Disclaimer: I do not own Doctor Who. It belongs to the BBC and any other relevant copyright holders. This is a work of fanfiction and not for profit. Author’s Note: Set some time Impossible Astronaut. On a rare occasion that River, Rory and Amy are in the TARDIS at the same time, the Doctor gives Amy and Rory an extended tour. Leading to a discussion about propaganda in a time war. Why is there a printing press in the TARDIS?
He paused at the end of the corridor. “Let’s see…” he muttered before pointing to each door in turn. “That’s the water chute, flower cupboard, petting zoo… um…” He opened the door and closed it again as the contents fell toward him leaving the floor covered in cardboard containers… “Oh, another box room…”
“And what’s that one?” Amy asked, pointing to a door he had ignored.
“That’s the Print Room,” he told her. “It’s for printing.”
“Why would you keep a print room in a TARDIS though?” Amy asked. “What do you need a printing press for anyway?”
“Because there was a war on,” River replied, noticing the discomfort on her husband’s face. “And while the Doctor was unwilling to pick up a gun and fight, he was prepared to prove that words have power… for a while anyway.”
“I don’t understand,” Rory admitted. “How does a printing press help when your fighting through time and space?”
“Okay, imagine you have a food fight,” the Doctor began. “The biggest, dirtiest food fight in history with all the messiest foods you could even imagine being flung across the hall. Actually forget the food fight, it’s just making me hungry.” He took a deep breath, his eyes darkening and his face seeming to age. “The Time War was not your ordinary sort of war. It was fought on a battleground that crossed time and space, all over existence. And it involved two advanced races capable of time travelling precisely where they wanted to go. How long do you think it took before one side or the other thought to themselves that if they went back in time they could alter something to bring them an advantage.”
“Not long,” Amy admitted.
“So the Daleks cheated,” Rory surmised.
“The Time Lords cheated,” the Doctor stated. “Funnily enough it was always the Time Lords that escalated the battles and the methods. The Daleks were quite happy wading in and exterminating everything in their path until the Time Lords decided to mess with history. Of course once they did, both sides were at it and battles seemed to drag on forever.
“That doesn’t explain the printing press.”
“The problem with simply time travelling to win an advantage is that sooner or later you start crossing paths with those that have already made changes,” River explained. “History becomes a mess and whole galaxies vanish before you have time to realise what went wrong.”
“Precisely. Two sides time travelling back in time to effect the present is all well and good, aside from wiping out countless lives in the process. But to be really really effective, you need to be able to dictate how those changes take affect and how they influence events. You need to win first and then travel back in time and put events in motion to secure that victory.”
“But when both sides are fooling with history, travelling to the future can be hazardous,” River pointed out.
The Doctor nodded. “Time has a habit of creating snapshots based on how things were at a certain point. The future half-an-hour ago could be very different than the future after I started this explanation. If you go forward in time to see the outcome you might miss a change that brings disaster. So you need another way, a way that means you stay in the here and now but will be able to effect those changes… You play the Time Game. You convince yourself that you are going to win and that as soon as you’ve won you will travel back and make the changes needed. You focus on your future self carrying out those actions after the war has been won.”
“Of course the other side does the same thing,” River chimed in. “And you end up with both sides declaring the actions they will take following their victory while upping the the stakes the entire time.”
“One problem!” the Doctor proclaimed. “One big snag in all this temporal one-upmanship: sooner or later somebody has to lose and at that point everything they thought they were setting in place will be undone – unless the enemy tricks them by making the changes for them. Both sides are determined to win, travel back and make the changes they need to become the winner. But you need something more than just determination to win that sort of warfare: you need belief. You need the universe to believe that you will triumph so that it will follow your design. That’s why doing this sort of thing is so difficult because it relies on making others believe that you can win.”
“Imagine it, a war many cannot begin to understand and you have two sides proclaiming they will be victorious, not an easy task for either side. So you need to show them how you are winning and why wanting you to win is in their best interests. So you record the stories, print it out and distribute it in a universal propaganda campaign and hope that it is enough. That was my job during the early days of the Great Time War, allow the rest of the universe to glimpse the power of the Time Lords and describe our path to victory.”
“And what happened?” Rory asked. “Because you’ve told us so many times that the Daleks were the ones that won.”
The Doctor looked away, not willing to show weakness. River however had no qualms about telling them. She found it amusing. “He got writer’s block.”
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