Planet of the Blog a Doctor Who group blog

A Doctor Who style guide for the future

Doctor Who is in flux, and so is the way we talk about Doctor Who. In what are already troubling times, how are we meant to tell the difference between “season 1,” “series 1,” “season 1,” “the first season,” and “the First Doctor”? Who even was the first one of that particular Time Lord? We no longer know.

For the record here: A style guide is nothing more than a list of stylistic preferences, typically institutional and typically self-enforced. I do not enforce it here, and I do not expect anyone to care, though you may find it helpful to kickstart a change in the way you talk. This is simply how I do things — your own preferences are likely to be different.

Who am I to write this? Well, I’ve only been talking this way for a decade, so you tell me, but I reckon this should be pretty futureproof by now.

Seasons and series and seasons

For some time, a certain section of fandom has been kind of attached to the distinction of, “seasons” are what Doctor Who (1963) had, “series” is what Doctor Who (2005) had. You may notice this distinction in most official sources — home media, Doctor Who Magazine, official websites — and more thorough fan reference works like the TARDIS Wiki typically follow suit. But it’s never been particularly rigidly enforced, and “season” vs “series” feels somewhat regional and/or down to personal preference, too — in conversation online, people will use these words interchangeably.

On top of that, we’re now approaching a new, separate and distinct era of Doctor Who; the Moffat and Chibnall eras both referred to their first series as “series 1,” too, which never really stuck outside of internal production contexts, but it really sounds like the RTD2 era is gonna make it stick — the various official sites now refer to the televised show as existing in the three distinct Doctor Who (1963-1996), Doctor Who (2005-2023), and Doctor Who (2023–) incarnations.1We here at Planet of the Blog consider the 1996 TV move a distinct entry worth its own separation, but this is mostly because, let’s be honest, I– I just think about the 1996 TV movie a lot.

In addition, consider that TorchwoodThe Sarah Jane AdventuresClass, and various Big Finish ranges also have “first seasons.” But this is unlikely to cause confusion unless somebody is speaking just staggeringly sans any context at all.

  • BAD: I would at this present moment in time recommend avoiding referring to numbered seasons when you can.
  • FINE: Context is king2No gods, no masters. key. If you refer to “the fifth series” and the Matt Smith incarnation in the same breath, ain’t nobody gonna think you’re talking about The Web of Fear.
  • GOOD: “The 2005 season.” “The 1963-64 series.” “The 2023 specials and the 2024 season.” This is as clear as it gets.
    It may take some time for a writer or reader used to other ways of referring to them to connect the 20th broadcast run of the 1963 show to “the 1983 season,” but, well, internet search engines are free, and you should be providing context to your readers, anyway.

Doctor… which one?

I saw the writing on the wall when the show first introduced John Hurt as a previously unknown incarnation between the ones we then thought were the “Eighth” and “Ninth,” and with the “Tenth” one turning out to be two, the “Eleventh” thus actually being the thirteenth, and the numbered “Thirteenth” meeting a previously unknown incarnation from before the “First,” the water’s only gotten muddier.

Part of the problem is we largely don’t have diegetic, Watsonian ways of referring to the various versions of the show’s lead character. Sure, you can call, say, the one played by Patrick Troughton “the Cosmic Hobo,” or the one played by Christopher Eccleston “him with the ears,” but one, we don’t have good, clear and recgonisable3Which one is the “clown” again? in-universe phrasings for anywhere near all of them in that way, and two, that’s likely to be more opaque to readers — even inside fandom, never mind the Not-We4“Not-We” is what RTD called “viewers who aren’t fans” sometimes during his first tenure, mostly as a way to say, there’s knowledge We have, things We understand, that the “Not-We” do not. People sometimes feel it’s a weird thing to say, and for what it’s worth, I haven’t heard RTD actually say it in yonks. — than you’re likely to want the way you talk to be. The solution is simple.

