Doctor Who theories: Why did Jodie Whittaker regenerate into David Tennant?

The Power of the Doctor was a whole lot more than just the last episode of Chris Chibnall’s time as showrunner of Doctor Who, Jodie Whittaker’s last episode as the Doctor and a feature-length episode that coincided with the 100th anniversary of the BBC – it was a true festival of all things Who, with returning classic Doctors, companions and enemies. However, there is one thing that made this episode of the BBC’s flagship science fiction show stand out more than anything else, THAT regeneration from Jodie Whittaker to David Tennant.

Although there had been rumours online for a while that this could happen ahead of the 60th specials for Doctor Who in November 2023, the audience was still largely shocked when Whittaker became Tennant in a spectacular clifftop scene outside the TARDIS. What is more, Tennant is not the Tenth, he is now the Fourteenth, meaning that the incoming Sex Education star Ncuti Gatwa will play the Fifteenth, rather than the Fourteenth as we previously thought.

Yes, there’s a lot of timey wimey stuff going on here, and a mischievous Russell T Davies who returns to the programme as showrunner isn’t really giving us many clues at the moment as to what’s going on. A very short teaser trail for the 2023 specials doesn’t leave us much wiser, and so it’s time for us to begin speculating hard as to how and why Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor has become involved in this regeneration into David Tennant.

Ready, let’s have a speculate… (If you have your own theories, please add them to the comments on this YouTube video, below)

The regeneration is still happening

As we saw in The Power of the Doctor, the Master has been messing with the process of regeneration. We saw the images of many of the faces of the Doctors past with the likes of Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann appearing as “vestiges”, as well as David Bradley portraying his version of William Hartnell. Could it be that the process has slowed down or got stuck again as its cycles through and that David Tennant’s Tenth has somehow accidentally been thrown out but is essentially a mix of old and new, making him the Fourteenth for a short time before the process finishes and he becomes the Fifteenth and takes the form of Ncuti Gatwa?

The regeneration process is broken and needs repairing

Some fans have taken to the internet to argue that Tennant appearance proves that the regeneration process has essentially been broken by the meddling of the Master, and it is going to take the efforts of the Fourteenth and his companion Donna Noble (played by the returning Catherine Tate) in the three anniversary specials in 2023 to fix it. Only once the process has been fixed can the correct order of things be restored, and the regeneration begins again and move on to Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor. However, because of the glitch, Tennant’s character will have been the Tenth and the Fourteenth making Gatwa the Fifteenth.

This is a sign from the past to help inform the future

Remember how when Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor regenerated to Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth, many people realised that there was a familiarity between the new Doctor’s face and a character who had been in the show before? Well, could this return of a familiar face in the cycle, albeit a much more significant face than Lobus Caecilius from The Fires of Pompeii, be some sort of sign that something from the Tennant era in the TARDIS needs to be acted upon in order to move forward. Or a reminder of something important from the past that will be important in a near-future battle?

Donna has half the Doctor’s mind and he is stuck

A theory doing the rounds is that the Doctor is essentially stuck in the regeneration process because Donna Noble has half of his mind and consciousnesses after the meta crisis. We know that Donna Noble will be playing a big part in the 60th specials and has been teased as important to the story by Russell T Davies, so it would make sense that her character could be a significant player in this.

We’ve been conned?

Some fans are arguing that perhaps the whole regeneration that we saw at the end of the Power of the Doctor could not be what it seems. The fact that it broke from modern (post 2005) traditions of happening in the TARDIS, the fact that the clothes were regenerated and the teaser showing Ncuti Gatwa afterwards in what doesn’t look like the end of a regeneration situation has led some to think we have been duped and what we have witnessed isn’t the actual regeneration. They believe that the main regeneration will happen in the 60th specials and we’ll be seeing a lot more of Ncuti Gatwa than we’re expecting.

Double trouble

Could somehow the Master’s messing have broken the process to the extent that two regenerations have happened at the same time, perhaps one inside and one outside the TARDIS – or in different versions of the same universe? Some believe that the tiny amount of Ncuti Gatwa in the teaser reel for the 60th specials is a red herring and in fact, we are going to be treated to a full three episodes of two Doctors working together to try to sort out the mess that’s been left behind by the events of the Power of the Doctor.

Random chance

A long shot this. But could the fact that the Fourteenth Doctor looks and sounds exactly the same as the Tenth Doctor just be a cosmological accident? There are only so many forms that Time Lord can take, and who would have thought it… he came out looking the same as he did in the past! As I say, seems like a long shot, but no theory is a bad theory at this stage!