A work of this nature will almost inevitably be misinterpreted by some of its readers. In an attempt
to minimize confusion, I have tried in this foreword to clearly state what The Universal Databank is, and
more importantly, what it is not.
I have also tried to define the rules (see below, in bold) that I have followed in assembling this work, rules which also spell out its unavoidable limitations.
This foreword should not be construed as an attempt to forestall controversy, or criticism -- I entertain no illusions in that respect -- for both are welcome. Indeed, I have taken great care in trying to correct errors and ommissions which crept into the earlier two volumes of this trilogy, and am looking forward to doing the same with this book. The purpose of this foreword is instead, if I may use a somewhat inappropriate automobile analogy, to try to ensure that this red Austin is not criticized for not being a green Jaguar.
The Nature of The Universal Databank
First and foremost, The Universal Databank is not a dry, technical manual, rehashing what was shown or said on the programme. For a variety of reasons, including the fact that such information already exists in other packages, that is not the book I set out to write.
The Universal Databank is a creative exercise in retroactive continuity. In other words, I believe that it is impossible to make all the elements of the Whoniverse fit into a coherent continuity based simply on the information given on the show. Some creativity has to be brought into play.
The Universal Databank is, therefore, a work of fiction. Sadly, there has been a semantic confusion among some reviewers between what constitutes facts and what constitutes fiction, leading to some probably well-intended but (at least, in my eyes) sorely misguided comments.
Tom Baker played the Fourth Doctor. The first Doctor Who episode ever broadcast was An Unearthly Child. Alan Wareing directed Survival. Gerry Davis wrote Revenge of the Cybermen. These are facts. In theory, they should be objective, impersonal, true. Yet, as most Doctor Who experts will attest, the fourth statement is only partially correct. A truer statement would read: Gerry Davis and Robert Holmes (then-Story Editor) wrote Revenge of the Cybermen. Compiling a book of facts can, at times, become tricky; but with sufficient research and clearly defined terms, one can ultimately arrive at, what is to the best of one's knowldge, the truth.
Not so with fiction.
The Doctor is a Time Lord. Morbius died on Karn. The Cybermen arose on Mondas. Temmosus was a Thal Leader on Skaro. These are all fiction. (Fictional facts, if you wish.) What this means is that, even though 99.99% of Doctor Who fans can agree on a statement, there always remains: (a) the possibility that, somewhere, someone may disagree with it for a variety of more or less valid reasons, having to do with his personal interpretation of the often contradicting statements made on the broadcast, in the script and/or its novelization; and (b) a future writer of the program may come in at a later date and revise that bit of fiction.
For example, Morbius may be brought back to life in a yet untold story (his brain was cloned); Terry Nation may reveal that Temmosus was only a figurehead (Alydon was really in charge all the time); etc. As amazing as it seems to me, with my faith in the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" adage, even my first statement may no longer hold true. The creative team behind the 25th and 26th Seasons took it upon themselves to hint that the Doctor may not be a Time Lord after all, but something more powerful, more ancient, even though this directly contradicted years of somewhat irrefutable evidence!
That is the problem with fiction. Trying to encapsulate it in a book of this nature is 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.
Obviously, this semantic argument is not meant to excuse the genuine errors which will undoubtedly have managed somehow to infiltrate this book in spite of everyone's best efforts. If you find statements like, "The Exxilon are eight-legged spiders", or "Scaroth had 232 segments" (instead of 12), please write and these will be corrected in a later edition. After all, we should all be able to agree about 90% of the programme's contents, even if a clever, future writer may decide to reveal heretofore unknown evidence about the Exxilon's nasty secret identities, or Scaroth's prolific splintering habits!
However, matters largely subject to individual interpretation -- such as Daleks, Cybermen, UNIT, Time Lords and the rest -- will remain in accordance with my personal views.
Because of this unavoidable degree of subjectivity, it is therefore only fair to clarify the rules which have been followed in compiling this book.
The rules of The Universal Databank
The Universal Databank uses the same set of rules as those employed in the essay "The History of Mankind According To Doctor Who", which appeared in our companion volume, The Terrestrial Index and which has been added here under "Mankind".
