WARNING: Spoilers for ‘The Power of the Doctor’
New monarch, new Prime Minister, new Doctor. Well, not quite.
Jodie Whittaker handed over the TARDIS keys this month, concluding her five-year stint as the Time Lord with ‘The Power of the Doctor’. Reportedly the least viewed of any ‘NuWho’ regeneration, the episode was a messy conclusion to what has sadly been a messy run. The 90-minute intergalactic adventure, complete with cybermen, daleks, and a strangely drawn-out sequence to Boney M’s ‘Rasputin’, had all the hallmarks of showrunner Chris Chibnall’s work for the show, but it was the episode’s last five minutes that got everyone talking.
Like all Doctors’ finales, ‘The Power of the Doctor’ focused on tying up the loose ends for Thirteen and her ‘fam’, including their final showdown with the Master and his army of Time Lord-enhanced Cybermen. This last mission takes the gang everywhere from Pre-Revolutionary Russia to U.N.I.T’s headquarters to a paradox planet in Earth’s orbit—and if that sounds a little confusing, that’s because it is. Sadly, like so many of Chibnall’s episodes, the whole kitchen sink of sci-fi and Doctor Who-lore is thrown in for this last outing and with just so much going on, everything feels a little half-baked. The absence of Thirteen’s key ‘Timeless Child’ plotline in the episode might be a blessed indicator that the idea hasn’t solidified itself in the canon, but the across-the-board lack of resolution for any of Thirteen or her gang’s storylines borders on infuriating.
John Bishop’s Dan, first introduced to us last Halloween teetering on the edge of poverty, is dumped onto the streets of Anfield, homeless, in the first 15 minutes. Original ‘fam’ member Graham makes an inexplicable reappearance in the heart of a Dalek-infested volcano without grandson Ryan, only to stand around the TARDIS console dropping one-liners before laying the groundwork for a spinoff series. And Yasmin Khan, the only companion to have been with the Doctor for her entire run, departs in an exit so emotionless that it makes the Cybermen look tender. Despite the references to Yaz’s crush on the Doctor last series, there’s no sign that any romantic conclusion was even considered for the finale. Instead, Thirteen and Yaz’s parting is quick, impersonal and just doesn’t stick the emotion landing that has made finales so iconic in the past. Jodie’s final scene also lacks the dramatics we look forward to and I just can’t see “Tag, you’re it” joining the ranks of iconic last lines.
However, where the current TARDIS team were neglected, the classic cameos thrived. Beloved companions Tegan and Ace were welcomed back into the fray and both got heart-warming moments with their own iterations of the Doctor, especially emotional for Ace and her ‘Professor’ whose parting famously happened off screen during the show’s hiatus in the 80s. And in a great introduction to the Time Lord mythos, Jodie’s Doctor also came face to face with the consciousnesses of Doctors Five, Six, Seven and Eight on the cusp of her regeneration in a lovely little tribute to Classic Who during the BBC’s centenary year.
But for everyone reading, just like for everyone watching, it’s the ending we really care about. 12 years after his departure, it was the ever-familiar spiked hair and sharp suit of David Tennant that materialised out of Jodie Whittaker’s regeneration, taking up the mantle of the Fourteenth Doctor. While our ‘next’ doctor has already been confirmed as fellow Scotsman Ncuti Gatwa, Tennant will be reprising his role ahead of the shows 60th anniversary next year, alongside Catherine Tate as Donna Noble and Bernard Cribbins in his final onscreen role. Also returning to the TARDIS console is showrunner Russell T. Davis, hot off the back of his award-winning dramas ‘Years and Years’ and ‘It’s a Sin’. The 3 episodes for the 60th celebrations, as well as Gatwa’s series to follow, promise to be a well needed fresh start for the show and the beginning of a new era as Doctor Who makes its way onto streaming giant Disney + worldwide.
Far from the strongest swansong for a Doctor, ‘The Power of The Doctor’ was a fun if disorganised final romp for Thirteen and her ‘fam’. Fans of the run will no doubt miss Chibnall’s simplistic sci-fi style and others will commiserate the missed opportunities of our first female doctor, but most will just be excited for what’s coming next November. I’ll be taking everyone’s Doctor/Donna theories now, thank you.
Tilly Holt [she/her]
[Image credit: Yahoo Entertainment]