The Science Behind Doctor Who

By James Neil

Spoiler warning for the season finally Doctor Who season 12

Dr who and Nikolai tesla: courtesy of the BBC, Doctor who gallery BBC One website

A couple of weeks ago we were treated to the season finale of Doctor Who, in which our favourite timelord battled against the villainous Master and the wicked cybermen, However, what is the possibility that these time-traveling capers could happen in the real world, so from the TARDIS to Trenzalore lets investigate the Science behind Doctor Who.

Firstly we must get to the elephant in the room time travel, it’s the core premise of the show, sure The Doctor might have a preference for 21st century England but we have seen adventures from the end of the earth to the Viking era, with even a reference to the prehistoric when Capaldi began his run. Well to explain this phenomenon we are going to need some help from Einstein. His theory known as special relativity holds some of the answers we are looking for. One of its main outcomes is to do with the perception of objects traveling at the speed of light, to better explain this imagine two twins, one on earth and the other on a spaceship traveling near the speed of light. Upon return, the twin on earth would claim that 100 years have passed, whilst the twin traveling at the speed of light would argue that it been closer to ten. In essence, the twin on the ship appears to have skipped about 90 years into the future. So perhaps the key to the Tardis is harnessing the power of special relativity. Well, there are unfortunately some issues with this theory, for one the sort of time travel special relativity allows is a one way trip to the future. Also to reach even close the speed of light requires massive amounts of energy, to reach the actual speed of light is impossible, so it would be quite the feat of engineering to achieve this.

The next thing I figured it would be a good idea to discuss is The Doctor’s ability to regenerate. Indeed we see abilities like this in the animal kingdom. In Cephalopods, like octopus' that are known to be able to regenerate limbs and some lizards like Iguanas’ that regrow their tails, indeed from these examples it might be that the doctor ought to look like a Silurian, like Madame Vastra, or even more like the creature inside the Doctors most hated foe, the Dalek. Whilst these amazing creatures suggest a promising start to our investigation, there is perhaps one that has an even closer resemblance to the doctor’s abilities. Turritopsis Dohrnii, more commonly known by the grand title of ‘the immortal jellyfish’ has the amazing ability to revert to a younger age when stressed or nearing the end of its lifecycle. This is somewhat akin to the doctor completely changing when suffering a fatal wound to escape death and regenerate. It could be that when we see The Doctor regenerate, we are seeing the same or a similar process to this. And with the revelation that The Doctor is not a timelord but a creature from another dimension, who knows perhaps The Doctors' true form is that of a Jellyfish. In any case it seems that a world about a mysterious figure in a blue box who travels through time saving the day isn't as unlikely as it might first appear.