‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there. The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of TARDISes and Toymakers danced in their heads. And Mummy in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap, had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap. When out on Twitter there arose such a clatter as the BBC teased a new trailer for the Doctor Who 60th Anniversary special dropping tomorrow!!! Naturally, that “long winter’s nap” could wait. Russell T Davies enthusiastically encouraged our theorizing when he said, “If you thought the appearance of David Tennant was a shock, we’ve got plenty more surprises on the way! The path to Ncuti’s Fifteenth Doctor is laden with mystery, horror, robots, puppets, danger and fun! And how is it connected to the return of the wonderful Donna Noble? How, what, why? We’re giving you a year to speculate, and then all hell lets loose!” So, with a trailer (or something??) coming tomorrow, tonight felt the perfect time to think and theorize (at least a li’l bit) about what may lay ahead for the Doctor and Donna next year.
Here was the tweet which turned my long winter’s nap into excited speculation.
As the only character in those six seconds is Neil Patrick Harris’ yet unnamed villain, it’s a safe bet we’ll see more of him in the upcoming trailer. I didn’t theorize much about him in my first piece about the Fourteenth Doctor but I’ve been thinking a lot more about his role and who the villain could be lately. So just who is Neil Patrick Harris playing on Doctor Who? What foe will the Fourteenth Doctor face in the Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Special?
It could be an entirely new villain but I don’t think so. When Russell T Davies brought Doctor Who back in 2005, he had the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) and Rose (Billie Piper) battle the Autons, a classic Doctor Who monster first faced by the Third Doctor in 1970’s “The Spearhead from Space.” Especially with this being the 60th Anniversary special, I think an existing villain/monster/foe makes sense. That’s what my gut’s telling me anyway. It could be the Master but that doesn’t feel right as we just saw the Master in “The Power of the Doctor.” For the same reason I’m saying no Daleks and no Cybermen, either.
Ever since the images of Neil Patrick Harris’ character first appeared online, people have been theorizing he’s playing the Celestial Toymaker. The Toymaker (only seen on screen once, facing William Hartnell’s First Doctor and played by Michael Gough in 1966’s “The Celestial Toymaker” (Season 3, Serial 7)) is a cosmic being who uses his immense power to trap people in seemingly childish games where they have to compete for their very freedom.
I’m not really sure why everyone latched onto this idea. Do Neil Patrick Harris’ costumes really scream Michael Gough’s Toymaker? He could be the Toymaker. But he could be a lot of other villains, too.
I keep thinking he’ll play a villain we’ve seen before who ties to the Doctor and Donna’s history. I think about this all the time. This idea pops up in my head as I drive, when I eat, when I’m in the shower, as I’m having conversations with people where it looks like I’m really listening to them but ¾ of my mind is actively thinking about Doctor Who. I just like the idea. A monster from the past rises to threaten the universe and/or Donna and her family specifically which could explain why the Fourteenth Doctor is wearing the Tenth Doctor’s face.
Right before she regenerates, the Thirteenth Doctor walks out of the TARDIS. As she leaves the console for the last time, she pauses, turns back, and says, “Look after the next one.” What if that looking after plays into this new regeneration? What if the TARDIS, being sentient, existing within the Time Vortex, and knowing what’s coming next. “nudges” the Doctor’s regeneration back to a familiar face? One Donna will instinctively trust when her life – including her daughter, Rose – is pulled into the danger and madness of the Doctor’s world once more? This would allow the Doctor to revisit a face they weren’t ready to let go of and (hopefully!) find some closure and be there to help and protect a friend in a comforting and familiar way. Then Donna isn’t meeting a new Doctor but rather she’s finding her Doctor waiting for her again.
So, with this framework, which villain seems the most likely? Who could Neil Patrick Harris be playing in the 60th Anniversary Special of Doctor Who? I bet Neil Patrick Harris is playing the Trickster!
In “Turn Left” (S4E11), the Trickster Brigade show Donna what the world would’ve become if she never met the Doctor in “The Runaway Bride” (Christmas Special 2006). Appearing on Doctor Who, The Sarah Jane Adventures, and Torchwood, these beings play around with reality, bending and rearranging things large and small, and create alternate realities when their tricks go far enough. They were the last major foe the Doctor and Donna faced before Davros returned, too, the adventure which ultimately cost Donna her memories and her relationship with the Doctor. Maybe Neil Patrick Harris is playing the Trickster Brigade’s eponymous leader.
