The Doctor is back where they belong… helping Children in Need in a good humoured mini-romp that plays fast and loose with Who history
It’s November. The last time we saw them, the Doctor’s just regenerated into David Tennant. They’d also become slightly obsessed with their own teeth. But we’ll get our first proper look at the new Doctor thanks to Children in Need, with a specially recorded short scene as part of their charity telethon. But is it 2005 or 2023? Because time may wibble and wobble in its timey wimey way, but it sure does love to rhyme when the Doctor’s involved. Yes, it’s the new short Destination: Skaro, falling in the footsteps of David Tennant’s original debut in 2005’s Born Again.
However, it’s safe to say that it’s a lot more whimsical than its predecessor. Born Again saw the Doctor trying to convince Billie Piper’s Rose that he was absolutely the same man who ran with her in the basement of Herrick’s, and despite being specially written to help raise money for charity, could have just as easily been a scene cut from The Christmas Invasion. Russell T Davies also insisted pre-transmission that Destination: Skaro was “NOT a comedy skit.”
All the same, there’s no doubt the new minisode’s primary concern really is just having a bit of a laugh.
Audaciously silly, every line begs the audience to laugh a surprised ‘did they really just do that?’
Taken on its own terms, it’s a great success. David Tennant shows he’s lost none of his sparkle or charm, and bounces lightly through a script full of wild ideas. Because the TARDIS’ latest destination is Skaro (not that you couldn’t have guessed from the title.) But this Skaro before the Daleks, as their genesis is just beginning. The TARDIS crashes into the workshop where first ever “Mark III Travel Machine” is being designed and assembled. And, well, hilarity ensues. As he accidentally inspires several key points of Dalek lore, the Doctor frets “the timelines of canon are rupturing.” It’s quite possibly the first time the word ‘canon,’ in the fan sense, has shown up on screen and it winks to the viewer to maybe not talk all this too seriously.
And it’s all wonderfully audacious. Almost every line is designed to make the audience laugh out loud ‘did they really just do that?’
But its best idea has to be bringing back a certain actor. It’s not often that an actor is barely recognizable because they’re not in makeup, and the dedication just makes it all the sweeter. Plus, they’re just so good here, managing to be seamlessly terrifying and hilarious.
The timelines of canon may be rupturing, but like all good fans, there’s always a wibbly wobbly answer
Not that it’s impossible to thread those canon timelines together. After all, the Fourteenth Doctor’s story started in Liberation of the Daleks, the comic book which picked up the action seconds after the regeneration. That comic pitched the Doctor into a Dalek theme park. One where each land represented a different version on Dalek history populated by people and Daleks unaware they’re not real. So if you’re happy to accept this new secret origin of the Kaled mutants at face value, that’s fine. But if that’s a step too far, then simply imagine this is set during Liberation, bringing the real Fourteenth Doctor face to face with unreal Kaleds.
Either way, one thing is clear by the end of Destination: Skaro. David Tennant’s Doctor can absolutely still command a room, and dance along that line of humour and drama. He’s still got it. Roll on next week!
We also get our first look at Doctor Who: Unleashed
The minisode also gives us our first glimpse at Doctor Who: Unleashed, the new behind the scenes sister show. It’s a successor to the well loved Doctor Who Confidential, and is both familiar and different, much like the new Doctor himself. Oh, how Blogtor has missed these little peeks behind the curtain. As with Confidential, it’s brilliant to see just how much the people who work on the show seem to love it. Tennant remains as much the uber-fan as ever, happily geeking out over having a classic Dalek in the correct Genesis colours on set. While his bashful tolerance, rather than joy, at the whole crew singing happy birthday to him is wonderfully sweet.
But there’s room for controversy too. One contribution from Russell T Davies reveals one element of the minisode designed to stick should we ever return to Skaro in the main show. It’s one he’s “very, very proud” of, but has probably already caused acres of furious online debate by the time you’re reading this.
Elsewhere we get a taste of the differences. Having an onscreen host in the form of Steffan Powell creates a new energy. Tennant places a steadying hand on the younger man’s shoulder as Powell worries about the continuity implications of the day’s filming. Meanwhile Mawann Rizwan (Mr Castavillain) attempts to sneak onto the new TARDIS set, promising to blame Powell if he gets caught, leading to some playful bickering. It promises a new sense of self deprecating humour to add to the fascinating backstage insights.
Don’t forget Children in Need!
Destination: Skaro was just one part of a whole night dedicated to raising money for Children in Need. So if you enjoyed, do consider giving whatever you can. You can make a purchase through the online shop. Products even include the charity’s Pudsey mascot dressed as either the Fourth or Eleventh Doctors. You can also donate directly to the charity, or take part in the many fundraising events across the UK this month.
Doctor Who returns on the 25th of November with The Star Beast at 6.30pm GMT on BBC One in the UK and Ireland, and Disney+ worldwide