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The Power of the Doctor

Review by Paul Bowler.

The Power of the Doctor marks the end of an era and Jodie Whittaker’s final adventure as the thirteenth Doctor. The stakes couldn’t be higher this time around either as the Doctor battles to save her very existence as she faces the Daleks, Cybermen and her arch nemesis, the Master. The Doctor and her friends must solve the mystery behind a series of bizarre happenings; including an attack by the Cyber-Masters on a speeding bullet train in a distant galaxy, the disappearances of seismologists from 21st century Earth, and the defacing of some of history’s most iconic paintings. As the Doctor is confronted with threats on multiple fronts, the Daleks are also inexplicably trying to contact with the Time Lord, and just what kind of hold does the masterful Rasputin have over Tsar Nicholas in 1916 Russia? The Doctor soon faces a battle to the death against her deadliest enemies. Friends and allies, both old and new, will unite and fight alongside her before one last heartbreaking choice seals the 13th Doctor’s fate forever…

Jodie Whittaker’s five year tenure comes full circle in The Power of the Doctor.

This feature-length episode is a time twisting epic, written by outgoing show runner Chris Chibnall, and directed by Mangus Stone (2020’s Spyfall Part One, Praxeus, Ascension of the Cybermen and the Timeless Children, along with the 2021 Flux episodes The Halloween Apocalypse, War of the Sontarans and Village of the Angels. The Doctor’s companions Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill) and Dan Lewis (John Bishop), accompany Jodie Whittaker for her final outing as the Doctor, and Jacob Anderson also reprises his role as Vinder from Doctor Who: Flux to briefly rejoin the TARDIS team.

Indeed, a host of friends and foes make a dramatic return in The Power of the Doctor, including Classic companions Ace (Sophie Aldred) and Tegan (Janet Fielding), along with Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) for the special, even Bradley Walsh returns as Graham… and that’s just for starters! The Master (Sacha Dhawan) is back too, as is Ashad / The Lone Cyberman (Patrick O’Kane), and classic monsters the Daleks and the Cybermen all have key roles in this blockbusting adventure which also pays tribute to past Doctor’s and the legacy of Doctor Who.

Jodie Whittaker’s five year tenure comes full circle in The Power of the Doctor. Her final bow provides a timely celebration of Doctor Who itself, and the special also nicely bookends numerous aspects of the 13th Doctor’s era. The Power of the Doctor is a veritable roller coaster ride from beginning to end. In terms of scale its certainly also one of the most spectacular to date  as it features the most special effects shots ever seen in an episode of Doctor Who. Every big action set-piece is massive, even the pre-credits feels like a mini movie in itself. Writer and show runner Chris Chibnall’s era has been something of a mixed bag at times but he certainly delivers the goods here in the scripting of Whittaker’s final adventure. 

Airing as part of the BBC’s centenary celebrations, this adventure is packed with action and Easter eggs galore that fans of every era of the show will enjoy. Following the frenetic opening the Doctor discovers the Cyber-Lords have a machine-like world lurking in the Earth’s shadow, one that’s tethered to the Master’s TARDIS and seemingly powered by a mysterious child-like entity. Its not long before the Master’s presence is felt in both the past and the present, leading to a reunion for the Doctor and Yaz with some old friends at UNIT, before the Daleks and Cybermen also enter the fray! There’s a wealth of emotions, action and humour woven throughout Chibnall’s overarching plot as the 13th Doctor rallies against the Master, the Cybermen and the Daleks who have joined forces for a volcanic team-up in order to spring a deadly ‘forced regeneration’ on their mortal enemy.

Jamie Magnus Stone’s stylish direction keeps everything on track, with events racing along at a cracking pace, before giving way to the emotional conclusion that beautifully leads into the 13th Doctor’s startling regeneration.

At its heart though, it is Jodie Whittaker’s outstanding performance as the Doctor that makes The Power of the Doctor into something really special.

