As the year is coming to a close, so is the 60th anniversary celebration for Doctor Who. The wait for the return of this long-running sci-fi series felt like forever, but the new David Tennant-led specials have been worth it. With the third special, “The Giggle”, Tennant’s time as the Doctor is coming to an end before Ncuti Gatwa takes over as the 15th Doctor. Does anyone else have a pit in their stomach, or is that just me?
It’s been a wild ride across these three specials, which have all been written by returning showrunner Russell T. Davies. “The Star Beast”, which saw the return of Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) as well, along with some monsters deep from the Doctor Who lore.
“Wild Blue Yonder” took the Doctor and Donna to the furthest reaches of space, confronting them with some harsh realities. They finally return home in Doctor Who: The Giggle, however, there’s something off. The Doctor and Donna must figure out what’s going on before it’s too late. Can they do it? Even I don’t know the answer to that just yet.
[Warning: light spoilers and impressions of Doctor Who: The Giggle!]
The Doctor and Donna Noble come home
It’s been a wild couple of days for The Doctor, having regenerated explosively from Whittaker’s Doctor back into Tennant’s form in “The Power of the Doctor”. He stumbles into Donna, his best friend in the entire world. The only problem is that Donna can’t know about her adventures with the Doctor, as remembering will result in her death.
At least that’s what RTD had us believe for a decade until the two met again in that sleepy little village. Donna’s memories are the core mystery to “The Star Beast”, with Tate’s character able to gain her memories once again and remain alive.
With one of the biggest hurdles out of the way, the Doctor and Donna are thrust into space, thanks to some ill-timed coffee and a pissed-off TARDIS. The journey in “Wild Blue Yonder” pushes the Doctor to confront his past, such as his humble beginnings before The Time Lords as well as the Flux from season 13.
The second special is one of the most personal Doctor Who episodes, with David Tennant giving one of his best performances to date. And that’s saying something when the season two finale of Good Omens exists. The vulnerability that arises in “Wild Blue Yonder” is essential to the emotional journey of the 14th Doctor, as there has been little resolution to the impact of the Flux up to this point. He’s broken and running once again, trying to outrun the guilt that is threatening to consume him if he thinks about it too long.
However, while on a ship and being chased by the vestiges of himself and Donna, The Doctor can heal a bit, forgiving himself for his mistakes. In doing so, he’s able to save the day returning him and his companion to Earth, only to find that the planet is currently faced with its greatest challenge yet.
The people of Earth are in disarray, with the world descending into chaos. Everyone is combative, however, it’s unclear at first what is causing worldwide panic and anger. That is, until the Doctor and Donna work with UNIT and discover the giggle of a mysterious puppet that has pushed the people to the brink of insanity.
This creepy-as-hell puppet, which gives the one from Saw a run from this money, brings about an even scarier adversary from the Doctor’s past. The Toymaker (Neil Patrick Harris) has had a lot of time to think about his revenge against the Doctor and isn’t about to walk away.
The Doctor and Donna must keep their wits if they’re going to win against the Toymaker. But no pressure… it’s just the fate of the human race that rests on their shoulders if they don’t.
The positives and negatives of Doctor Who: The Giggle
I should preface anything I say in this section with one fact: I didn’t see the entire episode. But not to worry, many of us haven’t. The screeners they sent out end with the entire third act removed, as the words redacted played across a black screen.
That being said, what I saw was some of the best Doctor Who I’ve seen of all of NuWho. I know what you’re thinking, “Okay, but didn’t he say that about the first special?” which indeed I did. So what sets this one apart from the first 60th anniversary special?
“The Star Beast” was an explosive first entry into the 14th Doctor, but it also faces the challenge of having to lay the groundwork for bringing back together The Doctor and Donna. So there is a large portion of rediscovering these two characters, as well as establishing Donna’s life up to where we meet her once again. That takes up a lot of the first episode, which isn’t a bad thing, but it does change the dynamics of the duo and the trajectory of that first episode.
However, with “Wild Blue Yonder” and then “The Giggle”, the setup falls to the wayside and the current adventure is all that exists. Sure there is some continued exploration of the past, as mentioned above with the Doctor’s confrontation of the Flux and its consequences, but that was tied pretty exclusively to the mystery at hand. There is some of that in the final special, but it’s integral to the dynamics of Donna and the Doctor. It’s added in to test the relationship and it does that just perfectly.
Taking that setup away allows for an exploration of the emotional dynamics between the two, which is where Tennant and Tate excel. You get a sense of who this new Doctor is and how much Donna has changed since her last adventure with the Time Lord.
Tennant is completely in his element in “The Giggle”, with a brilliant mix between the angry Time Lord of Peter Capaldi’s Doctor and the energetic silliness of 10 and 11. He’s grown so much since we’ve last seen this face and David Tennant does a fantastic job of showcasing that balance.
There are scenes in the first 38 minutes that leave me in awe of his abilities, so much so that I got chills or even teared up in a few places. However, I experienced feelings from Catherine Tate’s performance as Donna in the episode. I cannot praise either of these two enough for the wonderful work they bring to these two specials.
While a part of me would have loved to see more familiar faces brought back for the 60th-anniversary specials, I also couldn’t imagine any other story than the ones we got with the characters involved.
Surprising me the most in this special is how delightfully wicked Neil Patrick Harris is in “The Giggle”. NPH isn’t someone that I seek out in films or shows, but that might change now that I’ve seen him as The Toymaker.
Gone are the days when he plays just comedic roles, as The Toymaker is as terrifying as he is hilarious. Think of NPH’s role as Count Olaf in Series of the Unfortunate Events, but actually scary. There are moments in “The Giggle” that I had chills because The Toymaker’s antics are intense.
“The Giggle” also introduces a few ideas for potential spin-offs, with the main one being the UNIT series rumored to be in development. There’s also a sense of where characters like Donna will end up, that is if she makes it out of the latter half of the episode.
There’s still so much time left in the special, that it’s hard to predict how it’s going to shake out. That being said, this special made me so excited for the future of Doctor Who, because it once again feels like it’s in good hands. The story feels special, with writing that shows how much RTD cares for Doctor Who.
Final thoughts on The Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials
I have always been an avid viewer of the series, but the specials, especially “The Giggle”, remind me of what makes Doctor Who so special. The writing, the acting, and the effects are on point, propelling Doctor Who into a brand new, but incredibly strong, new era.
Doctor Who: The Giggle arrives on BBC in the U.K. and on Disney+ in the rest of the world soon! Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord if you plan on watching. And look out for our Cosmic Circle Doctor Who episode, coming soon and available wherever you get your podcasts!