Just over a week ago, the sixth series (or 32nd, depending on how you look at it) of Doctor Who wrapped up with the incredible episode “The Wedding of River Song.” At the episode’s conclusion (as River would say, “Spoilers!”) the show poses the series’ long question, “Doctor Who?”
For those of you not in the know, the original series began in 1963 with William Hartnell as Doctor numero uno and was on the air through six other Doctors until its cancellation in 1989. Following a 1996 television movie with eighth Doctor Paul McGann, the series was rebooted by Russell T. Davies in 2005 and continues to this day on the BBC, currently in the eleventh “incarnation” of the Doctor, a now 900-something year old alien who travels through time and space in a machine guised as a police box.
Following the series six finale, the Doctor and companions will be off the air until the 2011 Christmas Special and then back in 2012 for a seventh series, continuing to star Matt Smith as the eleventh Doctor. However, it is the following season that I am interested in focusing on, as the series itself reaches its 50th Anniversary in early 2013.
All of the produced anniversary specials have centered around the Doctor crossing his own time stream, sometimes more than once, which results in a multi-Doctor episode. For these, the show brings back actors who have played the lovable Time Lord in the past. The two anniversary specials so far in the series were The Three Doctors in 1973 (with William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, and Jon Pertwee) and The Five Doctors (with Richard Hurndall sitting in for the deceased Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee, Peter Davison, and Tom Baker, kind of). For what would have been the 30th and 40th anniversaries, the show was off the air, unfortunately.
Fans, myself included, are hopeful that we will see another multi-Doctor episode, and that is some very exciting news for Who fans. Everyone has their own ideas how the 50th Anniversary special should go, and I’m sure many, including myself, would love to see a return of David Tennant to the role for the special. However, when really thinking hard on the subject, I can come up with a storyline that wouldn’t necessarily include Tennant, but rather eighth and ninth Doctors Paul McGann and Christopher Eccleston.
When the series rebooted in 2005 with Eccleston, he had already regenerated from the eighth incarnation. This is the only regeneration in the history of the series that we don’t actually see happen on screen or, at least, actually get to see the death of one and then the birth of the other. Furthermore, it is alluded to constantly in the first few seasons that there was a Great Time War, in which the Time Lords and evil Daleks obliterated each other, leaving the Doctor as the “Last of the Time Lords.”
So, if I could sit down with Head Writer Steven Moffat, this is would be my pitch: have eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, receive a distress signal from Eighth Doctor, Paul McGann, through the Time Locked war, similar to the bending out of universe phenomena in The Doctor’s Wife. Realizing he will die and cut off his own time stream if he doesn’t go to help, the eleventh Doctor enters the final hours of the Great Time War. The eighth Doctor explains what is happening on Gallifrey and the two must work together to obliterate the Daleks, and in turn, Time Lord races to save the universe. In the end, however, the eighth Doctor doesn’t make it out alive, dying and regenerating into the ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston.
Not only would that create a multi-Doctor episode, but it would give Paul McGann the chance to portray his wonderful interpretation of the Doctor once more on screen in a more tightly written episode (as McGann’s only appearence was the mediocore TV movie Doctor Who in 1996). What would your dream 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who be? Which former Doctors would you like to see return?