Dr Who Christmas Special: Jottings for the Time Travelling Lawyer

Guest Blog Post by Adam Manning

Dr Who - Time Blawg - Christmas SpecialA brief, but handy, guide to aspects of the Law of the Time Lords and other cosmic civilizations with additional notes on the Dalek legal system particularly as it pertains to employment matters.

Given the ten million years of total and absolute power the Time Lords of Gallifrey have enjoyed and the seeming influence of their Constitution upon other legal systems throughout the cosmos it is no wonder that many lawyers will, from time to time, consider it useful to have at least a working knowledge of some of the more important legal principles of Time Lord law especially if their area of practise occasionally involves some element of one or more extraterrestrial jurisdictions.  The direct effect of Time Lord law is now well known after the break through case of Smithson Brewery v The Second Cyberman Empire and it cannot be long before many of us find ourselves, almost without thinking, quoting the Articles of the Law of Time or the Conventions of the Shadow Proclamations on an interim application at the County Court.

Dr Who - Cybermen
Even the Cybermen had their day in court

As is well known, the Time Lords are the universe’s oldest and, if only by their own reckoning, wisest race and so an accurate description of the entirety of Gallifreyan jurisprudence could not easily be given without an equivalent of Halsbury’s Laws the size of one of Jupiter’s lesser moons.  Thankfully given the constantly shifting time streams general inter-temporal law is a fluid body of doctrine and the time travelling advocate may improvise and extemporise quite effectively without having the slightest inkling of the finer points of say Galactic Federation law.  Nevertheless, several points are seemingly axiomatic throughout all of the known galaxies and the following is intended as a useful guide for the jobbing lawyer who is helplessly cast about the centuries at random or at the whim of their own police box.  By necessity, this account centres on the accounts of the most well known Time Lord, often referred to as the Doctor.

Dr Who - The Deadly Assassin
Law Lords in the House of Lords never had robes like The Time Lords!

Most importantly on the homeworld of the Time Lords, Gallifrey itself, as noted above the Constitution is the source of all law. At the Gallifreyan criminal bar the greatest safeguard for one’s client is the long enshrined principle, “Vaporisation without Representation is against the Constitution!” (See The Deadly Assassin).  The usefulness of this point cannot be overstated especially as Time Lord justice often incurs such extreme form of punishments as vaporisation or dematerialization.  The latter is only distinguished from the former by entailing not only instant death but also removal from history itself, as if one had never existed (see The War Games).  Lawyers should be doubly cautious about this type of punishment as, with sadness, conceivably more wily clients can use it as a means to escape paying fees.  It is challenging to demand payment from clients (or their estates) when it becomes impossible to prove they ever existed.

Dr Who - The War Games
Interrogation of the Doctor (via a View Finder?) in The War Games

Removal of a TARDIS is an extremely serious crime and will lead to a referral to a Malfeasance Tribunal (see The War Games).  Punishment here can be serious but successful defence counsel can often, with a sensible plea in mitigation, reduce the sentence from dematerialisation to a lesser form of punishment including exile and the selective removal of parts of the offender’s memory.  This latter course can, whilst preferable to clients than instant total non-existence, still also cause trouble for even the most experienced advocate as the client will then objectively forget their contractual obligation to pay the lawyer’s fees which can cause difficulties under different planetary contractual laws.  Sadly, galactic contractual law has generally fallen into abeyance and the precise wording used is often overlooked, often with dramatic results (see The Invasion of Time in which the Doctor notes that lawyers’ quibbles about the wording of contracts have on occasion almost got him killed).

As a solicitor specializing in, for example, share agreements, you may have wondered if there is more to life than inspecting certificates and completing stock transfer forms and whether ultimate power could one day be in your grasp.  One way to achieve this would be to find oneself elected as President of the High Council of Time Lords and fortunately some brief notes about attaining that worthy goal can be presented. A bewildering complexity of regulations and legal articles surround the election and appointment of the President of the High Council of Time Lords.  The President claims his or her position by legal right by claiming the inheritance of Rassilon, the first Time Lord, and the honour, duty and obedience of all colleges.  It is to be noted that during an election, Article 17 of the constitution guarantees that anyone running for the office of President has liberty whilst the election takes place which has been used to get out of a sticky situation.  In extreme circumstances, the President can suspend the Constitution and become effectively a dictator, effectively ending up as the single most powerful being in the cosmos.  If you should end up in that capacity please remember who helped you on your way; the lowly writer and editor would quite happily accept ownership of say the 18th and 19th centuries respectively in return.

Dr Who - The High Council of The Time Lords
The High Council of Time Lords has more space to stand than the House of Commons

These domestic concerns to one side, let us now turn to foreign affairs. The most sacrosanct principle of all Time Lord Law is Article 1, the law of non-interference.  Long ago, Time Lords actively involved themselves in the affairs of a primitive world but, despite their best intentions, this lead to a nuclear war and the total destruction of that civilization. Forbidding any further involvement in any outside events, the Time Lords first Article permits only observation.  This they hold as their highest principle and accounts for their general aloofness and isolationism, not unlike the higher level of County Court clerk especially during a late afternoon ten minutes before a limitation date is about to expire.

