Doctor Who multiverse | Are the parallel doctors in the 60 special?
The Doctor and Donna…but not as you know them
Remembering how we left things, Whovians wonder how the Doctor and Donna can get back together for the 60th anniversary. Donna’s last adventure with Ten had her taking on the role of DoctorDonna when she gained the power of the Time Lords to defeat Davros. Knowing this would “burn” Donna’s mind, the Doctor erased her memory and hoped they would never see each other again. Donna next appeared in Tennant’s Swan Song, where she nearly remembered their adventures, but once again her mind was erased by a failsafe.
Fueling theories that Tennant’s return isn’t that of the Doctor who regenerated into Matt Smith’s Eleven, eagle-eyed fans noticed he’s done away with his usual trench coat and got a new costume. . Even though this is a simple wardrobe update, it doesn’t explain how the Doctor and Donna are running around as if nothing had happened. Russell T Davies once described their reunion as “impossible,” and if that’s not the Donna we left behind in 2010’s End Times, it’s possible she was an alternate version who didn’t become DoctorDonna.
A doctor between two roses
At the center of it all seems to be Finney’s mysterious casting as Rose, whose character description doesn’t reveal anything. While being called New Rose raises some questions, it also delves into the idea of the multiverse. This isn’t the first time Doctor Who has dipped a toe into the multiverse, nor is it the first time Donna and Rose (specifically, the version played by Billie Piper) have been a part of it.
In season 2, the Doctor and Rose accidentally traveled to a parallel universe where the Cybermen rose again, and Rose was later trapped in this world after a clash with the Daleks. Rose was supposed to return in Season 4 when the walls between realities crumbled, but at the end of the story, Tate’s DoctorDonna explained how the “retro-dimensional lock” sealed the walls between universes. This stopped multiversal travel and confined Piper’s Rose to an alternate universe with the Meta-Crisis Doctor.
It’s possible that Finney’s Rose found a way to cross the multiverse like the OG did in Rose Tyler: The Dimension Cannon Audio Anthology on Big Finish. Piper has repeatedly said that she is open to reprising her role as Rose, but it remains to be seen if she will return. For now, Finney’s casting perfectly sets up Piper’s Rose’s return, or just as easily honors Tennant’s days without having the star who arguably played his most famous sidekick on the ride.
Shaping the future with the past
When Whittaker’s Thirteen escaped a possible future version of a nuclear-ravaged Earth in Orphan 55, she told us. “The future is not fixed, it depends on billions of decisions and actions, and the commitment of people.” This was teased years earlier when the Doctor-lite Turn Left explained how drastically things can change with a simple decision. Ten’s iconic episode featured Donna being manipulated by a Time Beetle, and while “Donna’s World” has been erased from existence, it makes us think of how many more.
Doctor Who has long established that N-Space is the first universe in canon, but over the past 60 years we’ve learned a whole lot more. Through various media, the Doctor has visited an alternate Earth populated by vampire-like Haemovores, the many alternate realities that have been conquered by the Cybermen, and even one with Tardis Tails – an anthropomorphic cat version of the Doctor.
More recently, in 2021’s six-part Flux, The Division revealed that their secret base was in another universe and attempted to move to this alternate reality before the Doctor foiled their plans.
The 2003 audio story Exile even featured an alternate universe where the Doctor regenerated into a woman long before Thirteen. It was Ten who told us about billions of parallel universes stacked on top of each other, and also he who reiterated that traveling between them has been nearly impossible since the last great time war – emphasizing the part “almost” of it.
All in all, the more you look, the more evidence there is that parallel worlds have always played a part in Doctor Who, even very recently. Who’s to say this isn’t finally something for the show’s 60th anniversary?
The Multiverse Isn’t All It Seems
Before you start cheering for a 60th Anniversary Multiverse, it’s worth noting that there are competing theories as to what’s going on with Tennant and Tate’s return. Some claimed Thirteen would return to Ten’s face before handing over to Fourteen by Ncuti Gatwa. Elsewhere, people have suggested that New Rose is Donna’s daughter and named after Piper’s version due to a long-dormant memory in Donna’s subconscious.
We can say that Finney is 18 means that she is too old for this theory to work. Even though Donna got pregnant as soon as she separated from the Doctor, her daughter would only be 12 (unless we jump into the future?). On top of all that, a multiverse rose that looks completely different from the one we’re all familiar with is an altogether more interesting prospect. Hey, this worked for all those Loki and Spider-Man variants in the MCU.
Not so long ago Hugh Grant has been tipped to lead Doctor Who for a Marvel-style makeover, and it could still happen. Even though it seems obvious to simply copy the MCU, returning showrunner Davies has spoken of his desire for Doctor Who to have a chain of spin-offs à la Disney Plus. Multiple parallel Doctors are a possible way to achieve this, as well as exploiting the nostalgic potential of bringing back old Doctors and allowing characters in small groups to have their own adventures without spoiling the timelines too much.
Imagine the scene where Finney gets his own live-action series that adapts The Dimension Cannon and follows New Rose in search of doctors across the multiverse. It might seem unlikely that Davies wants things to get so meta, but what could be more ambitious for the future of The Who than managing a multiverse of continuity and cameos?
If Doctor Who goes this route, we bet a few more familiar faces will return, and if you want to see Baker, McCoy, Smith and more for the 60th anniversary celebrations, the Multiverse is a good place to start.
And while we’re at it, why not bring back Dame Joanna Lumley as the Doctor from the 1999 Comic Relief Special? When you step into the multiverse, absolutely anything is possible.
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