Doctor Who’s Gold Tooth Mystery: Whose Hand Was That and What Does It All Mean for Series 14?

The last of the 60th Anniversary Doctor Who specials left us with a huge question: whose hand is that?

The Gold Tooth in Doctor Who
Photo: BBC/Disney+

This Doctor Who article contains spoilers.

“When I was young, I was so sure of myself,” the Doctor tells Donna Noble early in the third and final Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Special. “I made a terrible mistake.” That bit of exposition catches up viewers who never got the chance to watch the lost First Doctor serial “The Celestial Toymaker,” in which Michael Gough played the Toymaker, the bad guy of “The Giggle,” now played by Neil Patrick Harris. However, it also captures the theme of the episode, in which the Toymaker’s control over reality and the weight of constant running finally catches up to the Doctor and forces him to admit how little he knows.

From the COVID-era satire of the world destroying itself in pursuit of individual truth to the weariness with which the Doctor tells Noble that he was “so certain” about his past actions, “The Giggle” stands as a warning against over-relying on one’s own judgment.

And yet, that same episode left viewers with a delicious, irresistible question: whose manicured hand was that?

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After the Fourteenth Doctor (David Tennant) and the Fifteenth Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) defeat the Toymaker at his own game, thanks to the heretofore mythical Bigeneration, a manicured hand enters the frame and snatches the last remnant of the Toymaker, his golden tooth, while the good guys are distracted.

Why is the tooth so important? Who is the One Who Waits? Whose hand was that? We’re not so certain about the answers to those questions, but we do have a few educated guesses.

Why Is the Gold Tooth Important?

Among the many boasts the Toymaker offers is the story of the Master, the Doctor’s arch-enemy from Gallifrey. The Toymaker recalls a dying Master coming to him and begging him to play one last game in a desperate attempt to survive. “When he lost, I sealed him for all eternity inside my gold tooth,” the Toymaker sneers before an extreme close-up on the tooth accentuates the moment.

It should come as no surprise that the Master would be involved in the recent specials, given his role in causing the regeneration cycle that led to the Fourteenth Doctor. As seen in “The Power of the Doctor,” the Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) regenerates after a battle with the Master (Sacha Dhawan). The Master appeared to have died as well in the episode, but that’s happened before — the Master is, after all, another Time Lord and can also regenerate.

However, the gold tooth trap presents a new twist on the Master, another indication of the Toymaker’s power. That said, the fact that someone took the time to steal the tooth after the Toymaker’s death indicates that someone is likely interested in freeing the Master, a weapon against the Doctor that some larger force wishes to use when they are ready…

Who Is the One Who Waits?

And who is that larger force? The Toymaker gives us a small hint while staring down the Doctor before a game, listing his many defeated opponents.

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“There’s only player I dared not face,” he says with menace. “The one who waits.” But when the Doctor presses him for more information, the Toymaker only responds, “That’s someone else’s game.” The line seems to echo Beep the Meep’s own sinister warning about the impending arrival of his “boss,” who the Doctor will presumably meet in series 14. Gatwa’s Fifteenth Doctor will have to deal with the one who waits, the figure so scary that even the Toymaker had to run and hide from it.

Now, this One Who Waits could certainly be a new character designed by returning showrunner Russell T Davies. A number of interesting characters debuted during Davies’s first tenure on the series, including the Ood and the Beast from “The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit,” the invisible creatures from “Midnight,” the Weeping Angels from “Blink,” and… uh, the Slitheen.

However, as demonstrated by his decision to bring back the bad guy from a mostly lost First Doctor (William Hartnell) adventure for “The Giggle,” Davies also loves to revive a forgotten bad guy. One interesting possibility would be the War Chief, a Gallifreyan totalitarian introduced in the second Doctor’s last adventure, “The War Games.” The shrewd leader of the War Lords, the War Chief has appeared in non-canonical books, but has not been back on TV since the late ’60s. And since his introduction, the War Chief has been connected to the Master. In fact, it’s long been debated whether the War Chief is actually a regeneration of the Doctor’s greatest rival, so it would make a bit of sense that he’d be interested in freeing the Master as part of a new plan to take down the Doctor.

