The Guide to the Dark Times, or The Time Lord Victorious?, was a Time Lord Victorious short story included in Doctor Who The Official Annual 2021. It was styled as a newspaper article written and narrated by River Song, with an introduction by the Thirteenth Doctor tying the story into the rest of the annual.
River Song authors The Dark Times Times, a newspaper reporting on the events thus far in the period of the Dark Times when the Doctor's eighth, ninth and tenth incarnations have landed, which they are able to tell thanks to River having snatched the Black Scrolls of Rassilon from Gallifrey before its destruction.
The sequence of events they describe is thus: following a Big Bang which caused "everything" to come into being, the universe was in chaos in the context of the Dark Times, stalked by such beings as Eternals, Dæmons, Great Vampires, Osirans and Racnoss — as well as the nascent civilisations of the Gallifreyans, although they had yet to become the regenerating Time Lords. For "a millennium or two", while the Eternals are still young, all the newly-formed inhabitants of the universe live in peace.
However, everything is thrown into chaos by the coming of the Kotturuh, one of the first species to have come into being from the Big Bang, who had, thus far, laid low. The bringers and embodiments of Death itself, these immortal and sanctimonious beings discover they had the power to bring the "gift" of death to other species, and begin to carry it like a plague throughout the universe, "infecting" other species with mortality. Some of their would-be victims fight back, like the Dæmons, or strike bargains with the Kotturuh, like the Great Vampires and an individual Osiran known as Sutekh the Destroyer.
It is in this context that a handful of incarnations of the Doctor arrive in the Dark Times, with the intent of "bringing order to the chaos". However, they only succeed in intensifying the crisis. Meanwhile, the Dalek Emperor of the Restoration Empire realizes that the Daleks' timeline is shifting and sends the Time Squad to try and rectify the situation to Dalek advantage. The Daleks' involvement, according to the "latest reports", is threatening the fabric of the universe.
Long ago or in the far future (depending on perspective) the Ood were a submissive race who were made into slaves, but that wasn't the case for one Brian the Ood. Anyone who encounters Brian must beware his split personality - one who may do your bidding or one that might unleash "Mr Ball" on you.
- "Melody Malone"
- Thirteenth Doctor
- Eighth Doctor
- Ninth Doctor
- Tenth Doctor
- Golden Emperor
- Time Commander
- Scientist Dalek
- Dalek Executioner
- Dalek Prime Strategist
- Brian the Ood
- River describes herself as a "time traveller" and "explorer", a "writer" and "detective", a "devoted wife", a "loving daughter", and "one of the most dangerous people who ever lived".
- The Big Bang caused "everything" to come into being, all at once: "every planet, every species, every flavour of frozen yoghurt".
- The Kotturuh were one of the first species in the universe. They see Death as their religion and as a gift they are bringing to other universes.
- River jokes that, after the Great Vampires were cursed by the Kotturuh so that their immortality became dependent on preying on the life-force of mortals, they became "about as popular as a Weeping Angel at a wedding".
- River refers to the Doctor as her "on-off husband and occasional wife" and notes that they "used to talk [to her] about the Dark Times" as "the times of chaos".
- Although the exact context is left unsaid, this story presupposes that, at one point or another, River Song became aware of the Thirteenth Doctor, or at least that the Doctor had regenerated into a female body, despite TV: The Husbands of River Song, where the latest incarnation she knew prior to her death at the Library was the Twelfth Doctor, ostensibly being the Doctor and River's last night together prior to the events of TV: Silence in the Library.
- River Song is once again writing under the alias of "Melody Malone". (TV: The Angels Take Manhattan)
- River recalls having assisted in the setting off of "a few" Big Bangs. (TV: The Big Bang)
- She notes that how the Gallifreyans became the death-defying Time Lords is "another story". (PROSE: The Legacy of Gallifrey; TV: The Timeless Children)
- Stories of the Dark Times are recorded (PROSE: The Scrolls of Rassilon) in the Black Scrolls of Rassilon, (TV: The Five Doctors) which River rescued from Gallifrey before "its destruction." (TV: Spyfall)
- The Kotturuh are identified as the origin of Sutekh's "Gift of Death", which once "caused trouble" to the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith. (TV: Pyramids of Mars)
- The Dæmons are established to have been nearly wiped out by the Kotturuh, dying in battle (PROSE: Interference - Book One) with the only survivor having been Azal until the Master brought him back to the land of the living. (TV: The Dæmons)
- The Dark Times Times uses the likenesses of Zellin and Rakaya to illustrate the profile of the Eternals, (TV: Can You Hear Me?) a portrait of the Three Who Rule to represent the Great Vampires, (TV: State of Decay) and a picture of Rassilon and his High Council during the Last Great Time War to depict the Gallifreyans. (TV: The End of Time)
- It is noted that after the Empress of the Racnoss went into hibernation at the centre of the Earth to evade destruction by the Kotturuh, the Doctor found her there "billions of years later". (TV: The Runaway Bride)