The time differential describes a state of being between multiple points in a single timeline coming into contact with one another.
When a human or object met itself from a different point on its own timeline, the Blinovitch Limitation Effect meant physical contact between the two versions would short out the time differential between them. This could result in dangerous effects such as a large energy discharge or damage to time itself. (TV: Mawdryn Undead, Father's Day, The Big Bang)
The time differential energy released by a time paradox was referred to as "Blinovitch energy" and could power a TARDIS. Tegan also referred to being "Blinovitched" in relation to being caught in the paradox. (AUDIO: Prisoners of Fate)
Multiple incarnations of the same Time Lord encountering one another did not experience dangerous effects from shorting out the time differential between themselves. (TV: The Three Doctors) The earlier incarnation or incarnations would appear of a greater physical age than they should have at that point in their timeline. This otherwise harmless effect would disappear once the incarnations parted ways and the time differential was no longer shorted out. (TV: Time Crash)
Time itself became stuck and began dying when River Song altered a fixed point in time by refusing to kill the Eleventh Doctor (in actuality the Teselecta). Every moment in Earth's timeline came into contact with each other as a result. The only way to repair the damage to time was for River and the Teselecta-Doctor to physically touch. Because their timelines were the polar opposite points of the distortion, their contact shorted out Earth's own time differential. This returned them to the fixed point, restored the required event, and repaired the damage to time. (TV: The Wedding of River Song)
When Mark Whitaker met a younger version of his wife, she touched him, shorting out the time differential. This restored his youth. This was unusual, as one person shorted out another's time differential. (PROSE: Touched by an Angel)
In some cases, the ill effects of two versions of a being shorting out the time differential could be avoided or suppressed. Kazran Sardick touched his younger self in front of the Doctor's TARDIS without ill effects to time. (TV: A Christmas Carol)
When the universe was collapsing as a result of the Doctor's TARDIS exploding, the effects on organic beings appeared diminished as older and younger versions of Amy Pond and the Eleventh Doctor were able to touch and interact without ill effects. Two versions of the Doctor's sonic screwdriver, however, still produced a spark when touched together. Notably these instances occurred during different time periods of the destructing timeline, the former where the effect did not occur was closer in time to the point of explosion (by about 1800 years) than the latter in which the effect did occur. (TV: The Big Bang)
Behind the scenes
- Originating in Mawdryn Undead, the concept of "shorting out the time differential" was used in Time Crash by Steven Moffat to finally put an on-screen explanation to the unavoidable fact that the previous Doctors in multi-Doctor television stories are visibly older than they appeared during their original run as the Doctor.