This fall, in a 90 minute special airing in October as part of the BBC’s Centenary Celebration, the Thirteenth Doctor will regenerate as the Fourteenth Doctor comes into being. After all the speculation as to who would follow Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor in the TARDIS, the BBC announced Sex Education’s Ncuti Gatwa was cast as the Doctor’s fourteenth regeneration (well, you know, fourteenth not counting the Fugitive Doctor, the War Doctor, the Morbius Doctors, and every incarnation of the Doctor we’ve met and/or seen alluded to with the Timeless Child). Naturally, there’ve been many pieces reporting the announcement and compiling quotes from Ncuti Gatwa, returning showrunner Russell T Davies, Jodie Whittaker, Chris Chibnall, and everyone else in the orbit of Doctor Who willing to comment on the news. This piece isn’t that. Others have written it (and have done a better job than I could (that’s not my strength as a writer)). Instead, I want to talk about feelings (much more my forte!) about this impending regeneration when our ever-changing Doctor will change once again.
I was so excited for Doctor Who: Legend of the Sea Devils (and OH MY GOSH) but with the way my brain naturally works plus BBC America’s Doctor Who marathon up to the premiere, I’ve been thinking about Legend of the Sea Devils as deeply as the special which immediately preceded it, Doctor Who: Eve of the Daleks. And because I’ve still SO MANY FEELINGS I want to process about Legend of the Sea Devils before I’d write about it, I decided to write about Eve of the Daleks. After the insanely intense (and, at times, confusing/convoluted) nature of Doctor Who: Flux, Eve of the Daleks was a nice pallet cleanser. Granted it still had me worrying for the safety of our new characters the whole time and the emotional ground it covered was more intense than Flux, but it was a fun, self-contained, single episode story. For me, part of its deep resonance came in how it invited me to consider the power of a moment.
One of my favorite marks of the Doctor’s character is the way they respond to meeting all manner of monsters. When I first began watching Doctor Who this was one of the earliest signs of how different a hero they were than I was used to. Time and again – no matter how scary or threatening or unapproachable whatever the Doctor finds in the universe may appear – their first reaction is never one of fear or judgment. They certainly never attack. Rather, they marvel at its beauty. They are overcome with joy and excitement at seeing something they’ve never seen before. And, if what they encounter appears frightened or injured, they are moved by compassion and offer help. In all this they are a beautifully important model for us, too. As Steven Moffatt, the Doctor Who showrunner for Series 5-10, rightly observed, “There will never come a time when we don’t need a hero like the Doctor.”
The finale of Doctor Who: Flux aired Sunday night. I’ve lots of thoughts and lots of feelings. But they’re still percolating so, instead of writing about Doctor Who: Flux, I want to write about the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill) and the dream TARDIS team I’ve had bouncing around in my mind since I finished watching the Second Doctor’s era of Classic Doctor Who last summer. While I struggled at first to connect to the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton), the wonder of his era came alive for me when he and his longtime companion Jamie McCrimmon (Frazier Hines) began travelling with Zoe Heriot (Wendy Padbury). As soon as I met Zoe the seeds for this piece were sown. I want – nay, I need – some sort of story (be it novel, audio drama, comic, or all of the above) where she reunites with the Doctor to travel with her and Yaz. It would be perfect! I think it’s a story that needs telling, too…and here’s why.
Once upon a time, I didn’t watch Doctor Who. I didn’t know why the blue phonebooth was important and I didn’t know if that garbage can thing with the whisk and plunger was a good guy or a bad guy. Once upon a time, I was too intimidated to even think about watching Doctor Who. Then I started a new job and met Theresa! We became fast friends and the only way I survived my first year teaching was because of her friendship and guidance. Theresa’s the best. One of the many things we bonded over was our shared love of Marvel, Star Wars, and all those nerdy corners of pop culture fun. But I couldn’t discuss one of Theresa’s favorite shows/characters/universes with her – Doctor Who. Eventually, trusting Theresa and her taste, I jumped into the world of Doctor Who and my life has become better in every way for it! But you may not know Theresa. Maybe that’s why you’re here. Maybe you’re curious if you should watch Doctor Who and/or how you even begin watching Doctor Who but you don’t have Theresa there to help you. Well, that’s why I’m here. I hope this short piece helps answer your questions, calm your concerns, and ignites your excitement for Doctor Who in the way being friends with Theresa did for me :D.
