As the dust settles following Doctor Who‘s 60th anniversary episodes, one question we were all pondering in the lead up to transmission is worth revisiting; namely, how come the Fourteenth Doctor shared the same face as the Tenth, albeit with a few more miles on the clock?
In amongst all that bi-generation business, it’s easy to forget that, back in those distant days of May 2022 when Tennant and Catherine Tate’s return was announced, this was the question that was most pressing on the Doctor Who hive mind. Russell T Davies took considerable delight in inviting us to wonder just how this was possible:
“They’re back! And it looks impossible – first, we announce a new Doctor, and then an old Doctor, along with the wonderful Donna, what on earth is happening? Maybe this is a missing story. Or a parallel world. Or a dream, or a trick, or a flashback.
“The only thing I can confirm is that it’s going to be spectacular, as two of our greatest stars reunite for the battle of a lifetime.”
The first hint at an explanation for the return of the Tenth Doctor’s face came in The Star Beast, when Donna urged the Doctor not to shoot off into the universe again:
“You could visit with my family. We could do outrageous things like have tea, and dinner, and a laugh.
“You’ve been given a second chance – you can do things different this time. So why don’t you do something completely new and have some friends?”
This theme was expanded on in The Giggle, the last of the specials, when Donna asks why the Doctor has never mentioned Melanie before. Telling him he never stops, she speculates:
“Maybe that’s why your old face came back. You’re wearing yourself out.”
This was firmed up later on in the episode when Donna tells the Doctor:
“I worked out what happened. You changed your face – and then you found me. D’you know why? To come home.” The Doctor replies:
“I fought all those battles for all those years. And now I know what for. This. I’ve never been so happy in my life.”
So that, it would seem, is the best answer we’re going to get. It’s not perhaps the most comprehensive explanation after RTD’s teasing about parallel worlds, dreams, and tricks, and it leaves us wondering if the Toymaker had any involvement. And that’s before we get to why the Doctor’s clothes changed at the same time as their appearance at the end of The Power of the Doctor…
What did you think of the programme’s answer to the mystery of the return of a past Doctor’s face? Let us know in the comments below.