The Time Vortex, also known as the Time and Space Vortex, the Space-Time Vortex, and simply the Vortex, was the place where time and space met, intersecting at an angle determined by non-Euclidean geometry. (PROSE: Cat's Cradle: Witch Mark) It was the plane (PROSE: Twilight of the Gods) or dimension (PROSE: The Shadow of Weng-Chiang) through which all time travellers passed, often using space-time machines including TARDISes and vortex manipulators.
The Vortex was hinted at existing outside of time and the universe itself, (PROSE: The Dark Path) meaning time and the Vortex were not the same. Often being in the Vortex was compared to being "outside" of time. (TV: The Time Monster)
The Space/Time Vortex exists outside of any normal frame of reference. Within it, light, darkness, matter and energy all blend, divide, shift and change. It underlies the whole of Creation, touching the normal Universe only slightly. Its pathways are twisted, unstable and hard to follow. A journey through these strange dimensions might take a moment and carry a traveller a million years and a billion light years from his/her/its origin. Alternatively, a journey of months in the Vortex might end in a shift of six feet and ten days in conventional space. Without being able to calculate the pathways, there was simply no telling.
The inventors of the Clades were obliterated with such ferocious cruelty that nothing remained of them. The Time Vortex around the history of their civilisation was so polluted with weaponised chroniton particles that any time capsule attempting to venture into their past would be burned from the continuum. (PROSE: Peacemaker)
Though seemingly chaotic, the Vortex was in actuality an ordered environment. (PROSE: Timewyrm: Genesys) Native life in the time vortex included the Reapers, (TV: Father's Day) the Chronovores, (TV: The Time Monster) Pantophagens (AUDIO: The Foe from the Future) and the Vortisaurs. (AUDIO: Storm Warning)
The Bad Wolf entity also seemed to be linked to the time vortex. When Rose Tyler looked into the heart of the TARDIS and became the Bad Wolf, she was infused with the time vortex, and the entity spread the Bad Wolf name through time and space, looked at all of space and time, destroyed the Dalek fleet and resurrected Jack Harkness. However, she was unable to control it and almost died. (TV: The Parting of the Ways)
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The Vortex had various appearances at different times, possibly because it possessed a myriad of paths. (PROSE: The Chase) Generally, it had various butterfly patterns, (PROSE: The Shadow of Weng-Chiang) was grainy and particulate like a photograph, (PROSE: Cat's Cradle: Witch Mark) and had two different colours: red and blue. Red generally indicated forward time travel and blue indicated travel to the past. (TV: The Parting of the Ways) The red colour of the vortex could also vary in shades of orange or crimson. [source needed]
The Third Doctor and the Master flew their TARDISes through a time vortex that was comprised of a blue tunnel, surrounded by black nothingness; their vehicles glowed with a white light whilst travelling. (TV: The Time Monster)
By the end of Seventh Doctor's and the start of the Eighth Doctor's life, the vortex changed again. It appeared as a few streams of colourful energy and space debris in the middle of a background of stars. (TV: Doctor Who)
The Eleventh Doctor's time introduced a new vortex. This one was far different from any other, and appeared similar to storm clouds, complete with lightning. It normally was coloured grey-blue or orange. Later on in the Eleventh Doctor's time, the vortex changed to resemble a swirling tunnel of a red/orange and purple flame-like energy. (TV: The Power of Three)
Nowhere and no time
On several occasions the Doctor mentioned that, just as people didn't "exist" in the TARDIS, (TV: The Hand of Fear) travel through the Vortex took "no time" and was actually "outside" of time and space, (TV: The Time Monster) meaning the Vortex itself was "nowhere." (TV: Colony in Space, The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe, PROSE: The Shadow of Weng-Chiang)
The Time Spiral existed at the perimeter of the Vortex. (PROSE: The Well-Mannered War) Another spiral, if not the same one, was said to exist at the nexus of the Vortex. (PROSE: Spiral Scratch) Both the Six-Fold-Realm and N-Space were inextricably linked by the Vortex. (PROSE: The Quantum Archangel)
The Vortex had a "surface" and "oceans" and "substrate" and was structure of the space-time continuum. Hyperspace was also a subset of it, and it was related to shuntspace. (PROSE: The Crystal Bucephalus) It was in constant flux, with no stability, and things lost in the Vortex could be deposited into the continuum. (AUDIO: The Butcher of Brisbane) The existence/creation of alternate timelines and parallel universes was held in check by the existence of the Vortex, which was sustained by the existence of the Time Lords. (PROSE: The Domino Effect)
The Master explained that E = mc3 in the Time Vortex, as opposed to E equalling mc2 in the main universe. (TV: The Time Monster) The Fourth Doctor mentioned being on the edge of "a time-space vortex," describing the difficulty in navigating a vortex in response to Sarah Jane Smith asking why it took so long to get to London. (TV: Planet of Evil) Romana I later explained that the TARDIS time travelled by passing through "a" vortex. According to the Captain, materialisation out of the vortex ripped the entire fabric of the space-time continuum apart for ten seconds, putting the whole infrastructure of quantum physics in retreat. (TV: The Pirate Planet)
