magnificent stuff, of course. Fandom might question the quality of either of these stories, but the fact that we finally get to see the Time Wars in both of them is still a very nice treat.
Moff, however, tries to go one step further and includes a reference to The End of Time in his script just to give us a better sense of continuity. In some throwaway dialogue, the Time Lord General mentions that a plot by the High Council to save Gallifrey has failed. This seems to be referencing Rassilon's attempt to break out of the Time Lock using a link he created with the Master on 21st Century Earth during The End of Time. Again, it's a very nice gesture on Moffat's behalf to try to get these two stories to link in some way.
Except that the stories only line up so well. Which creates a whole series of continuity problems that I shall now vainly attempt to solve:
The first major one is created during that throwaway dialogue we just mentioned. The General states that the High Council have already failed in their plans. Then, moments later, he discovers that the War Doctor has broken into the Omega Vault and stolen The Moment. The theft of The Moment clearly happens after the High Council's plans have fallen to pieces. This becomes problematic because Rassilon asks about the Doctor at the beginning of Part 2 of The End of Time (midway through the High Council's attempt to break the Time Lock) and is informed that he is in possession of The Moment and could use it any time. Key plot points are not lining up, here. Something crucial that is discussed in The End of Time happens in Day of the Doctor at a time when the whole plot is meant to be over. It's not quite making sense.
The easiest solution might be that the High Council learnt of the Doctor's theft of The Moment sooner than the General did. But that still makes it pretty tough for the two timelines to run concurrently to each other. Which means we might require a more complex explanation.
It's my personal theory that, as the Daleks started their attack on Gallifrey, the High Council took extra precautions to protect themselves'. And it's those special measures that cause the lack of synchronicity between the two tales.
In those first few moments of Part Two of The End of Time, we see Rassilon striding through a huge vault-like doorway which then closes behind him. The big bulky door is a physical barrier to help protect him and the Time Lords that are waiting in a council chamber within. But when the doors close, it also seals them off in their own special time continuum. Very similar, in principle, to the way the Medusa Cascade was a few seconds out of sync with the rest of the Universe. Except the High Council created something even more clever than that. Whereas the Medusa Cascade was a few seconds into the future, the special continuum that the High Council creates is fluctuating regularly in the way it relates with the rest of Time and Space. At some points, it might only be a few seconds ahead. Then it might, suddenly, become an hour behind. Moments later, it becomes several hours ahead. And so on....
This is done so that it becomes near-impossible to lock on to this special continuum and break into it. With the Medusa Cascade, the Doctor was eventually able to penetrate the Time Slip because it was, at least, staying consistent. The High Council recognized that the Daleks would have the technology to accomplish such an act, too. So they cause the continuum's relationship with the outside universe to fluctuate at random intervals. The ultimate security measure.
Of course, this now means that events can elapse out of order between Day of the Doctor and The End of Time. Communication is still taking place between the two timelines. The High Council are still receiving news on what's happening with the world outside. This is how they learn of the Doctor's theft of the Moment. They are also sending out messages to certain key figures in the outside world. Such as the General. But the time fluctuations mess with how that information is disseminated. The General learns that the High Council's plot failed because they were suddenly a few hours behind with the rest of the Universe when they announce their defeat. But, earlier in those plans, they were actually an hour or two ahead of the rest of the Universe. And that's when they learnt of the Doctor stealing the Moment.
It's all a bit timey whimey, I know. But if you can envision the High Council as being in a sort of bubble outside of regular Time and Space that keeps relocating itself in its relationship to our own timeline then it's an image that, sort of, works. Now imagine that communications are occurring between the two time lines but it's while that bubble is changing its location. So, sometimes, we learn of the bubble's future before it does. And, on other occasions, the bubble gets a glimpse into our future. All because its relationship with our own timeline is in a constant state of flux. It is a perfect way for the High Council to defend itself. But it also causes some messiness with the timelines should communications with the outside world transpire.
GALLIFREY DISAPPEARING TWICE
Okay, first big problem between Day of the Doctor and End of Time is reconciled (sort of, at least). Now let's deal with an even bigger one.
