When Doctors Collide
This TARDIS ain’t big enough for the both of us…
In a word, squee.
Yes, squee. Squee, squee, squee, squee, squee. It was almost worth having to sit through the freaking Spice Girls lecturing us about how much we should donate to worthy causes - before going on to hang their comeback trash on the worthy washing line of the annual Children in Need telethon - in order to have this perfect seven minutes of fan-pleasing nonsense. Dunno about you, but I certainly had a big fat grin on my face for the entire duration - and even laughed out loud a couple of times - which made a pleasant change to two years ago and worrying about how long all of Tennant’s debut goofiness was gonna last. And wondering. Then wondering some more.
And the truth is he’s still doing it, but for these seven minutes at least it felt somehow right. Sure, without Russell penning this knockabout fun we were at least spared some of the, how can I say, broader aspects of nu-Who humour that we’ve had to become used to these past three years. Writer Steven Moffat once again proves that, when it comes to wit and pithy one-liners, he’s pretty much got the lion’s share as far as the show’s modern writers are concerned. And is it any coincidence that in his hands Doctor Ten is still goofy, smug, a little annoying but - most importantly this one - likeable? The gags are great, Tennant’s reverence for both his co-star and his part in the show’s history almost pour off the screen and somehow in seven minutes of TV that is ostensibly there just to help raise money for a good cause you’re left with a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye. Newsreaders who really should know better this ain’t.
Tennant’s reverence for his co-star almost pours off the screen
Forget the plot - there isn’t one. Okay, so the TARDISes of Doctors Five and Ten somehow merge and the current incarnation only knows how to fix things because of his earlier self observing him do so, so that his later self remembers watching his earlier self watching his later self. Or something. Really though, if you tuned in to this expecting some concise and densely layered storyline then you really were missing the point. Because this was all about fusing the final links that separate what we are now told is the ‘classic’ series with the ratings-grabbing, award-winning modern incarnation that gives us all a reason to blog for thirteen weeks every summer. With the most obvious icons having already been ticked off over the previous three seasons, it was inevitable that the next step would be to have one of the very few people left who have already played the part back for one last (?) night.
And what a selection. Barring Tom, for whom any comeback seems increasingly unlikely given the barriers of time and common sense, could there really have been anyone else but Peter Davison to have pulled this off? Now I’m of a certain age that actually sees the Fifth Doctor as their Doctor; so the thought of him coming back to stand trainer to trainer with the current model was always going to push the right buttons. But as the man himself once said somewhat prophetically, how much better a Doctor could Davison have been had he done this as a regular thing when he was twenty years older? The gravitas, the authority and the slightly Hartnell-like grouchiness suit him to a tee. And he still runs around the TARDIS console like a thirty-year-old; whither David Tennant is as energetic come the inevitable 65th Anniversary Special remains to be seen.
could there really have been anyone else but Peter Davison to have pulled this off?
But the strength of this bit of fun lies firmly in Steven Moffat’s effortless affection for the show; and in particular for Peter Davison’s tenure. At last we have a brave admission as to how stupid the celery was; finally there’s some attempt to explain away the fact that actors - unlike Time Lords - are actually prey to the aging process; and gloriously we have a pair of sparring Doctors that recall the halcyon days of Troughton and Pertwee playing one-upmanship around the TARDIS console. There’s enough bon mots in these scant few minutes to fill an entire dictionary, but I especially loved the fact that Doctor Five mistakes his successor-times-five as an obsessive fan (with nice allusion to ‘Love & Monster’s LINDA gang). And the fact that most of Doctor Ten’s lines are both teasing and affectionate towards his earlier incarnation’s tenure (those who remember the days when the Doctor forgo the sonic screwdriver for whatever happened to be in his pocket will weep.)
But fundamentally the bit that will stick in every fan’s heart is the touching coda where both Doctor Ten and David Tennant himself get to say on screen how much they loved travelling with the fifth Doctor. Has any moment more summed up the undying appeal of this show? The reminders of when we were all a bit younger, a bit skinnier and when wearing question mark insignias on your lapels was just the done thing.
‘You were my Doctor’, says the current incarnation to his predecessor. Amen to that.
(The Bumper Book of Made-Up ‘Doctor Who’ Facts has this to say about Time Crash: rumours that Colin Baker is going on the Atkins diet in time for next year’s Children in Need special are currently unfounded)