Warning: contains spoilers for Doctor Who: ‘The Giggle’.

“The Giggle” has been. The outcome: Ncuti Gatwa IS the Doctor! AND David Tennant IS ALSO the Doctor!

Well, people said they wanted a multi-Doctor story, I guess.

So what’s happened, what does it mean, and will anyone ever get to read the original version of this article that I wrote in an extremely broad German accent?

In the final act of 60th anniversary special “The Giggle”, David Tennant’s Fourteenth Doctor was shot with a massive laser by The Toymaker (Neil Patrick Harris) and started to regenerate. However, the regeneration energy disappeared, and the Doctor asked his friends to pull. The Fifteenth Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) emerged as a new incarnation, leaving the Fourteenth alive and well and slightly confused. This is a ‘bigeneration’.

What the Flip Is a Bigeneration?

It’s apparently a Time Lord myth, and like many good Time Lord myths we’ve never heard of it before. It is essentially a regeneration where the old and new incarnation both survive to interact, the old one gets to grow old and – potentially – regenerate into the new one at a later date? Not 100% sure on that last bit, but it can be inferred from 15’s saying to 14 “I’m fine because you fix yourself”.

Showrunner Russell T Davies has suggested, in the commentary for this episode (available to stream on BBC iPlayer in the UK) that this concept might have spread throughout the history of the show, explaining fan theories such as the one surrounding Season 6B (the idea of 6B being that, after Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor disappears into the void in “The War Games”, he doesn’t immediately regenerate into the Third, and ends up being used as an unofficial operative for shadowy Time Lord affairs – I know, imagine!). To be clear: this is not something Davies has confirmed for the future of the show, but it was mentioned as a possible way to have previous actors return to the role.

Is There a Precedent For This or What?

Absolutely not, no. However, there wasn’t a precedent for the first regeneration in 1966, which was a workaround prompted by the ill health of First Doctor actor William Hartnell, and fans eventually managed to cope with that one.

Two Doctors: No Peril?

Well, there wasn’t a huge amount of peril before, was there? Previously, the Doctor regenerated and we said goodbye to the old incarnation (barring multi-Doctor specials) and hello to the new. That’s still the case, really, so the actual threat level is pretty similar: we always know when a regeneration is coming so it’s not a huge surprise. The difference is that the previous incarnation is still cutting about somewhere.

What Does It All Mean for the Whoniverse?

Ah, I see you’ve adopted the official branding. Well, we don’t know the full ramifications yet. We don’t know if Ncuti Gatwa’s Fifteenth Doctor will regenerate or bigenerate. We don’t know if David Tennant is on speed dial for future series finales. What we know is there is potential here, and if we’re honest it could go either way.

Bigeneration felt like a farewell to Doctor Who (2005 – 2023). It needed a rest. The Fourteenth Doctor looked like an older Tenth Doctor, who brought down a government by saying “Don’t you think she looks tired?” in his first episode. Doctor Who (2023 – ) is still the Doctor Who that started in 1963 and restarted in 2005 (with a delightful barrage of references to demonstrate that), but it’s also a new start.

It’s quite a symbolic gesture to mark a significant change, which is a bold move given that the one thing Doctor Who fans cope with worse than change is symbolism.

The positives are the sense of closure it can give to the previous incarnation, who gets to hear the new one say “Don’t worry, I’ve got this”. There’s a support system in place, a reduction in post-regenerative trauma. The previous incarnations get to play their age in scenes like Tales from the TARDIS. There’s increased potential for stories. Also, if apparently set-in-stone aspects of the series can be challenged – and with the Time Lords currently dead again – who knows what that means for history?

But Does It Undermine Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor?

Maybe. The worry is that – while the intention is for fans to fill in the deliberate (Curator-sized) gaps – the presence of past incarnations can loom over the current Doctor.

You remember the pressure on Matt Smith when he took over from David Tennant? That was without the in-story possibility of Tennant turning up again. Ncuti Gatwa is clearly positioned as a new start and the future in “The Giggle”, and the hope is clearly that the show will move forward and not have to look over its shoulder.

The expanded universe spin-off series that are expected to arrive will also provide a training ground for potential future showrunners. There’s clearly a plan in place to ensure that Doctor Who is a long-term concern.

However, we’ve just had the return of David Tennant and Catherine Tate as the Doctor and Donna. These characters are still around. We know that ‘Mad Aunty Mel’ (the returning Bonnie Langford, reprising her role as Mel after her brief two-series tenure as companion in the late Eighties) is back in Ncuti Gatwa’s first series, and surely the Fourteenth Doctor and Donna will be asked about.

Essentially we’re in new territory here, and at the start of something. Unlike “The Timeless Child”, which came in midway through Chris Chibnall’s time as showrunner, we know Ncuti Gatwa has at least two series to go and explore these ideas (as opposed to Chibnall having one COVID-abridged series in which to wrap everything up).

The gamble is whether or not folk will accept Gatwa as the Doctor to the extent that the past is remembered fondly and warmly but still very much considered The Past. The worry is, having brought Tennant and Tate back for these three specials and allowing them to be both nostalgia and a foundation, the audience that is brought with them pines for them in their absence. The new cast is haunted by the spectre of the old. Ncuti Gatwa’s era is hobbled by its opening gambit.

Or, alternatively, we might never hear about bigeneration ever again.

So There Might Be Absolutely Nothing to Worry About?

In the context of Doctor Who, ja.

Doctor Who returns to BBC One, BBC iPlayer and Disney+ on December 25 with “The Church on Ruby Road.”

The post Doctor Who: Has Bigeneration Dealt Ncuti Gatwa a Bad Hand? appeared first on Den of Geek.

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