Doctor Who fans were delighted and confused by the return of David Tennant as the 14th iteration of the Time Lord from Gallifrey. Having played the Doctor for several years, and being one of the most popular Doctors in the show’s 60-year history, the return of Tennant for the anniversary episode has thrilled fans of the series. However, one aspect of the actor’s return to the role in the final moments of “The Power of the Doctor” has been confusing for long-term fans of the show — his regenerated costume. Now returning showrunner Russell T. Davies has explained why we did not get to see David Tennant wearing Jodie Whittaker’s clothes.
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Across the decades, every new Doctor in Doctor Who has regenerated into the outfit of their predecessor, so when Jodie Whittaker morphed into David Tennant, the reappearance of a variant of Tennant’s old costume seemed to break canon that has been unspoken Doctor Who lore since 1963. Davies recently spoke to the Radio Times and explained the reason behind the decision not to show Tennant in Whittaker’s suit.
“I was very certain that I didn’t want David to appear in Jodie’s costume. I think the notion of men dressing in ‘women’s clothes’, the notion of drag, is very delicate. I’m a huge fan of that culture and the dignity of that, it’s truly a valuable thing. But it has to be done with immense thought and respect. With respect to Jodie and her Doctor, I think it can look like mockery when a straight man wears her clothes. To put a great big six-foot Scotsman into them looks like we’re taking the mickey.”
Davies added that the way the media would have used such a moment in the future also meant that he never wanted Tennant’s returning Doctor to be dressed as Whittaker. He concluded:
“If they can play with gender in a sarcastic or critical way, they will. We could have the Doctor dressed as a knight, or dressed as God, or dressed as William Hartnell, and the only photo they’d print would be of David in what they considered to be women’s clothes.”
Would David Tennant Wearing Women’s Clothes Really Have Been an Issue for Doctor Who?
While it is easy to see where Russell T. Davies is coming from in regards to how the media, and social media, would use an image of David Tennant in Jodie Whittaker’s pants until the end of time, whether it would really have been that much of a stir is debatable. After all, in the name of equality, no one batted an eyelid when Whittaker dropped into Peter Capaldi’s garb, and considering her Doctor was not exactly known for wearing a flowing bridal gown or anything like that, in the context of the show, it would not have been too outlandish to have gone down the usual regeneration rule.
It would probably have been much more in line with the show’s legacy to explain the costume regeneration because this is the first time a Doctor has regenerated into a former version of himself. This could mean that the transformation would remember everything about the former iteration. So far, it has still not been explained why the new regeneration has taken the Doctor back to his former self, but no doubt answers about that will come when David Tennant’s three-episode run airs next year.