The return of David Tennant to “Doctor Who” for the 60th anniversary specials has undoubtedly stirred immense excitement among fans. This special event promises a nostalgic reunion with beloved characters and showrunner Russell T. Davies, who played a crucial role in the series’ revival.
However, there’s a palpable concern that Tennant’s return may overshadow Jodie Whittaker’s departure and Ncuti Gatwa’s debut as the Fifteenth Doctor. Whittaker’s tenure as the Thirteenth Doctor under Chris Chibnall’s writing saw a decline in viewership and a shift in the show’s social media presence. This drop in popularity has raised questions about the direction of the series.
The decline in viewership can be attributed, in part, to the writing style of showrunner Chris Chibnall. While he contributed episodes before becoming showrunner, Chibnall’s episodes were not considered standout moments. Conversely, Russell T. Davies’ tenure as showrunner saw a surge in popularity, with average viewership increasing significantly. This decline in viewership isn’t a new issue, but it’s one that has become more apparent during Chibnall and Whittaker’s time.
Bringing back David Tennant’s Doctor as the Fourteenth incarnation is seen by some as a nostalgic retreat rather than a step forward for the show. It potentially sends a message that the BBC is reverting to a time when the show was highly popular, rather than exploring new creative avenues.
This decision may also be viewed as undermining both Whittaker’s and Gatwa’s abilities to carry the series on their own. For Whittaker, it may imply that casting a female Doctor was seen as a setback, prompting a return to a more popular Doctor. For Gatwa, it might suggest a lack of confidence in his ability to attract viewers without the aid of a beloved past Doctor.
While it’s customary for anniversary specials to feature past Doctors, they usually appear as themselves rather than being presented as a new incarnation. This distinction is crucial, as it preserves the integrity of the Doctor’s regenerations. Placing Tennant between Whittaker and Gatwa’s Doctors feels like a missed opportunity for a groundbreaking moment in the show’s history, where a woman would regenerate into a Black man.
In essence, while fans are understandably thrilled about David Tennant’s return, there is a valid concern that it may inadvertently overshadow important moments in the show’s evolution, particularly the transition from Whittaker to Gatwa. The decision to present Tennant as the Fourteenth Doctor raises questions about the confidence in the show’s future direction.