Thoughts & Essays

Doctor Who: The Power of the Doctor (Spoilers)

The power of the Doctor was friendship. It was friendship. That’s what they were talking about.

Okay, so, a few quick thoughts about yesterday’s send-off for Jodie Whittaker. There’s gonna be spoilers, FYI.

  1. Plot? We don’t know her. Episode didn’t make a lick of sense. People just showing up randomly with no explanation, the Master’s plan was overly convoluted and unintelligible, Thirteen barely mattered to her own swan song.
  2. Despite that, it still managed to be a lot of fun, largely thanks to a metric shit ton of fanservice. Just mountains of it. Here’s Vinder – y’all liked Vinder, right? Hey, Graham’s back! Couldn’t get Ryan, he had another job, but we got every single living former classic Doctor who didn’t have a scheduling conflict, plus David Bradley to play the First Doctor again, whee! Look, classic companions, too, including Ian for a hot second (William Russell is 97, guys).
  3. Was Chibnall mad he didn’t get to write the 60th anniversary special? It kind of felt like he was mad he didn’t get to write the specials.
  4. When Ace and Tegan popped up I said, “Y’know, if I had to pick two companions to start shit with, those two would be near the bottom of my list.” Ace in particular, who spent her entire run either blowing things up or bashing things over the head. Which is most of what she did in the episode, by the way, good for her.

I really liked Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor, but she was underserved by the scripts she got, for the most part. Wasn’t super thrilled with Chibnall’s run, but then, I’ve been saying basically that exact thing for three Doctors now.

Moffat got so far up his own ass that it really sold both Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi short. He was hell on wheels for writing a good Doctor Speech, but he got so enamored of his own supposed cleverness that he spent all his time trying to recapture what he managed with Don’t Blink and never really got around to writing anything good again.

Chibnall just… well, his run wasn’t terrible. It just wasn’t great. It was serviceable. That’s a damning thing to say, but I can’t summon one amazing moment from his seasons. The stuff I do remember – Jack Harkness popping in for a few minutes, for example, was just what last night’s episode was: Fanservice. I don’t hate a little fanservice here and there, but there has to be some substance to prop up the sizzle, folks.

It was a shame, too, because I liked the direction they started off in with Thirteen. I really liked her first episode – that little montage in the workshop where she was building a bunch of stuff. I wish there had been more of that, and less of her being shuffled to the side for no particular reason. I liked that she empowered her companions a lot more than other Doctors did, but the show kept sort of undercutting that, too.

Anyway, spoiler warning…

“I know these teeth.”

The Doctor regenerated into someone who looked like Ten last night, and of course the fans went wild because David Tennant’s Ten was the most popular NuWho Doctor. Tennant will apparently be playing the Doctor for three 60th anniversary specials in November of 2023, along with Catherine Tate as Donna Nobel, before regenerating into the actual new Doctor, played by Ncuti Gatwa.

Russel T. Davies (who’s back as showrunner, I have high hopes) says Tennant is playing the Fourteenth Doctor, and Ncuti Gatwa will be playing Fifteen. But of course, showrunners and directors and so on lie all the time to keep their secrets and twists hidden, so…

Is David Tennant playing Fourteen or is he playing the return of Ten? Neither? A little of both?

A few things to note, here.

This Doctor looks haggard. He’s got a 5 o’clock shadow, his eyes are sunken, he looks rumpled, drawn, and worn out. That’s not just Tennant, either. It has been – brace yourselves – almost 20 years since Tennant played Ten. He was in his mid-thirties for Ten and he’s 51 now. But we’ve seen Tennant recently – he was in Good Omens a few years ago looking bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and here’s a pretty recent photo of him. So I think this isn’t just Tennant looking older, it’s this Doctor looking rough around the edges.

His clothes regenerated, too. This isn’t completely unheard of – when the First Doctor regenerated into Two, his clothes changed too. But that was back when the show was still in diapers, basically. There was no set cannon about these things or anything. So I’m not sure that “counts.”

Now, it could be that they just didn’t want this Doctor popping up in women’s clothes. Tennant strikes me as the kind of actor who’d be down for it, up to and including a bra and panties if necessary, but it could be that the writers wanted the moment to have more gravitas and they wanted to avoid the jokes. The clothes changing could be meaningless, but I think it’s interesting that they did change, and into an outfit that’s similar to Ten’s, but not exactly the same as Ten’s.

This Doctor had Ten’s accent, and he used one of Ten’s catchphrases (“What? What? What?”). All that is interesting, too.

In theory, even if Fourteen’s got the same face as Ten, this should be a whole new Doctor. But we did just see that whole thing with the old Doctors guarding the chasm in the Doctor’s unconscious or whatever the hell that was supposed to be, so I guess in theory those old personalities could be hanging around?

And of course, one of Ten’s companions, Donna, will be back somehow, too. (I really hope this means she’s got a happier ending coming, by the way. I’m a fan of a well-written tragedy, which is what Donna got, but she was easily my favorite NuWho companion and it wouldn’t hurt my feelings any to see her get a better ending.)

At any rate, we’ve got a whole year before we find out what the hell is going on. Can’t wait!