Being a fan of Doctor Who, you tend to get used to change. Companions leave, new showrunners take over, and Doctors regenerate. Since the start of NuWho, now referred to as the Revival Era, we have seen four Doctors regenerate. Five when you include Jodie Whittaker, whose final episode Doctor Who: The Power of the Doctor just aired. Leaving with Whittaker is showrunner Chris Chibnall, as well as companions Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Dan (John Bishop).
The entire show is regenerating as we enter a new era of Doctor Who. With Russell T. Davies coming back as showrunner, a series of specials with David Tennant and Catherine Tate back in the TARDIS (a rumor we reported on back in January), and Ncuti Gatwa tapped as the newest Doctor, there is so much to look forward.
However before we can get there, Whittaker and her fam deserve a proper send-off for a period of Doctor Who that has been at times controversial. Our own Sam Pearce came to the defense of Chibnall’s era earlier this year.
But is The Power of the Doctor a worthy conclusion for the thirteenth Doctor? I think it was fantastic, even if the Doctor didn’t want to go.
[Warning: Spoilers from Doctor Who: The Power of the Doctor are below]
Cybermen get an upgrade and past companions
Jodie Whittaker’s final special as The Doctor begins with a high-stakes train rescue. However, this isn’t just any train ever seen on Earth, as this one is barreling through space at breakneck speeds.
The passengers are in a panic, as they are under attack from some Cybermen, although there is something off about these tin metal baddies. Instead of remaining down when shot, these ones glow with regeneration energy similar to the Doctor and other Time Lords. These Cybermen also have some gear attached that looks rather like Gallifreyan writing. They looked like Time Lords, glowing with regeneration energy, and wishing to be called Cyber Masters. What is going on?
Back on Earth, we find Ace (Sophie Aldred), companion to the seventh Doctor, investigating a series of missing paintings across the world. She speaks to Tegan (Janet Fielding), who traveled with the fourth and fifth Doctor, on the phone, with the latter showing Ace a small Cyberman figurine that came in the mail. Both believe it to be from the Doctor but are confused as to what it could mean.
The audience finds out in the course of this conversation that neither of these past companions has been in contact with the Doctor in decades, a statement that sounds rather angry from Ace.
Having saved the train and people, the Doctor (Whittaker), Yaz (Gill), and Dan (Bishop) return to Earth, where Dan leaves the TARDIS. Having almost died on the space train, Dan realizes there is more to life and he needs to get back to his. Having him leave in the first ten minutes or so was definitely not what I had expected for this final Whittaker episode.
A traitor among the Daleks and a tricky Master
While Yaz is sending Dan off, The Doctor receives a message from a Dalek, who offers The Doctor something rather enticing; a way to kill off the Daleks. He informs the skeptical Doctor that there’s a Dalek invasion coming to Earth, but he (this specific Dalek) no longer believes in the mission of his pepper pot comrades.
The Doctor and Yaz set off to find out what’s going on, ending up on a large planet-like spaceship, where there is a second TARDIS attached to its core. They discover a sentiment alien capable of generating vast amounts of energy, chained to the ship. The alien is being held captive by the Cyber Masters, though for what purpose we don’t quite know at that point.
Drawn back to Earth, The Doctor links up with Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) who is attempting to restart U.N.I.T. with the help of Ace and Tegan. They bring The Doctor in to help with the missing and destroyed, paintings. All of these now bear the likeness of The Master (Sacha Dhawan), who has been posing as Rasputin in the early 1900s.
The Doctor rushes off to capture The Master, who goes quite willingly with The Doctor, into his cell at U.N.I.T.. It definitely seems like The Master is up to one of his old games, especially if you factor in the Daleks and the Cyber Masters popping up.
The Master’s ultimate plan in Power of the Doctor
Using the Daleks and Cyber Masters to his advantage, the Master’s true intentions are to force The Doctor to regenerate into The Master himself. The Master is successful in his plan, taking over The Doctor’s body, however, retaining the evil mind he’s always had. His plan involves terraforming Earth for Dalek and Cyberman construction, but a part of him seems to also want to be free from the chains that bind him as The Master.
When it looks like all hope is lost, The Power of the Doctor begins with its twists and turns, delivering a wonderful adventure with plenty of surprises. Of course, the Master couldn’t succeed, at least not completely, this is Doctor Who after all!
