Ahead of the first of the three Doctor Who specials that saw the return of both David Tennant and Catherine Tate, Team Popverse was internally joking about how calibrated to the show’s core fandom the nostalgic casting was. “There’s going to be so many audio adventures made from this era,” joked someone, referring to Big Finish’s love of finding space (and time) to insert unheard stories wherever possible. Two specials in, though, and it looks as if we might have been wrong — and that producers are surprisingly protective of the Fourteenth Doctor’s adventures.
Early on in ‘Wild Blue Yonder,’ the second of the three specials, Donna Noble (Tate) makes reference to the fact that the events of ‘The Star Beast’ had happened the night before, meaning that essentially no time had passed between the two episodes. (The epilogue of ‘The Star Beast’ is, after all, set the morning after the rest of the story.) By the time the Doctor and Donna return to Earth at the end of ‘Wild Blue Yonder,’ they land right in the middle of a cliffhanger that leads into ‘The Giggle’ — which will include the Fourteenth Doctor regenerating into the Fifteenth, based on the trailer. In other words, the three specials form a closed loop of stories that don’t allow any time in between for “untold stories.”
This closed loop gets… well, more closed… when you factor in that Panini’s Doctor Who Magazine — an institution in the show’s home country of the UK, and one that Who showrunner Russell T. Davies is particularly fond of — had been running a canonical Fourteenth Doctor story that picks up immediately after his debut in 2022’s ‘The Power of the Doctor,’ and ends with a lead-in to the 2023 Children in Need “minisode” that marks the Fourteenth Doctor’s only on-screen appearance outside the main series. It really looks as if The Fourteenth Doctor’s time is very purposefully limited, unusually for the show.
There is, of course, a little wiggle room. (The Doctor would hate it otherwise!) For one thing, there’s an argument to be made that there are potential adventures between the Doctor leaving Skaro in the Children in Need episode and his appearance at the start of ‘The Star Beast.’ It’s the most obvious place to tell any additional stories, although the TARDIS’ regeneration at the end of that episode would suggest that ‘Star Beast’ happens very soon after the Doctor’s own regeneration.
Similarly, for those who really want to find space for a Doctor/Donna story — as opposed to a DoctorDonna story, because that’s what ‘The Star Beast’ was for, remember — there’s an argument to be made that something could have happened between leaving Isaac Newton and arriving onboard the spaceship at the end of the universe, although I’m somewhat suspicious of that idea; surely, if that had happened, the Doctor and Donna wouldn’t have still been talking about Isaac Newton on the ship…? (Unless, of course, they couldn’t remember what happened — and a missing period of time would have also explained by Donna felt so hungry on the ship… but now I’m doing any potential spin-off writer’s work for them.)
There’s one episode left in the run of specials, and the Fourteenth Doctor era, and doubtless more secrets and mysteries to uncover before it’s all over — not least of all, why that face, and why Donna again…? — so there’s always the chance that the show will build in unseen travels through time and space for the two to appear on a later date. For now though, it’s worth noting that those responsible for Doctor Who are acting as if the return of this Doctor and Donna is such a special event that it only exists in these handful of appearances, and nowhere else. That, in itself, might be a clue to unlocking the mystery of why…
‘The Giggle’ debuts December 9 on BBC One in the UK and Disney+ internationally.