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TARDIS Index File

Key to Time

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You may wish to consult Key to Time (disambiguation) for other, similarly-named pages.

The Key to Time was a powerful and legendary artefact which the Guardians of Time used to maintain control over omniversal order and chaos.

On at least four occasions, the Doctor was sent on quests to assemble the key from its secretly scattered and disguised fragments.

History

Creation

The Key to Time was originally created by the Grace — powerful beings from outside time who used the Guardians of Time as their agents. (AUDIO: The Judgement of Isskar) It was made to wipe the memories of the participants of the Millennium War, though it later gained the more general purpose of manipulating the fundamental nature of the universe itself. (PROSE: The Quantum Archangel)

The Doctor's first quest for the segments

The quest

Millennia later, when universal balance was upset, the White Guardian enlisted the Fourth Doctor to gather the Key's six segments. To help him, he enlisted the help of the Time Lord Romana, to whom the White Guardian had misleadingly appeared as the Lord President of Gallifrey. Romana, whom the White Guardian had entrusted with a tracer, would serve as the Doctor's companion during the quest. (TV: The Ribos Operation)

The Black Guardian used the Shadow to stop the Doctor from obtaining the sixth segment. Once the Doctor had defeated the Shadow, he assembled the Key and outwitted the Black Guardian, enabling the White Guardian to restore universal balance. The Key was then broken apart and scattered throughout the universe again, assuming five new shapes and restoring Princess Astra to her natural form. (TV: The Armageddon Factor)

The quest completed, Romana chose to continue travelling with the Doctor, regenerating into her second incarnation and taking on the appearance of Astra. (TV: Destiny of the Daleks)

In an alternative timeline in which Romana never left Gallifrey, it was Leela and K9 Mark I who accompanied the Doctor on his search for the Key to Time. In this timeline, Leela was the only human to have held the Key in her hands. (AUDIO: Reborn)

Identities of the segments

Search by the Doctor's fifth incarnation

The Fifth Doctor searched for the Key to Time on at least two separate occasions. On one occasion, he gathered three unspecified segments to escape the Labyrinth of Death. (GAME: The First Adventure)

The Doctor was later sent on another quest for three of the six scattered segments by Amy, a Tracer in the form of a young human, due to his previous use of the Key with a substitute sixth segment. This upset the balance among the other segments, causing them to decay and disrupt time and space around their current locations. The Grace had meanwhile sent another Tracer, Zara, in search of the segments, intending for each Tracer to find three segments to prevent anyone gaining the full power of the Key. Things went wrong when Zara was corrupted and convinced to seek the power of the full Key for herself, while Amy became increasingly opposed to her original purpose as the Doctor helped her become a person. (AUDIO: The Judgement of Isskar)

Zara joined forces with the White Guardian some time after this and eventually the Doctor and Amy. They gave the completed key to the Doctor, allowing him to destroy it in the Chaos Pool, where it had been created. This prevented the Black and White Guardians from using it and simultaneously scattering the Grace — who had personified in the Key — across all of Time, preventing any of them from using the Key as he recognised that its power was too great. (AUDIO: The Chaos Pool)

Identities of the segments

Search by the Doctor's seventh incarnation

Key 3 time

The White Guardian activates the Key to Time. (COMIC: Time & Time Again)

Years later, the White Guardian sent the Seventh Doctor, Ace and Benny on a quest to find the six segments of the Key to Time. They were scattered across the Doctor's personal past and disguised as items connected with him in some way. (COMIC: Time & Time Again)

Identities of the segments

Nature and functions

Its shape was that of a perfect transdimensional crystalline cube, an orderly pattern extending through four dimensions, comprised of six segments pieced together to gain the full power of the Key. Temporary segments could be created if one had enough components of the original Key to access at least some of its power, but this was dangerous as the Key's segments were linked on a fundamental level. Cessair of Diplos had found out how to use the segment she had obtained to travel to Earth, and use its power to transform objects, temporarily appearing as the Fourth Doctor to Romana. (TV: The Stones of Blood) Romana warned the Doctor that transforming another piece back to its four dimensional crystalline form would suck an incoming Cronquist invasion force to Earth "in the twinkling of an eye". (AUDIO: Ferril's Folly) Another fragment gave its holder the ability to see the future, and demonstrated enough power to make a normal-sized squid grow to gigantic proportions after swallowing it (TV: The Power of Kroll). The individual segments were very tough and resistant to damage; The Taran Lamia blunted two of her Diamond drills experimenting on one of them. (TV: The Androids of Tara) They could be transformed back into their original form by the Core to the Key to Time, or dispersed by it, reforming somewhere else in another form. (AUDIO: Ferril's Folly)

The Key didn't affect its operators, in order to let them use it. (TV: The Armageddon Factor)

The Key was said to maintain balance and equilibrium, similarly to the Eye of Harmony - with the result that disrupting the links between the segments could damage the fabric of the universe-, and also seemed to be holding a black hole at bay within one of the segments. It could rewrite matter, change the state of quanta and start and stop the universe. (AUDIO: The Judgement of Isskar) At some stage, the Master obtained a segment of the Key to Time and used it to tear apart the constellation of Mandusus. (PROSE: Cold Fusion)

Other information

Behind the scenes

  • As part of a the "Watch Out"/"Out And About" segment while hosting The Friday Night Project, David Tennant pretended to auction off a Key to Time - which was the only one in existence and stolen from the victim by a friend who was in on the joke - at a Doctor Who auction. Once Tennant had revealed it was a joke, the victim of the joke exclaimed, "David Tennant, you're a bastard!"

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