In ‘Name Of The Doctor’ it is revealed that the Doctor’s tomb on Trenzalore contains not his body but the scar tissue of his journey through time and space. This takes the form of energy tendrils, twisting at the centre of what was once the TARDIS control room.
I’ve discussed using this as the basis for a campaign here but let us explore just what it is and what it means.
The Doctor clearly states that time travel is damage. This would suggest that pre-destination isn’t natural, despite evidence to the contrary. No matter how unintrusive a time traveller is their mere presence will harm reality.
We might not be aware of this on a basic level but a tear in reality is a bad thing. In the Doctor Who universe this is usually an open invitation for something to come through, from a void ship to a chronovore.
This does give a games master an excuse to include such entities in an adventure or to explain that the arrival of the time travelling PCs has weakened the barriers of reality that were previously keeping a threat at bay.
The form the scar takes maps the Doctor’s journey from Gallifrey to his resting place on Trenzalore. The tendrils presumably track his life backwards and forwards in time, creating the tangled mess. Its size could be reflective of someone who has lived as long and travelled as much as the Doctor had.
The scar can be manipulated, as the Doctor uses the sonic screwdriver to allow the others to hear the words of his previous incarnations. We learn that the scar allows access to those moments in the Doctor’s life so those sound clips aren’t recording being played back but the rip in reality opening up to allow those gathered to hear what was being said at those different points in time.
Not only is the scar a representation of the Doctor’s journey but has a link to those moments. It can allow someone to travel through time without a TARDIS, which is an impressive feat.
The glimpses we have of Clara falling through the scar are reminiscent of the vortex. The Doctor states that time winds will tear anyone entering apart, scattering them across his timeline.
Those scattered parts are compared to echoes by River Song but we know that they can live entire lives in the time zones they emerge in. The Great Intelligence is able to retain enough sense of purpose to attack the Doctor where he arrives. The Doctor is able to recover Clara as well, suggesting that it need not be fatal if the core (the original person) can be recovered in time.
So where did this energy come from? There is enough evidence to suggest that it could be accumulated vortex energy. It could be that the TARDIS isn’t entirely shielded and those who travel frequently absorb it into their body, allowing the relationship between the vortex and the scar to grow.
It could be that the vortex itself is the timeline of another being or the universe itself. Something so extensive and vast that all other time machines use it travel along. If true what made the vortex originally and are there regions that it doesn’t reach?
At the climax of the episode the scar becomes more like the internal world of the Doctor, as Clara is surrounded by mist and multiple Doctor’s passing her. The Doctor describes them as ghosts, shortly before saying the time line is collapsing in on itself.
It could be that these are echoes, much as the versions of Clara were but emptying into the vortex realm, rather than into the real world. This would explain why they don’t interact with Clara (as earlier Doctor’s almost certainly would).
If they do retain some sentience this would be good place to have a multi-Doctor adventure, without affecting continuity. Here the good and bad days can mix together to create a new story.
The big question is whether the scar forms where the Doctor’s body was or would it always have manifested within the TARDIS control room (as if it was stored there). Could it be moved or was it static?
Other Time Lords might leave similar scars behind, although perhaps not on the same scale. Those who stayed on the Home World for the majority of their lives might not leave a significant scar while the Master certainly would. This can be an important thing to bear in mind with Time Lord PCs.
Not only is a scar dangerous to a Time Lord but to the universe as well, since every victory can be undone. This could intern threaten Gallifrey. This would seem to justify their policy of non-interference and their withdrawal from the universe.
Those Time Lords who did explore the universe would need to return to Gallifrey before their final incarnation to prevent them leaving a scar somewhere where it was vulnerable to interference.
The limit on regenerations could be directly linked to the size of the scar they’d leave behind. It could be that the scar left after 12 regenerations was manageable, where as more would have done more serious damage to reality and being too difficult to control.
Since the scar exists before the Time Lord dies (since the 11th Doctor visits his) would some try to find it early? They’d of course have to except that the circumstances of their death was a fixed point and ignore the rule about not visiting your own grave but that certainly seems in line with someone like the Master.
It may in fact be a wise step to find your scar and take steps to protect it, if for no other reason that to prevent others from finding it. As long as a scar exists a Time Lord is vulnerable throughout his timeline to attacks from his personal future.
This could give motivation for a Time Lord PC. The reason he explores reality is to find his scar and once he finds it to take steps to protect it. This can be an interesting character arc and a way to foreshadows things to come.
If there were many fatalities during the Time War (rather than just those who burned with their planet or ended up time locked) then there could be countless scars. This could be a convenient way to time travel for characters without a TARDIS, as long as they find protection from the time winds.
The Doctor describes his scar as his personal time tunnel. Like the television show of the same name the PCs could be explorers or end up lost, seeing where a scar spits them out. They could cross paths with the scar’s Time Lord (a good opportunity for a PC Time Lord to change each adventure) or keep out of his way.
They could either find a way to re-enter a scar or seek out a new one to travel along a different path. Where ever they emerged would be dramatic, since this would be a memorable moment in the Time Lords life.
If a PC Time Lord dies using their scar could allow his companions to continue travelling and maybe even risk a paradox by altering his history in order to save their departed friend.