The latest Doctor Who compilation video is of when different Doctors meet. If you’re a fan who likes watching these, you might think “It’s about time.” This video features clips from all the crossovers from both the classic and modern eras of the show.
These crossovers are mainly an excuse for fan service, and fans of the show certainly love them. There’s no real reason to have them other than to get the fans coming. The plot is largely irrelevant as the point is to have more than one Doctor bantering and bickering with the others.
Who really even remembers or cares about the plots for “The Three Doctors” or “The Five Doctors” anyway? “The Two Doctors”, featuring the two most neglected incarnations – the 2nd (Patrick Troughton) and the 6th (Colin Baker) – at least had an utterly bizarre plot involving Sontarans and an alien who wants to cross humans and Time Lords off his bucket list of species to eat. The story was also an excuse for the show to be shot in Spain for the first time. “Prisoner of the Judoon” is, by default, outgoing showrunner Chris Chibnall‘s best episode when he swerves the plot twice, bringing back fan favorite villains the Judoon, then bringing back Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) before dropping an unexpected and previously unknown (because he just made her up) Doctor (Joe Martin). This was the last time Chibnall’s default technique of making up plot twists as they go along actually worked, mostly because of Jo Martin’s fully-formed performance of an unknown incarnation who felt and acted like she’d been around all along.
It’s a shame they didn’t include “Time Crash” the first crossover in the modern era and the first meeting between a modern Doctor and a Classic Doctor, the Fifth (Peter Davison) and the Tenth (David Tennant). It was made as a Children in Need special short at the time, so maybe there were rights issues keeping it from being in the “official” compilation. Though Davies was showrunner at the time, Steven Moffat was commissioned to write it. This means Moffat wrote all the crossovers of the modern era before Chibnall became showrunner. “Time Crash” is meta and weird in ways beyond the story: Peter Davison is the father of Georgia Moffat, who played the Tenth Doctor’s daughter in one episode, and Tennant would go on to marry her a few years later, making himself Davison’s son-in-law. You can think about that without any other commentary from us.
Moffat’s multiple Doctor crossover stories were more postmodern and meta as he acknowledged not just the fan appeal but also the themes of the Doctor as a mythical figure and a fairytale. Of all the writers on Doctor Who, Moffat is the one who deconstructed the Doctor as a fictional character, a fantasy for children more than any other writer. In “Twice Upon a Time”, Bill (Pearl Mackie) recognizes The Doctor as the reassuring fantasy of a guardian angel who shows up to make things right when real life doesn’t always work that way. To Moffat, the Doctor is a totemic symbol for children to reassure them that things will get better. This was most apparent in his final official Doctor Who story, “The Terror of the Umpty Ums”, written during the 2020 Lockdown, where an alien killer robot in the guise of a little boy encounters The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), who makes him question his identity and his mission to burn down a children’s care home. Moffat captures Whittaker’s cheeky, gentle voice feels as she coaxes the boy away from committing an act of destruction. This may not be a multiple Doctor story, but it’s the epilogue to them, and Moffat’s run as showrunner. It’s a poignant reminder that The Doctor is a fairy tale, and why Doctor Who matters.