MIND MELD: Where Would You Take the T.A.R.D.I.S.?
It was the recent Mind Meld on Favorite Convention Panels, combined with the romance of the phrase “All of time and space. Everything that ever happened or ever will…,” that inspired me to ask our panelists this question:
Here’s what they said:
I’d take the T.A.R.D.I.S. to the apartment of Mrs. De Florian, who fled Paris before WWII broke out. She sealed the apartment up, and never returned. There were lots of photographs of it making the rounds for awhile a few years ago, after her heirs enlisted a few professionals to help them inventory all she’d left behind. I’d go to the apartment about a month after she’d left. When there was very little dust, and no decades of cobwebs. I’d marvel at this beautiful, silent place, waiting for someone to return to it. So much of history isn’t what happened, it’s how the pauses between things were filled. In the case of a certain time capsule of an apartment in Paris, the pause between the door closing and opening was filled only with silence. If I did ever get the chance to take more trips, I’d want to visit many silent places.
I’d like to go and visit the era of my favourite King of England, Edward the Confessor, who was ‘too religious’ to have children with his wife, Edith Swan-Neck, the most beautiful woman in England. Together, they played every enemy against each other, and kept the land at peace for decades. There are monk’s chronicles of them visiting abbeys and having fun bets with each other. I see them as a medieval Thin Man couple, except one of them’s gay. I’d love to see how much of that I’m making up. Loads, probably.
I’m not entirely sure where my fascination with space travel came from. Neither of my parents were overly adventurous, so I can only assume it was the amount of science fiction I ingested as a child. Whatever the reason, the result was that I was obsessed. If a program had spaceships in, I watched it. I devoured every newspaper article that mentioned space. I regularly “borrowed” my father’s binoculars and taught myself the major constellations (and a fair few minor ones as well).
My sisters are old enough to have seen the Moon landing. Did they? Well, not live. They just weren’t interested. Don’t ask me how that’s possible, because it’s something I won’t ever understand. I would loved to have been alive at that time!
In “Blink”, Martha Jones says she and the Doctor had been back to watch the moon landing four times. Yes, that’s how you do time travel!
Yet, if the Doctor turned up on my doorstep, I wouldn’t actually want to go back to 1969. I’ve seen the moon landing, and while that might not have been ‘live’, several times. I’d like to watch humanity take one giant leap on a whole new world. I’d ask to go forwards in time and watch the first person step foot on Mars.
And hopefully there’d been no water…
I would travel forward in time to the point where jetpacks have become the normal mode of transportation, get one, and then when I returned home, I would use the jetpack to fly to DeNardo’s house and show him my awesome new jetpack…
This is a really hard question to answer – especially as an archaeology graduate, there are so many different places and times in history that I’d love to check out to see whether we’ve gotten things right! And as a big reader of science fiction, the future is also equally as appealing… And we mustn’t forget that the T.A.R.D.I.S. doesn’t always take you *quite* where you wanted to go…
I think I’m going to have to go with the past. Specifically to Hisarlik (in modern day Turkey) around 1190 BC, which is the alleged (or rather, most cited) date and place of the Trojan War. It’s something that’s always fascinated me – the fact that it could be myth, it could be history – or it could be a bit of both. I’d love to see if any of Homer’s heroes were real or were inspired by real people, and whether their society worked as we think it did. Basically I’d like to cheat in making a huge archaeological discovery! I mean… gather important knowledge about an ancient culture that will help us towards understanding them. Yeah.
There are so many other places I can list, historic events that I love to read about or have studied in depth, but I definitely think the Trojan War tops them all. Although seeing Boudicca in the flesh would also be pretty amazing (and terrifying).
First of all, if this was any other time-travel scenario, my answer would be very different. I love time-travel stories, but I never like to put myself into them as I read/watch. The thought of suddenly finding myself outside my own time is downright terrifying. I am a creature of habit to a nigh-alarming degree. I have enough trouble trying out a new restaurant; getting the hang of a new era/planet/society might break me.
That said, if the Doctor is along for the ride, that’s a whole different kettle of fishes. Sure, his companions occasionally kick the bucket, but for the most part, he’s a fairly interesting and competent tour guide. It’s rare the TARDIS zips off without him, so I’m going to assume he’ll be along and keep me safe (at least until I inevitably wander off).
The real-world place/time I’ve always wanted to visit is England in the early 1600s–not because I’m particularly interested in that society, but because I really want to know if Shakespeare did, in fact, write all those wonderful plays. Yes. I’m that kind of lit-nerd.
