Time vortex (Doctor Who)
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (June 2009)|
In the science fiction television series Doctor Who, the time vortex (sometimes called the space-time vortex) is the entity that the TARDIS and other time machines (such as the vortex manipulators used by River Song and Captain Jack Harkness) travel through. It is mostly used as a kind of wormhole in time and space.
In the classic series, the "howl-around" or "slit-scan" tunnel seen in most versions of the series' title sequence is supposed to be a representation of the time vortex (first implied in the pilot episode "An Unearthly Child"), although it is sometimes also shown as nothingness. The original effect was created by video feedback and can be reproduced by pointing a camcorder at a screen displaying the camcorder's output. This is the video equivalent of the whistling noise heard when a microphone 'feeds back' when too close to a speaker.
During the last season of Jon Pertwee's run as the Doctor as well as nearly all of Tom Baker's run afterwards, the vortex was represented as a silver tunnel constantly moving forward, created using a slit-scan photography technique. This version of the vortex was only ever seen during the opening credits.
During Peter Davison's reign as the Doctor, the vortex was only ever seen on the monitor as a series of boxes within boxes supposedly moving forwards.
As for the 9th, 10th and the 11th (and current) Doctor, it has an overall blue, and sometimes red area where there can be different outlines, all of different colours.
However, during the classic series, exterior shots of the TARDIS travelling usually took place in space or a blank screen. Examples of this include The Mind Robber (with the TARDIS spinning in front of a plain background before exploding) and The Pyramids of Mars (with the TARDIS in space).
In the new series (revived in 2005), the direction of the TARDIS's time travel through the vortex can be discerned from the surrounding colours: blue for travelling into the past and red for travelling into the future, most likely inspired by the Doppler effect. While this high-speed vortex effect is used for the opening titles and TARDIS travel, a less kinetic visualization underlays the credits, and has been used on occasion within the program to represent the vortex without TARDIS travel ("The Sound of Drums").
The new series' vortex graphics are produced by The Mill.
The time vortex for the 5th and 6th series has been given a redesign, with a cloud effect and bolts of lighting crossing through the vortex and sometimes hitting the TARDIS, which then falls into a second region where the cloudy look is replaced with fire. In series 7, as each episode's opening titles are unique, the time vortex is coloured accordingly to match. In the second half of series 7 (from "The Snowmen" and onwards) the opening titles have changed to show the TARDIS flying through nebulae and other space matter. It is currently seen as being a red/maroon colour.
The vortex is outside normal space-time, and therefore normal rules of physics do not apply. For instance, in the vortex the equation for the relationship between energy and matter is E = mc3 (The Time Monster). In the Virgin New Adventures novel Just War by Lance Parkin, it was stated that the vortex was built by the Time Lords as a multidimensional spiral that connected all points in space and time. The canonicity of non-television stories is open to interpretation.
The vortex is an extremely hostile environment. In the serial Planet of Giants, opening the TARDIS doors in-flight caused the First Doctor and his companions to shrink to about an inch. Also, in the Second Doctor serial The Enemy of the World, the TARDIS doors open in-flight, pulling Salamander into the space-time vortex, and in Warriors' Gate saw the interior of the ship exposed to the time winds, which age whatever they come into contact with. Time Lords appear to have some resistance to this, although unprotected travel within the vortex is still extremely dangerous and often considered fatal (Shada). In "Utopia", Captain Jack survives for a time in the vortex as he clings to the TARDIS whilst it is in flight; but afterwards he is judged to be dead by Martha Jones, only to revive due to his personal immortality.
In Day of the Daleks a person travelling through the vortex could be drawn to a specific location by the use of a device called a "vortex magnetron".