  • BAD: “Nine.” “15.” “Tenny.” Just atrocious. Criminal. “The Eleventh Doctor” already isn’t anyone’s name, you don’t need to reduce it like a sauce on a boil. Have some self-respect. Think better of yourself than to speak like this.5I’m exaggerating slightly for effect — again, I can not tell you what to do. But I do actively dislike reading or hearing this.
  • FINE: That said, “the Fifteenth Doctor,” “the Thirteenth Doctor,” “the First Doctor,” “the War Doctor,” “the Fugitive Doctor” etcetera are all totally in common usage, obviously. It’s what the Wikipedia articles are called. People will know what you mean.
  • GOOD: “The Ncuti Gatwa incarnation.” “The Jodie Whittaker incarnation.” “The Hartnell incarnation.” “The Hurt incarnation,” “the Tom Baker incarnation,” “the Colin Baker incarnation,” “the Christopher Baker incarnation,” “the Jo Martin incarnation.” “The Rowan Atkinson incarnation.” Simple. Straightforward. None of what you’ve said or written will ever be invalidated

The Tennant Problem

Of course, this does come with a… problem, because David Tennant has now played four distinct incarnations:

  • The one Christopher Eccleston turned into at the end of the 2005 season.
  • The one David Tennant turned into at the end of the 2008 season.
  • The one who split off from the second David Tennant one in that same regeneration.
  • The one Jodie Whittaker turned into at the end of the 2022 specials.

At this time, I typically refer to these as follows:

  • “Tennant I,” or “the first Tennant incarnation.”
  • “Tennant II,” or “the second Tennant incarnation.”
  • “The Meta-Crisis incarnation.6The Turning of the Tide suggests he eventually settles on the name “Corin” but I would recommend against using that unless you’re certain your audience will know what that means.
  • “Tennant IV,” or “the Final Tennant incarnation.”

I think that’s all clear enough. But where does the Valeyard fit in, again?7Between the twelfth and final incarnations, which now could be just about anywhere, anywhen. Technically Jon Pertwee played an incarnation between the twelfth and final ones, too.


  • Canon: There’s no such thing. Never use words like “canonicity” or “canonical” if you can help it — these are but sticks with which people hit each other, and we are better than them. For more on this, see Paul Cornell’s 2007 essay “Canonicity in Doctor Who“. In addition, the idea of “validity” is language specific to the TARDIS Wikia and should not be used outside of this context.
  • The Master: Frankly, a fucking mess. Do whatever you can to provide context, then pray. The Dhawan incarnation comes after Missy, though, no matter how much wishing real hard you do.
  • Pronouns: When referring to a specific incarnation, use the pronouns you’d use for the actor playing them. When referring to the character as a whole, use either their most recently accurate pronouns or they/them.
  • Romana: People will know what you mean when you say “Romana I” and “Romana II,” but later Romanas are all over the place, and without a definitive third Romana, it may be best to simply refer to “the Mary Tamm Romana,” “the Lalla Ward Romana,” “the Juliet Landau Romana,” “the EDA Romana.”
  • The Timeless Child: Speaking of wishing real hard: The series of children’s faces we see as the various incarnations of the Timeless Child are clearly established to be the show’s lead character’s earliest faces, which are then clearly followed by the Jo Martin incarnation and the faces we see in the psychic battle in The Brain of Morbius. There really isn’t as much ambiguity to their placement as some people wish there was — they’re all before the Hartnell incarnation. To suggest otherwise makes you sound, at best, stubborn, at worst, foolish.
  • 1
    We here at Planet of the Blog consider the 1996 TV move a distinct entry worth its own separation, but this is mostly because, let’s be honest, I– I just think about the 1996 TV movie a lot.
  • 2
    No gods, no masters.
  • 3
    Which one is the “clown” again?
  • 4
    “Not-We” is what RTD called “viewers who aren’t fans” sometimes during his first tenure, mostly as a way to say, there’s knowledge We have, things We understand, that the “Not-We” do not. People sometimes feel it’s a weird thing to say, and for what it’s worth, I haven’t heard RTD actually say it in yonks.
  • 5
    I’m exaggerating slightly for effect — again, I can not tell you what to do. But I do actively dislike reading or hearing this.
  • 6
    The Turning of the Tide suggests he eventually settles on the name “Corin” but I would recommend against using that unless you’re certain your audience will know what that means.
  • 7
    Between the twelfth and final incarnations, which now could be just about anywhere, anywhen. Technically Jon Pertwee played an incarnation between the twelfth and final ones, too.

Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Futurama Theory

Content Warning: Spoilers for both the 60th Anniversary Doctor Who Specials and the Futurama movies

When the titles of the 60th Anniversary Specials were first announced it immediately struck me that two of them were almost exactly the same as the titles of two of the Futurama movies. Little did I know at the time that I had just uncovered the greatest plagiarism scandal in the history of… well, I’m getting ahead of myself and I should probably present the evidence first.

Now, just to be clear this is not actually a legal threat, this is just a little observation I made when watching the specials. Unless of course Fox Comedy Central Hulu would like to pay me for my analysis or @Daily for their almost-lawyer skills.

