Whoniverse, a portmanteau of the words "Who" and "universe", is a word used to describe the fictional setting of the television series Doctor Who, K-9 and Company, Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures and K-9, as well as other related stories.[1] The term is often used to link characters, ideas or items which are seen across multiple productions, such as Sarah Jane Smith from Doctor Who, K-9 and Company and The Sarah Jane Adventures, Jack Harkness from Doctor Who and Torchwood and K9 from Doctor Who, K-9 and Company, The Sarah Jane Adventures, and K-9.

Before the expansion of the Doctor Who fictional universe, the term "Whoniverse" referred to everything connected with the programme, both in-universe and behind-the-scenes.[2] In this original meaning, standing exhibitions, discussions about the filming of episodes and even fandom itself were considered part of the "Whoniverse".

Unlike the owners of other science fiction franchises, the BBC takes no position on which Doctor Who stories are definitive for future projects.[3] The show has no 'canon', and indeed, recent producers of the show have expressed distaste for the idea. Though the term is essentially an example of fanspeak[citation needed], it has recently begun to appear in mainstream press coverage following the popular success of the 2005 Doctor Who revival.[4][5]


Original usage

It is not known precisely when the term "Whoniverse" came into common fan parlance[citation needed]. However, an early instance is found in the 1983 book, Doctor Who: A Celebration; Two Decades Through Time and Space by frequent Doctor Who non-fiction writer, Peter Haining. In this overview, Haining called his final chapter, "The Whoniverse".[2] The section assembled factual information about all the episodes to date, but also gave information about fan clubs and ancillary entertainments related to the programme. Thus, the author enjoined his readers to believe that their own efforts were connected to those of the show-runners[citation needed]. Fans, in other words, were a part of the Whoniverse as much as the plot details of specific episodes. Though this meaning is rare today[citation needed], the "Whoniverse" originally described both narrative intent and viewer reaction, plot and production, studio floor and convention hall.[2]

Current usage

The first few decades of Doctor Who kept development of its fictional universe to a minimum; still, over the years a number of recurring elements became established and further embellished over time. In the revived television series since 2005, the Whoniverse has expanded further through the introduction of elements such as the "Time War" and the Torchwood Institute.

The current television series consists of individual stories that add to a broader story arcs. These arcs contain seemingly incidental details later revealed to be significant events. These events gradually build toward long term consequences for the series' characters and setting. Prior stories such as "Aliens of London", "The Christmas Invasion", and "Doomsday" are frequently referenced later, for instance in the episode "Love & Monsters" and the spin-off series Torchwood.

As noted earlier, the term Whoniverse was likely coined prior to the series' revival in 2005. The foreword to 1992's The Universal Databank makes it clear that commentator Jean-Marc Lofficier considered the Whoniverse to be a wholly fictional place, where certain facts, such as production details, do not belong.[6][page needed]


Typical features of the Whoniverse are planets inhabited by humanoid species (e.g. Mondas, Skaro, Gallifrey etc.) and other bipedal aliens. Time travel is possible, as was interdimensional travel; since the fall of the Time Lords, however, it has become significantly more difficult.[7] Alien technology is often far more advanced than Earth technology, often creating seemingly magical feats such as resurrecting the dead. In its early days — the "Dark Times", the universe was smaller,[8] a chaotic place of "blood and magic",[9] with relics still remaining from this period.[8] But since these times, there seems to be a degree of order to the universe, with rules regulating time travel, and the Celestial Intervention Agency occasionally intervening. A political code of conduct exists between many alien races, with mentions of the "Shadow Proclamation",[10] and also evidenced when the Daleks and Time Lords co-operated in the execution of the Master.[11] The universe itself seems to have some natural agents to clean up problems, such as Reapers who appear to clean up time paradoxes.[12]

Doctor Who is set in a rational universe,[13] where everything is explained through applications of different sorts of science, the Carrionites just one example of aliens using complex science to seemingly magical ends.[9] Concepts of faith, deities and magic are not absent in the universe, however (and the Third Doctor story The Daemons suggests that magic and psychic powers are two ways of looking at the same thing). The series had established that there is a "Black Guardian" and "White Guardian" who serve as personifications of chaos and order, respectively, balancing the forces of the universe. There appears to be at least some indication of a monotheistic deity (the term 'creation' is often used to describe the universe/multiverse) and adversary[14] with some place in the universe. The Beast and Abaddon[15] are demons revealed to have been sealed away in planets "before the dawn of time", with the suggestion that there are more demons sealed away in a similar fashion.[16] This seems to indicate some sort of dualistic higher power (also evidenced by the Guardians) with at least some control over creation. Simultaneously, Torchwood presents existentialist themes throughout its entire first series.

