During their search for monsters under the bed in ‘Listen’ the Doctor and Clara encounter Orson Pink. A 100 years into Clara’s future he is a descendant of Danny Pink. The reason that they found him at the end of time is that he was part of a time travel experiment and he became stranded.
This gives us some hints at how humanity develops time travel. While an exact date isn’t given it must be around 2114. This puts this around the same time as ‘The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People’ and ‘Nightmare of Eden’.
This does seem very early for humanity to develop time travel but the key could be that the Doctor calls these time shots and that the aim was sending him into the next week. At this stage it is possible that they could only send someone forward in time.
Compared to the TARDIS this is much more simplistic and could just take advantage of the time dilation that occurs during space travel. From the design of Orson’s vessel it probably needed to propel itself through space.
The ship seems intact but not in a state to take off. This suggests that it needs to be moving to work. If it can only move forward in time then Orson would have no way to go home, again indicating why it was only supposed to be short jump.
Later Orson indicates that at least one of his great grandparents were time travellers. This means that this knowledge wasn’t kept secret. Could this ancestor be responsible for starting development on the time shot? Was Orson chosen for the mission based on this history or is it coincidental?
The fact that this is the first great time shots suggests that there would be more. We must first decide whether this was due to the Doctor’s intervention. Since the Doctor hadn’t yet rescued Orson it is likely that the time travel experiments continued regardless. Of course Orson’s rescue could have been a predestined part of the timeline and if they hadn’t returned him then the experiments would have stopped.
How did the world react when Orson didn’t appear on the target date? They must have waited, expecting him to appear at some point because they knew he was moving forward in time. How long before they gave up hope and what convinced them to try again?
We never learn why Orson overshot his target. Was it a miscalculation, sabotage or outside influence that caused him to hurtle so far forward into the future?
Were the subsequent time shot experiments any more successful? Was there always only one crewmember or did they send teams? If they did successfully reappear how did the public react? If they went missing as well where did they end up?
‘Hide’ also features a time travel pioneer, Hila Tacorian, from a few hundred years after 1974. A few would indicate it is later than at least 2074 so it could be around 2174 or later. This would place it after ‘The Dalek Invasion Of Earth’ which would explain the delay in the time shot experiments.
Orson makes it clear that he wants to go home. It isn’t entirely clear where the Doctor does drop him off, although Orson appears to be happy at his destination. Did he listen to Clara and avoid time travel or did he make his return known and prevent similar mistakes.
Would the Doctor want humanity to develop time travel at this early stage? Previously the Time Lords would restrict this type of technology and the Doctor is very familiar with how time travel technology could be misused. If he wanted to slow their progress he might not have taken Orson to the write era.
The Doctor does seem aware of the time shots so he might not take any steps to prevent it, as it is part of established history.
There is the question of what advantage moving forward in time can give you if you can’t go back. It could be that it is just for exploration or a desire to see what the future might bring. The pioneers ensure that they will be alive to see things far ahead of their natural life span.
The technology could be useful to avoid periods of time. For example a time shot could have been used prior to ‘The Dalek Invasion Of Earth’ to hope that by the time they re-emerge the aliens would be defeated.
Since they have no idea what the future holds those using time shots could find themselves in the midst of an invasion. Their resources and relative lack of fatigue could be vital in ensuring the freedom of their planet.
The goal of the time shots might be to keep leaping forward until humanity has mastered the secret of travelling into the past. The pioneer can then return home, with the knowledge of how to progress their experiments.
This might result in a paradox, since the knowledge will change history and thus mean that the pioneer couldn’t have got the information in the first place. PCs might have to repair the damage that has been done.
Once they gain the ability to go backwards they can make the return trip, potentially landing in different eras. They could be persuaded by the Time Agency to prevent disruption to the past.
A campaign could be based around the exploits of a team of pioneers. They can travel in time but only going forward. Making short jumps they can find out what has happened in the intervening years, gather resources and ensure that everything is left in safe hands before they make their next big jump forward. What happens if these pioneers should bump into themselves coming the other way?
Once humanity has mastered time travel the PCs could help discover what happened to the missing pioneers. Orson and Hila are accounted for but what about the rest? They could still be out there, stranded and awaiting rescue.