Beings that dwell in the vortex include the Chronometers (The Time Monster, although in the novel The Quantum Archangel, they are said to live beyond the vortex, in Calabi-Yau space), the Vortex Wraiths (the Eighth Doctor Adventures novels The Slow Empire and Timeless), clockwork creatures (the Eighth Doctor Adventure Arachnophobia), the Vortisaurs (the Big Finish audio play Storm Warning), the Tar-Modowk (No More Lies) and the Reapers ("Father's Day"). It is unknown if any of them are related to each other. In the Eighth Doctor Adventures, Sabbath's employers set up their headquarters in the vortex, casting many of the natives out into the linear universe.
In the Virgin Missing Adventures novel The Well-Mannered War, the TARDIS accidentally wanders into the time spiral, which exists at the perimeter of the time vortex; its forces are strong enough to destroy even the TARDIS. The TARDIS is equipped with a device that forces materialization in the event it enters the spiral, but the Doctor stated that for this to happen, "there would have to be erosion in the systems circuitry on a massive scale". Like all spin-off media, the canonicity of the novel is open to interpretation, but the spiral is briefly mentioned in the 1st episode of The Sun Makers.
At the climax of the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip story The Flood (DWM #346-#353), the Eighth Doctor hurls himself into the vortex, partially merging with it and gaining tremendous power which he uses to destroy the Cybermen invading Earth. He is almost content to merge fully with the vortex until he is persuaded to return by his companion Destrii.
In the 2005 series episode "The Parting of the Ways", Rose Tyler inadvertently exposes herself to the energies of the vortex while attempting to activate the Ninth Doctor's TARDIS. The exposure gives her absolute power over time and space, allowing her to destroy the Daleks and resurrect fellow companion Jack Harkness (which explains Jack's immortality), but the energies overwhelm her and she collapses. The Doctor is able to save her life by absorbing the vortex energies at the cost of damaging his cells and forcing a regeneration.
In "Utopia" (2007), the Tenth Doctor says that if a Time Lord were to absorb the time vortex, he would become a "vengeful god". While the Ninth Doctor displayed no such tendencies when taking the power from Rose (although he expelled most of it back to its source), the Eighth did during The Flood before he emerged from the vortex.
"Doomsday" and "Invasion of the Bane" clarified that time travellers in the vortex, such as Rose Tyler and Sarah Jane Smith absorb background radiation called "artron energy" which some creatures such as Daleks can use as an alternative energy source. Other races such as the Bane can use other energy that is absorbed through travel in the time vortex to identify time travelers.
In "The Sound of Drums", the Doctor tells his companions that there was a portal on Gallifrey called the Untempered Schism, a gap in the fabric of reality where one could look directly into the vortex. Eight-year-old Gallifreyans were taken there as part of their initiation into the Time Lord Academy. "Some are inspired, some run away (as the Doctor says he did), and some (for example, according to the Doctor, the Master) go mad."
In "The End of Time", it is revealed that on the final day of the Last Great Time War, the Time Lords used the Untempered Schism to send a signal back through time as part of a plan to escape their destruction. This signal, the sound of a Time Lord's heartbeats, was the constant four-beat drumming the Master heard throughout his life, driving him mad.
It is also revealed that the Time Lords were prepared to use a plan known as the Final Sanction to win the Time War, in which they would cause a rupture in time which would get worse until it ripped apart the Time Vortex and, by extension, all of creation. The Time Lords planned to survive this by ascending to another plane of existence but their plan is stopped by the Doctor who sends them back into the war, trapping them.
In "The Pandorica Opens" of series 5, the redesigned vortex is seen in-episode for the first and so far only time. It was also the first time since the series was revived in 2005 that a different vortex had been used during an episode. In the 2013 episode "Hide", the red/maroon vortex that briefly appears during the opening credits makes an appearance in an episode for the first time. During the 50th Anniversary Special "The Day of the Doctor" the War Doctor's TARDIS can be seen flying through a different time vortex to the other Doctors, made up of rings of sparks on a featureless black background.
In "A Good Man Goes to War" of series 6, it is revealed that the daughter of Amy Pond and Rory Williams shares genetic traits with Time Lord DNA due to exposure to the time vortex. This happened due to her being conceived within the TARDIS whilst the TARDIS was within the vortex.