It’s clear that Jodie Whittaker had a blast working with Who veterans Jemma Redgrave who plays Kate Stewart, and 80s-era cast members Janet Fielding and Sophie Aldred, as Tegan and Ace. Their return isn’t just window dressing either, and they each have a crucial role to play as the action unfolds. There are heartwarming moments aplenty and emotional farewells too. Mandip Gill gives a particularly standout performance as Yaz’s adventures with the Doctor draw to a close, and there are moments that are especially poignant for the Doctor and Yaz. 

Past Doctor’s also show up thanks in part to the Doctor’s subconscious because of the her forced regeneration and her own emergency holographic AI programme, with: David Bradley as the 1st Doctor, Peter Davison as the 5th Doctor, Colin Baker as the 6th Doctor, Sylvester McCoy as the 7th Doctor, Paul McGann as the 8th Doctor and Jo Martin as the Fugitive Doctor! That’s not all, the same AI enables Tegan to have a heartfelt chat with the 5th Doctor, and Ace gets a reunion with the 7th Doctor as well. Both are magical, fan pleasing scenes, and genuinely heartwarming. It was also fitting to see Bradley Walsh return for the 13th Doctor’s send-off, even thought was a little bizarre to see him suddenly appear and team-up with Ace to destroy a volcano full of Daleks! Later its revealed Graham has set up a support group of sorts for ex-TARDIS travellers, where we see Dan, Yaz, Ace, Tegan and Kate Stewart are joined by three more classic Doctor Who companions of yesteryear: Melanie Bush (Bonnie Langford), Jo Jones (Katy Manning) and Ian Chesterton (William Russell) reminisce about their adventures with the Doctor. This was another wonderfully staged and unexpected moment that rounded off this episodes nods to the past in fine style.

At its heart though, it is Jodie Whittaker’s outstanding performance as the Doctor that makes The Power of the Doctor into something really special. Whittaker brilliantly channels the bright and breezy essence that has made her incarnation of the Time Lord so unique from her predecessors. Her Doctor has been a celebration of change, she built a fam of her own, boldly confronted injustice and darkness throughout time and space, and always remained compassionate even in her darkest hours. This episode, above all, perhaps delves deeper into the psyche of the Doctor than ever before.

Most notably of course The Power of the Doctor is also the first time that three classic foes of the Doctor have featured together in one storyline since the shows revival in 2005.  The return of Sacha Dhawan as the Master was an inspired move by Chibnall to front the trio of major foes the Doctor must face. Sacha Dhawan brings a scenery chewing performance along with a manic intensity to his incarnation of the Master that is both charming and disturbing. He’s always been the perfect foil for the 13th Doctor, never more so than here, and at times it looks like he could actually succeed in his grand design to highjack her forced regeneration and claim her infinite regeneration cycle for himself. He’s not alone though. The Daleks are also part of his Masterplan, and Patrick O’Kane’s welcome return as the chillingly evil Lone Cyberman makes the Cybermen seem even more deadly than ever this time around.

Now it falls to incoming show runner Russell T Davies to see if he can capture lighting in a bottle for a second time!

The build up to the regeneration itself is another beautifully crafted piece of fan service. It was lovely to see the Doctor and Yaz share one last trip before going their separate ways. Jodie Whittaker is resplendent in her final moments as the 13th Doctor takes in one last sunrise as she regenerates, and in a surprise twist when that regeneration happens she done’t change into her recently announced successor, Ncuti Gatwa, instead she miraculously turns into returning Time Lord David Tennant! Yes, it seems David Tennant and Catherine Tate are indeed reprising their roles for the 60th anniversary, and it has been confirmed that they will appear in three special episodes, set to air in November 2023. The next Doctor, played by Ncuti Gatwa, will then take control of the TARDIS, with his first episode airing over the festive period in 2023!

The Power of the Doctor was a spectacular finale for the 13th Doctor that sets the groundwork for a whole new era moving forward. Now it falls to incoming show runner Russell T Davies to see if he can capture lighting in a bottle for a second time!

About The Author

Hi, I’m Paul Bowler, blogger and reviewer of films, TV shows, and comic books. I’m a Sci-Fi geek, a big fan of Doctor Who, Star Trek, movies, Sci-Fi, Horror, Comic Books, and all things PS4.You can follow me on Twitter @paul_bowler,or at my website, Sci-Fi Jubilee, and on YouTube and Facebook