Last month, millions of people around the world tuned in to watch Jodie Whittaker’s first appearance in Doctor Who, a historic occasion marking the first time a woman has played the lead role in the series and the last stand for Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor.
Stepping from the smoke of her predecessor’s regeneration the new Thirteenth Doctor took in her surroundings, appraised her new face and prepared to move the Tardis on – before the whole thing blew up, threw her out of the doors and disappeared, stranding her miles in the air as she plummeted down to the city below.
All in all, then, it’s fair to say that it was a fairly traditional baptism of fire for the new Time Lord – pretty much every modern Doctor has crashed or destroyed the Tardis while regenerating, to the point that you wonder why they never set it down somewhere before trying to go all glowy – but there’s a possibility that it could turn into something more unusual, if certain theories online are to be believed.
You see, some Whovians are currently wondering whether the Doctor’s missing Tardis could end up a little more permanent than first suggested, with Whittaker’s Time Lord stranded on present-day Earth and only recovering her trademark time machine in later episodes. After all, it’d certainly be a way of “grounding” the series, reintroducing it to new viewers from an Earthbound perspective before easing back into the time and space travel we’ve grown to know and love over the years.
Not convinced that would work for Doctor Who? Well it did once before, during the tenure of Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor in the 1970s when the Doctor’s Tardis was disabled by the Time Lords. Stuck on Earth thanks to their machinations (behind-the-scenes, the change was to cut costs), the Doctor worked with regular collaborators UNIT to protect humanity before eventually resuming his wandering ways in later stories.
And in a modern Doctor Who, it’d certainly be a fresh, new take on the character, exactly as Chibnall has promised. Who would the Doctor be without the Tardis? Is she as grand a Time Lord if she can’t wow her companions with outer-space adventures? And how would the great wanderer cope with being stuck on one world, in one time, seemingly indefinitely?
It’d certainly be interesting to find out – but how likely is it that we will? Well, the odds aren’t great. There’s little evidence supporting the theory other than that Whittaker HAS lost the Tardis in the short scene we saw at Christmas, while rumours from set suggest at least one episode placed in the past is shooting as we write to you.
On the other hand, the sparse information about series 11 means that we can’t completely rule it out either. If such a historical adventure is coming, it could be that the gang are transported back without the Tardis (such things happened often in Whoniverse spin-offs Torchwood and the Sarah Jane Adventures, after all), or it could be that a lost-Tardis arc will last a few episodes before the series returns to normal (a bit like the mini-arcs of The Vault mystery and the Doctor’s blindness in the most recent Who series).
Or, you know, the truth could be the simplest and most obvious one – that Whittaker’s Doctor will only be missing the Tardis for the majority of her first episode, before recovering it (in its exciting new form) by the end of the story rather like Matt Smith did at the end of his series premiere in 2010 (though in that case the Tardis was just damaged, not lost and damaged).
Whatever the real story, we’ll be excited to see it onscreen eight to nine months from now, even if the wait does feel interminable at times. Sadly, like the Thirteenth Doctor, we’re short a time machine ourselves at the moment.