Michael from My Comic Relief and I have been good friends for years now, as we both started blogging within a few months of each other and discovered each other’s blogs early on. I even had the pleasure of meeting him during a family vacation, as my family and I arranged to meet up for lunch with him and Kalie, who writes Just Dread-Full. For awhile we have good-naturedly pushed the other to start watching our favorite fandoms – which for Michael is Doctor Who and for me Star Trek, specifically The Next Generation. What is amazing about both our series is that they both began in the 1960s, had a few speedbumps to overcome, but then were re-tooled for the better in recent years. So we both choose eight episodes to best represent our favorite fandom and had the other watch them, after giving each other some introductory comments.
“I wish…I wish this could last forever.” Those were the Doctor’s final words, spoken as she skipped stones on the beach with Yaz in “Legend of the Sea Devils,” her last adventure before her regeneration in “The Power of the Doctor.” The first time I watched the special I found the line poignant. The closer I got to “The Power of the Doctor,” the more I echoed her sentiment. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye! I couldn’t lose the Thirteenth Doctor! I couldn’t lose Yaz! Not yet! However, as the personification of Time itself ominously told the Doctor at the Temple of Atropos, “You can leave here, but you won’t outrun me. Your time is heading to its end.” Defiant and with more than a little fear the Doctor said, “No…it’s not. You’re wrong.” But Time solemnly replied, “Nothing is forever. No regeneration. No life.” I wish Time was wrong! But alas, the Doctor regenerated, whether I was ready for her to or not. This piece is me processing; it’s a reflection on the Thirteenth Doctor’s regeneration and her era of Doctor Who.
Soon (I can’t be more specific as the BBC still hasn’t released a date and time), Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor will regenerate in “The Power of the Doctor,” her final special airing as part of the BBC’s Centenary Celebration. Months ago Ncuti Gatwa was announced as the Fourteenth Doctor with Russell T Davies returning as the Doctor Who showrunner. Just seven days later David Tennant and Catherine Tate’s return was also announced as part of a trio of specials for Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary. Speculation began immediately. Was this a missing Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble adventure? Was this an alternate universe? Or could it be possible – could it really be possible – Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor would regenerate into David Tennant’s Tenth (or Fourteenth?) Doctor before then regenerating into Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor? The latter two theories were first born from David Tennant wearing a suit and coat he never wore as the Tenth Doctor. With weeks (or days??) until “The Power of the Doctor” airs, I figured it’d be fun to write a li’l speculative piece about all this :D.
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 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.
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.
We love a good team-up, don’t we? The Avengers. Justice League. Even Godzilla vs. Kong. Part of me expects a movie where Annabelle, the Nun, and La Llorona team-up to haunt Ed and Lorraine Warren (which won’t happened as the Conjuring Universe has more narrative integrity than that and the stories are based on true events (or at least truth-adjacent)). Doctor Who has been doing the multi-Doctor team-up for decades in TV, novels, audio dramas, and comics. But there is a fascinating dimension to different Doctors teaming up that none of these other stories have. When the Doctor encounters other incarnations of the Doctor it’s not just a group of our favorite heroes coming together. Rather they are, in effect, meeting themself at different moments in their life! Can you imagine that?!!? I can’t stop imagining what it would be like if I found myself in the same situation! Can you imagine meeting yourself at different points in your life, some younger than you and some having seen things you’ve yet to see? The idea is captivating and this is exactly what happens whenever the Doctors team-up.
Weeks ago, listening to “What Christmas Means To Me” while decorating got me thinking about what Christmas means to me. I decided to spend the month of December reflecting on it with a series of posts and I decided to use Doctor Who Christmas specials as the lens through which to do my reflecting…and now we’re here! I feel like I blinked and I’m writing the fourth piece and Christmas is this week! Ahhh! Showrunner Chris Chibnall has shifted the Doctor Who special to New Year’s Day as opposed to Christmas but – as Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor has become my favorite Doctor – I didn’t want to leave the Doctor, Yaz, Ryan, and Graham out of the fun here. Enter Titan Comics to the rescue! Jody Houser (writer), Roberta Ingranata (artist), and Enrica Eren Angiolini (colorist) took the fam on an amazing Christmas adventure last year in Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor Holiday Special. Yay! So, What Does Christmas Mean To Me (Vol. 4)? Well, let’s crack open a couple comics and figure it out.
As I write this, it’s the eve of the 2020 presidential election. I’m anxious. I’m concerned. But most of all, I’m hopeful. I say that with absolute sincerity. I’m hopeful that tomorrow will yield a change of course after the last four years that have felt like fifteen. I’m hopeful. It’s a welcome feeling in an age when, for so many reasons, hope feels like a far rarer commodity than it did even just a few years ago. However, I wasn’t planning on writing tonight. I probably shouldn’t be, as I’m sure I’ll be up late watching election returns tomorrow. But I was rewatching “Orphan 55” tonight and it felt remarkably relevant. Seeing the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), Yaz (Mandip Gill), Ryan (Tosin Cole), and Graham (Bradley Walsh) navigate this hostile planet, a post began to grow. So what the heck? I guess I’ll sleep Wednesday…hopefully soundly.