With the help of Yaz, Vinder (Jacob Anderson), and some familiar-looking holograms, the Doctor is able to return to her body once again. The rest of the episode plays out like a typical Doctor Who episode, that is until Whittaker’s hands started to glow with regeneration energy.
Even though the audience knew The Doctor’s regeneration was coming, for a split second it looked like she was going to be fine. Then her hand started to glow and at that moment, both Yaz and The Doctor know the end is coming. One last adventure in space with ice cream and the duo part ways. Uncontrollable sobbing ensued from me when Yaz began to cry. These two have been through so much, and seeing them end their time together was heartbreaking. Perhaps we’ll see Yaz again, as those left behind seem to be banding together for support on Earth.
The episode ends with The Doctor on a cliff overlooking an ocean, as she prepares for her regeneration. Her goodbye is brief and full of enthusiastic energy, as Whittaker burns away to reveal David Tennant, with a whole new costume to boot. Why he’s back or how Whittaker regenerated into him, we have no idea. But I’m sure all will be revealed when Doctor Who returns in 2023 with three new specials.
The good and the bad of The Power of the Doctor
There was a lot I liked from this episode. Following in the shadow of The Flux, this episode had some crazy energy and pacing. It was a non-stop adventure that felt like a fantastic way to close out Whittaker’s era as The Doctor. That isn’t to say there weren’t issues. The episode itself was kinda messy, with jumping around frequently and a classic “I’m smarter than you” explanation from The Doctor to tie up loose ends.
Perhaps one of the best parts of The Power of the Doctor was the tying up of some significant loose ends. I’m so glad that Chibnall brought back Sophie Aldred and Janet Fielding as Ace and Tegan. Having them in the episode served as a foil to the journey and emotions Yaz was experiencing.
At the end of “Legend of the Sea Devils”, The Doctor and Yaz knew that their time was running out. Using Ace and Teagan, Yaz and the audience were able to see what life was like when left behind by The Doctor. Ace and Tegan had anger associated with being left behind, however at the end of Yaz’s journey, she was able to leave content.
I also loved that this episode gave some significant closure to these two past companions, allowing them to speak with their respective Doctors once again. These were touching moments that I think were essential to Doctor Who and its lore. I also loved how this episode incorporated past iterations of The Doctor into the story, which felt right for this monumental occasion. As we’re entering into a very important year for Doctor Who, I expect we’ll see more of the past Doctors.
I loved that this episode was also a great story for The Master, a character that has felt neglected for most of Whittaker’s run. Sure he’s appeared in a few episodes, but he never felt truly appreciated in any of these appearances. That being said, The Power of the Doctor gave him such a huge part in which Sacha Dhawan could show his range.
In this episode, The Master had moments that gave me chills, but also moments that were incredibly goofy. This was the episode in which Dhawan truly felt like The Master to me. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to him, with part of me hoping that he’ll return once again in the role. Also, were all the little toys in this episode foreshadowing the return of the celestial toymaker, which many believe Neil Patrick Harris to be playing in the 60th-anniversary specials? I suppose we’ll have to wait to find out for sure.
Final thoughts on The Power of the Doctor
Jodie Whittaker’s final episode wasn’t just good, it was exceptional. It was a fantastic conclusion to not only the thirteenth Doctor’s story, but the story of Yaz, Ace, and Teagan. While it was sad that we didn’t get to see Ryan (Tosin Cole) again, having Bradley Walsh back as Graham was a delightful treat. The story itself, while a bit messy, was a great final adventure with plenty of action, tons of emotion, and a lot of heart, with heart being a trademark for the Whittaker era of Doctor Who.
For those who were divided on Whittaker’s time on this long-running sci-fi show, I hope that The Power of the Doctor stands as a testament to how fantastic she was as the Doctor. For those who fell off of the series, this is a perfect episode to jump back into it. Because it is a great episode of Doctor Who, which will leave viewers with great excitement about what is to come.
Doctor Who: The Power of the Doctor is currently streaming on AMC+. The series will return with three specials in November 2023 for the 60th anniversary. We here at The Cosmic Circus are excited to celebrate this monumental occasion and have some plans in place for the 60th year. So stay tuned!
If you haven’t already, or need a refresher of Whittaker’s penultimate episode, check out my review on Doctor Who: Legend of the Sea Devils!