This Doctor Who article contains spoilers.
“He’s saying you need to stop,” companion Donna Noble tells the Fourteenth Doctor after the Fifteenth Doctor lists off a litany of adventures from the first Doctor on. A pained expression covers Fourteen as he admits, “I don’t know how.”
That confession rings true for viewers, and not just because it comes from David Tennant, who is both a great actor and a frequent returnee to Doctor Who, most recently for the three 60th Anniversary Specials. And it’s not just because we know the Doctor as a person on the move. Ever since the character’s introduction in 1963, the Doctor has been defined by restlessness. Even when grounded on Earth, as was the case for the Third Doctor, or stuck defending a base under siege, the Doctor does not sit still. They search for answers, save the day, and then off they go to a new adventure.
Rather, we believe that Fourteen doesn’t know how to slow down because he lives on his Time Machine, the TARDIS — which is not known for standing still. If he’s going to stop moving, where is the Doctor supposed to live?
The next time we see the Doctor, he appears to have stopped. He sits around a table with Donna’s family and returning companion Mel Bush (Bonnie Langford). “Who’d’ve thought? I ended up with a family,” Fourteen says happily at the end of “The Giggle.”
We aren’t surprised at all that the openly sentimental Tenth/Fourteenth Doctor would end up with a family. In fact, that’s more-or-less what the Meta-Crisis Doctor, the human copy of the Tenth Doctor spawned in Donna’s previous final episode “Journey’s End,” did, heading off to a parallel dimension to live with Rose Tyler (Billie Piper).
So the real question is, “Who’d’ve thought? I ended up with a house?”
The framing of “The Giggle,” written by showrunner Russell T Davies and directed by Chanya Button, suggests that he’s at the Noble family home for dinner in that final scene. But that’s not what’s actually going on.
As revealed by the Target Books novelization of “The Giggle” by frequent Doctor Who author James Goss, the house at the end of “The Giggle” is actually the Doctor’s house in the country side! Yes, that’s the Doctor’s table. He’s settled down and is hosting a garden party for his family and not the other way around.
It’s explained in the novel that UNIT have kept a bank account in the Doctor’s name since he started working for them in his third incarnation (Jon Pertwee) in the 1970s. With those ample savings and payments, the Doctor has unknowingly become quite wealthy. And unlike Donna, the Doctor apparently chooses not to give away his gobs of cash. Instead, he uses it to buy himself a lovely home, the home seen at the end of “The Giggle.” It’s the last thing you would expect from the Doctor and it makes that final scene with Fourteen and Donna all the more heartwarming.
When the Doctor says he doesn’t know how to stop, Donna replies, “I can tell you how.” The end of the novelization shows the Doctor has listened.
Yes, the Doctor has been grounded before, but never like this, as a home owner who sees himself as a brother to Donna. Sitting at the table in his backyard, Fourteen assures Donna (and, by extension, the viewer) that “I’ve never been so happy in my life.”
Do we believe him? As Donna has made clear, the Doctor needs rest and the house gives him chance to do just that.
Doctor Who returns for series 14 in May on the BBC in the UK and Disney+ everywhere else.