Thursday, 5 December 2019
Unseen Stories (1)
What went before...
Regular readers of this blog will know that I concentrate my attention purely on televised Doctor Who. I don't cover the novels, comic strips or audio adventures, mainly because I haven't read or heard all of them. To me they aren't canon anyway - my choice.
I never refer to these off-screen adventures, but it is time I looked at unbroadcast stories that do need to be considered as part of properly canonical Doctor Who - namely those unseen adventures which are referred to in the dialogue of televised stories.
To begin with, let's look at what the Doctor and Susan got up to prior to that cold and foggy evening when two Coal Hill schoolteachers pushed their way into the TARDIS.
The Hartnell era is one which affords few gaps between stories where other adventures might have taken place, partly because in the early days many stories ran into each other - with a cliffhanger at the end of the story setting up the next. A lot of the things which the Doctor mentions having happened to him off screen probably took place before Ian and Barbara joined him on his travels - because he's telling them about it and they obviously weren't there themselves at the time.
Not everything which the Doctor claims to be knowledgeable about may have come through personal experience, however, so we do need to add a caveat. Just because the Doctor knows all about a planet, a race, or a period of history, doesn't mean that he has visited that planet, or met its people, or visited that period of history. The Doctor must have spent many, many years back on Gallifrey studying other planets and cultures. We know he attended Prydon Academy, and what does he do in his downtime on the TARDIS? I suspect he does a lot of reading. If he has heard of Stephenson's Rocket, and knows the names of all the key figures of the Industrial Revolution, then it doesn't necessarily follow that he has been to late 18th / early 19th Century England and met any of them.
In The Web Planet he knows all about the planet Vortis and about the Menoptra, and he knows which galaxy Vortis lies in - but he clearly states that he hasn't been there before. He covered it at school perhaps, or simply read about it.
One of the first signs that the Doctor and Susan have had some adventures between leaving Gallifrey, and arriving in Totters Lane, Shoreditch, is when Susan starts to leaf through a book on The French Revolution, which Barbara has lent her. She immediately spots a mistake. Later, when the TARDIS arrives in France during this turbulent period, Susan informs the two teachers that this is the Doctor's favourite period in Earth's history. Most fans take this to imply that the Doctor and Susan have visited this time and place before. I'd argue that this isn't necessarily the case. Susan only has to be knowledgeable about the French Revolution to spot an error in a book - she doesn't have to have actually been there. Also, ask any historian what their favourite period is and they'll tell you - the Roman Empire, the Renaissance, the Tudors, the American Civil War etc. Again, it doesn't mean they've travelled back through time and visited it.
You can have a purely academic interest in something. A previous visit to Revolutionary France is a possibility, but not definite.
More concrete examples from the very first story are the Doctor's notebook, and the things which the TARDIS is said to have disguised itself as before becoming stuck as a Police Box. Susan states that the notebook contains notes on all the places they've been to - places, plural.
The TARDIS is said to have been an ionic column and a sedan chair. The column might at first glance appear to suggest a visit to ancient Greece or Rome, but such things went on to become architectural staples for centuries. A visit to any Georgian-built townscape in the present day might lead a TARDIS to assume the form of a classical column. The form may also be a default setting for a TARDIS. The Master's ship appeared as a column in Logopolis and Castrovala, despite it not fitting into the local terrain.
The sedan chair is more significant, as these weren't around before the 17th Century, and had disappeared by the mid 19th Century. They're named from the town of Sedan in France. The TARDIS disguising itself as a sedan chair might just mean that the visit to the period of the French Revolution really did happen.
In The Edge of Destruction, Susan confirms that one of the images on the TARDIS scanner is of the planet Quinnis, in the Fourth Universe. A primordial jungle planet, it is stated that they almost lost the ship there. This is the first indication that the Doctor and Susan have visited more than different periods of Earth's history. They've even visited an entirely different universe (something which the Doctor later claims was easy when the Time Lords were still around).
