After an explosive, well-received return for Jodie Whittaker’s
Doctor on New Year’s Day – not to mention an impressive follow-up episode – last
night’s latest Series 12 offering has left a bad taste in the mouths of many.
While questions can be asked over the tone-deaf,
heavy-handed writing of the current series’ third episode, one larger topic
that left audiences puzzled is how Doctor Who has seemingly completely changed
its concept of time travel.
To date, Doctor Who has of course traversed time and space throughout
its legendary history, yet the show’s most recent episode has spun all of this
on its head by delivering what is essentially the notion of the Multiverse.
No longer is time a linear, single stream of events, for last
night’s Orphan 55 episode showcased a potential future. A future in which the
titular Orphan 55 planet is actually a skewed future version of our very own
Earth that has been ravaged by environmental atrocities.
This would all lead to Whittaker’s Doctor waxing lyrical
about how this is simply one possible future for the Earth, and that this can
be avoided if change is implemented. Some saw this as a ham-fisted political
message delivered with the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the knee caps, but
whether you liked or loathed the political message in which this latest episode
was laced in, the greater fact of the matter is that Orphan 55, it’s position
as a possible future, and the fact that this future can be averted opens up the
idea that every decision affects how the future plays out – in turn creating
several strands in which the world can go and in which history can be altered.
By Doctor Who acknowledging this, that in itself offers up a
constantly moving web of new potential timelines – which by definition is what
is known as the Multiverse.
While Doctor Who acknowledging the Multiverse concept is one
thing, by doing so the series has gone against pretty much everything audiences
have ever seen from Doctor Who as it pertains to time travel.
Alternative timelines have previously been seen in
Doctor Who, yet those timelines were out of reach to the Doctor and the Time
Lord’s companions – with those characters only able to actively explore the
one, linear timeline of the main, established canon.
Whether introducing the Multiverse concept was fully the
intention of writers Chris Chibnall and Ed Hime remains to be seen, and this
could well be a case of Messrs Chibnall and Hime overcomplicating Doctor Who
simply for the sake of championing environmental change.