People on Earth are to varying extents aware of alien life. Aliens have invaded Earth many times, most notably in recent years as part of "The Christmas Invasion" and "Doomsday", and UNIT and the Torchwood Institute are examples of government responses to the knowledge of extraterrestrial life. However, most members of the public remain ignorant of aliens as they have (as put by the Doctor) "an amazing capacity for self-deception".[citation needed] Some people explain the events of these invasions as "mass hallucinations" caused by psychotropic drugs planted by terrorists in the water supply. (Something mentioned in the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, by Douglas Adams who worked on the original series of Doctor Who for a time.)[17][18] Others form conspiracy groups, having become aware of the presence of The Doctor and alien life.[10][19] In late 2007, Prime Minister Harold Saxon finally confirms the presence of alien life forms to the universe when in the presence of the US President he establishes "first contact" with alien life.[20] Saxon's actions also allowed the press within the Doctor Who's fictional universe to confirm to the world that many previously suspected alien encounters in the 2000s were all in fact true. In later years however, wide alien scepticism may have returned.[18] The constant flux between widespread extraterrestrial knowledge and self-deception is shown in some episodes to continue throughout contemporary Earth.

The Earth occupies much of the past and future of the setting's history. It is explained that supernatural entities have always inhabited Earth[21] as had prehistoric reptilian humanoids and extraterrestrial visitors long before humans ever came to be. The planet Earth was formed with a passing Racnoss spaceship at its planetesimal core[22] and was also once one of twin planets, with its sister Mondas.[23] Earth is also home to a spacetime Rift, partially serving to imprison a demon known as Abaddon.[15] As portrayed, contemporary Earth is somewhat more technologically advanced than its real-world analogue, with certain areas in the 60s, 70s and 80s in places ahead of their time,[24] although the majority of this technology has been evidenced by specialised groups, such as UNIT and the Torchwood Institute. In "The Christmas Invasion", the planet even is described as "armed", possessing weaponry sufficient to obliterate a Sycorax mothership[25] or take down a Racnoss Webstar with tank shells.[22] The future of Earth has been portrayed in various ways; sometimes with little difference to the present, at others ranging from abandoned to overpopulated and hyper-industrialised, from a Utopia to a dying planet.

Inclusion and continuity

There exists a wide range of often conflicting ideas about what is or is not a part of the Whoniverse, as key production staff have explicitly stated that there is no Doctor Who canon. The producer for the television series from 2005 to 2009, Russell T Davies, has claimed that he's "just the writer...I've got no more authority over the text than you!",[26] saying "(Canon) is a word which has never been used in the production office, not once, not ever"[27] He also said that considering the Doctor Who audio plays as being uncanonical is both "boring and idiotic".[28]

Davies' successor, Steven Moffat declared at a convention in 2008 that, "It is impossible for a show about a dimension-hopping time traveller to have a canon."[29] Paul Cornell, who has written Doctor Who novels as well as episodes of the TV series, said "I can’t think of any other fandom that assumes they have a canon when nobody has ever told them that they do. Especially since our show itself declares that it doesn’t now have, and probably never did have, a canon."[30]

One of the term's early adopters, Jean-Marc Lofficier, wrote that defining the Whoniverse was "like taking photographs of shadows. Not only is it a matter of point of view, but shadows also change. So the best advice to be given to those readers who brook little disagreement with their own views of how the fictional Whoniverse should be arranged, is: read no further, go write your own book."[6][page needed] With a series that contradicts itself as much as Doctor Who does in all its many formats, attempts to define a rigid idea of what is Doctor Who canon with lists of what does and does not count are by some considered to be a bit silly and pointless.[31]

Most[citation needed] fans contend that the classic Doctor Who television series (Doctors One to Seven), the television movie (Eighth Doctor), the new Doctor Who television series (Doctors Nine, Ten and Eleven) and the programme's three spin-off television series Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures, and K-9 and Company count, but there is some debate over the status of Doctor Who stories in other media. There are more original novels and original audio adventures than television stories, representing a substantial (and mostly consistent) body of work. There are also a number of spin-offs from Doctor Who in other media. The attitude in fandom ranges from those who insist only the television stories (and not always all of those) count, to those who count everything.

