It’s Doctor Who custom that one Doctor’s closing episode is the following Doctor’s first. This handoff is likely one of the coolest issues in regards to the present. You by no means actually know what you’re going to get, and the whole lot feels new once more. Final weekend, the guard modified as soon as once more, in one other first for the collection following Jodie Whittaker’s tenure as the primary lady within the function. Sadly, the momentous event was marred by what looks as if an extremely boneheaded determination in how the transition was made .
The Fifteenth Doctor, nonetheless, is at all times going to have an asterisk by his title. A little bit footnote, denoting that his introduction — as actor Ncuti Gatwa takes his historic place as the primary Black man to imagine the function in Doctor Who’s 60-year historical past — is completely different from the remaining. It makes the entire affair really feel like an alarming step again proper earlier than what many nonetheless hope is perhaps an excellent leap ahead for the long-running collection.
[Ed. note: Spoilers for the ending of “The Giggle” follow.]
As an episode, “The Giggle,” the final of Doctor Who’s three Sixtieth-anniversary specials, is a hell of a experience, if a bit dense. The premise entails a subliminal message hidden in each display, all over the place, driving the world mad, a heavy-handed metaphor that will drag the entire episode down if the story dwelled on it a lot. Fortunately, it doesn’t — author Russell T. Davies largely makes use of this plot for spectacle’s sake, to offer the episode an apocalyptic scale. He places far more vitality into the episode’s villain, the Toymaker.
A deep pull from Doctor Who historical past, the Toymaker first appeared throughout William Hartnell’s (the very first Doctor!) tenure on the run. He’s not proven up on display since, however nonetheless resurfaced within the odd Who novel or radio play by means of the years. In casting Neil Patrick Harris to resurrect the function, Davies lastly offers the three specials a way of historical past that this trilogy of specials has been missing, one which stretches again to earlier than the trendy period of Doctor Who Davies kicked off in 2005.
The Toymaker additionally thrusts us into the brand new period of Doctor Who. A creature from past the universe who sees all of existence by means of an amoral lens of video games and play, the Doctor’s plan for defeating him entails difficult him to a recreation — solely, within the type of logic loopholes Doctor Who is so keen on deploying, the Toymaker calls for to play the subsequent Doctor — and shoots a beam proper by means of the Doctor’s chest.
That is the place “The Giggle” falls aside. As a substitute of regenerating into Ncuti Gatwa’s Fifteenth Doctor, one thing bizarre referred to as “bigeneration” occurs, and the Doctor splits in two: David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor and Gatwa’s Fifteenth. It’s not a brief factor, both — because the particular’s denouement performs out, it’s made very clear that Ten will stay alive and effectively, albeit settling down into the function of Enjoyable Alien Uncle to Donna Noble’s household off display, whereas Fifteen goes off to do Doctor Who issues. They every even get their very own TARDIS.
The entire thing smacks of cowardice. In making the wildly inconsistent determination to make the primary Black Doctor a bizarre anomaly that retains the earlier white one in play, Gatwa’s Fifteen is now categorically not the Doctor, undercut by the truth that the opposite man continues to be on the market, even when he by no means truly reveals up.
There are charitable methods to learn why this occurred. Davies’ Doctor Who work is greatest characterised as extraordinarily sentimental, and his plots will incessantly toss out logical sense if the emotion of a scene is smart to him. As a sentimental author, it’s very attainable that Davies couldn’t bear to kill his most-loved Doctor a second time, or that the symbolism of Tennant’s Doctor wishing Gatwa’s good luck and sending him off struck him as extra emotionally befitting such a historic handoff. Taking a look at it this fashion, nonetheless, strains credulity, and there’s little purpose anybody must be so beneficiant.
Doctor Who, below the tone Davies himself set in 2005, has established itself as embracing a type of matter-of-fact progressivism that channeled the optimism of science fiction to point out how humanity might, in truth, higher itself over time. To that finish, the collection has typically — albeit clumsily — labored to be inclusive and compassionate in suits and begins, matter-of-factly introducing queer characters (together with Donna’s trans daughter Rose within the Sixtieth anniversary specials) and endeavoring to make the Doctor’s world rather less lily-white. We may very well be higher, and the Doctor was there to cheer us on.
Which makes this type of gaffe all of the extra irritating, and virtually retrograde. It’s the form of mistake you’d assume distinguished creators have been completed making. Granted, the ending of this story just isn’t written but. We’re nonetheless in between seasons, with a Christmas particular episode left to offer Gatwa’s Doctor his first correct journey earlier than he kicks off his run in earnest in 2024. It’s attainable that Davies plans to deal with the best way “The Giggle” reads as making the primary Black Doctor look like a carve-out that enables regressive holdouts to stay to “their” (white) Doctor. TV is a serial medium, and the push and pull between viewers and artists is a part of the sport.
Gatwa, for his half, is unimaginable. Even with out pants — which he by no means manages to placed on earlier than the credit roll — the Fifteenth Doctor shines in the previous few moments of “The Giggle,” with a smile that may gentle up the sky and an eagerness to see the whole lot and go all over the place. It’s a testomony to his expertise and appeal that he makes it really feel like ready to see how this all performs out shall be value it.