However, the question here was framed as a “trip in the TARDIS”. If I’m taking it as read the TARDIS exists, then I feel I should accept the Doctor’s adventures (at least as seen on BBC television) are “real”. As anyone who watched all of series 3 knows, the Doctor already palled around with William S, and it was fairly clear he penned his own works.
So that shoots down the only choice I’ve ever come up with. (No, I have no interest in hanging out with that particular version of Shakespeare.) Hrm. This is difficult.
Honestly, this question is overwhelming. All of time and space? That’s just too much! As a matter of fact, I’m so stressed just thinking about it, I’ve decided I need a vacation.
Okay Doctor, set coordinates for the Eye of Orion. I want to relax in one of the most tranquil places in the universe for a while. A healthy dose of “high bombardment of positive ions” will be just the ticket.
…But if you start experiencing any “cosmic angst”, you can bet your buttons I’m not getting back into that TARDIS. The Death Zone is positively no place to spend one’s holiday.
Oh, the possibilities. The endless realms of time and space. Anywhere, anytime. And so on. If you discount any particular trips in space (because, come on, you’ve got the keys to a time machine), then how do you pick an era to visit? What famous historical event do you want to be eyewitness to? The options are endless.
Neh. Forget all that. Visiting a single event just for a thrilling moment in history would be a bit of wasted trip. If you’re going back in time, you want the most bang for your buck.
Which is why I’d travel to somewhere in the United States, arriving January 1st 1954. And I’d plan to stay a while.
1954 marks the beginning of an important few years in US history – more specifically, in US pop culture history. As the country moved out of the recession of 1953, things started looking up.
May 20th of that year marks arguably the start of the rock’n’roll era, with Rock Around The Clock released by Bill Haley and His Comets. Two months later, Elvis Presley’s first single, That’s All Right, is released. And keeping with the musical theme, the first transistor radio from Texas Instruments goes on sale in November – the first colour television having been introduced in January by RCA. TV dinners followed the same year.
And there’s lots to look forward to before the 1958 recession kicks in. In 1955, Chevrolet introduces an updated automobile, a major turning point for the company and perhaps the beginning of a new era of elegance in American cars – and the 1957 update is even more iconic. Showcase #4 is released in October 1956 by DC Comics, marking the start of the Silver Age of comics with the arrival of Barry Allen, the reinvented Flash.
Of course, I’m looking at this from a privileged position. I’m a white male, so 1954 America is easy for me; Rosa Parks won’t make her stand on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama until December 1955. I’m also young(ish) and in good health – a visit to a 1954 hospital is the stuff of nightmares.
But this is an historical era that is recognizably part of our current world, and one eminently more navigable – and survivable – that a trip further back. Stephen King’s novel 11/22/63 explores the idea of traveling back to more or less this era (1958 in the book) and staying for a prolonged period. I must admit, I find this appealing. It’s a slower age, one without home computers and the internet – and all the distraction that brings. There might not be any big historical moments to watch, and being so relatively recent it’s also an era that is fairly well documented – after all, there are people alive today who remember 1954 very well indeed.
But as someone born more than 20 years later, it’s a place and a time I’d like to visit.
This one is a real stump for me. I am a sci fi writer, but I am also a qualified archaeologist so the past is just as enticing as the future! But the more I think about it the more I am drawn to the future. We can imagine the past but our imagination of what it was like is based on what we observe in the evidence – we don’t have to imagine a medieval castle or a Roman city because we see their remnants around us.
The future is imagined and reimagined and pondered over every day and yet they are all as plausible as each other because they haven’t happened yet; even when we are actually looking at the near future and developing technologies we can only imagine what impact they are going to have on us.
Having given it some serious thought, I would use the TARDIS to go to the moment when humanity makes first contact with a sentient species from another world for the very first time. It is going to change EVERYTHING. It will be as big for us as a dozen or more turning points in human history. Not a single person or society will be unaffected by this and it will affect all of us at once. I only hope it comes in my lifetime
I went to Space Camp three times as a kid. You read that correctly. Three times. In fact, when I went back the third time, even though I was too young for it, they moved me up to Space Academy. An 11 year old on a team of 14 year olds, I was the team pet and was even named Commander of our Space Mission. Needless to say, I’ve always wanted to see the stars. So if I were ever to hear that sound the TARDIS makes (“that wheezing groaning sound that brings hope wherever it goes”) outside my door, THAT’S what I’d say: “Show me the stars, Doctor”.