One of the unique things about a show/story/character as long running as Doctor Who is its potential to fold back on itself, to tell a story that opens a new path for future narratives while also inviting you to return to older stories and see them in a new way. As I explored last week, Chris Chibnall’s addition of the Timeless Child to the world of Doctor Who certainly does that. This week, as I’ve been filling my time between Doctor Who: Flux “Chapter One: The Halloween Apocalypse” and Doctor Who: Flux “Chapter Two: War of the Sontarans,” I’ve been continuing my journey through all 695 episodes of Classic Doctor Who. As I’m moving through the Third Doctor’s era (which I ADORE), I’ve been thinking of the Timeless Child. Specifically I’ve been thinking of how seamlessly it brings together a few plot points which felt a bit disconnected to me.
On the eve of the premiere of Doctor Who: Flux, “The Halloween Apocalypse” (best. title. EVER.), I figured it was apropos to reflect on the Timeless Child. Tomorrow, the first episode of Jodie Whittaker’s final full series as the Doctor will air. Shortened due to Covid affecting filming, Doctor Who: Flux will be one single six episode serial story. It, along with three feature length specials with Jodie airing next year, will also mark the end of Chris Chibnall’s time as showrunner for Doctor Who. The Timeless Child is the largest narrative plot point developed during his time at the helm. It’s one of the most hotly debated, too. I wanted to write about it as soon as the episode aired…but I had SO MANY feelings and I had NO IDEA how to sort any of them. They needed to percolate. I needed time to think. But now, with Doctor Who: Flux about to begin, I want to discuss the Timeless Child. And, oddly enough, it was the model set in Spider-Man comics which helped me get to the point where I could see how the Timeless Child fits within the world of Doctor Who.
A little over a year ago I wrote a piece reflecting on the seemingly unbearable struggles of pandemic teaching. At the time, I used Tony Stark’s journey through Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame as my frame to help me understand what I was going through and all I was feeling. Writing it was very personal and deeply cathartic. In the end, I survived last year! I didn’t quit! I even managed to find incredible beauty in all the struggle, too. Now I’m a month and a half into a new school year and, well, I thought it would be easier. Yet I find myself pulled down in this dispiriting emotional mire once more. This time Doctor Who offers a more apt lens to frame my experience. Given today is World Mental Health Day – and we’re all struggling in our own ways and we all deserve to be heard and validated in those struggles – sharing this seemed appropriate. When the school year returned, I needed the Doctor. I still do. I think we all do.
The world of Doctor Who has some big news! Russell T Davies, who brought Doctor Who back to television in 2005 and served as showrunner during Christopher Eccleston’s time as the Ninth Doctor as well as David Tennant’s tenure as the Tenth Doctor, will be returning to helm the show once more. On July 29th it was announced Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall – having completed their “‘three series and out’ pact” – would be “handing back the TARDIS keys” after Series Thirteen (a six-part event serial) this fall and a trio of event specials through 2022, ending with a feature length special as part of the BBC’s Centenary Celebrations. Often, a hallowed air surrounds discussions of Russell T Davies time as Doctor Who showrunner amongst fans (with David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor being the most widely favored of the modern Doctors) so people have understandably been freaking out all day. Well I’ve got thoughts and feelings, too! So let’s chat about the potential future of Doctor Who shall we?
Literally my first impression of Patrick Troughton as the Doctor was he seemed stern. I thought this long before I saw him play the Doctor or even knew his real name. It was just my immediate reaction to the images/pictures the BBC usually chooses when they show all the Doctors. Maybe it was the dark hair? Maybe it was the piercing stare? I don’t know. But once I began my journey through Classic Doctor Who I knew I’d see if there was any truth to my uninformed first impression (my bet was there wasn’t). And my journey’s progressing! This is the second installment in my series of feelings/impressions upon meeting each Doctor! Patrick Troughton’s run as the Doctor would span three series, from 5 November 1966 to 21 June 1969.