Doctor Who: The Power of the Doctor is Jodie Whittaker’s farewell voyage spread across a feature film.
With the return of The Master (Sacha Dhawan), the Daleks (Nicholas Briggs) and the Cybermen, the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill) and Dan Lewis (John Bishop) have to figure out multiple narrative threads that culminate towards the Doctor’s regeneration.
Chris Chibnall, the showrunner for Doctor Who is also celebrating the last episode of The Power of the Doctor, and wrote the regeneration special to tie in with the BBC celebrating its 100-year anniversary.
However, much like many other episodes written by the now-former showrunner, Chris Chibnall, had unfortunately become synonymous with littering his episodes with too many narrative threads, with the latest series Flux being the clearest depiction of his muddled and incoherent failings as showrunner.
The Power of the Doctor presented no differently at first, with the leads trying to spin far too many plates despite the feature film runtime, from a speeding intergalactic bullet train, seismologists disappearing across the 21st century, history’s most famous paintings being defaced, a Dalek trying to make contact with the Doctor, and having The Master reappear as Rasputin dominating Tsar Nicholas in 1916 Russia.
These ideas all sound like individual episodes for the serial, with Mummy on the Orient Express as the closest parallel example to the runaway intergalactic bullet train and how it would be better suited spread out as a fleshed-out serial than crammed into a ninety-minute duration.
Instead, knowing that this is his last chance saloon, Chris Chibnall throws everything and the kitchen sink at the episode in the hopes something, anything, will become his legacy as a competent writer.
What transpires is, The Power of the Doctor answers the very question its title suggests. Her ability to reach and affect the lives of those she meets and the lengths they’ll go to for her. That’s her power, it’s compassion and support.
In fact, when explaining his thought process behind the muddled story, Chibnall said, “I would say it’s a fast, lively and exciting episode. What you have with the three villains is separate plans and multiple threats for the Doctor. So the Doctor is really having to contain separate attacks on multiple fronts and it’s incredibly overwhelming. She’s running from pillar to post to try and sort all of these things out.”
Of course, the episode will be remembered for future audiences to recall, with The Power of the Doctor being the episode in which Jodie Whittaker regenerated from the Thirteenth Doctor into David Tennant once more.
Most importantly, audiences will recall the splendid work the BBC did in shrowding the regeneration in utter secrecy and confusion. Earlier this year Ncuti Gatwa was announced as taking up the mantle as the next actor to play the role of the Doctor, however, mere weeks later David Tennant and Catherine Tate were revealed to be returning for the 60th-anniversary special.
This was then made all the more confusing with audiences expecting Jodie Whittaker to therefore regenerate into Ncuti Gatwa, however, David Tennant was then photographed in costume on location filming for the show fuelling speculation that Jodie Whittaker would then regenerate into David Tennant once more, who would then over the course of the 60th anniversary special have a limited return before regenerating into Ncuti Gatwa as previously announced.
It is worth noting though that the joys of the rumours that circulated The Power of the Doctor entirely omitted Chris Chibnall’s involvement, and rather showed great promise for Russell T. Davies‘ return as showrunner.
As for the episode of The Power of the Doctor itself, with returning companions Ace (Sophie Aldred) and Tegan Jovanka (Janet Fielding), as well as show regular Kate Lethbridge-Stewart (Jemma Redgrave), the culmination of the feature finale attempted at reuniting the older and newer Doctor Who fanbase with recognisable characters and moments, though at times leaned more into fan service than storytelling.
For instance, Ace, a fan favourite companion who travelled with Slyvester McCoy‘s Seventh Doctor became iconic for her rebellious mentality, carrying both a baseball bat and Nitro-9 to use against tough adversaries including the very same foes who reappear in The Power of the Doctor.
The Power of the Doctor also offered some closure for fans seeking an emotional conclusion for Yasmin Khan and The Doctor, with Yasmin expressing her romantic feelings to Dan at the conclusion of Legend of the Sea Devils.
Disappointingly, Yasmin Khan, often shortened to Yaz, has now become the longest-serving companion since Doctor Who returned in 2005, having been by the Doctor’s side since 2018.
However, Mandip Gill’s character is arguably one of the weakest. This is of course no fault of her own, performing to the consistently weak source material would limit any actor, though it is a shame that stronger companions weren’t given the same duration to make an impact.
Instead, Mandip Gill whimpered out of the show alongside Jodie Whittaker as one of the least rememberable companions with the responsibility of this being wholly pinned on the poor direction of the show under Chibnall’s control.
Though, this era of Doctor Who will be remembered for its diverse and female-led cast, with both Jodie and Mandip leading the show for the past four years alongside a plethora of British talent including Stephen Fry, Sir Lenny Henry, Alan Cumming, Brett Goldstein, Julie Hesmondhalgh and Bradley Walsh.
Speaking further about the episode Chibnall added, “There’s a lot (to be proud of) – the first woman Doctor, a lot more women writing and directing the show, and a more diverse range of directors and writers on the show. That was the mission statement at the start for me, that’s what I wanted to do when we came in. And as I look at it now, in terms of the run we’ve had we absolutely delivered on that. That was really, really important. I’m really proud of that, but then there’s just certain stories that you think ‘We really landed that one!’[sic]”
During the showrunner’s tenure, the serial highlighted key points of racial discrimination and injustice across history with Rosa and the Demons of the Punjab written by Malorie Blackman and Vinay Patel respectively.
Equally, this era also introduced Sacha Dhawan as the Master, whose chaotic unhinged performance truly revelled as its own revitalised version partnering with John Simm and Michelle Gomez who donned the role prior.
The Power of the Doctor is The Master’s playground and the mischievous conniving done by Dhawan reveals the glimmers of strengths in Chibnall’s writing.
But as Chris Chibnall states, it is Jodie for whom this era will be remembered.
Across all of her time carrying the Doctor mantle Jodie has continued through all adversities to add to the world of Doctor Who in any way she can.
From filming at home dressed in character to reassure us during COVID, to recording lines for Doctor Who: Redacted after her departure had been announced, and doing so whilst pregnant, Jodie has continued to triumph as a joyous addition to the world of Doctor Who and for that, she will be sorely missed.
It was her legacy the episode remembered, and a truly honourable send-off it was too.
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