Now, I don’t know exactly WHAT I want to see…just that I want to see it. But that’s the great mystery of space, isn’t it? We don’t know exactly what’s out there. The possibilities are endless. It’s why human beings have spent centuries trying to come up with ways to discover what’s beyond our planet and our galaxy. It’s why we have things like Space Camp. The mystery and the desire to see something truly fantastic is often why the companions choose to travel with the Doctor. They challenge him to show them the most wonderful thing he can and he delivers on that promise every single time. So that’s what I’d do. “Impress me, Doctor. Show me what you’ve got as long as it’s fantastic and not of this world.”
Just as long as we can make a pit stop along the way where The Doctor can dangle me out of the TARDIS, like he did with Amy Pond. I want to cackle with delight exclaiming “WE ARE IN SPACE!” just like she did. I want to be completely weightless, with my hair floating all around me. I want to be able to see everything around me…the stars, the planets. I want to marvel at just how vast this universe is. That’s not asking for too much, right?
Just like it was for my girl Rose Tyler, it’s the “Did I mention it also travels in time?” that would get me inside the little blue box. My dream TARDIS trip would be one of a literary Earth history nature. I was an English major – what can I say?
There’s a lovely reverence for books in Doctor Who. In the future according to the show, physical books are still printed, bought, and well-loved thousands and thousands of years after technology makes them obsolete. There’s an entire planet dedicated to the preservation of the written word. The Doctor keeps a trunk of mystery novels under a grate in the console room. (Think of the dent you could put in your reading list over 1100 years.) And Amy’s final farewell to him is printed in a book for any reader in the world to see. It’s a nod to the transportive power of reading: a ticket to all of time and space, no TARDIS required.
Episodes like “The Unicorn and the Wasp,” “The Unquiet Dead,” and “The Shakespeare Code” feel so magical to me. First of all, the Doctor – that great admirer of the human mind – is as slack-jawed in the presence of Agatha Christie, Dickens, and Shakespeare as the companion is. More so, really. And yes, cultural gods become mere people – people who have bad breath and fret about their artistic legacy and can’t resist a bit of praise. But that’s what makes them so extraordinary. Well that, and whatever alien force is wreaking havoc in their lives when the Doctor and I show up. There’s always a mystery solved or a secret revealed when the TARDIS materializes in an author’s timeline. So even though I’d be in a well-documented section of Earth past, I’d be privy to something that no one else in my present – not even scholars who’ve dedicated their entire careers to that writer – could possibly know. What happens at Lady Eddison’s garden party stays at Lady Eddison’s garden party.
Plus, I’d relish the opportunity to dive into the TARDIS wardrobe and pick out a dope period ensemble for myself. Rumor has it the Doctor will be visiting Jane Austen soon. Say the word and I’ll be there in my muslin, ready to stand between alien invasion and the country ball.
I’d travel to the summer of 1816 to the lavish country house on Lake Geneva, Switzerland to hang with one of my intellectual heroines, Mary Shelley. During that weekend Mary and her companions (read lovers), the poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron, played a version of “truth or dare” and from that game the brilliant Mary Shelley imagined Frankenstein, the first scifi novel.
Isn’t that a question for the ages? When the Tardis can go anywhere but the land of Noddy, it’s a pretty hard task to narrow it down. Especially considering that many of the places I would want to visit, I want to do so just because it appeared in an episode of Doctor Who. As the Doctor himself best put it, that’s Boring.
So I suppose I would want to visit somewhere that at least contains the key themes of Doctor Who, if not that places and characters themselves. For that, I would want to go into the future, just after we’ve finally gotten into space properly and are exploring just how far we can go. It’s cramped, full of tension and yet holds so much potential for the future of humanity. In other words, its perfect.
That’s what Who has always been best at- showing us what humanity can achieve if only we put aside our petty grievances for a moment and thought about the future. Yet unlike something like Legion of Superheroes or Star Trek, Doctor Who acknowledges that the very thing people say we need to get rid of to ‘evolve’, is probably what will get us out into the universe in the first place.
A future for humanity created by those negative traits, focused positively. That’s a place worth visiting.
This is like trying to choose my favourite book – I don’t have one! Or at least, it changes depending on my mood. If I could go anywhere, any time, the choices are so diverse. I know that, for a start, I wouldn’t be as interested in going back to a historical period on this planet as going into the future or elsewhere in the universe. I’m more interested in finding answers for the (currently) unanswerable. So going to another planet, habitable or otherwise, appeals more than the past on this one, as we know so little about them.
But the future is even more mysterious, and wherever I went, I’d want to go forward in time. It would be annoying to explore another planet only to find that, within your lifetime, all the interesting things you learned would be discovered with non-TARDIS technology anyway. I’d want to exploit the TARDIS’ abilities to the fullest, and jump ahead in time to see what happens to the Earth, the solar system, the galaxy and, ultimately, the universe. I suspect this is because I like to know how the story ends, even if it does leave a few loose ends fluttering invitingly.