That said, it seems that at almost any opportunity this point is quite gleefully set to one side.  It is a little known fact that the Time Lord bureaucracy has within it a secretive organization referred to as the Celestial Intervention Agency (CIA).  Here the Time Lords show an inner corrupt core – acting directly in contravention of their most hallowed and ancient of stipulations.  The CIA generally acts through outside agencies including rogue Time Lords such as the Doctor and knowledge of its existence is presumably totally denied by the High Council.  Involvement with the CIA is always highly dangerous and should be avoided – if you have no choice make sure you hold onto your Time Ring. (see Genesis of the Daleks).

It is only more remarkable then that the Doctor has been tried not once but twice for his outrageous breach of this most esteemed of all directives (see The Trial of a Time Lord).  Acting in his own defence, the Doctor has sought to show the enormity of evil abroad in the cosmos but with only limited success.  As can be seen from the second of his two trials, the Time Lord court system is surprisingly fluid; an enquiry into his activities turns later, at the behest of the prosecutor, to a criminal court hearing a charge of genocide.  This extraordinary manipulation of the proceedings was based on a new charge under Article 7 of the Constitution which forbids genocide, defined as destruction of a complete species. The sentence for this is, without exception, death and the previous caveats about fee-avoiding clients applies here too.  In Trial of a Time Lord, the Doctor ingeniously uses evidence of future events to prove his point.  The writer wonders if anyone in a UK court has managed that?

Dr Who - The Trial of a Time Lord
Glasgow Sheriff Court was never like this!

Lawyers practising on Gallifrey must also remember that all events involving Time Lords are recorded in the Matrix, a computer history of information created long before the series of films (check out The Deadly Assassin from the 1970s if you don’t believe me!).  The Matrix, when entered, takes the form of a virtual reality incorporating all knowledge and its records are considered effectively irrefutable evidence in a court of law.  Entering the Matrix can present extreme danger to the uninitiated, especially if one has a morbid fear of miniature railways.

The chief enforcer of the criminal law is known as the Valeyard, which literally means learned Court prosecutor.  Do not be surprised if the Valeyard turns out to not actually exist in the normal sense of the world but to be merely a potential being who is the embodiment of the evil side of one’s client (with some clients it might be difficult to notice any difference) as this is a fairly typical occurrence in a Gallifreyan court.  If any readers are aware of similar occurrences in an earthly court they are asked to contact the writer with a full account.

The principle of non-interference has been very influential and finds itself enshrined in the law of the Galactic Federation which, at paragraph 29, sub-section 2 of the Galactic Articles of Peace, states that Federation Law cannot override native laws. During the early 31st century this proved to be a source of satellite litigation and precedent developed to show that, in parallel to Time Lord law perhaps, this did not apply in emergency situations (see The Curse of Peladon).  The direct effect of this superior source of law is a controversial issue especially as far as the Martian Independence Party is concerned (“no more new powers to Alpha Centauri” etc).

There are, it must be said, other Laws of Time but these are in reality natural, physical laws.  The most well known by far of these is the First Law of Time which states that one can never, ever meet oneself (or future or past regenerations) whilst time travelling.  This otherwise useful side effect of time travel (reminding oneself to pick up some extra milk as well as the Radio Times next time you’re at the shops, pointing out next week’s lottery numbers and so forth) is sadly not possible as a result.  Again though, the Doctor seems to observe this law rather more in the breach, leading to varied insults between his various lives (“dandy”, “clown” and so forth – see The Three Doctors).

The First Law of Time also handily avoids any complications in civil law suits. Just how would the courts deal with people suing themselves after lending themselves money and refusing to pay themselves back or even, dare we think of it, assaulting their future or past selves? How could lawyers be instructed by say a Mr Smith who wants to sue a younger or older version of himself? The conflict of interests point is worth bearing in mind and it would be interesting to learn what the SRA would make of this difficulty. And, more importantly, who exactly do you bill in such a case? Are both parties your client despite being on other sides of the litigation?  Never mind the well known Grandfather Paradox, which involves going back in time and shooting your own grandfather thus preventing your own existence and therefore your own ability to go back in time and shoot poor old granddad ad nauseam –  in legal circles this is the true conundrum.

In any case, the Great Time War has of course revoked much of this and swept away many of the old certainties. Whilst the institution of the Shadow Proclamations has provided intergalactic society with some vague semblance of the cosmic rule of law, things simply are not what they were.  Fortunately traditional values like proper client care always stand the test of time and it is these that the time travelling legal crusader can look too as we go forward in this new age of cyber-lawyering.