The legal claim theory is that the Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Specials are a retelling of the Futurama movies, or, alternatively, the Futurama movies are a wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey parody of the Doctor Who Anniversary Specials.1It’s a little known fact that time travel was actually invented around 1998, but Disney suppressed it, because they feared the ability to go back in time would weakened their copyrights. There’s a great documentary about it in a now defunct timeline.
This theory is definitely not solely based on the resemblance between the titles. It is the product of a deep critical analysis of both pieces of media as well as an extensive study of behind-the-scenes material and interviews that I personally conducted; it is not primarily the product of vague memories of a series of movies I last watched a decade ago.
I think the best way to illustrate the similarities is to give you a quick plot rundown of the Futurama movies and show you how with just swapping out some names and a few minor details things start to sound a little too familiar.

“The Star Beast” is “The Beast With a Billion Backs”

Some time after Fry the Doctor and his former roommate companion Bender Donna have parted ways a rip in the universe spaceship crash lands above New New York in regular old London.

DOOP UNIT goes to investigate the rip ship while Fry the Doctor sneaks his way onboard into the temporary base. DOOP UNIT decides to do what they do best shoot a missile guns at the problem. Purple tentacles tendrils made of light appear out of the rip ship and hypnotize anyone they touch.

The titular Beast Yivo Beep, who is neither male nor female and uses the pronouns shklee/shklum just The Meep, tricks everyone into thinking shklee the Meep is benevolent by taking them on a date due to the Meep’s cuteness. However Leela the Doctor reveals Yivo the Meep’s true motive is to fuck everyone fuck everyone up.

At the end Bender Donna goes to retrieve his friend retrieves her memories and they banish the Beast to their own universe prison through some, let’s be honest, handwavy science fiction. Anyway it’s got something to do with love and being yourself.

“Wild Blue Yonder” is “Into the Wild Green Yonder”

The Dark Ones Not-Things who’s shape is unknown have no shape of their own and their only goal is to win the evolutionary arms race win the violent games of the universe and destroy all life destroy all life.

The Dark Ones Not-Things can read people’s minds and take over their mind take on their shape. Fry The Doctor has to figure who is real and who is being mind controlled being imitated by the Dark Ones Not-Things.

Fry The Doctor incorrectly identifies himself Real Donna as the Dark One the Not-Thing and leaves himself Real Donna to be destroyed by the Omega Device the explosion, but the real Dark One Not-Thing is revealed at the last moment and destroyed.

“The Giggle” is “Bender’s Big Score”

Due to time shenanigans a double of Fry The Doctor gets to live out a domestic life with his dog Seymour Donna giving him the closure he never got and reversing the previously sad ending of Seymour sadly waiting for Fry’s return Donna losing her memory of the Doctor.

All of which allows Fry the Doctor to heal and mature and eventually become the wiser Lars 15th Doctor he met before.

“The Church on Ruby Road” is “Bender’s Game”

It’s a Fantasy one. There’s goblins in both. I think. It’ll definitely fit, ok. We’ll know by Christmas when I blow this case wide open.


A few more similarities that aren’t directly related to the plot, by the way I’m fine, I’m not some crazy conspiracy theorist, I’ve just uncovered the craziest conspiracy.

  • Bender’s Game was followed by “Rebirth”, a fresh start for the show after a long hiatus. It aired on a new network, but with the original writers, directors and actors returning
  • The next season of Doctor Who is considered a new start and internally referred to as season 1. It is being produced by new production company headed by a returning writer.
  • The only episode title we know of of the next season so far is episode 2 “The Devil’s Chord,” one of the most famous episodes of Futurama is “The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings” in which Fry gains the Robot Devil’s hands allowing him to play music as well as him.

Addendum II

We’re back, baby!
  • 1
    It’s a little known fact that time travel was actually invented around 1998, but Disney suppressed it, because they feared the ability to go back in time would weakened their copyrights. There’s a great documentary about it in a now defunct timeline.

Arc Watch: Doctor Who: “The Giggle”

This post also appeared on my personal blog.

We take some money to the bank, but several bills are still left unpaid.