So, just what is the Trickster? According to TARDIS Data Core: The Doctor Who Wiki:
The Trickster was an immortal extra-dimensional alien, formerly part of an extra-dimensional group of beings known as the Pantheon of Discord, who were banished from the known universe. The Trickster, alone, frequently appeared on Earth, making bargains to alter history and feeding on the resultant chaos. An alternation made over a weak point in space-time would allow the Trickster to manifest himself as flesh and blood….The Trickster was an enigmatic and sinister creature that was perpetually hungry for chaos, which served as his ‘blood, air and food.’ He revelled in the chaos, or the representations of chaos, that his plots created – he derided all other species for threatening Earth out of profit, power or revenge, but praised the pure chaos of a meteor that would destroy Earth by blind chance. He also cruelly contemplated the extent of the chaos that he could create by removing the Doctor from the universe….The Trickster was highly intelligent and manipulative, capable of influencing most sentient beings with words alone. He achieved this with seductive offers of letting his victims live happily, but at terrible hidden cost. He was apathetic and arrogant, considering himself superior to other beings and caring only for his consumption of chaos.
It’s not hard for me to imagine a story where the Trickster, angry that Donna undid it’s attempt to create a reality where she never met the Doctor, has retuned to finish its job. Or maybe it just wants to wreck havoc on Donna’s life. Maybe it wasn’t the TARDIS but the Trickster itself which helped nudge the Doctor’s regeneration. Maybe it wants to torture/corrupt/kill the Doctor and Donna and it wants the Doctor to be wearing the face they were wearing when it first tried to rewrite history and remove the Doctor from existence. Or if “an alternation made over a weak point in space-time” lets it manifest itself in flesh and blood, maybe the Fourteenth Doctor taking up an old face when they regenerate is just such an alternation over just such a weak point which brings this creature back into physical form.
If chaos is its goal, finding the Doctor at the moment they regenerated into a previous form for the first time – whether the Trickster helped urge the regeneration in that direction or not – is certainly a fertile ground to reap such chaos. Maybe the entire Pantheon of Discord is at work here! The whole modus operandi of these transcendental beings who comprise the Pantheon is to alter reality and cause chaos.
Now, the Trickster has only ever appeared in The Sarah Jane Adventures – and it certainly didn’t look like Neil Patrick Harris – but there’s nothing to say it can’t change its shape. Plus, it just seems like the Pantheon of Discord in general and the Trickster in particular would be a good fit for a 60th Anniversary Spectacular. This would be a threat anchored in Doctor Who history (the only enemy to be fought on Doctor Who, The Sarah Jane Adventures, and Torchwood) AND in the Doctor’s time with Donna (as the special stars David Tennant as the Fourteenth Doctor and Catherine Tate as Donna Noble) AND it’s from a major story (“Turn Left” is a key moment in Series Four which sets up Rose’s return and the whole final battle with Davros the Doctor and Donna will face together) AND they are beings who fuck with reality and perception BUT it wouldn’t undo a larger story or defeat or anything like that (which opens the doors for all sorts of “mystery, horror, robots, puppets, danger and fun”). Everything seems to fit!
So yes, Neil Patrick Harris could absolutely be playing the Toymaker. He could be playing someone new or he could be playing any of the hundreds of foes the Doctor’s faced over the last sixty years. But, as of now, I’m betting Neil Patrick Harris is part of the Pantheon of Discord, most likely the Trickster himself. The Trickster is there to bend reality until it’s rewritten, finishing the job the Pantheon began when the Time Beetle latched itself onto Donna’s back in the Fortune Teller’s hut in the marketplace on the planet Shan Shen and tried to write the Doctor out of existence.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, dear reader! Let’s celebrate by opening the Christmas present the BBC gave us in the form of this new trailer (or something)! (Note, if it’s not below this paragraph yet, you’re reading this piece before they posted it and I included it here, so thank you for for being so quick to read my post!) So let’s watch the trailer and see whether or not they address anything I mention above and/or whether or not anything I mention above seems right in light of the trailer.
