Both David Tennant and Matt Smith have won praise and devotion for their individual portrayals of the eponymous Doctor on Doctor Who. To many, one man or the other is “Their Doctor,” so it’s not out of line to assume that when the two Doctors collide on the 23rd of November for the epic Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special, “The Day of the Doctor”, that there will be something for each of those fandoms. Yet, according to a new report, there could have been much more.
As show runner, Steven Moffat carries the power to steer the massive ship that is Doctor Who, and that surely means making hard decisions, like saying no to an idea that would have kept Matt Smith inside the TARDIS for several further episodes while also bringing David Tennant back for his own story arc.
Here’s Moffat, speaking at a Radio Times event, on how this eventually dashed idea came to be:
“They got on like a couple of old women. They just say in the corner and gossiped the entire time, [...] By the end of it, Matt told me that he’d worked out this plan that they’d both continue in Doctor Who: do five individual episodes each and three together – would that be ok? It was a nice plan. I think if I’d said yes they’d have gone for it.”
Let’s put this in perspective. Matt Smith is leaving Doctor Who after the Christmas special and Peter Capaldi is going to saunter on in to the role. This chat (or joke) between Moffat and Smith would have preceded the official announcement of Smith’s exit, and it’s both interesting and possible that the reduced workload and split responsibilities could have appealed to Smith, allowing him to experience the best of both worlds. But would those same factors appeal to Tennant as well?
It’s understandable why Tennant would want to pop back in for a visit – he’s never seemed as if he had anything but warm thoughts for his time as the Doctor and he is an avid fan of the show – but playing that role can come with the perception that it’s all you are capable of playing. Tennant has done a good job of breaking out of that trap recently thanks to his work on the stage and on British television with The Spies of Warsaw and Broadchurch (which Tennant will bring to America as creator Chris Chibnall adapts the show for US television), so why go back for more than a benign one-off and risk setting back that charge forward?
We won’t know the answer to that unless someone asks Tennant about this scheme and he responds with a deep amount of candor, but the other side of the coin is: how would this have even worked on the screen in the time of Moffat?
“We’ve moved on!” was a line uttered in “The Almost People” after the 10th Doctor’s voice emanated from the Doctor’s Ganger as he cycled through all of his past regeneration. Some saw this as a swipe at those who still had not accepted Matt Smith as the Doctor, but it is clearly true. The show has moved on, past the girl who waited and onto the impossible girl and beyond.
For the longest time, it seemed as though Moffat only wanted to look forward, and were it not for the pull of nostalgia coming off of the 50th Anniversary, one wonders if Moffat would have ever thought to go back and loop in the 10th Doctor at all. Doing something more than this one-off reprise would have required an uncharacteristic commitment to re-hashing the past (even if those five episodes had focused on the under-developed Peteverse, the Meta-crisis Doctor, and Rose) at a detriment to the future, though. Besides that, it would have also closely tied Smith’s legacy to Tennant’s. That would be both unfair and likely not something that Moffat would be interested in.
Would more adventures with Smith and Tennant work as great fan service and would they be an awful lot of fun? Potentially, and for some that would have been reason enough to do it. Those people will doubtlessly regard Moffat as the ultimate Who villain for shooting it down, but in the end, it may be what is best for the series as it moves forward, and doing what’s best for the show is Moffat’s sometimes thankless job.
The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special will be simulcast around the world on November 23rd, 2013.
Source: Radio Times