"Boom Town" seems to call a purist viewpoint into question[32] through a dialogue reference to the Ninth Doctor novel The Monsters Inside — suggesting the inclusion of at least some novels to the basic continuity.[33] Likewise, "The Pandorica Opens" makes reference to Chelonians, aliens from the Virgin New Adventures. Most of the Doctor Who novels and audios were written in the 1989–2005 gap in production of the television series, and few contradict what was established on television, or have been subsequently contradicted. Furthermore, as is part of the nature of a fictional universe in which time travel is possible, alternative timelines become possible, which gives the possibility of retconning events by writing over them within the universe's fictional history.

The Gallifrey Chronicles has the Doctor stating "one of the things you'll learn is that it's all real. Every word of every novel is real, every frame of every movie, every panel of every comic strip". With regards to the Whoniverse, this could imply that the Eighth Doctor's adventures in three media would lead to three separate incarnations of the Ninth Doctor: (presumably the Ninth Doctors seen in BBC productions portrayed by Rowan Atkinson (Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death), Richard E. Grant (Scream of the Shalka) and Christopher Eccleston respectively).[34] The Tenth Doctor stated in "Doomsday" that every decision we make creates a fractured alternative universe, which would comply with this theory.[35]

While non-televised stories may be considered by some part of a fictional multiverse, and the core canon only describing the fictional universe, some Doctor Who media seem to contradict both canon and the basic laws established in the fictional universe, more of a work based on the original Doctor Who, most notably Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150 AD which therefore cannot exist in the Whoniverse. Also the fourth spin-off series K-9 is not produced by the BBC but by Jetix Europe with no BBC involvement.

Russell T Davies contributed a New Adventures novel, Damaged Goods, during Doctor Who's absence from TV, and the show does make occasional references to this grey area. Oblique references to the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip ("kronkburgers" in "The Long Game") and the Virgin New Adventures (the planets Lucifer and Arcadia, mentioned in "Bad Wolf" and "Doomsday" respectively, and the Doctor's title "The Oncoming Storm", mentioned in "The Parting of the Ways", "Amy's Choice" and "The Lodger"). Articles by Davies in the book "Monsters and Villains" and the 2006 Doctor Who Annual incorporate information from the books, audios and comic strips to detail character and story backgrounds.

Overall, Davies has said that he is "usually happy for old and new fans to invent the Complete History of the Doctor in their heads, completely free of the production team's hot and heavy hands."[36]

The BBC licensed and approved every Doctor Who story in other media; the contract for Virgin's New Adventures stated that the books were 'the official continuation' of Doctor Who now the TV show was off the air. Over the last ten years, the BBC published well over a hundred of the novels itself, republished a number of the Virgin New Adventures in online e-book form, commissioned original Doctor Who dramas as webcasts, and BBC Radio has broadcast both existing and original audio adventures made by Big Finish. In late 2006, Gary Russell, the long-time head of Big Finish, was added to the Cardiff production team ostensibly to keep official track of TV series continuity.[citation needed] The BBC-produced/broadcast productions (including a 1985 BBC Radio serial, Slipback, a pair of serials produced in the 1990s starring Jon Pertwee entitled The Paradise of Death and The Ghosts of N-Space, and most recently a "season" of audio dramas starring Paul McGann broadcast on BBC7 in 2007 and repeated in 2010.

The debate over whether the novels are canonical or exist in a parallel continuity is complicated by the fact that the 2005 episode "Dalek" cannibalises elements of the audio drama Jubilee[37] and the 2007 two-part story "Human Nature" and "The Family of Blood" was adapted from Paul Cornell's 1995 New Adventures novel Human Nature.

It is also somewhat controversial to canonise the 30th Anniversary Special Dimensions in Time – a crossover with the soap EastEnders which had its first episode broadcast as part of Children in Need's 1993 telethon and its second as part of Noel's House Party,[citation needed] particularly in light of the 2006 episode, "Army of Ghosts", which depicts Whoniverse characters watching Eastenders on television.

