Doctor Who: The Power of the Doctor Pregame

As confirmed finally by the BBC, we are now just a hair over two weeks away from Jodie Whittaker’s final outing as the Doctor. DOCTOR WHO: The Power of the Doctor is scheduled to be screened on October 23, 2022, a full six months since the previous one-off. Now, most of the WHO-verse’s attention has switched over to speculating about returning showrunner Russell T. Davies’ plans, the era of Chris Chibnall having been largely written off as something of a wrong turn, a regrettable error (at best) or a destructive tumor (at worst). Which I think it a bit strong. I can admit to not having liked the series as much myself since Steven Moffat stepped down, but this changing-of-the-guard is an old hat situation to those of us who grew up on the DOCTOR WHO of the 1970s and 1980s. And while Chibnall’s work hasn’t been as engaging as that of his predecessors, he and his team nonetheless did some very nice things along the way.

That all said, I was looking very much forward to the impending Power of the Doctor. I had hopes that, in the manner of Moffat working on the anniversary story Day of the Doctor, having a good amount of lead time to craft the story and the weight of its importance to his legacy on the show would compel Chris Chibnall to put his best foot forward, to bring his A-Game, and to show the naysayers what he was truly made of just as he and his sauntered out the door. I mean, seriously, in that position, wouldn’t you want to make it as difficult for Russell as you could by raising the bar just a little bit more? I would. I suspect you would, too. And so I’ve hoped that the same was true of Chibnall, who has made some very good television over the course of his career.

That all said, I saw the trailer that the BBC released earlier today, and my heart sank just a little bit. And I know, it’s just not fair to judge a production from just the trailers. But the point of a trailer is to get me as a viewer excited and anticipatory, and honestly, this one had the opposite effect on me. I think perhaps it’s good that it’s lowering my expectations, as they are much more likely to be met at that point.

So what’s my problem with the trailer? Well, it just looks like every other trailer the show has released in recent years–literally. Once again, there are multiple monsters from DOCTOR WHO’s past. Once again, there is an impending threat from the Master that will end the Doctor forevermore. Once again, there’s the threat of impending regeneration which we as viewers know will come to pass this time (although I would bet that those shots of the Doctor in a tube giving off regeneration energy, like in the photo at the top of this piece, is somebody attempting to drain off her Timeless Child-ness rather than the true regeneration.) Again, there’s some brief fanservice appearances from actors and characters of the past, an easy way to coax a bit nostalgia out of the old timers. And yeah, I know that none of these things is a crime in and of themselves. It’s just–it looks and plays like every trailer that the show released during the Flux season. Same notes, same beats, same zippy-but-not-weighty delivery. A clusterfuck of competing ideas, a whirlwind of images designed to pull on those nostalgic heartstrings. But no real genuine emotional connection to anything. It was less like a trailer and more like a greatest hits montage. And perhaps that’s what this final show needs to be in a way. I was never expecting it to be completely divorced from what this team had done before. Rather, I’m hoping that it’s a celebration of their approach, a perfection of it. And maybe it still will be. But it sure doesn’t feel like it. It feels like more of teh same damn thing we were fed all during the Flux.

I’m hoping that I’m wrong. But I’m feeling like I’m right. And that’s not great, and definitely what the production team wants me to be thinking two weeks ahead of time. Of course, it doesn’t matter either way–I’m going to tune in regardless, so my viewership isn’t a question at all. I just really, really want this crew to go out with a win. Looking back over their time, I feel as though there are damn few episodes from this period that I’m motivated to revisit. Many of them were fine once, but none of them have prompted repeated viewings–not in the way that the show routinely did since its revival in 2005. And that saddens me. I genuinely want one well-crafted, well-told final adventure that shows off the strengths of what this team does and which downplays or eliminates its weaknesses.

Anyway, moving ahead, like everybody else, I’ve heard all of the rumors about what is to come (including a few that have come to me from well-placed sources close to the production) and so I’m ready to make a couple of predictions. This’ll be fun to look back upon in a year’s time when I was absolutely and utterly wrong–but here’s what I make of what is to come. I feel absolutely 100% certain that Jodie is going to regenerate back into David Tennant, and that new Doctor Ncuti Gatwa won’t be anywhere to be seen in Power of the Doctor. In fact, I’ve half convinced myself that Tennant’s one and only line will be, “Did you miss me?”, a callback to his first appearance in the Christmas Invasion. I’m relatively certain that this won’t literally be the 10th Doctor but rather a take on the concept introduced in the aforementioned Day of the Doctor in which the Time Lord (can we still call him that now, now that it’s been revealed that he isn’t truly one of them?) will in future days revisit the faces of some of his previous selves, such as Tom Baker’s. So this will be a new/old Doctor, and possibly one that will come out that way due to outside influences. I feel relatively confident that 2023 will see three DOCTOR WHO specials: one for the 60th Anniversary on or around November 23, one for Christmas and the final one for New Year’s. They’ll clearly involve both a return of Donna Noble as well as the introduction of her daughter, Rose (as played by Yasmin Finney) who’ll be swept up in the adventure (possibly a wrinkle of her coming on as a companion to the Doctor will be needing to keep her adventures an absolute secret from her mum, whose brain will melt if she recalls her own time with him. That’s a solid bit of construction.) And in the end, at the climax of the New Year’s Special, David Tennant will say goodbye once more, and regenerate into the long-promised Ncuti Gatwa. This too only makes sense to me–who would possibly introduce their new leading man and then ask him to share screen time with one of the best beloved actors in that role? No, Ncuti has to come after David is finished.

That’s all a year away still, though. For now, I’m going to hope for the best as we head towards October 23rd. Don’t let me down, Chris Chibnall!

4 thoughts on “Doctor Who: The Power of the Doctor Pregame

  1. Been a Doctor Who watcher since my local PBS station broadcast the Tom Baker shows back in the late 1970s/early 80s. Loved the revival in 2005….stopped watching regularly after the Matt Smith era. The stories went downhill after that and the whole Doctor Who universe is now in ruins. R.I.P. to the Doctor 1963-2013.

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  2. I haven’t started Flux yet so I’ve no opinion on where they’re going.
    But I just finished rewatching The Five Doctors and damn, THAT was how to do an special and make it special.

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  3. My only prediction is that Ms. Whitaker and most of the cast will be much, much better than the writing. (Except whoever it is that plays the Master. I know he’s done good work elsewhere but whomever is telling him to chew scenery like it’s chocolate has made most of his Who work unwtchable)

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