The Vortex may have been composed of or contained time streams. (PROSE: Falls the Shadow) Travelling backwards in time in the vortex was akin to travelling "up-hill" and required more energy than travelling to the future. (PROSE: Anachrophobia) The Heart of the TARDIS, a white-gold energy, served as an access to the Vortex, (TV: Boom Town) meaning staring into the Heart was staring into the Vortex (TV: The Parting of the Ways) and something placed in or near the Heart would be exposed to the time winds of the Vortex. (TV: The Time of the Doctor)
While the natural forces of the time winds within the Vortex could be chaotic and tear away at anything unprotected, (PROSE: Timewyrm: Genesys) the Eighth Doctor mentioned that there was nothing to hit in the Vortex; any disturbances in travelling through the Vortex would have been external. (AUDIO: The Book of Kells) The particles of the Vortex could sometimes clump together and serve as something for time vessels to anchor themselves against the streaming delta flows. (PROSE: Cat's Cradle: Witch Mark) Theoretically, it was impossible to hit something within the Vortex as everything in the Vortex existed at every point in space. The Second Doctor could not easily explain how his TARDIS still managed to come in contact with other vehicles and objects. (AUDIO: The Forbidden Time)
Travelling through the vortex without a capsule of some kind could prove harmful to humans and Gallifreyans alike; it killed Jack after he hung onto the outside of the TARDIS all the way to the year 100 trillion. (TV: Blink, Utopia / The Sound of Drums) The Doctor also advised Billy Shipton not to eat or go swimming for an hour after being sent through the vortex. (TV: Blink) The energies in the vortex reduced cirque posters attached to the Doctor's TARDIS to burnt cinders. (TV: Vincent and the Doctor)
When Rose Tyler became the Bad Wolf, she and the Ninth Doctor absorbed vortex energy into their bodies. Rose looked into the Heart of the TARDIS to obtain it, then the Doctor absorbed it from Rose. In both cases, the energy, which resembled bright white-gold wispy light, threatened to destroy their cellular structure, much like radiation. The Doctor pulled this energy out of Rose before it became fatal to her, but in turn, the Doctor endured its lethal effects and had to regenerate in order to survive. (TV: The Parting of the Ways, TV: Children in Need Special)
Mrs Wormwood detected artron energy in a body scan of Sarah Jane Smith and concluded that she had travelled in the Vortex. (TV: Invasion of the Bane) Daleks could absorb this energy to repair their damaged casing. (TV: Dalek) In the case of a human who had travelled in the TARDIS with the Doctor, their immune systems were strengthened by the radiation, allowing them to fight off diseases better. (TV: Reset)
Behind the scenes
- The same Time Vortex was seen in the opening and closing credits from Series 1 to the 2009 Specials. The opening credits and closing credits for Series 5 onwards used another version of the Vortex.
- Before the broadcast of The Eleventh Hour, promo pictures and a trailer showed the Doctor and Amy falling through a blue, fluid-like vortex. Some people presumed this was the new vortex. When The Eleventh Hour broadcast, the new opening titles showed another vortex, which was a gaseous version of the old vortex.
- It has been a convention of several eras of Doctor Who storytelling that, when the time vortex is shown, it resembles the imagery seen in the opening title sequence. This tradition began with the very first episode, "An Unearthly Child", which used the title sequence imagery within the narrative of the episode. Likewise, the season 6 titles were used to illustrate the vortex seen in COMIC: Land of the Blind; the vortex from the opening titles of the 1996 tele-movie was seen at several points in its narrative; the vortex from the RTD-era titles was used in-narrative several times; the 2010-2012 vortex was seen in TV: The Pandorica Opens and TV: The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe; and the one which first appeared in 2012 in TV: Hide.
- The Time Vortex appears as the setting of the first and last levels of the online game Doctor In A Dash where, as with all levels, the Doctor's TARDIS (the player) races against a Dalek flying saucer, a Judoon rocket, and a Slitheen craft to find a Space-Time Manipulator. Time distortions act as obstacles to the ships.
- In The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, Tom Baker gets stuck "in the sodding time vortex...again!" and so cannot help Peter Davison, Colin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy in getting into the 50th Anniversary Special.
- The two main colors of the Vortex in the RTD era, described above (red and blue), are also scientifically valid: the frequency of light from an object that is accelerating away from the observer shifts towards the "blue" end of the visible-light spectrum ("blue shift"), while an object accelerating towards the observer will shift to the "red" end ("red shift").