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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > The Essential Doctor Who: Adventures in History > THE MIDDLE AGES 476 to 1500

THE MIDDLE AGES 476 to 1500

The Doctor’s dabbling in this murky period has restored time to its correct course and elevated him to legendary status…
Morgaine (Jean Marsh) in Battlefield (1989), Robin Hood (Tom Riley) in Robot of Sherwood (2014) and Richard the Lionheart (Julian Glover) in The Crusade (1965).
A medieval depiction of the Venerable Bede.

It’s usually defined as the period between the fall of Rome in the fifth century and the new dawn of the Italian Renaissance in the fourteenth – those ‘days of old, when knights were bold/And barons held their sway’ in the words of the old Victorian parlour tune, A Warrior Bold. The reality of the Middle Ages was rather different – not least because its earlier part is inadequately recorded, hence the term sometimes applied to the fifth to tenth centuries, or thereabouts: the Dark Ages.

The flask that imprisoned an ancient evil in The Curse of Fenric (1989). Photo © Helen Solomon.

Dark Ages in terms of the Doctor’s travels, too: we know relatively little about his excursions throughout this epoch of Earth’s history. Circa 244 AD, the Doctor “pulled bones from the desert sands and carved them into chess pieces” to challenge the ancient game-playing entity Fenric – a loss that caused Fenric to be trapped in a flask for 17 centuries (as described in The Curse of Fenric, 1989). After that, however, there’s a gap. Troublesome Time Lady chemist the Rani (Kate O’Mara) once implied that she’d been active in this era (in The Mark of the Rani, 1985) – and certainly, she’s known to have kidnapped Hypatia of Alexandria (circa 380-415), inventor of the astrolabe (she’s one of the abducted genii seen in Time and the Rani, 1987). But prior to the turn of the eighth and ninth centuries, we’ve no evidence that the Doctor has ever been up to anything much – other than catching a monster salmon in the River Fleet to share with the Venerable Bede (circa 673-735), the later-Sainted historian-monk of old Northumbria (a fishy treat remembered in The Talons of Weng-Chiang, 1977).

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About Doctor Who Magazine

“History sometimes gives us a terrible shock, and that is because we don’t quite fully understand... We’re all too small to realise its final pattern.” Doctor Who’s first journey in 1963 took viewers back to the Stone Age. Since then the TARDIS has visited many other landmarks in a unique chronicle of the Doctor’s favourite planet. Purely historical stories were once a mainstay of the series, but for more than 50 years significant periods in Earth’s past have provided evocative settings for more fantastical adventures. This unprecedented guide takes a trip back in time with the people, places and classic episodes that are essential parts of Doctor Who history.