The return of Melanie Bush (Bonnie Langford) could also point to a villain from the Sixth Doctor’s (Colin Baker) time, namely the 1986 serial “The Mysterious Planet.” From his first appearance, the Sixth Doctor struggled with darker, more cowardly instincts. In “The Mysterious Planet,” viewers learn that those instincts manifest in the form of the Valeyard, a devious figure who represents the Doctor’s dark side. According to the Master, the Valeyard springs from “somewhere between [the Doctor’s] twelfth and final incarnation.” Thus, as the Doctor hurled toward his later incarnations in NuWho, the Valeyard’s return was a popular fan theory, with some hoping that Matt Smith, John Hurt, or Timothy Dalton would be playing the character.

Of course, all that has changed now that the Doctor was given a new set of regenerations in “The Time of the Doctor” and even more so with the revelation in “The Timeless Children” that the Doctor does not come from Gallifrey and thus has no limit on her regenerations. Given the emphasis on multiple Doctors since Davies’s return, and several references to Chris Chibnall’s run in the recent specials, it feels like the perfect time to bring back the Valeyard in a new, even more terrifying form. Of course, we Whovians have been saying stuff like that since Christopher Eccleston regenerated at the end of the reboot season.

So, Whose Hand Picked Up the Gold Tooth?

In place of wild speculation, let’s take a look at what we do know. After the two Doctors forced the Toymaker into a box, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) quickly set to giving UNIT orders on disposing of the box. At the same time, the pants-less Fifteenth Doctor and the shoeless Fourteenth Doctor left with Donna to sort out the mysteries of Bigeneration. In short, we saw everyone doing something when the hand reached out to grab the tooth.

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Still, that doesn’t rule out any of the people we know were at Avengers TowerUNIT headquarters. At the risk of missing the point at the end of “The Star Beast,” the hand certainly presents female and thus draws attention to the women at the Doctor’s side.

“The Giggle” did show Lethbridge-Stewart succumbing to the Toymaker’s madness, and while she seemed to snap out of it quickly, an element may remain and drive her to take the tooth. Some fans on Twitter have even taken to pointing out her red nail polish, the same kind as the mystery hand, although that seems a bit too obvious, doesn’t it?

Mel did show up in “The Power of the Doctor,” but we still don’t know much about her whereabouts since leaving the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) with Sabalom Glitz (Tony Selby). Mel tells the Doctor that Glitz died after tripping on a whiskey bottle, but given the many lies and tricks we saw him tell when he was alive, there’s no reason to trust that apparent demise. Did Mel pick up a few tricks of her own? What if a Zingo is something far worse than just a thing to get a lift off of?

And how about Shirley Bingham (Ruth Madeley)? In her few appearances, she’s shown to be much more than she appears. Does she have some interest in the Master?

While any of these might be fun, the more likely culprit is one of the actors cast for series 14. One of the big names added to the cast is Jinkx Monsoon, a star of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Although we don’t yet know who Monsoon will play, we have seen the costume she’ll be wearing, and the black painted nails don’t quite line up with the red nail polish shown in “The Giggle.”

Meanwhile, Obi Wan Kenobi and Game of Thrones alum Indira Varma has been cast as a character called “The Duchess.” We know even less about the Duchess than we do Monsoon’s character, as we haven’t even seen a costume yet. However, with a name as a title, she could very well be another renegade Time Lord like the Master or the War Chief, which would explain her interest in the tooth.

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Of course, the most obvious culprit would be Missy, the female incarnation of the Master played by Michelle Gomez, who famously wore red nail polish during her run as the villain. Although she has since regenerated into Sacha Dhawan, the Master has teamed up with past incarnations before, as when Missy joined forces with John Simm’s version.

And then there’s the least likely, but most exciting theory: the hand belongs to the Rani. For readers who have not spent too much time on Doctor Who message boards, the Rani is another renegade Time Lord, introduced in 1985’s “The Mark of the Rani “and played by Kate O’Mara. The Rani went up against the Sixth and Seventh Doctors, and against multiple Doctors in the 1993 Children in Need special “Dimensions in Time,” the villain’s last onscreen appearance. We’ve honestly lost count of all the times fans theorized the Rani was surely about to return in the NuWho era. It’s basically a joke at this point within the fandom: each time Doctor Who teases a new female villain, you have to immediately shout “It’s the Rani!” Up to you whether you want to actually believe that or not.

So, has the Rani’s time finally come? Is the Valeyard back to frighten fans? Or is it just a regular ol’ hand and we’re all reading too much into it?

Honestly, we’re not sure. And that’s a good thing.

Doctor Who returns to BBC One, BBC iPlayer, and Disney+ on Dec. 25 with “The Church on Ruby Road.”