If you disagreed with that, you'll positively despise this book. On the other hand, if you found "History of Mankind" enjoyable, you may equally derive some pleasure from exploring the mind-boggling expanse of the Whoniverse, which is ultimately the purpose of this work.
What are these rules? Simple:
-- I have assumed the existence of a single universe, with straightforward linear history, except where specific alternate time lines, parallel universes, etc. were mentioned;
-- I have privileged historical accuracy and scientific information whenever appropriate, and tried, to the best of my abilities, to reconcile those bits of the programme which conflicted with these;
-- I have relied primarily on the broadcast version of the programme, but often supplemented it with material from the novelizations (when it did not flatly contradict the broadcast version, but expanded on it, e.g.: characters' first names, heretofore unrevealed information about planets, etc.);
-- I have included material from "Shada" and the K-9 one-shot;
-- I have NOT included any material from the Missing Season, New Adventures, Missing Adventures, BBC Books, Stage Plays, Radio Plays and Comics (DWM and/or strips) because, frankly, I consider these "apocrypha" and not pure "canon";
-- I have NOT included material from the recent Eighth Doctor TV movie (even though I ought to have done
so) because I've been too lazy to update this work for the Net; :-)
-- finally, when I was forced to reconcile conflicting bits of fictional data, I have tried to do so with (hopefully) the minimum addition of new elements, and in the spirit of Occam's razor (the simplest explanation being the best);
From a practical standpoint, this means that the information contained in this book is presented against a background which is totally consistent with that of my previous essay on the History of Mankind.
On the other hand, this also means that my own, personal interpetation of what transpired in the Whoniverse may differ from the works of other writers. To quote but two examples, the history of the Daleks presented here follows a chronology slightly different from that of John Peel. The history of the Cybermen equally conflicts with David Banks' version. Like archeologists studying the records of long-dead civilizations, it doesn't mean that any of us are wrong -- simply that we followed different sets of rules.
Those readers who disagree with my interpretations are, of course, free to entertain their own views. The Universal Databank contains enough information which is based purely on the material presented on the show, with little or no interpretation, that leads me to believe that even conflicting interpretations will not detract from the usefulness, or enjoyment, of this book.
The history of The Universal Databank
Finally, a few words about the background of this project, which will help to understand the reasons for its existence, as well as its inherent limitations.
If I had followed the standards which normally apply to the writing profession, this book would not exist. The munificent sums of money lavishly spent by the publisher on my yacht and country estate would not begin to pay for the seemingly endless hours spent poring over videotapes, books and dusty records, while the rest of the world was going on with its collective life.
To state that this book was a labor of love would not only be a cliche, but an utter lie. Let me be candid: by the time one hits the 100th Doctor Who story, and one realizes there are still another sixty stories to index, no one, not even a mother, could love this work. So it is not love, nor even pride, but only the stubborn desire to finish a job once started that could ever explain how this work came to be completed. If this book stands for anything, it is the sheer mule-headedness of writers in general.
The Universal Databank began in 1980 as an offshoot of the Doctor Who Programme Guide. Without the help of a computer, it was virtually impossible to do the job that needed to be done, either in terms of quantity (indexing everything) or quality (going beyond mere surface facts). More than twelve years later, the promise inherently contained in that first book has at long last been fulfilled.
At the time the first Programme Guide was assembled, the BBC had just finished broadcasting the last Tom Baker season. To contemplate doing this book meant not only redoing everything that had been done before, but adding eight more seasons worth of new material -- almost one third of the programme's life. That decision was hard enough to take, without contemplating the dire notion that new stories were going to be added, year after year. The image of Sysiphus pushing his boulder springs to mind...
The BBC chose to discontinue the programme, hopefully not as a way of avoiding turning one writer's life into a living hell. To all those in charge, I can now say: thank you. My book is finally completed; you can go back to doing the show.
Introduction to "The History of Mankind According to Doctor Who"
(reprinted from The Terrestrial Index)
The following essay is a creative exercise in retroactive continuity.