The Doctor(s) save the day by sealing up Gallifrey in a stasis cube. At a crucial point in the Dalek assault, the planet of the Time Lords disappears from the heavens and the natives of Skaro dice themselves' up in their own cross-fire. It's a beautiful ending to a Doctor Who story. As usual, the Doctor finds a way to use his opponents' strength against itself.
The ending, however, does lose some of its piquancy when you consider that The End of Time concludes in a very similar manner. Rassilon, somehow, manages to pull all of Gallifrey through the Time Lock and into Earth's orbit. This should mean that the planet faded out of existence from its own proper time and place. Shouldn't the Daleks have destroyed themselves', then? Gallifrey seems to be in the sky over Earth for several long minutes. Which means it's disappeared from the Time Wars for quite some time, too. Wouldn't this cause its attackers to accidentally shoot themselves' up during that occasion? The Doctor's trick with stasis cube should be superfluous. Gallifrey disappearing during End of Time should've been when the Daleks destroy themselves' by accident. Why do we need to make Gallifrey disappear again during Day of the Doctor?
Once more, we can use the High Council being in its own special timeline theory to help smooth out this problem. Not only is the High Council jumping ahead and behind the rest of Gallifrey's timeline at regular random intervals - but time, itself, is speeding up and slowing down. When time runs fast - several hours in the High Council timeline can be a matter of seconds in Gallifreyan Mean Time. When it's running slow - the reverse occurs. Minutes for the High Council can be hours for the rest of Gallifrey. This, of course, makes the time breach even more difficult to penetrate. One more precautionary measure to keep Rassilon and his buddies safe.
When the Lord President finally completes the connection between himself and the Master, he brings Gallifrey to 21st Century Earth. To do so, however, he has to pull the planet through the Time Breach he's created. So Gallifrey comes to its new location via this special timeline that is speeding up and slowing down. Gallifrey seems to hang over the Earth for several minutes and then returns back to its original location. But, as I just said, it did so by passing through the special timeline the High Council exists in. When this occurred, the High Council Timeline was running faster than regular time. Time being sped up means that several minutes in the High Council Timeline was only a matter of seconds in real time. So, basically, Gallifrey flickered out of existence for a second or two and then returned to its proper time and place.
Remember that moment in Day of the Doctor where the Doctor(s) learn that the Daleks sense that something is up and are increasing their attack? That's when Rassilon's great gambit occurs in relation to Gallifrey's Mean Time (again, events from both timelines don't run concurrently to each other - the High Council Timeline is jumping forward and back in relation to what's happening in Day of the Doctor). So the Daleks see Gallifrey suddenly disappear and return a moment later. Less aggressive races might've stood down at this point and tried to assess the situation. But these are Daleks we're talking about. Seeing their intended target almost elude them would incense them to attack all the harder. Which works out great for the whole stasis cube plan. They really are at maximum firepower when Gallifrey disappears properly. Which causes the Daleks to wipe themselves' out. There are a few survivors, of course. The Emperor escapes. As does a single Dalek who falls to Earth in the late 20th Century and eventually gets bought by Henry Van Statten. And the Cult of Skaro makes it out of the mess too (although, they may have slipped into the Void long before this final great battle).
But, for the most part, the Doctor's trick succeeds. But it works out as well as it does because of what Rassilon had been up to in his own special timezone. The Daleks react so violently because Gallifrey appeared to be slipping away for a moment. They attack harder as it returns and then the Doctor's plan kicks in. In the full heat of their bloodlust, the Daleks destroy themselves' as Gallifrey well and truly disappears from the heavens.
And, again, all of this is due to the fact that Rassilon sealed off the High Council in its own special timeline when the Daleks first started attacking. I suspect that the march we see him taking down the hallway and through the big door was him just finishing the act of temporal engineering that needed to be done to create this timeline. It had to be accomplished from within Gallifreyan Mean Time. But, once the feat was done, Rassilon quickly retreated into the pocket dimension he'd created.
The weird nature of that pocket dimension is what's responsible for all the inconsistencies we see between the two stories. Or, it can be if you so choose....
So, those are my theories on why End of Time and Day of the Doctor don't line up so well. But there are still more inconsistencies to deal with as we start looking at Gallifrey after the 50th Anniversary Celebration. Part Two of this particular essay will deal with that.