We officially have our new Doctor! Following the announcement that Ncuti Gatwa was replacing Jodie Whittaker in the TARDIS earlier this year, the Thirteenth Doctor’s finale saw her regenerate into… David Tennant?! Yes, in a shocking twist, the legendary former star has returned to Doctor Who to steer it through three specials set to unfold next year, the immortal sci-fi series’ 60th anniversary.
Thanks to the thrilling first trailer for those celebratory specials, though, we know Gatwa will also feature in them to some degree, so fans can likely expect the Doctor to regenerate once more before too long, this time from Tennant into the aforementioned Sex Education star, so that Gatwa may take command of the TARDIS full-time.
But with all this regenerational rigmarole going on, you might be wondering how we’re actually going to refer to Gatwa’s Doctor after all this. Exactly what number incarnation of the Time Lord is he?
Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor numbering, explained
For the show’s first 50 years, it was easy to keep track of the numbering of the Doctors. William Hartnell’s First Doctor became Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor and so on and so forth. 50th anniversary special “The Day of the Doctor” really threw a spanner in the works, though, with the introduction of John Hurt’s War Doctor, a hitherto unknown incarnation that existed in between his eighth and ninth bodies.
What’s more, Matt Smith’s last episode, “The Time of the Doctor,” clarified that the Tenth Doctor’s aborted first regeneration still counted. Then, once you skip ahead to the Jodie Whittaker era, the whole numbering thing becomes totally meaningless given the huge revelation that the Doctor has actually had countless other lives prior to the incarnation we’ve always known as the First Doctor.
Seeing as we need a way to differentiate them all, however, the show is continuing to stick with the traditional numbering format for the sake of simplicity. Well, relative simplicity. Tennant’s surprise return means that he is officially being called the Fourteenth Doctor. This means that the hero is not just reliving their tenth live but has been born into a new body that only resembles his previous self.
With Ncuti Gatwa confirmed to be following Tennant’s second, brief, tenure, then, it has been ascertained that he will officially be known as the Fifteenth Doctor… Even though he’s actually the show’s fourteenth leading performer and the sixteenth actor to play the Doctor (counting Hurt and Jo Martin’s Fugitive Doctor).
If the situation is this confusing heading into Doctor Who‘s 60th year, just imagine how crazy things will be by the time it reaches its 100th birthday.