If the Doctor showed up and told me I get one ride in the TARDIS, I think I’d choose to go to the future. I mean, you know, after I stopped hyperventilating and gesturing wildly at the Doctor in absolute awe and wonder.
I’m obsessed with the past. I love steampunk and I love the Regency to pieces. I could have gone back to meet Jane Austen or Shakespeare or Queen Victoria but the past is also very… final. It already happened and it can’t be changed. We’ve studied it and dissected it and I’ve seen it in museums. It may be wonderful to stroll through a Regency manor in period dress or see if King Arthur was real but it’s not as important as looking forward. I feel as if humanity is on the precipice of great change, for better or for worse and I want to see what happens.
I’d step into that blue box and request to go forward. Maybe only a hundred years or maybe a thousand. I want to see what humanity will do. Will we be consumed by climate change and our planet made nearly uninhabitable with great swaths of land ruined by drought and famine? Would we succumb to another world war and the landscape marred by nukes and biological weapons? Maybe technology would take over and everyone would be accessing Twitter and Facebook on their Oculus contact lenses, eternally plugged in.
I’d want to see what humanity has done with all the social, medical and technological breakthroughs we continue to make. Would we be happy or would it be some dystopian misery a la William Gibson? Ultimately, I think this is why we read science fiction. We all want to know the future and we place our bets on the likes of Scalzi, Stephenson and Banks to show us what we might expect in fifty, a hundred or even a thousand years from now. If I didn’t like what the Doctor showed me I might have a chance to come back and help improve things.
Speaking of books, perhaps the Doctor would take me to a giant future library where I could see what present day authors have become the new Dickens and Austen! What I wouldn’t give to see Neil Gaiman in the classic literature section!
Then again, on second thought, I’ve seen what happens to the Doctor when he visits a library…
Why? Time travel. One of the great questions of the geek mind. Previous generations struggled with metaphysical inquiries such as “How many angels could fit on a head of a pin?” We wonder if we could warn Pearl Harbor.
Because we are those people. When other people talk about time travel, we pause and put up an annoying finger and say “Well…you know Einstein’s theory does allow for travel forward in time.” Like we have any idea what we are talking about.
So yeah, I think about time travel. I always have. About paradox and causality and quantum tunneling. Way back since my Classics Illustrated H.G. Wells. Since The Cave of Time. Since Days of Future Past. So in approaching this question, I started with rules. Since it is a T.A.R.D.I.S., we have fixed time and flux time to work with. Of course, there are personal places in time I’d like to go back to. I’d like to see my Dad again. But the Doctor Who universe makes this very clear: that won’t help. You can’t go back to Gallifrey.
And I get that rule. You can’t have regrets. You can’t change everything that has brought you here. Those are the rules. And if here is not where you want to be – keep going. You’ll get there.
But when would I go? Do I go back and sucker-punch the guy who spoiled the end of Empire Strikes Back as I anxiously waited in line? Or do I spy in on great historical or religious moments? Or just go back and have New Coke or Original KFC again?
That stuff would all be old. I’ve done that; we’ve done that.
No, I would want to do something no one has ever done before or after.
I would go see a dinosaur.
We know dinosaurs are real. We have their bones and hang them up in high rooms. But I don’t think any of us really believes they existed. Not in any experiential way. It’s just too uncanny an experience. We imagine them in HD and 3-D and off the port bow of Dr. Tyson’s “Ship of the Imagination”/ Naboo diplomatic cruiser – and that’s all great – but it’s not real. And it never will be. No pixel ratio will ever be high enough. No one has ever seen them.
So yeah, I know Bradbury danger and all that, but I want to step out of the blue box and see something we’ve only guessed at. I want to see a T.Rex and understand what the air feels like around it. I want to see science where there is no longer need for fiction. I won’t step on a butterfly or anything, I just want to see something unreal and uncanny. I want to be scared of the monster.
That would be worth going back in time for, I think. That would be worth bending the rules. Why?
Because no one has ever seen a dinosaur.
And dinosaurs are cool.
Tagged with: Adam Christopher • Brad Ricca • Carole Barrowman • Doctor Who • Erika Ensign • Kim Rogers • Lillian Cohen-Moore • Matt Mason • Meghan B • Mind Meld • Misa Buckley • Patrick Hester • Paul Cornell • Reece Morris-Jones • Rinn • Sage Young • Trudi Canavan
Filed under: Mind Meld
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