The Radio Times logo
We may earn commission from links on this page. Our editorial is always independent (learn more)

David Tennant and Catherine Tate's return proves Doctor Who is still full of surprises

Is there any other 59-year-old TV show that can surprise and wrongfoot us like Doctor Who?

David Tennant and Catherine Tate
Alistair Heap/BBC STUDIOS
Published: Sunday, 15th May 2022 at 7:30 pm
Subscribe to Radio Times magazine and get 12 issues for £1

A few weeks ago on, we ran a poll asking Doctor Who fans whether they’d rather have a new Doctor take over from Jodie Whittaker or (following rumours to this effect) or have David Tennant return to the main role.


Little did we know that the fans didn’t actually have to choose.

This week, just seven days after the announcement of new Doctor Ncuti Gatwa the BBC have also revealed that David Tennant is coming back to the show, alongside former co-star Catherine Tate. There’s having your cake and eating it too, but this is starting to look like a dangerous icing overdose.

Really, it’s a genius move from returning showrunner Russell T Davies. If everyone in the world is speculating about and asking if David Tennant is coming back, how do you surprise them? Announce a brand-spanking new Doctor instead when they’re all looking the other way.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 08: Ncuti Gatwa and Russell T Davies attend the Virgin Media British Academy Television Awards 2022 at The Royal Festival Hall on May 8, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)
Ncuti Gatwa and Russell T Davies attend the Virgin Media British Academy Television Awards 2022 at The Royal Festival Hall on May 8, 2022 in London, England. Dave Benett/Getty Images)

And once they’ve got their sights set firmly on their new favourite Time Lord Ncuti Gatwa, how best to shock them again? Well, why not announce the news we all thought had been ruled out the week before? Tennant’s back, just when it had become surprising for it to happen again.

As a fan, it’s easy to feel excited about Who’s immediate future. After nearly 60 years on the air, Doctor Who is still able to surprise and delight fans with its storytelling choices and vision of the future, as well as an affection for its own long TV history. By announcing Gatwa first, the BBC sends a message that the show is stepping into a new era – but by bringing back Tennant as well, they acknowledge what’s come before is just as important.

Image Shows David Tennant and Catherine Tate, credit Alistair Heap/BBC STUDIOS
David Tennant and Catherine Tate are on their way back to Doctor Who Alistair Heap/BBC STUDIOS

Ahead of its anniversary year, Doctor Who suddenly looks in rude health. It’s attracting hot new talent, beloved former stars and (in Davies) a showrunner at the top of his game following the success of A Very English Scandal and It’s A Sin. And who knows? It could be that we’ll see even more surprises wheeled out by the Who team over the coming weeks as filming begins on Davies’ new era of the show.

Already, the future – and the past – of the show are looking bright. Now all we need is a quick TARDIS jaunt to 2023 to see how it all pans out. Anyone got the number of a Doctor?

Doctor Who is available to stream on BBC iPlayer. Check out more of our Sci-Fi coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.


The latest issue of Radio Times is on sale now – subscribe now to get each issue delivered to your door. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to the Radio Times podcast with Jane Garvey.


Sponsored content