A beastly question of existence

Dear Johnny Fanboy,

In the new Doctor Who episode The Satan Pit, the Beast claims that it has existed since "before this universe was created."

The Doctor claims that this cannot be: "That's impossible. No life could have existed back then."

But we know that, in Doctor Who, life existed in previous universes before our own was created. The dead pilot and his ship in Terminus came from the prior universe, as did (according to several Doctor Who novels) such non-corporeal beings as the Great Intelligence and the Nestene Consciousness. So why can't the Doctor accept that the Beast existed before our universe did?

Adam Leigh

Johnny Fanboy replies:

It is worth pointing out that no creature has yet been shown to have survived the end of its universe without some major transformation taking place as a result. The pilot of Terminus did not survive his trip through time, while the "Great Old Ones" - including the Great Intelligence, the Nestene Consciousness, the Animus, the Gods of Ragnarok and Fenric - found that their corporeal forms were lost or altered because of the differing physical laws of the two universes. Therefore, the Doctor is correct when he argues that no life (at least as we know it) could have existed back then and survived the transition unscathed.

However, the Beast also states that it comes from "Before time and light and space and matter." I take this to mean before our universe was created, but not during the existence of the previous one. Despite the different physical laws of the prior universe, there would still probably have been time, light, space and matter in some form or other. This could mean that the Beast somehow existed in a no-man's-land in between the destruction of the previous universe and the creation of our own. Or it could mean that he existed before the creation of any universe.

Indeed, some pedants (including the author Dave Stone) argue that, by definition, you cannot speak in terms of more than one universe. When we say "multiverse", we should instead speak of a single universe containing various multiverses. Maybe this is the definition of "universe" used in The Satan Pit.

The point is that the Beast came from a "place" or "time" where there was no universe as we know it. It does seem impossible for life to have existed in such conditions, hence the Doctor's understandable disbelief.

Doctor Who's "Great Old Ones" and The Satan Pit do have one thing in common, though. Both are inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft. The term "Great Old One" was coined by Lovecraft, while the design of the Ood (below right) in The Satan Pit was clearly inspired by visualisations of Lovecraft's creation, the Great Old One Cthulhu (below left).

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