See also


  1. ^ Stephen Gray. "The Whoniverse Guide to Canon". Whoniverse.org. http://www.whoniverse.org/features/canon.php. Retrieved 30 December 2006. 
  2. ^ a b c Haining 1983
  3. ^ Russel T. Davies, Doctor Who Magazine #356 2005. 
  4. ^ "Jessica Simpson to Enter the Whoniverse?". Anglophenia (BBC America). 7 February 2007. http://www.bbcamerica.com/content/23/anglophenia.jsp?bc_id=76. 
  5. ^ Morrison, Ryan (12 July 2007). "Battle of Flowers: Cybermen and Dalek for Battle". BBC Jersey Entertainment Page. http://www.bbc.co.uk/jersey/content/articles/2007/07/12/bf07_dalek_cyberman_feature.shtml. 
  6. ^ a b Lofficier 1992
  7. ^ "Rise of the Cybermen". Russell T Davies, Tom MacRae, Graeme Harper. Doctor Who. BBC. 2006-05-13. "The Doctor: Used to be easy [to travel between alternate universes]. When the Time Lords kept their eye on everything, you could hop between realities, home in time for tea. Then they died, took it all with them. The walls of reality closed, the worlds were sealed. Everything became that bit less kind."
  8. ^ a b "The Infinite Quest episode 2". Alan Barnes, Gary Russel. Doctor Who. BBC. 2007-04-13.
  9. ^ a b "The Shakespeare Code". Writer [[Gareth Roberts (writer)|]], Director Charles Palmer, Producer Phil Collinson. Doctor Who. BBC, Cardiff. 2007-04-07.
  10. ^ a b "Rose". Russell T Davies, Keith Boak. Doctor Who. BBC. 2005-03-26.
  11. ^ "Doctor Who". Peter T. Ware, Matthew Jacobs, Geoffrey Sax. Doctor Who. Fox Network. 1996-05-14.
  12. ^ "Father's Day". Russell T Davies, Paul Cornell, Joe Ahearne. Doctor Who. BBC. 2005-05-14.
  13. ^ "Stage Fright". "The Shakespeare Code" cast and crew. Doctor Who Confidential. BBC Three. "Russell T Davies: "The Doctor exists in a rational universe... If magic was real, well that's just not Doctor Who to me."
  14. ^ "The Satan Pit". Russell T Davies, Matt Jones, James Strong. Doctor Who. BBC. 2006-06-10.
  15. ^ a b "End of Days". Russell T Davies, Chris Chibnall, Ashley Way. Torchwood. BBC. 2007-01-01.
  16. ^ "Notes on Abaddon". Torchwood Institute External Hub Interface. http://www.torchwood.org.uk/html/endofdays/abaddon.shtml. Retrieved 2 January 2007. 
  17. ^ "Everything Changes". Russell T Davies, Brian Kelly. Torchwood. BBC Three. 2006-08-22.
  18. ^ a b "Invasion of the Bane". [[Gareth Roberts (writer)|]], Russell T Davies, Colin Teague. The Sarah Jane Adventures. BBC. 2007-01-01.
  19. ^ "Love & Monsters". Russell T Davies, Dan Zeff. Doctor Who. BBC. 2006-07-17.
  20. ^ "The Sound of Drums". Russell T Davies, Colin Teague. Doctor Who. BBC. 2007-07-23.
  21. ^ "Small Worlds". Russell T Davies, Peter J. Hammond, Alice Troughton. Torchwood. BBC Three. 2006-11-12.
  22. ^ a b "The Runaway Bride". Russell T Davies, Euros Lyn. Doctor Who. BBC. 2006-12-25.
  23. ^ "The Tenth Planet". Kit Pedler, Derek Martinus. Doctor Who. BBC. 1966-10-08.
  24. ^ "Dating the UNIT stories". BBC 's Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide. http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/classic/episodeguide/datingunit.shtml. Retrieved 5 June 2007. 
  25. ^ "The Christmas Invasion". Russell T Davies, James Hawes. Doctor Who. BBC. 2005-12-25.
  26. ^ Doctor Who Magazine #388
  27. ^ Doctor Who Magazine #356
  28. ^ Davies RT, "The Writer's Tales"
  29. ^ Canon and Sheep Shit: Why We Fight
  30. ^ Canonicity in Doctor Who
  31. ^ "Canon My Arse" at A Teaspoon and an Open Mind
  32. ^ Stephen Gray. "The Canon Debate". Discontinuity Guide article on Boom Town. http://www.whoniverse.org/discontinuity/9K.php#canon. Retrieved 20 December 2006. 
  33. ^ "Boom Town". Russell T Davies, Joe Ahearne. Doctor Who. BBC. 2005-06-04.
  34. ^ Parkin, Lance (2005). The Gallifrey Chronicles. BBC Books. ISBN 0563486244. 
  35. ^ "Doomsday". Russell T Davies, Graeme Harper. Doctor Who. BBC. 2005-07-08.
  36. ^ Davies, Russell T (25 May 2005). "The Evasion of Time". Doctor Who Magazine (356): 66–67. 
  37. ^ "Doctor Who at the Cavern Club — A Great Success". The Mind Robber. The Mind Robber. 2007. http://www.themindrobber.co.uk/dr-who-at-cavern.html. Retrieved 18 September 2007. 

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