Before venturing into this post, I must warn that this article contains SPOILERS about the end of Series 10 of Doctor Who. While I am fairly confident what I am about to comment is widely known, this is your last chance to look away now if you are still to watch The Doctor Falls.
And so – the major talking point at the conclusion of Doctor Who Series 10 was the remarkable appearance of David Bradley, portraying William Hartnell’s first Doctor.
Bradley has past form in the role, portraying William Hartnell in the 50th Anniversary docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time, and speculation was rife that he had been approached to not merely portray William Hartnell playing the Doctor, but to actually play Hartnell’s Doctor. The Doctor Falls saw Capaldi’s twelfth Doctor fighting back the onset of regeneration, refusing to change, and echoing what had been originally scripted as Hartnell’s last line: “I will not change! I will not give in!” He arrives in a bitter snowy blizzard to see a very familiar figure emerging from the blizzard, also protesting his refusal to change. The inference is clear – that the twelfth Doctor has arrived somewhere in the events of Hartnell’s final adventure, The Tenth Planet.
At this stage we do not know what Steven Moffat has dreamed up for Peter Capaldi’s final adventure, and what role his very first incarnation will be called upon to play. Fans are already speculating as to where this falls within the timeline of The Tenth Planet; the two most likely options being:
- During episode three – when the Doctor is supposedly lying unwell in the hospital wing, he in fact sneaks away to have one last adventure.
- In the final minute of episode four – in between the Doctor leaving the Cybermen’s spacecraft, and Polly and Ben banging on the TARDIS doors demanding that the Doctor does not leave them behind.
Given the dialogue given to Bradley, and in particular his use of the line originally scripted to Hartnell, the second seems the most likely, and that the as yet untitled Christmas adventure will take place somewhere in the final two minutes of the currently missing episode four of The Tenth Planet. We know from episodes like The Name of the Doctor that the production team love to tie in the past and the present, which begs the question of how they will position the Christmas adventure to fans who (like me!) were not even alive when the screen flared to white, and Hartnell bravely handed over the reins to Patrick Troughton – a very necessary question given that certain fans sincerely believed that the producers were revealing the thirteenth Doctor at the season’s end!
Well, it is tricky to see how they would do it, given that episode four of The Tenth Planet was pitched into a rubbish bin back in the 1970s. But here are (four?) ways in which they may resurrect the episode …
1: Using the surviving footage and telesnaps
It is had to imagine a modern audience reacting well to telesnaps (although some fans joked that Bill’s Black & white slow-mo footage in World Enough and Time was meant to be a homage to the telesnaps!) – but it would be the most faithful recreation of the last moments of The Tenth Planet, not least by including the surviving footage of the regeneration itself.
2: Using the animations from The Tenth Planet DVD
It is open to debate if fans would consider this an improvement on telesnaps – the quality is good for what it is, but is definitely not top drawer. The other animated option could be …
3: Using the animations from The Power of the Daleks DVD
While missing the very last lines of dialogue from The Tenth Planet, the animation itself is stunning, and arguably a better lead into The Power of the Daleks – which one would assume the BBC would want to encourage!
4: Recreating the final two minutes using David Bradley
This does seem the most likely – it is strongly rumoured that they have recreated an exact model of the Hartnell TARDIS set, and it would not be difficult to find lookalikes of Michael Craze and Anneke Wills – and of course they could film it in lovely High-Definition colour.
There is a fifth, rather incredible possibility. One for which there is no proof, but would certainly be the greatest Christmas present in the show’s history if it were true. Option five – Broadcasting a recovered and restored copy of the original episode four.
As I say, I have no proof of this; no contacts; no nudges; no leaked material – not a sausage. I would say on balance of probability that the most likely option of the above is the fourth – to simply re-shoot the Tenth Planet from the moment Hartnell leaves the Cybermen’s spaceship, to the point that Polly pulls back the Doctor’s scarf and his regeneration begins. There is no public reason to suppose that the BBC have anything else in mind.
However … given the speculation that has taken place since the Bleeding Cool article in the summer of 2013, it is not hard to imagine that perhaps the episode four has been recovered. In such a scenario it would be extremely tempting to tie in the recovery with the departure of Peter Capaldi and with David Bradley reprising the role of the first Doctor. If true, it means the BBC have hidden a missing episode recovery in the most outrageous way imaginable – in plain sight. Unlikely? Undoubtedly so. Impossible? Let’s not assume …
Disclaimer: In the probable event that this gets shared, I would like to emphasise that this is nothing more than idle speculation! All shared images and media are the copyright of the BBC and are for informational and educative purposes. While you’re reading this, do also take the time to buy An Adventure in Space and Time and get a flavour of what David Bradley will be like as the Doctor!