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Doctor, What Did YOU Do In The Time War?

The apocalyptic conflict between the Time Lords and the Daleks is largely shrouded in mystery, but it’s possible to piece together a rudimentary order of events… and to speculate about how the war started.

In the library of the Doctor’s TARDIS stands a book by an unknown author: The History of the Time War. It describes how the Time Lords and the Daleks went to war ‘with the whole of creation at stake’ – and how the Doctor destroyed both Time Lords and Daleks alike on its last day, leaving him the only known survivor. Many of the facts of the war are known to us. What we don’t know, however, is what caused such an all-consuming conflict to break out in the first place.

The Doctor’s copy of The History of the Time War, as seen in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS (2013).

So what was the ‘Last Great Time War’ for? First we need to establish exactly when the Time Lords and the Daleks started hating one another. Certainly, there was a time when neither knew of the other’s existence. The First Doctor knew nothing about them at the moment of their first encounter, in the metal corridors of the Daleks’ city on Skaro (in The Mutants, aka The Daleks, 1963-64). It was only after the Daleks had built a time machine of their own (The Chase, 1965) that another of the Doctor’s species recognised a Dalek – the time-meddling Monk ran into the Daleks by chance in Ancient Egypt (The Daleks’ Master Plan, 1965-66). The Monk told the Daleks’ co-conspirator Mavic Chen that he knew of his allies “by reputation” – but being a criminal renegade himself, the Monk had likely seen rather more of the universe than the aloof Time Lords. When the Time Lords finally recaptured the fugitive Second Doctor and put him on trial The War Games, 1969), the Doctor felt obliged to channel the thought of a Dalek to his prosecutors, like they couldn’t be presumed to recognise its image: “… worst of all were the Daleks, a pitiless race of conquerors exterminating all who came up against them. All these evils I have fought, while you have done nothing but observe!”

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About Doctor Who Magazine

The Doctor’s own people, and his home planet, were introduced in 1969 as a major chapter in the series’ history came to an end. Five decades later, the Time Lords and their devastating war with the Daleks are still essential parts of Doctor Who’s mythology. This special publication analyses every story set on Gallifrey, reveals previously unseen images from the making of the episodes and interviews key players in the Time Lords’ fascinating story.