Playing in the Big Leagues

One of the most interesting things that has come out of sci-fi for me recently is the concept of of the Time War from Doctor Who. It’s  not that its  a new concept. Wars in time have appeared numerous times in science fiction. From the Outer Limits episode Demon with a Glass Hand to the Infinite Worlds core campaign idea for GURPS, the idea of a conflict running through the epochs of the world, or even the universe, is compelling. In most versions I’ve encountered, it is a war fought in small units for key points in the continuum, to shape reality to the desires of one side or the other. It’s a spy thriller with an ever changing backdrop, or a surgical strike to correct a single event.

The Time War between the Daleks and the Time Lords of Gallifrey is a different sort of conflict altogether. We are shown huge fleets, told that worlds have been destroyed. History itself twists around the war, which for the safety of the universe itself  is Time Locked, inaccessible to everyone.  We hear mention of the Nightmare Child, and the Maybe-King and his army of Never-Weres. The imagery evoked is vast and terrifying. All of existence is at stake.

How would such a war be fought? What could the possible objectives be?  What sort of tactics would come into play? What are the risks? The stakes? How far can each side go? How far is too far?

Because this topic gets VERY big, VERY fast, I am going to narrow my focus to the war between the Daleks and Time Lords, using their priorities to ricochet ideas through. I’m also going to break this up into several different posts to keep my momentum going. Maybe later I’ll play with other objectives and strategies, just for fun.

For this post, we begin with the fundamentals. What are the objectives of each side?

In any conflict involving the Daleks, this is a simple question. The Daleks are capable of only one objective; kill anything that isn’t a Dalek. Any war against the Daleks is automatically a battle for survival. The opposition can therefore have only two viable responses. They can run, or they can fight to the death.  The Time Lords chose to fight. Therefore, the ultimate objective of each side is the extinction of the other.

Of course, when you allow for time travel, “extinction” has a slightly broader definition. One does not have to kill an enemy off in the long term.  Play it right, and you can make it so they never existed in the first place. Be careful with that option, though. Payback is a bitch. So another  critical objective is secure your own causality. Make sure those events that let your people develop into what they become don’t change.

And this is where things go pear-shaped. See, events don’t occur in a vacuum. One thing really does lead to another. In a universe where species mingle, how other species treat you on contact shapes what you will become.  Now you have to protect their causality, too.

Here both sides of the Time War are fairly safe. The Time Lords are, if not the oldest, then one of the oldest races in the universe. No one else influenced their evolution directly. There is only one chain to watch for  most of time. As for the Daleks . . . well, they are alive, which means whatever species they encountered is dead. Simplicity has its advantages.

Now, of course, you have to go on the offensive. You have to degrade your opponent’s causality as best you can.  And here’s where the pear goes transcendental.

Which makes it a good place to stop for now, because from here it gets REALLY fun.

See you next time.


5 Responses to Playing in the Big Leagues

  1. dreygeaux says:

    Thank you for the graphic!

  2. Sam Gafford says:

    I’ve long thought that the Time War concept was one of the more interesting aspects of the new Doctor Who. I really wish that they would go back and show us what actually happened but, in the long run, what we imagine will be far better than whatever they could show!

    • dreygeaux says:

      Sam, you an I agree on this. In continuity, I don’t need to know the details of one particular Time War. But this post isn’t about the Time War. It’s about War in Time. Doctor Who isn’t the focus, just the lens.

  3. Ronny says:

    It seems to me that when you are dealing with time travel on this level it moves from an war of power to a war of intelligence. What becomes important is no longer strength. Changing time has such drastic consequences, including impact upon those manipulating time to their hoped for advantage, that understanding the impact of the changes becomes more import than the initial change itself.

    Yet, understanding the ripples from a time-change seems a daunting task. In fact, at a micro level it seems almost impossible. To understand the changes at an individual person level, for all people, across all time is enormous. More importantly, it is not necessary. The goal of those altering time is not to ensure causality at an individual level, but at a larger (species?) level.

    Thus, the real task becomes predicting the ripples that will inevitably occur and ensuring that once they slow down the pond of time will return to a smooth, calm surface. There might be a fish or two missing from the pond, but the pond is still there.

    • dreygeaux says:

      Excellent metaphor in you last paragraph, my friend. But don’t get ahead of me. I haven’t gotten to that part of the playground yet. 🙂

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