Doctor Who – ‘The Power of the Doctor’ Review

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Like the rest of the Chibnall era, ‘The Power of the Doctor’ was messy. But I’m very happy to say that it didn’t really matter at all. Aside from a typically long-winded plot, Doctor Who fans were gifted a ninety-minute extravaganza that celebrated everything that makes the show great. There were the obligatory fanservice moments, but ultimately, I can’t remember the last time I watched an episode and felt this excited for the future. And Chris Chibnall and co absolutely nailed the regeneration, giving us perhaps the most beautiful regeneration scene the show has ever had.

These kinds of regeneration episodes are tricky. Ultimately, the audience is here for the last three minutes, so I appreciate that showrunner Chris Chibnall absolutely swung for the fences in a story that maybe threatened to collapse under its own weight but was an enjoyable journey throughout.


Beginning with a really cool space train rescue mission, the episode starts strong. A passenger train hurtling through the rainbow-colored vacuum of space is the kind of visual that could only exist in the Doctor Who universe, and I loved it. Dan (John Bishop) enjoyed it less, after nearly losing his head to a Cyberman arm cannon. This sends him into kind of an existential crisis, and he decides to depart the TARDIS and live his life back in Liverpool. It does come as a bit of a shock, as Dan became a favourite among fans after his appearance in the last series. But looking at the episode as a whole, it is difficult to see where he would have fit in. Chibnall’s run on the show has consistently felt overstuffed and unable to make use of its massive cast of characters, so cutting that cast by one is probably for the best.

Not that the rest of the cast is getting any smaller. ‘The Power of the Doctor’ contains cameos and appearance galore – including returning companions, NuWho characters, and even some classic Doctors. The fact that it never feels too overstuffed is a testament to the plotting, but it’s also helpful that the BBC gave this special a 90-minute runtime. This saves it from becoming the dreadful ‘Legend of the Sea Devils’, which very obviously suffered from its 50-minute runtime.


But despite all the fanservice and nods and winks, the real weight of the episode lies with the three people at its centre: Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor, Mandip Gill as Yaz, and Sacha Dhawan as The Master. In this episode, The Master’s plan is no less impractical than it was 50 years ago, but that’s the fun of the character. He’s insane and can get away with these more ludicrous plots. Whether it’s dancing around to Boney M’s ‘Rasputin’ or trying to swap bodies with the Doctor – both of which he does here. It could be argued that his plan with the Cybermen and Daleks is pretty unnecessary, but he’s always had a flair for the dramatic, and saving the Earth from destruction ramps up the stakes even higher for the heroes.

At first, I found it a little disappointing that Yaz and the Doctor didn’t get any resolution to their budding relationship, but now I’ve decided that this was kind of the point. For a few years now they’ve hinted that Yaz’s feelings for the Doctor are more than platonic, even confirming it in the New Year’s special. But that relationship would never work, it’s impossible (even if the Doctor wasn’t at death’s door by the episode’s end). The Doctor knows this, and Yaz comes to understand it too. Instead, the Doctor leaves her friend with a gift: a support group for people that have travelled with and loved the Doctor in every one of their incarnations. I think this is a beautiful idea and it turns something tragic into something more bittersweet.


And then there’s the Doctor herself. Jodie Whittaker is fantastic in the role, as she has been from day one. She’s sometimes been saddled with less-than-perfect or heavy-handed scripts, but here she shines. Her overwhelming trait is that she’s kind, she’s genuinely a nice person with less of the darkness of other Doctors. I think people are going to miss her more than they realised. And she receives possibly the best regeneration scene in the show’s history. Taking place outside the doors of the TARDIS, she stands on an outcrop and regenerates triumphantly, with the regeneration energy appearing around her like a phoenix. It’s beautiful, and really fitting for her version of the Timelord. There’s a line in there about the “blossomiest blossom”, which many have cited as a reference to writer Dennis Potter. But it’s also a callback to the Third’s Doctor’s moving monologue about his darkest day on Gallifrey, in which he encountered the “daisiest daisy” and began seeing the world in a new light.

I can’t end this write-up without mentioning the big twist. The Thirteenth Doctor does not regenerate into incoming actor Ncuti Gatwa, but instead becomes David Tennant, a new mysterious Fourteenth incarnation that is seemingly identical to the Tenth. It’s a bold choice and makes sense too. It’ll generate interest in next year’s specials and has already got people talking. After all, who doesn’t love David Tennant?


Overall, it’s an incredibly strong final episode for the Thirteenth Doctor’s era. It avoids most pitfalls people have identified over the last few years and is an entertaining, emotional, and incredibly well-made 90-minutes. It’s event television again, something that Doctor Who used to be. It feels as if people are actually talking about it again. And I’m so glad Jodie Whittaker’s take on the Timelord exited on a high.

The only problem now is that we have to wait over a year to find out where returning showrunner Russell T. Davies intends to take the show. Whatever happens, I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait.

Jack Bumby



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