Doctor Who: 'Next Time...' The Possibilities Of The Centenary Special - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Doctor Who: 'Next Time...' The Possibilities Of The Centenary Special

Tony lets his imagination wander.
So, the Next Time trailer dropped at the end of Legend of the Sea Devils.

It was roughly 30 seconds long.

Annnnd, as it aired, the world of fandom went totally tonto, because it promised to fit one whole heck of a lot into Jodie Whittaker’s swansong.

The Dhawan Master – he’s back. In fact, he seems to be back in two versions – a long-haired, bearded version, and a short-haired, clean-shaven one.

Daleks – back too, in their bronze battle-tank armour, for which there’s cause to be grateful. The Whittaker era re-vamps were actually fun and fine in their own right, but somehow, when you want proper 21st Dalek aggression, nothing has yet really displaced those bronze tanks from 2005.

Cybermen – yep, they’re here for the farewell party too. Though interestingly, they’re the versions from Ascension of the Cybermen, rather than the CyberLord variant with which the Master briefly gifted us in The Timeless Children.

Arguably Ashad, too, though that would be interesting and potentially timey-wimey. Certainly, it would make some sense that his appearance alongside the Ascension Cybermen is from some point before the Master’s plan to elevate the Cybermen kicked in.

That said, we’ve seen some online gossip claim that by staring at the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it clip of him in the trailer until your eyes bleed, you can “tell it’s a different actor,” which seems unlikely, may still be the case, and either way may not mean anything in story terms.

Or of course, it may…

We know Kate Stewart’s back for one more outing with Thirteen – and that she’s being marched along by Cybermen. We’re thinking maybe her quip in Dark Water got under their collective Cyber-skin.

Lots of people are in the classic New Who orange space-suits, including Dan and the Doctor. So – non-Earth action may well be indicated.

Vinder’s back and toting a weapon. Does that mean Bel’s back too? And have they now had the child that for a while back there, looked like it was destined to be the Baby Doctor? Is that, just possibly, a destiny that’s still on the cards? If not, what role do they play in the end of Thirteen’s days?

The Doctor looks to be in serious trouble, potentially regenerating – and potentially not. But she cries out for Yaz. Whether that’s because Yaz is in some particular peril of her own, or whether, in her moment of danger, it’s Yaz who comes most potently to the Doctor’s mind, we don’t know yet.

There could be a whole lot of Thasmin drama there, as Thirteen realises (perhaps too late) that life is all about the chances taken, not the inevitable end. Or, y’know, it could just be a random moment of peril at some point in the episode.
Annnnnd then of course, there are those returns. Tegan Jovanka, who ran away from the Fifth Doctor because it “stopped being fun” after the massacre that was Resurrection of the Daleks, and Dorothy “Ace” McShane, who’s had more destinies than most companions, given the ending of the original show while she was still in the Tardis.

There’s some controversy there among those who elevate canon to the status of implacable lore. As we say, Ace had had more destinies than many companions – blown up in comic books, sent to Gallifrey in other expanded universe realities, and most particularly, returned to Earth as Dorothy McShane, leader of A Charitable Earth, a foundation for the doing of good, especially for orphans – but also for the tinkering with alien tech in a responsible manner.

Since that was first mentioned in the Death of the Doctor episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures, it’s become more or less everyone’s favourite destiny for Dorothy, getting mentioned again in the glorious tribute to Sarah Jane on the death of Elisabeth Sladen, being seemingly nailed into place in Big Finish Torchwood audio The Red List, and perhaps most significantly of all, being written down in some detail in At Childhood’s End, an Ace novel written by Sophie Aldred herself, and featuring – wait for it, and apologies if this is a spoiler to you – Ace meeting the Thirteenth Doctor during her time with her first fam.

The very fact that the clip in the trailer says that Ace hasn’t spoken to the Doctor in three decades would tend either to rewrite the events of At Childhood’s End, or to suggest that the TV events of the next episode happen before the events of At Childhood’s End, which then makes something of a mockery of the scenes in the book where Ace tries to get her head around meeting this very different Doctor to her own.

So, yes – canon could be hanging by a thread here, or the TV version could as yet overwrite all the fun people have been having with the destiny given to Ace by Russell T Davies. “I fully expect Russell to ignore what I’ve done,” said Chris Chibnall recently, when interviewed about how showrunners treat the established lore of previous incumbents.

