I don’t mean there are no barns on Gallifrey, just that the barn – as seen in Day of the Doctor and Listen - is not on Gallifrey. And when I say it’s not on Gallifrey, I mean it’s probably not on Gallifrey – in the sense that I’m not aware of any evidence it is, there’s reason to suppose it isn’t (but ‘probably’ in the title would have been one word too many, for, er… a catchy post heading). Of course, maybe you never thought it was on Gallifrey – in which case, run along, and I’m sorry for wasting your time.
I didn’t even think the barn might be on Gallifrey until I listened to Ben and Eugene discuss Listen in the podcast. Then I posted a comment, which began an SMS conversation with Eugene about it until my train drifted into that part of Wales that lies beyond mobile coverage, and as I continued to assemble the arguments in my head they’ve expanded beyond the scope of a comment and into a blog post… (With thanks to Eugene for helping me understand the reasons the barn might be on Gallifrey, though any errors in presenting these arguments are certainly mine.)
Why The Barn is Not On Gallifrey
There are two good reasons to suppose the barn is not on Gallifrey.
- The War Doctor brings The Moment to the barn. In some original timeline, the timeline from which the 9th and 10th Doctor’s memories of the Time War derive (and the 11th’s up to Day of the Doctor) the Doctor activates The Moment and wipes out Gallifrey. If he were on Gallifrey, he’d have wiped himself out and wouldn’t have become the last of the Time Lords.
- Gallifrey was time looped/locked as part of the Time War, and then shoved into a pocket Universe. He can’t go there, so he can’t be on Gallifrey in Listen.
Those are pretty compelling reasons. So fine. The barn is not on Gallifrey.
Yet some people have assumed it is. Why?
Why The Barn Might Be On Gallifrey
The Doctor has referred to his childhood on Gallifrey (both in his third and fourth incarnations – in particular K’anpo Rimpoche in Planet of the Spiders was Time Lord and hermit who lived on a Gallifreyan mountain that is stated to be behind the house the Doctor lived in as a boy).
This doesn’t mean that the Doctor we see in Listen is actually on Gallifrey, unless we know he never left the planet during his childhood. We don’t.
Unless there’s some rule that Gallifreyans are not allowed to leave the planet…
We do know the Doctor fled Gallifrey because of the Time Lord’s restrictive laws about interfering in other times and cultures. Did this mean he was confined to the planet? The Doctor stole and time machine and turned his back on their society. That was not necessarily because he was confined to the planet – it could be the laws of time (in the legal rather than the physical sense) that he wanted to escape. There are certainly laws against ‘interference’ but whether that means interference in history, and in a military sense, is not clear.
Why Gallifrey Was (Probably) Not Behind An Iron Curtain
It would certainly be remarkable if the prohibition on ‘interference’ meant Time Lords had to be entirely isolated, having no trade or exchange of knowledge with other races. After all, many many races we’ve seen in Doctor Who rely on space travel for their economic prosperity. Time Lords are supposed to have an advanced civilisation – yet are we to suppose that they have no economic, diplomatic or social relations beyond their own planet? Can a Time Lord not even book a well-earned space cruise when they have their annual leave?
I do not think it should be inferred from the stated restrictions on the use of time travel and interference in other cultures that Time Lord society is a sealed society like North Korea.
But even if this were true… The Doctor we see is not a Time Lord. It is stated clearly that he has aspirations to become a Time Lord. He may be a Gallifreyan, but unless he is a Time Lord, why would he be bound by their rules? Even if – as it apparently is in the Deadly Assassin – it is stated that Time Lords can only leave the planet on authorised research trips – would that restriction apply to their neighbours, who lack the technology of time travel and present the web of time no danger at all?
So – unless I’ve missed something (which I may well have) – the barn is not on Gallifrey.
I mean, it hasn’t been stated on TV it isn’t on Gallifrey. And maybe we’ll come back to it in a later episode, and it will be stated then. But given the inexplicable contradictions that would arise if one supposes it is on Gallifrey, there doesn’t seem to be any good reason to assume it is.