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The Doctors Who: How BBC’s timelords presaged the cinematic multiverses by decades

David Tennant, Jodie Whittaker, and the other Doctors are trendsetters

Doctor Who x 4
Image credit: BBC

Doctor Who has been famously described as being ‘wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey,’ and never is that more true than in stories where the Doctor manages to team up with… well, the Doctor. Years before seemingly every second superhero movie used the Multiverse as a way to bring a hero face-to-face with themselves, the Doctor was using time travel to do something similar to thrilling effect.

The first multiple Doctor story, 1972’s ‘The Three Doctors,’ saw the Time Lords breaking the First Law of Time — the thing that prevented time travelers from meeting their past or future incarnations — in order to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the show. Once that rule was officially out the window, it was only a matter of time before it happened again… and again… and again. Each time, it felt just as magical and fun as the first.

2013’s ‘The Day of the Doctor’ was created to celebrate the show’s 50th anniversary, bringing David Tennant and Matt Smith’s Doctors face-to-face in a story that revealed that the genocide of the Time Lords had not actually happened after all, while also highlighting kindness and creativity as the dual guiding lights of the character, and the show as a whole.

‘Day’ also featured cameos of every other Doctor TV audiences had seen — including one that they hadn’t, with Peter Capaldi’s first appearance in the series happening here — underscoring the feeling that what fans were witnessing was something special, anchored by two of our favorite characters bickering eagerly as unlikely as it might have seemed. First Law of Time be damned; this was just great television.

2022’s ‘The Power of the Doctor’ went even further. ‘Day’ showcased two Doctors, but previous Doctors Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, and Paul McGann all made appearances in brand new scenes for ‘Power.’ There was a catch, though: none of them were playing the actual Doctor, but instead simulations thereof. Think of it as the multi-Doctor story that wasn’t, even if it really could’ve, should’ve been.

That said, there was more than one Doctor in that episode, as ‘Power' ended with Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor passing the torch to David Tennant, who returned not as the Tenth Doctor, but the Fourteenth (somehow). This November sees the 60th anniversary of Doctor Who. Would it be too greedy to hope for a sneaky Whittaker/Tennant team-up to mark the occasion, even just for one brief scene…?

Doctor Who returns this fall on the BBC (in the UK and Ireland) and Disney+ everywhere else in the world.

Do you need a primer on the Doctors, and Doctor Who as a whole? We have one for you, to help you prepare for the specials, and the new season.