At the end of the same story, the Doctor gives Ian an Ulster coat, which he claims to have obtained from Gilbert and Sullivan. Their partnership lasted from 1871 to 1900, so the Doctor and Susan have visited the late Victorian era. Another caveat here. Some guide books maintain that the Doctor's name-dropping can't be trusted - that he's showing off or downright lying. Watching these episodes again, and listening to what the Doctor says and the way he says it, it is clear that he isn't lying. (The same can't be said of some later Doctors, however).
The Doctor isn't the only one who mentions previous TARDIS landings. In Marco Polo, Susan talks of seeing the metal seas of Venus. She also tells Ping-Cho that she has had many homes in many places, implying an itinerant lifestyle which didn't always involve staying in the TARDIS, unless she doesn't see the ship as her home.
Susan also mentions another alien planet - Esto - where the plant-life had telepathic abilities. This might be the same place where she heard plants screaming. She specifically states that she and the Doctor visited Esto, so not something she read about or studied at school.
Some more name-dropping from the Doctor leads us to believe that he met Pyrrho, the father of Skepticism. He says this so emphatically, that it does sound as if it is true. Pyrrho lived in Greece around the 3rd Century BC. Perhaps this is when the TARDIS disguised itself as that ionic column.
The Doctor also claims that Beau Brummell always said he looked good in a cloak. Brummell was the fashion trend-setter of the Regency period, friend of the future George IV until the two fell out and Brummell ended up in self-imposed exile in France, dying there in poverty in 1840. Had the Doctor claimed to have given Brummell all his fashion ideas then that might indicate showing off, but he merely states that the man complimented him, so I think we can accept that this meeting took place.
The Doctor's story of being sent to the Tower of London by Henry VIII after throwing a parson's nose at the king is corroborated by Susan. Another adventure corroborated by Susan is the experience of a zeppelin air raid, which most take to mean a visit to London in 1917. However, Rise of the Cybermen had zeppelins in an alternative universe contemporary England, and some alien planets might have retained zeppelin-like airships as warships.
When Susan leaves the Doctor, he mentions how both have looked after each other for many years, again indicating a long passage of time between leaving Gallifrey and meeting Ian and Barbara.
The TARDIS next arrives on the planet Dido, and the Doctor has been here before. This might not necessarily have been with Susan. He may have made some field trips to other planets prior to leaving Gallifrey as part of his studies / work there. We know next to nothing of what the Doctor did between leaving the Academy and running away in the TARDIS.
Some more name-dropping. The Doctor studied boxing and / or wrestling with the Mountain Mauler of Montana. This isn't a known historical figure, so he's unlikely to be making it up. It might suggest a visit to the USA, but the name could just as easily be the stage name of a British fighter, encountered during one of the visits to England already mentioned above. The fact that the Doctor can't quite recall James Watt's name suggests that this isn't showing off either. He claims he was with Watt when he was inspired to develop his improvements to the steam engine by observing a kettle boil. The only problem with this is that the story is often regarded as just a myth, something which might have happened when he was a boy or later when he was a young man.
Then we have him claiming to have given Hans Christian Andersen the idea for the Emperor's New Clothes fable. If true, then the Doctor was in Copenhagen around 1837, when the story was first published.
On encountering the Monk in Northumbria, in 1066, the Doctor mentions that the time-meddler's TARDIS is some 50 years ahead of his own - i.e. he left Gallifrey at least 50 years before the Monk did - another indication of how long he and Susan had been travelling together.
The Doctor later tells Steven and Sara that he has seen celebrations in Trafalgar Square before - but they were for the Relief of Mafeking, which was in May 1900.
We ought, at this point, to mention the First Doctor's outfit. It isn't contemporary with 1963, which might suggest he spent rather a long time in turn of the last century England. If so, it's strange that he doesn't recognise cricket when he sees it.
Knowing that the planet of the Elders and Savages is in a time of great peace and prosperity, and having knowledge about Mondas and the Cybermen, doesn't necessarily suggest that he has had personal experience of them. This might just be learned knowledge. The last definite unseen adventure, as far as we learn in the Hartnell era, is an encounter with the Celestial Toymaker. There's no indication of how long ago this was, except that it wasn't recently, as Steven doesn't recognise him. It may have been after leaving Totters Lane, or it might have been yet another adventure he and Susan had before they settled in London, 1963.