In ‘The Five Doctors’ the previous incarnations of the Doctor are captured by a Time Scoop. This has an immediate effect on the current Doctor, the 5th incarnation. This serves as an interesting look at how a Time Lords past can be affected by those with time travel technology.
An important fact here is that Time Lords appear to stay in synch with events on Gallifrey. The ‘Time Link’ books by Jon Preddle discusses this at length. The time scoop is being used concurrently with the 5th Doctor’s time frame so only he feels its effect, rather than any previous or future incarnations.
This might not be the case if a simple abduction occurred in a time zone that the Time Lord wasn’t in synch with. In theory each subsequent incarnation would feel the abduction of his previous identity, with symptoms echoing through the chain of regenerations. That is until the problem was resolved.
The Doctor appears to feel pain in his chest, feels faint and eventually passes out. Upon examination Turlough, who is by no means an expert, says that physically his body is alright.
Turlough also says that it appears to be a psychic attack and this largely seems to be correct. The Doctor states that everything is fading, that his past is detaching resulting in him being diminished.
The implication appears to be that as his previous incarnations removed from his personal time stream the 5th Doctor’s memories of his past are removed as his history is thrown into flux.
With his previous incarnations in his present everything that has happened is no longer certain. The pre-destination that usually determines the universe is no longer in play. This doesn’t mean that Doctor’s 1 to 4 were fated to die in the Death Zone, rather until they were put back nothing was certain.
‘The Name Of The Doctor’ provides an apocalyptic example of what happens when someone eliminates the Doctor in the past. Was a similar event occurring during the events of ‘The Five Doctors’?
A campaign set contemporaneously to ‘The Five Doctors’ could have another group of Time Lords and their companions rushing to stabilise fixed points in time destabilised by the Doctor’s removal.
This could be akin to the 8th Doctor version of ‘Shada’ where they know that something was supposed to happen but have very little to go on. Maybe they only have some brief impressions taken from the Matrix or a copy of the Doctor’s 500 year diary (acquired by CIA agents).
If the universe does almost end when the Doctor’s existence is threatened this could be how the Silence first learn about what would happen should the Great Intelligence succeed in ‘The Name Of The Doctor’. From this point forward they know that if someone has access to the Doctor’s time stream all of time could be unravelled.
It might be that Time Lord technology avoids this problem. This could explain the power drain suffered by the Eye of Harmony. The time scoop not only removes a target but ensures that the web of time is not damaged (perhaps a version of a time lock).
Complicating our diagnosis of the Doctor’s condition is that the 4th incarnation is not successfully removed. The Doctor says that this part of himself is trapped in the time vortex, threatening to pull the rest of them in.
What we can say is that the 5th Doctor falls ill before the 4th Doctor is taken. If we take it that Gallifrey and Time Lords in synch with it can’t be affected by its future then it can’t be entirely because of the 4th Doctor being in time vortex.
If the 4th Doctor had been removed its possible that the 5th Doctor’s condition could stabilise. He certainly recovers quickly once in the presence of his 1st incarnation. If all Time Lords have some telepathic ability it could be that being around earlier versions of himself allows the 5th Doctor to fill the gaps left in his memory.
It could be that the 5th Doctor would only have access to the memories of those versions of himself who are close by. For example, when the 1st Doctor arrives at the TARDIS the 5th Doctor would only remember events up to ‘The Tenth Planet’ with a big gap until ‘Castrovalva’ where his memories would begin again.
This could be a good way to handle an adventure with multiple incarnations of a Time Lord, especially as a way to start a campaign where the Time Lord character has already gone through several incarnations.
Such an adventure could start with the current incarnation of the Time Lord suffering from amnesia. Only by finding his past versions can he put together his history and recover his memories.
The 5th Doctor attempts to use the TARDIS to send out a Recall signal to assemble his earlier selves. He never manages to do this so we don’t know what the result would be or what form it would take.
It could be a distress signal that would be picked up by earlier versions of the TARDIS, giving something for the other Doctors to follow. It could be a signal that goes directly to the earlier Doctors, maybe directed through their TARDIS telepathic circuits.
In either case this would be a strong way to begin an adventure. A Time Lord PC could receive a recall signal. Where will it take them? What trouble is their past or future incarnation in? Should they even follow it and risk crossing their own time stream?
It is curious that this is a pre-installed function of the TARDIS. Did the Time Lords always anticipate that there could be occasions in which they need to draw their past and future incarnations together?
A villain could use this feature to trap multiple incarnations of a Time Lord if they could either access this recall signal or create their own. This could be a way for a GM to delay the death of a captured Time Lord. Instead of killing them straight away their capture activates the recall signal hoping to kill him over and over again (as the Great Intelligence planned).
Of course this then allows you to have the PCs play the earlier incarnation and their companions who must avoid the trap and rescue the later incarnation.
If the 5th Doctor had sent the signal and assembled Doctors 1 to 3 what would have happened? Would their mere presence have been enough to pull the 4th out of the time vortex. This seems unlikely as we see all of the Doctors assemble in the Dark Tower without this happening.
It is probably more likely that their combined memories and expertise would make the 5th Doctor whole and allow him to work out a way to rescue their trapped incarnation. ‘A Fix With The Sontarans’ indicates that the TARDIS has the facility to time scoop others, so it possible that it could pull the 4th Doctor and Romana from the time vortex.
When the 4th Doctor is returned to his own time frame he is disoriented but unhurt. It would appear that the time scoop protects its captives while in transit. Who knows how the Doctor’s history might have changed if he had suffered damage from being exposed to the vortex.
‘Shada’ now exists in two forms, the reconstructed 4th Doctor version that must have originally happened prior to ‘The Five Doctors’ and the 8th Doctor version where he fills in his previous incarnations role.
While the universe as a whole is not affected by this change it would still have an impact on the 4th Doctor. Did he understand what had happened to him? Was the event wiped from his memories by the Time Lords?
Most importantly what version of Season 18 did we see? The one where ‘Shada’ occurred in the Doctor’s past or where it was replaced by ‘The Five Doctors’? Either way subtle differences could have occurred.
If the 4th Doctor is some how aware of the events of ‘The Five Doctors’ it could explain his calm acceptance of his death in ‘Logopolis’ and his belief that the moment has been prepared for.