Dr Who - The Keys of Marinus

The Doctor, under alien jurisdictions, has often found himself in societies with deeply troubling legal rulings. For example, in the city of Millenius as shown in his adventure known as The Keys of Marinus, it is decreed that a defendant is presumed guilty and must prove his or her innocence.  Additionally, this proof must be beyond any shadow of doubt, a very high burden. Thankfully this adventure depicts the First Doctor directly taking on the role of learned counsel, clutching his lapels and everything, when he has to defend his companion Ian Chesterton.  After successfully applying for an adjournment (although not without some resentment of the three person judicial tribunal), Susan and Barbara undertake some clever investigatory work that includes possibly Doctor Who’s only portrayal of domestic violence.  In the end the Doctor provides proof that gets Ian off the hook despite the enormous evidential burden he has to overcome.

Dr Who - The Stones of Blood
A multi-coloured scarf is an important part of a Time Travelling Barrister’s atire

In The Stones of Blood, the Fourth Doctor is tried by a group of energy beings on a hyperspatial prison ship. Fortunately he has a barrister’s wig in one of his pockets to wear during his hastily arranged trial.  Facing a society and court system seemingly based on hyper-legalism, he successfully lodges an appeal against their ruling which only enrages the judges even further when they find, as a result of their own very rigid approach to legal precedent, they are unable to reject it.  This incident once again shows the flexibility which the lawyerly time traveller must show when dealing with the myriad variations on the law that journeying through time and space may yield.

Another occasion when the Doctor represented himself was on the devastated planet of Argolis at which time he suggested his scarf was guilty of murder rather than him.  Whilst at first this somewhat unique defence was dismissed, his adroitness in adapting to the legal situation around him won through again.  (see The Leisure Hive).

Dr Who - Nightmare of Eden
Knock, knock. Who goes there?

Perhaps unsurprisingly the insurance industry quite happily continues far beyond the 21st century as evidenced by such future corporations as “Galactic Salvage” which the Doctor finds himself being recognised as an agent for.  In one particular accident, involving two spaceships in a hyperspace collision, it is concluded that the claim may be dealt with on a “knock for knock” basis, showing that no matter how advanced the technology, loss adjusters are still going to be facing the same old situations.  We can only speculate how the RTA portal system has developed to deal with this kind of interstellar rear end shunt.  (see The Nightmare of Eden).

Truly alien legal systems can also be discerned but knowledge of them is very limited. In particular, those implacable foes of the Doctor known as the Daleks operate justice on what might be termed a hyper-fast track.  Dalek employment law is extraordinarily swift – in one instance a Dalek middle-manager who failed to comply with its employers’ goals was summarily dismissed on capability grounds and then exterminated much quicker than most lawyers would have been able to complete and file an ET1 (see Planet of the Daleks).  Dalek legal specialists will have to get used to operating in time frames of milli-seconds although this might in reality be rather slower than conveyancing lawyers are expected to currently carry out transactions by petulant estate agents.

Dr Who - Planet of the Daleks
You… are… fired!

We hope this brief guide can be called upon as a useful aide memoire from time to time by the chronologically displaced lawyer and both the writer and his brave editor would be pleased to learn of others’ observations from around space and time!

About the Guest Blogger:

Adam Manning and Beth
Adam Manning and Beth

Adam Manning lives in Southampton and is a Civil Litigation Solicitor at Biscoes Solicitors in Portsmouth.  He has been a lifelong fan of Doctor Who and whilst basically a fan of the classic series, thinks very highly of the new series as well: “Matt Smith may well be one of the best Doctors ever!”  When not lawyering or watching Doctor Who, Adam is a husband (married to the beautiful Alison) and dad with two young children, Beth and Ben. He also enjoys conservation work and kung fu.  Adam blogs occasionally at ‘A lawyer muses…‘ and appears as Doctor Who in Tyranny of the Daleks, a Doctor Who fan film by Cheeky Monkey Pictures.

Disclaimer: Photo captions are by the Editor and not the Writer.

Acknowledgement: Doctor Who images/video clips in this blog post are copyright © BBC.

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  1. Of course, following from this summary it is possible to go on to further articles dealing with specific issues, for example –

    The effect of closed timelines on the rules of causation in delict (tort).

    Extraordinary rendition to establish jurisdiction: Albion Hospital NHS Foundation Trust -v- The Judoon

    Prosecuting as Auctor in rem suam: High Council of Gallifrey -v- The Lord Valeyard (in absentia)

    Stairs, ramps, levitation and flight: An analysis of Dalek compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act


  2. Excellent stuff Andrew (and Brian) !!!

    I really enjoyed absorbing this, particularly the reference to share agreements – takes me back in time to my corporate lawyer years – HaHa – to a time when I even struggled with Article 1 :-):-):-)

    Cheers again. Appreciate your GSOH and admire your creativity enormously.

    Will share! …


    The Entrepreneur Lawyer
    (of the naked kind)

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