Classic Doctor Who Story Supports Whittaker’s Best Regeneration Theory

Despite the Tenth Doctor’s conceit, regenerating or degenerating into Old Faces has been possible since a 1970s Doctor Who story.

The best theory on how David Tennant could succeed Jodie Whittaker as Doctor recalls a classic Doctor Who story of Tom Baker’s time in the series. Jodie Whittaker is set to step down as the Doctor in a special feature in the fall, with Sex educationNcuti Gatwa has been cast as the new Doctor. However, the return of David Tennant and Catherine Tate to the series for the 60th anniversary suggests that Whittaker’s regeneration in Gatwa will be more complex than previously thought.

David Tennant was spotted filming in London for the 60th, wearing a never-before-seen variation of his classic Tenth Doctor outfit. This has led to speculation that David Tennant is replacing Jodie Whittaker as Doctor, rather than reprising her original incarnation. The Tenth Doctor’s vanity was ridiculed by the Eleventh Doctor in “Time of the Doctor” when he revealed that he once wasted a regeneration by keeping the same face in Doctor Who season 4, episode 13 “Journey’s End”. However, the precedent of a doctor regenerating or degenerating into old faces dates back to the 1970s.

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Beginning in 1979, just over halfway through Tom Baker’s tenure as Doctor, Weekly Doctor Who was a children’s magazine that featured posters, articles, and comics. He also introduced many plot ideas that Doctor Who would reuse in its 21st century incarnation. Under the editor Dez Skinn, Weekly Doctor Who told tales of Kroton, the Cyberman with a Soul, and pirates battling sea devils. In the two-part comic book story “Timeslip”, printed in issues 17 and 18 of Weekly Doctor Whoit also introduced the concept of retro-regeneration decades before the potential retro-regeneration of Jodie Whittaker in David Tennant.


In “Timeslip”, the Fourth Doctor and K-9 encounter an entity that, like Weeping Angels, feeds on time itself. During their encounter with the being, time begins to roll back, reducing K-9 to its component parts. The Fourth Doctor is retro-regenerated through his Third (Jon Pertwee) and Second (Patrick Troughton) incarnations until he settles on the First Doctor’s (William Hartnell) form. In an attempt to avoid a fate similar to K-9, the First Doctor repeatedly turns the TARDIS’s power on and off, essentially giving the entity time indigestion and returning everyone to their current form. “Timeslip” was notable for being a rare multi-doctor story before 1983’s “The Five Doctors” turned them into a birthday tradition. It’s an original take on the concept that’s miles away from the typical universal cataclysms that define birthday specials.


With Doctor WhoOn the 60th anniversary of 2023, Russell T Davies could freshen up TV multi-doctor stories by adapting this niche comic for a mainstream audience. How the Thirteenth Doctor regenerates has yet to be revealed, but his final battle with the Master (Sacha Dhawan) in the Centenary Special could end in a flashback to his past lives. With rumors that Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi are returning for the 60th anniversary, it may be up to those past incarnations to save the lives of future incarnations by avoiding a devastating chain of retro-regenerations. Such a story would be the perfect metaphor for how Doctor Who and some of his fans have fallen foul of a damaging obsession with the past. It would be the perfect way for Russell T Davies to celebrate 60 years of the series while looking forward to a bright future with Ncuti Gatwa.


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Sharon D. Cole