Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Doctor Who: Hello to the Therapy Doctor

Even if it was delivered with the gorgeous bluntness that you would expect from Russell T Davies, the way he figured out how to give the Doctor his groove back was extremely elegant. 

Towards the end of The Giggle, the most recent adventure in time and space for Doctor Who, the Fifteenth Doctor finally makes his appearance, while the Fourteenth is still there. It's an unprecedented development in the 60-year-old series, but one that was arguably essential.

Because all of the Doctor's wacky and crazy adventures out of the universe since he returned in 2005 have been weighed down by guilt and responsibility. All the things he'd done, always trying to help, always trying to save everybody, and never quite succeeding. It all adds up, especially when you don't stop to think about it.

What was the point of David Tennant returning as the Doctor? Because some regenerations serve a specific need - most obviously the War Doctor - and this Doctor really needs to take a break, and that was the face that was going to get it, if any were. 

And when he doesn't get it - three fast-paced adventures and he's lasered through the heart - there is the usual time ravel shenanigans and suddenly the new guy and the old guy are there together. And there is time for one specific doctor - the Therapy Doctor - to rest and heal, and get ready for the next cycle.

Maybe I'm just chuffed that, just this once, the wonderful rebirth of a regeneration episode doesn't come with a side serving of trauma as the old guard is swept away. This time, they hang on, and after a game of catch that saves the universe, the old fella is greeted with love and warmth by the next generation, who gets him started on the road to recovery.

For a TV show - for a story - that has been running continuously for so long, to reinvent itself,and get the Doctor his absolute joy for life back, it's quite remarkable. It can go forward unburdened by the past, because he's learned to deal with it. (The worst grief will never go away, but you do learn how to deal with it, just to get through the day.) 

Ncuti Gatwa is the absolute perfect choice for the next Doctor, and has proved this immediately, with a truly young Doctor (Smith was physically young when he took on the job, but played the part like he was an 80-year-old) who isn't afraid to show all of the emotions in the universe, and isn't there to pick a fight with another incarnation, just to instantly support. 

For a Doctor who always couldn't help but try and save everybody, that immediate support is instantly the right path. He's still be fine because he's an immortal space wizard, but even immortal space wizards need to stop, and take stock.

I know the legions of creators who make the comics, novels and audio plays probably can't wait to get in a few side adventures for The Doctor Who Lives In Donna's Garden, but I can only hope they leave the poor guy alone. That's the point.

Let someone else save the universe for a while. Somebody who doesn't even need pants.

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