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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > The Essential Doctor Who 14: Adventures in the Future > FEDERATION AND EMPIRE


The early 1970s serials established the series’ first coherent chronology of Earth’s future, tracing the rise and fall of the Earth Empire over the course of 500 years.
The President of Earth (Vera Fusek) and the Draconian Prince (Peter Birrel) – senior figures in the opposing empires of Frontier in Space (1973).

When trainee intelligence agent Jo Grant stepped out of the TARDIS onto the desolate surface of Uxarieus in the year 2472, it was her first experience of time travel and also her first visit to an alien world. For Doctor Who viewers, it was their first glimpse of the far future in almost exactly two years, since the final episode of The Space Pirates in 1969. But Malcolm Hulke’s 1971 adventure Colony in Space was also the start of a sequence of serials which presented the earliest consistent future history of the Doctor Who universe.

From 1971 to 1974, producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks carefully mapped out the course of mankind’s progress in space between the 25th and 30th centuries. With the exceptions of Day of the Daleks (1972) and Carnival of Monsters (1973), each serial in which the Doctor and his companions – first Jo Grant and then Sarah Jane Smith – visited the future contributed to a timeline in which Earth humans colonised other worlds, built an interplanetary Earth Empire, lost it to corruption and megalomania, and then re-emerged as important members of a benevolent galactic confederation.

This type of framework was new to Doctor Who but liberally borrowed from a long-established principle of literary science fiction – the ‘rise and fall of the Galactic Empire’ scenario. Interplanetary empires and confederations of worlds were common elements of pulp sci fiin the 1930s and 1940s, but the most influential work in this area was produced by the American writer Isaac Asimov in his Hugo Award-winning Foundation trilogy.

In Foundation (first published in the UK in 1953), Foundation and Empire (1962) and Second Foundation (1964), Asimov told of a brilliant mathematician’s complex plans to minimise the effects of the destruction of the powerful Galactic Empire. How? By creating the Foundation, a community of scholars working to preserve the knowledge of the human race. In relating a series of crises facing the Foundation as the Galactic Empire crumbled over many centuries, Asimov was inspired by Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-88), the most celebrated history book in the English language.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Doctor Who’s predictions of the future have depicted the destruction of planet Earth and the ultimate collapse of the universe. Alien superpowers have subjugated star systems and galactic empires have fallen, leaving only a few witnesses to the end of time itself. This lavish publication sets the TARDIS co-ordinates for a journey into this dangerous realm, exploring landmark episodes and meeting the talents who brought them to the screen. Packed full of exclusive features, including a wealth of previously unseen images, this is the essential guide to the series’ greatest futuristic adventures.