The Doctor Who universe, sometimes abbreviated "Whoniverse" or "DWU", is a term used by fans and, increasingly, the mainstream press to describe the shared fictional universe in which Doctor Who and its related spin-offs take place.
The term notably does not limit itself to "the Doctor's universe" in terms of the in-universe definition of those terms, instead including the full breadth of the reality in which the Doctor exists, including the multiverse they inhabit; Pete's World is well-established to be a part of "the DWU" despite being separate from "the Doctor's World".
Much like the related term of canon, its scope is somewhat debated by fans. Fans often disagree about whether some stories and spin-offs are considered part of the Doctor Who universe, and some dispute the concept's meaning or utility altogether. However, the concept potentially includes all the video-, prose-, audio-, and comic-based spin-offs.
This wiki has established rules about what is and is not part of the Doctor Who universe for its own purposes (see our valid source policy for more information), but this wiki has no authority beyond its borders. Much like canon, consumers of Doctor Who-related media are free to decide for themselves what stories are part of the Doctor Who universe, or indeed, whether the concept exists at all in a meaningful fashion.
The BBC has never made a definitive pronouncement on the concept of "canon" for Doctor Who. This is notable because in order to build a "fictional universe", you need to have an established list of stories that act as the building blocks for that universe.
Doctor Who has had thousands of contributors to its mythos — its universe — with each new story being a new contribution to the universe.
The actual phrase "Doctor Who universe" and "Whoniverse" are terms that are used frequently throughout in BBC publications. In many BBC publications, they have phrased the continual development of the Doctor Who universe in terms of "continuing adventures" rather than a prescribed universe.
However, when creating their episode guide on their website the BBC republished several analyses from The Television Companion, several of which mentioned the concept of a "Doctor Who universe". In discussing The Ribos Operation, it is stated that the establishment of the Black and White Guardians form important new characters within the "Doctor Who universe," while in the episode guide for The Celestial Toymaker, "the Celestial Toymaker's greatest legacy to the Doctor Who universe" is mentioned. It is this term and the idea of "legacy" and "mythos" where much of the idea of a "Doctor Who universe" continues development. An event at its earliest development, Doctor Who was never limited to TV and never had a prescribed canon; it is a broad universe of adventures.
Other fiction in the DWU?
In addition to works which branched off of Doctor Who outwards, and thus expanded its universe, other works of fiction which some might deem unrelated to Doctor Who have been viewed by fans and creators alike as belonging to the DWU. This does not necessarily imply these works' original authorial intent was that they were set in the DWU — indeed, many predate the broadcast of An Unearthly Child — but simply that writers chose to view these works as "applicable" to Doctor Who in the same retroactive sense as real-world history itself.
The primary way this has manifested has been through some breeds of crossover, licensed or not. However, this idea that many preexisting works of fiction are valid history for the Doctor's universe has been espoused as a general philosophy by several writers of licensed DWU fiction. Ben Aaronovitch notably made it a guiding principle of his writing of Sylvester McCoy Doctor Who TV stories.
Aaronovitch's concept of the "universe" in which Doctor Who takes place [was] a fictional dimension in which characters such as Sherlock Holmes exist.
Thus, Remembrance of the Daleks made mention of Bernard Quatermass and his British Rocket Group, while Battlefield saw the Doctor directly interacting with elements of Arthurian mythos such as Morgaine and Camelot.
The term "Whoniverse" dates at least as far back as Peter Haining's 1983 reference book, Doctor Who: A Celebration. At that time, the Whoniverse had a very broad meaning, which included not just the setting of Doctor Who stories, but everything about the series, including behind-the-scenes information and fandom itself.
"Whoniverse" gradually became a more specific term. Initially, it served to indicate that the Doctor Who stories told in other media were part of the same universe as those told on television. This came to have greater importance in the media and to new fans who were approaching Doctor Who through TV-based series such as Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures, K9 and Class.
The Doctor Who universe is the shared universe created and collected from the stories that are told about it.
With the return of Doctor Who on television in 2005, it began to include references to past stories, tying together various series of various media together into a single universe. Series 1 of Doctor Who included references to the planet Lucifer, kronkburgers and Justicia, and series 5 revealed that Winston Churchill had met the Doctor before Victory of the Daleks, while the Slitheen-Blathereen family, descendants of the Blathereen, appeared in series 3 of The Sarah Jane Adventures, all hinting that non-televised Doctor Who stories might take place in the "official" Doctor Who universe.
Martha Jones's employment by UNIT was first mentioned in the Torchwood episode Reset, in which she appeared, and The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky had a semi-sequel in the form of the The Sarah Jane Adventures story The Last Sontaran. The Stolen Earth/Journey's End brought together cast members of three series. A number of more casual mentions have also taken place, such as Sarah Jane suggesting "Harry" and "Alistair" as possible names for Luke in Invasion of the Bane. Likewise, Sarah's description of the origins of her coulrophobia in The Day of the Clown returns the viewer to the setting of A Girl's Best Friend.
In Liberty Hall, a short minisode released with the DVD of Mawdryn Undead, Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart mentions being with the Doctor in Malebolgia in 2003 (which is a reference to Minuet in Hell). He also mentions Gordon and Kate Lethbridge-Stewart (who are characters from Downtime).
Time Heist features a gallery of criminals including from both the classic and new series of Doctor Who, Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures as well as Abslom Daak, a character from the Doctor Who Magazine comic strips.
In The Doctor Falls, the Twelfth Doctor noted that the Cybermen had risen naturally from Mondas (AUDIO: Spare Parts, TV: The Tenth Planet) Telos, (PROSE: Doctor Who and the Cybermen) Earth, (TV: Rise of the Cybermen/ The Age of Steel) Planet 14 (TV: The Invasion) and Marinus, (COMIC: The World Shapers) effectively validating all of these known instances of the Cybermen rising outside of the television stories.
While such "crossovers" can be narratively insignificant, they nevertheless reinforce the notion of a single, shared universe.
Other fictional universes
- See Canon#Other universes for detailed information.
There have been various deliberate attempts to create separate "fictional universes" that have elements of the Doctor Who universe, but are entirely separate entities. This is in an in-universe fictional sense, in a narrative sense and in a commercial sense.
These other fictional universes are not alternate timelines or parallel universes. These two concepts exist within the Doctor Who universe as defined and contained concepts within the scope of that fictional universe, whilst these other fictional universes are separate, merely using familiar concepts and entities as the Doctor Who universe. For example, both Scream of the Shalka and Death Comes to Time were retroactively declared by their creators (and in the case of Shalka, by the BBC) as not being part of the Doctor Who universe.
A similar status is often ascribed to the two Peter Cushing films of the 1960s, Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D., which borrow plots, characters and iconography from the TV stories The Daleks and The Dalek Invasion of Earth, but alter various details to the extent that they seem irreconcilable with the televised version of events, and, indeed, most other stories involving a version of the Doctor — although notably, The Dalek Chronicles are just as much a prequel to these films as to the TV versions. As time went, the "Cushing Doctor" was considered more and more of an oddity, with writers and characters alike coming to denounce him as "not counting". The publication of Daleks Versus the Martians, as well as that of a series of unlicensed charity publications featuring Dr. Who by Obverse Books, saw established Doctor Who writers trying to write in "the universe of the Cushing films", positing a world where the "canon" consisted of the two Cushing films and nothing else.