What’s that creaking noise echoing across the internet? Why, it’s the Whomour mill back in full force, churning out aquatic tittle-tattle fit to power the discourse of the Doctor Who fandom for the next few days. Or something to do with allegorical grain, feel free to finish the metaphor yourselves.
Anyway, this latest rumour is a bit of a doozy. According to some, the actor taking over the main role in Doctor Who from Jodie Whittaker is none other than former series star David Tennant, who played the popular Tenth Doctor from 2005 to 2010 and has kept a hand in the Whoniverse by playing his Doctor in audio dramas and video games in the years since.
So is this rumour true, where did it spring from, and is this really the plan for Doctor Who’s future? There’s only one way to find out – a discursive internet article that doesn’t really offer more information than you’d find on Twitter anyway. Now, where could we find one of those…
What is the David Tennant Doctor Who rumour?
Basically, the rumour is that when Jodie Whittaker regenerates she won’t turn into a new actor – instead, she’ll turn into David Tennant, the character for the first time returning to an actor who’s played it before (ignoring certain exceptions).
The idea, apparently, is that this isn’t a return for the Tenth Doctor – instead it’s a new incarnation who just looks and sounds the same, possibly drawing on the fact that female Time Lords have previously been shown to have more control over their regenerative appearance.
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Technically, a Time Lord could regenerate to look like anything, so why wouldn’t they sometimes go for a familiar look? Supposedly, Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor appearance was chosen because it looked like someone the Doctor had met before. It’s awkward, but the TV show could certainly make up a fake sci-fi reason for why it happened.
It's a little muddled, but basically if true the rumour would bring back David Tennant, but not the Tenth Doctor – a little like how Tom Baker came back as The Curator in the 2013 anniversary special, but in a much bigger way. This would be for a limited number of specials, followed by a new 15th Doctor cast for a full season later on.
Where did the David Tennant rumours come from?
Rumours about Tennant’s return have lurked in corners of the internet for a few months, particularly on specific Doctor Who reddits and the closed fan messageboard Gallifreybase. But the story has attracted new attention after being posted on a Facebook fan page for David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor, to the point where it spilled onto Twitter, mainstream news sources and was even discussed on live TV during Good Morning Britain.
We should be clear that this is not a “real” story. It’s not an official announcement from the BBC that David Tennant is back. It’s not even a scoop by a newspaper or website who can back up their claims with sources – this is an anonymous post on social media saying a guy who previously told them something correct also said this was happening.
In other words, it’s totally unreliable. However, “hearing something from a guy” is often how we find out the truth about big plans behind-the-scenes of a show like Doctor Who, so you couldn’t say with 100% confidence that it isn’t happening.
Or you could, but might avoid doing that in print just in case someone comes along to confront you with it later. Hypothetically speaking.
Is David Tennant the Fourteenth Doctor?
Let’s be honest – probably not. While it’s true that the behind-the-scenes team of the fan-favourite 2005-2010 era (Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner, Jane Tranter and Phil Collinson) has been reunited for this new one, it doesn’t stand to reason that this also means a comeback for the same front-of-camera talent.
After Chris Chibnall cast the first female Doctor and brought more diversity to the show in many other ways, going back to Tennant as the lead could look like the series failing to move forward, getting stuck in the past rather than moving with the times. It’d be like bringing back Pierce Brosnan as James Bond after Daniel Craig’s exit – almost like a tacit admission that you shouldn’t have tried to change things at all.
And yet, and yet. There is something about this Tennant story that rings a few bells. For years there have been unsubstantiated rumours about the Beeb trying to get a big-name actor to play the Doctor for a limited run, casting somebody who wouldn’t have the time to do it full-time but whose one-off presence would revitalise interest in the show in a short burst.
Fans might also recall some whispers last year that there were hopes of bringing Tennant back into the fold for some sort of standalone story in 2023, though as his original Tenth Doctor (as he appeared in 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor) rather than some new revamp.
Plenty of these sorts of rumours come to nothing. Maybe they were plans that didn’t come off, maybe they were never really mooted in the first place. Doctor Who has sometimes even touted false rumours to muddy the waters, distract fans from the real surprises and keep things interesting.
With all that in mind, it might be that there’s something going on with David Tennant and Doctor Who in 2023. There might be something clever happening between regenerations. But there probably isn’t going to be a Fourteenth Doctor who is exactly the same as the Tenth one – even if it would probably attract more viewers than the series has enjoyed for years.
Who is the next Doctor?
Here’s the thing – we don’t know. Jodie Whittaker is definitely going and Russell T Davies is taking over the show from Chris Chibnall, but that’s all that has been confirmed thus far. We don’t know whether Davies is doing a full series next year, one 60th anniversary special, a bunch of Doctor Who films or something else entirely. We certainly don’t know whether he’s trying to shake up the traditional regeneration/new Doctor cycle, putting in a “stopgap” actor before going back to a “normal” season afterwards.
And it could be some time before we find out. Jodie Whittaker’s final episode isn’t airing until autumn this year, and the next “era” of Who hasn’t started filming (though Davies has admitted to having written a couple of scripts already). The only date we do know is of significance – November 23rd 2023, the 60th anniversary that there will be something made for – is far enough away that it could be months before full production would need to start.
In other words, that ol’ rumour mill has only just started its mighty revolutions. Watch this space... and time, and relative dimensions therein... and hopefully we’ll know more soon.
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