But let’s be honest here, canon’s always been a moveable feast in Doctor Who, arguably since the idea that Time Lords had only 13 lives, and then suddenly the Time Lords had the ability to ‘grant’ a whole new life cycle to members of their number, we were off to the races with an infinitely flexible canon. The fact that no-one mentions Dimensions In Time or the Doctor being half-human (an intriguingly possible notion, now that the Timeless Child storyline has rewritten what we know of the Doctor’s origins) is just a canonical convenience.

So, whether the Ace in the next episode is the same Ace that Davies imagined working with her charitable foundation – we’ll have to wait and see. Clearly, she’s retained her aptitude for destruction, as she’s seen firing some high-grade weaponry, and smashing a Dalek with a baseball bat, in a consciously fan-serving repetition of possibly her peak TV moment in Remembrance of the Daleks.
So, what does the trailer leave us with?

Lots of returning people and monsters, most from within Thirteen’s own time, but a couple from the Classic era. And, arguably, a nagging fear that to fit them all in, they’re either going to have to be fairly fleeting appearances, or the actual storyline is going to be particularly cramped.

And yet, while fans everywhere are rightfully delighted to see the return of Tegan and Ace to on-screen Who, it feels like this trailer should only be the tip of the iceberg.

If Thirteen’s time ends without some further appearance by the Fugitive Doctor, it’ll feel like a loose thread.

If Thirteen’s time ends without wrapping up the pocketwatch of previous lives, it won’t feel like the era has ended with clarity.

If there’s not at least some back-riffing to Graham and Ryan, it’ll feel slightly incomplete. Hell, ideally, even a back-riff to Grace would be welcome.

This would be less essential, but a final appearance in Thirteen’s time of Karvanista would be useful too, and some more detailed explanation of why exactly the Doctor can’t remember her pre-Hartnell lives. Maybe even a relatively easily-explained reappearance of Tecteun.

Crowded, crowded, crowded.

And then of course you open up the toybox of possibilities, and all sort of things come tumbling out.

If Tegan and Ace are in communication and in the episode, does that not open the door to other companion cameos? Might we see Jo Jones on screen in mainstream Who once more, fighting the good fight as the planet goes to hell?

Going back to the Death of the Doctor round-up, in addition to Tegan and Ace, Sarah Jane mentions Ben and Polly running an orphanage in India, and Ian and Barbara Chesterton, who have reputedly never aged(!). While of course the death of Michael Craze (Ben) would leave Anneke Wills’ Polly alone in India, and it would be hard to argue that William Russell (Ian) has ‘never aged,’ it would require only a couple of lines of canon-tweaking to include them in some way, even if only as part of a Tardis WhatsApp group.

All this is of course only wishful thinking, and if we’re going to indulge in that, how about some Classic era – or even previous New Who - Doctors too? Even if only in terms of a regenerative memory, or a fleeting cameo in terms of resolving the pre-Hartnell lives thread of Thirteen’s time. Possible? Distinctly possible, but all still wishful thinking.

Why give any of this any credence?

Well, no reason, except this. The current Who team has a habit of teasing episodes containing significantly bigger reveals by using real appetite-whetters. Spyfall – Ooh, Stephen Fry, Lenny Henry, weird DNA-re-writing monsters – nnnnno mention of a return of the Master, so when it happened, it hit with proper Utopia-level shock. Fugitive of the Judoon – hoorah, more rhinos from space! No mention of either the moderately appalling return of Captain Jack, nor of the unveiling of a whole new hidden Doctor.

That same team just gave us Ace, Tegan, Kate Stewart, Vinder, Daleks, Cybermen, Ashad (possibly), and the Master, all in the space of thirty seconds.

You’ve got to wonder what they have still hidden up their sleeves…

Here’s to next time.

Tony Fyler lives in a concrete cave, somewhere on the edge of the sea, with his wife, who exists, and the Fictional People In His Head, who don't as yet. A journalist and editor by day, he has written Some Books, and is more or less always writing another. One day, he may even get around to showing them to people. In the meantime, he's Script Editor and occasional Executive Producer at Third Time Lucky Productions, and a proud watcher of things no-one remembers they remember until they remember.

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