  • Why The Long Face: We’ve said goodbye to the Final Tennant incarnation, and Donna’s suggestion that the face coming back and immediately finding her was because of Dr Who’s deep-rooted need “to come home” feels right and true to me, even if some details never quite get ironed out. Resolved.
  • Still Figuring It Out: The Final Tennant incarnation’s personality is clearly also a thread we can set aside, because, well, one, it’s really the same question as “why did the face come back,” and two, clearly we’re never gonna deal with it again, because that story is over. Resolved.
    My guess that the Gatwa incarnation’s personality was shining through has clearly been disproven — there was no trickery, the Final Tennant was simply a totally legitimate incarnation — but clearly the Gatwa incarnation’s personality is gonna be building on Final Tennant’s increased emotional openness. Love it.
  • Couldn’t Keep It In: Donna’s exposure to Dr Who’s mind and memories comes to a head with her using it simply to accurately back up the feeling that the time has come for Dr Who to take a break, and he does so. Resolved.

The World Around Us

  • UNified Intelligence and Skyscraper-Building Taskforce: If Dr Who accepts the Vlinx, the Zeedex, Mel’s lift off the Zingo, so must we, but it’s quite a lot, isn’t it. I, too, remember when this organisation was secret. Companions are offered high-paying jobs at least in part on the basis of who they are to Dr Who, though Donna does have to show off her Mad Skillz first.
  • In Flux and It’s About Timeless get another round of shoutouts. The Toymaker references the Flux as part of a meticulous stage performance on the subject of the death and destruction Dr Who leaves in their wake. Later, he says “I made a jigsaw out of your history. Did you like it?” suggesting he’s either responsible for or at least taking credit for Dr Who’s messy history and the recent revelations about the Timeless Child.
    The Flux is still a likely candidate for being “the new Time War.” Even if, after the Final Tennant incarnation, Dr Who no longer carries the trauma of it with them the way they did that of the Time War, it’s a good, cheap motivation for antagonists, and an interesting new flavour for the universe — the actual narrative effect of the Time War was fairly limited to large military forces like the Sontarans, and to groups with access to time travel, we never really felt it the way you’d imagine “half the universe has been destroyed” might be felt. Curious to see how the Flux is handled in the 2024 series.

Backseat Stories

  • The Boss Is Not Rhetorical: Clearly the One Who Waits and the Toymaker’s legions are the same story as the Boss, clearly this is setup for a larger wave of antagonists in the 2024 series and beyond. All of this is only maybe two or three steps above Bad Wolf-ing, but still, it’s an arc, something to look for.
  • Guardians of the Playground and Black Cats and Ladders at the Edge: The universe is defined as not just being subject to the rules of order and chaos but the rules of play, too. I wonder what all those gods we’re thinking about now make of the reduced size of the universe.
    We get direct shoutouts to the Gods of Ragnarok (The Greatest Show in the Galaxy,) to the Guardians of Time and Space (presumably the White and Black Guardians from the 1978-79 and 1983 seasons,) and the line “I gambled with God and made him a jack-in-the-box,” and then the revelation that the Master is trapped in the Toymaker’s gold tooth. Does the Toymaker consider the Master up there with those other entities?
    Being a science-fiction show, of course none of these entities are gods — but a god is simply the only thing we can call somebody — something — with an amount of power traditionally only described by mythology.
    Invoking a superstition slash game at the edge of the universe is allegedly what let the Toymaker in, but it sets a stage eager for gods and goblins, magic and myth.

The Other Threads

  • The Pretenders: In addition to the previous two week’s big beats on this theme: The Toymaker appropriates German and French culture etc. like he did Chinese culture in The Celestial Toymaker. We all have internalised biases and bigotries, but who we are is what we let come out, the Giggle robbing us of that identity. Evil embedded in puppets embedded in all television, the thing we love being a cover for hatred. In the end, Dr Who gets to stop pretending to be okay. The line is never drawn this explicitly between them, but the Toymaker and Rose Noble, toymaker.
  • The Mavity of the Situation: No “mavity,” but there’s still a thread here of meddling in time and getting away with it — if all of the history of television had the Giggle in it, what might removing it retroactively do?

On the docket

  • No updates on the state of Gallifrey (The State of the Home Planet) or Rose’s toy-buyer (Gonkage).

Arc Watch: Doctor Who: “Wild Blue Yonder”

I love a bottle episode, I love a little creepy horror one. Is that good for Arc Watch? No. Low on arc stuff this week, I have no reason to believe the Not-things are anything but one-offs, but there’s still loads of stuff here. I clearly just needed time to get back into the swing of things.