First, it presupposes that the Earth on which the Doctor's adventures take place (which is obviously not to be confused with our Earth) is a single world with a straightforward, linear history.
If you feel you cannot agree with this premise, if you prefer to think that the Doctor is visiting alternate realities, or (in spite of his claims to the contrary) rewriting history as he goes, then read no further.
As usual, there are a few exceptions: alternate time lines (such as these explored in Day of the Daleks, Battlefield, etc.), are all clearly identified as such; but for the purpose of this chapter, we have otherwise treated Earth-Who as being the same planet.
During its lifetime, the programme has contradicted itself many times. How could it be otherwise considering the number of writers, story editors, producers, etc. who have worked on it? No one familiar with the demands of television could realistically expect perfect continuity of a programme spanning twenty-seven years. We have called this approach "retroactive continuity" precisely because what we have tried to do was to look retroactively at all the Doctor Who-Earth-related stories, and make them fit into a coherent continuity.
"Impossible," some might say. Indeed, it would be if one were to adhere strictly to every bit of conflicting and contradictory information generated by and during Doctor Who's existence. However, since we set out to make this "impossible" premise come true, no matter what, creativity needed to be called into play.
In order to establish a coherent History of Mankind, we have been forced to make choices, to select certain clues to the detriment of others, to rely on our own vision of what that History might be. A few words about some of these choices:
Whenever a date was known, i.e.: clearly mentioned in the broadcast or its novelizations, we have used that date, unless it obviously conflicted with the above evidence, and then we have tried to reconcile the two.
Where a specific date was not mentioned, but the context of the story gave us a good idea of when it was supposed to have taken place, we have used the abbreviation: "C." (circa) next to our best guess, based on a myriad of small clues. (Naturally, readers should feel free to disagree with our guesses.)
Lastly, we have not taken into account the Doctor's mentions of his alleged encounters with numerous historical figures, listing "unrecorded" adventures only when there was irrefutable third party evidence that they did indeed take place.
About the present:
We are perfectly aware that the UNIT stories were supposed to have taken place during the 1980s, but when reality (i.e.: the real '80s) caught up with the show's producers, those stories started being referred to as having taken place in the past. For instance, it was relatively clearly established in Mawdryn Undead that the Brigadier had retired in 1977.
To find a way out of this conundrum, we have therefore assumed, somewhat arbitrarily, that each "modern-day" story took place either in the year of its broadcast or, in the case of the UNIT stories, the year afterward. Frankly, we feel that this in accord with the intention of the producers who, at the time, for obvious reasons of credibility, always meant for these stories to take place in an unspecified "near future".
What we have here, therefore, is a universe which closely parallels ours, but which, even if one ignores the various alien invasions which obviously have not taken place on our Earth, still diverges on crucial background elements: the manned Mars space probes launched in 1971, the South Pole Space Tracking Station of 1986, etc. We have strived to make educated guesses about the more remarkable divergences between Earth-Who and our Earth, again to give added context to the stories.
Obviously, this approach will continue to lead to greater divergences, not only with our reality but within the programme itself, if the show continues and generates more "modern-day" stories taking place in the 1990s and beyond.
About the future:
This is the area where many readers may disagree with us at one point or another. As with the Past, whenever an actual date, or even a time period, was specified on the show (or its novelization), we have used it, unless it completely co cted with the rest of the programme. In that case, we have tried to reconcile conflicting information, and come up with our own explanations for what was said on screen.
Otherwise, we have used levels of science and technology, sociological data, etc., to hazard a guess as to when a story took place. There are, literally, millions of ways of arranging the Doctor Who future, and it would be unconscionably foolish to think that our way is the correct one, or the only one.
Lastly, one might question the purpose of this exercise. First, I have always had a fondness for vast, sprawling historical sagas, and preparing this document was fun. Then, one also hopes that this chapter will be of some use, not as much as a reference tool (it is too subjective to properly function as such) but more as a springboard, to future Doctor Who writers who choose to locate their stories in the future.
Or, to quote the Seventh Doctor: "Time will tell. It always does."