I’d like to take a moment here an discuss causal paradoxes. “Why?” I hear you ask! “What?” I hear you ask! “We know what a causal paradox is, now get on with it and stop wasting our time!” I hear you declare!
For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, a causal paradox occurs when an event happens that causes the event that will cause the initial event to happen. Take, for example, the device by which the Doctor escapes from the Pandorica in ‘The Pandorica Opens.’ The Pandorica is opened by Rory using the sonic screwdriver given to him by the Doctor from a future in which the Doctor has already escaped from the Pandorica thanks to Rory opening the Pandorica using the sonic given to him by the Doctor from a future in which the Doctor has already escaped from the Pandorica…
As you can see, a causal paradox works much like a feedback loop. It is a closed loop of cause and effect that can theoretically go on forever. Do not try to wrap your mind around that; you will probably end up in an institution somewhere with a very confused look on your face.
So, why have I decided to talk about causal paradoxes? Stephen Moffat likes them, and he uses them a lot. And I have a feeling that we may be coming up to a biggy. I’m not going to tell you what I think is happening in this post, you’ll have to listen to episode 3 next week for that crazy theory. But needless to say, I think it’s going to be big.
The problem with causal paradoxes is that they can either be fantastic or terrible; which one the particular paradox falls into depends entirely on one thing, whether or not the paradox is completely closed.
Doctor Who Magazine recently published an article critical of Moffat’s love of this narrative device, criticizing the fact that every effect in a causal paradox is also a cause which will lead to its own effect. This is problematic if you consider time in a linear fashion, as we all must do as beings that experience time in this way. However, for a Time Lord that does not experience time in this way, it makes sense that the Doctor will be able to engage in these events, and create them. The Doctor can exist within a causal paradox because he has the ability to go back in time and do the actions required to complete the paradox, closing off the cause and effect and making a complete loop.
The paradox in The Big Bang is such a paradox, a good paradox. When the Doctor is released by his future self, he has the ability to go back in time in order to make this event occur. This means that the Doctor must complete certain actions in order for him to have been released, which raises questions about free will and determinism in a world with time travel capability, but I’m sure this post is already confusing and complicating enough.
However, Moffat’s love of paradoxes falls down with the Comic Relief episodes “Time” and “Space.” When the Doctor leaps through the TARDIS door and tells his past self to hit the wibbly lever, the question must be asked, when did the future Doctor acquire this information? In the Doctor’s own timeline, his future self leaps out of the TARDIS door and tells him to hit the wibbly lever, he does so, and then leaps through the door and then tells his past self to hit the wibbly lever. At no point did the Doctor discover that he needed to hit the wibbly lever, which means one of two things: either the Doctor already knew what to do to get out of the situation the TARDIS crew found themselves in, or this paradox is not a closed loop (as information is coming in from outside the loop), and as such is a bad paradox. It seems unlikely that the Doctor would wait until the point of jeopardy in order to show off, so it is more likely that Moffat simply tried to be a little too clever.
Not that this is a problem, “Time” and “Space” were small things intended to amuse, but please keep this idea of good and bad paradoxes in mind when we come to the crazy theories in episode 3. It will help you to understand why I have a small feeling of apprehension lingering in my mind.