Warning: contains spoilers for ‘The Power of the Doctor’.
Few Doctor Who fans will forget Jodie Whittaker’s final moments on the show, before she shockingly regenerated into David Tennant, but when ‘The Power of the Doctor’ script was added to the BBC Writersroom script library, some were surprised to see her final words were different to the regeneration scene broadcast.
In the episode, we saw Jodie regenerate after saying ‘Right then, Doctor-whoever-I’m-about-to-be: tag, you’re it!’ but the original script has this line coming before she says ‘Ah, that’s the only sad thing. I want to know what happens next. I bet it’s going to be brilliant.’
Fans will recognise this as a nod to Whittaker’s first words as the Doctor: ‘Oh, brilliant!’ which is all we heard her say before she was dramatically thrown from the TARDIS to fall towards Earth at the end of Christmas special ‘Twice Upon a Time’ in 2017.
Showrunner Chris Chibnall spoke about the reasons behind this change at the press screening in October, when RadioTimes.com Executive Editor Morgan Jeffery asked the showrunner about writing Jodie’s final words.
‘I’d written that scene before I wrote anything else, I knew what that final scene was,’ said Chibnall, confirming (as per the released script) that ‘It was originally “I wanna know what happens next” and “I bet it’s going to be brilliant” was going to be the final word. We’d changed them around in the edit.’
He gave credit for the change to both Jodie Whittaker and one of the episode editors, Becky Trotman: ‘Seeing the performance and what Jodie had done… Becky said, “I just want to play you this scene with the two last lines flipped”, and I was like “Oh, that’s loads better!”’ He described the choice as ‘40% writing, 40% performance, 20% editing.’
Prior to ‘The Power of the Doctor’ airing, Jodie Whittaker had spoken about how much she loved her final words in an interview with Empire magazine, saying: ‘I love the dialogue Chris wrote for my regeneration. It captures my Doctor beautifully. It’s simple, epic and beautiful.’
She also confirmed she’d filmed the scene in one long take, which Chibnall confirmed happened ‘in front of about 200 people in the studio! We had the opposite of a closed set that day, everyone came down to worship.’
Despite the large audience, Whittaker had revealed how emotional she was during filming: ‘When I could see the crew was happy with that last shot, that’s when my bottom lip started going,’ she recalls. ‘I was like, ‘Well, they can’t say they need another take now because I’ve f***ing lost it!’’
Fans will now have a whole year to wait to find out why the thirteenth Doctor regenerated into the familiar face of the tenth Doctor, and Russell T Davies has now confirmed David Tennant will also be the show’s official ‘fourteenth Doctor’ before Ncuti Gatwa takes over as Doctor number fifteen. Of course, that won’t stop us speculating about the regeneration twist all the way until the show’s 60th anniversary episodes air in November 2023, with filming reports already giving us plenty of fan theories to keep us going until then.
The Power of The Doctor is available to watch on BBC iPlayer