Naturally, the fifty-one second teaser trailer doesn’t give much away. It does it’s job and gets us hyped! We see Yasmin Finney’s Rose! We see David Tennant running around in his converse and coat as the Doctor! We even get an allons-y! We see Catherine Tate’s Donna struggling with what she lost and can’t remember! We see humor and action! We see Beep the Meep! We see Neil Patrick Harris’ villain! There’s lots of excitement and nostalgic feels. And, of course, it’s bendable to fit just about any theory, as a teaser trailer should be ;D. So for my theory here, we see the Doctor say, “I don’t believe in destiny but, if destiny exists, then it is heading for Donna Noble.” And this could just be more nostalgia-baiting, calling us back to Donna’s special role in the universe from Series Four. Or it could be something is making destiny head towards Donna Noble. Something like an old enemy perhaps? Maybe an old enemy who is resentful of Donna thwarting their scheme to remove the Doctor from the universe? An old enemy just like the Trickster and the Pantheon of Discord! I mean, I could be wrong. But I could’ve cracked it, too!
So ends my second round of thoughts and theories on David Tennant’s Fourteenth Doctor. But what do you think, dear reader? Do you have any ideas you’re ready to toss into the mix yet? We have eleven months to speculate and I live to overthink things! So any theories, guesses, ideas, hopes, and dream you’d like to share, please do :D.
Also, if you’d like more theorizing, you can read:
David Tennant is the Fourteenth Doctor: Thoughts and Theories Part 1 where I consider the idea that this regeneration form could be an illusion and the idea that the Doctor returned to this form for the purpose of healing old wounds and leading Donna to regain her memories
 BBC Doctor Who, “David Tennant is the Doctor!,” DoctorWho.TV. Published October 23, 2022. Accessed October 30, 2022. https://www.doctorwho.tv/news-and-features/david-tennant-is-the-fourteenth-doctor?cm_mmc=ExactTarget-_-email-_-DW198_Solus_23102022-_-email&utm_medium=Email&utm_source=ExactTarget&utm_campaign=DW198_Solus_23102022
 “The Trickster” TARDIS Data Core: The Doctor Who Wiki. Accessed December 24, 2022.
5 thoughts on “David Tennant is the Fourteenth Doctor: Thoughts and Theories Part 2”
I think the trailer was really intriguing and I’m glad it didn’t give too much away. I’m excited for this new era and I think you are bang on the money that the Celestial Toymaker is returning. I have we are going to get a mashup of the unmade 6th Doctor stories from what would’ve originally been Season 23: The Nightmare Fair and Yellow Fever and How to Cure It, which featured the Celestial Toymaker and the Autons. Perhaps Donna’s return will be some kind of Paradox thing, and connected to Tenant’s Dr’s return and maybe it’s all a game by the Toymaker? That story was originally planned to see William Hartnell change into a new Doctor then wasn’t it, so there’s a wealth of possibilities to explore.
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That’s one of my very favorite things about ‘Doctor Who’ – given it’s history there is SO MUCH to draw from, so much potential! The playground is so large and I love it :).
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Ah! I love this! And I read it AND watched the teaser trailer, even though I still have to watch Jodie Whittaker’s final special. (Sob.) I wish I had something really illuminating to add, but I feel like my Doctor Who lore just isn’t extensive enough! I love reading your theories, though, and I love the idea that the villains here are somehow specially tied to Donna’s story. That makes sense!
I’m just so incredibly excited for this new chapter altogether, though! Donna back! Tennant back! A new Doctor after that! There’s just SO MUCH and I hope it’s going to be amazing.
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I cry each time I watch her final special! It’s interesting because of the classic Doctors I’ve seen, I don’t cry when the regenerate. But I always cry when I watch (or rewatch) our modern Doctors regenerate! I had a print made of Peter Capaldi’s regeneration speech and it hangs on my wall and sometimes I even get teary-eyed reading it.
The wildly expansive lore of ‘Doctor Who’ overwhelms me sometimes…but it’s also why I love it. Like, no matter how much I watch or read or think there’s always something else! And my Analytical Part which lives to take apart and theorize and understand loves such a big playground :).
It is so exciting! And it SEEMS like we won’t have a bunch of Doctors returning for the 60th which, on the one hand is a little sad but, on the other, will be fun. It’ll be so exciting to see the Doctor and Donna together again :D.
I do rather love fandoms where there’s always something more! It’s bittersweet realizing you’ve watched all the episodes or read all the books. Part of me likes knowing there’s still something out there I haven’t gotten to yet!
I admit I haven’t watched her last episode yet! I’ve caught up. I just have the final one. But….it’s the final one! Aaaah! Can I do it? I have to do it, right? I have to watch it. But it will be sad!
Maybe there is something to not having too many Doctors running around. Choose a few and focus on the feels!