The Bigger Picture

  • In Flux and It’s About Timeless: We pick up some of the detritus of the Chibnall era with an acknowledgement that, one, a significant part of the universe was destroyed in the Flux, and two, that Dr Who now no longer knows where they come from, doing more with the quite heavy emotional effect these things might have on Dr Who than the Chibnall era ever did.
    These acknowledgements come in the same scene and seem at first glance to serve more as a reminder of the current status quo than to make any kind of progress on them as ongoing issues, and there’s a real chance these are just the new “Time War” and “last of the Time Lords,”but I’ve put them on the docket anyway — if I were RTD I’d want to do something with them.
  • Why The Long Face: They don’t say it out loud, but speaking of the trauma of the Flux, perhaps there’s a reason for the face coming back in Dr Who trying to… you know, deal with the trauma of the Flux. The last time they had this face their personality and attitude were very much coming from trying to stop being the last one — to stop being the Survivor and to try living again. The sheer fucking scale of the Flux mirrors absolutely nothing if it doesn’t mirror the Time War. Maybe nobody is doing this. Perhaps the face is but a comfort face.

Character Arcs and Character Roundabouts

  • Still Figuring It Out: “Is that who I am now?” Dr Who again expresses much more open love and fondness for Donna than they would’ve ever been capable of the last time they had this face. They also notably express aesthetic attraction to a person of the same gender they currently are themselves, which I’m pretty sure is a first in a few ways. Is this the Gatwa incarnation’s personality shining through a face that doesn’t have it?
  • Couldn’t Keep It In: Donna clearly did get exposed to Dr Who’s history since she last saw them, though she denies at the end having meaningful access to the information contained therein. I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle — she’d probably recognise, say, Bill, or the planet Akhaten, and emotionally she probably has some grasp on things like the Flux, because, well, it’s Donna, she’s savvy, but I’m willing to take her word for it that it feels like staring into an inferno. Probably does something to you to have or have had a window to that inferno in your head, though.
  • The Pretenders: The Meep pretends to be cute and harmless, and forces UNIT soldiers to serve a cause they don’t believe in. Donna is forced to live as a version of herself she shouldn’t be, and is infinitely better off for getting to stop, just like her daughter. The Not-things copy people but always let their true selves shine through. Dr Who… pretends to be okay, but you can tell they’re not. Even Destination: Skaro had that Kaled pretending to be good at his job. What might RTD, a queer man himself, be trying to say about what pretending to be something you’re not does to you? I reckon perhaps he doesn’t think it’s good for you.

The Little Things

  • The Mavity of the Situation: Dr Who creates the branding and final look of the Daleks in Destination: Skaro. Here, Donna invents the word “gravity,” which Isaac Newton mishears as “mavity.” Right now these are gags, but butterflies can stack.
  • Black Cats and Ladders at the Edge of the Universe: Speaking of stacking butterflies, an interesting idea in the way using a superstition like the salt-counting thing unsettles Dr Who here. Easy to connect back to the Wrarth Warriors knowing the Meep as almost mythological butchers, to Dr Who creating much of the branding around the Daleks, to “mavity.” Clearly that’s a thread that’s gonna take us to the Toymaker, but that’s the kind of thing you could spin whole seasons out of.
  • The State of the Home Planet: Gallifrey neither exists nor has it been destroyed — it’s just “complicated.” Like it’s in some sort of state of… hybrid flux.
  • Still on the docket: No updates on The Boss Is Not Rhetorical — the question is simply not brought up or even relevant, though the Not-things could of course turn out to have employers later, or something, I don’t know, probably not. No followup to UNified Intelligence and Skyscraper-Building Taskforce or Gonkage, either, because, well, UNIT and Rose don’t appear. Bottle episode, baby. But we’re keeping them on the docket.

Arc Watch: Doctor Who: “The Star Beast”

Oh, right, this is a thing we used to do.

The Big Ones

  • Why The Long Face: “Why did this face come back?” Such a specific way to phrase it that surely the answer must be very, very specific, too. In this episode, all we really get as answers go is, “destiny,” “to save Donna.” Everyone assumes it’s a ploy by the Toymaker, but that was never really his style — putting faces on people was more a Land of Fiction thing. (Obviously the face came back because everyone had fun livetweeting during the pandemic, but how would that translate to the screen?)
    I don’t think it’s the Toymaker, I don’t think it’s the Land of Fiction or any master thereof. You want the payoff to this to play emotionally — it shouldn’t just be “well the celebrity guest star did it.”
  • The Boss Is Not Rhetorical: “Wait until I tell the Boss!” The subtitles capitalise it and everything. But who’s the Meep’s the Boss? The obvious place we all immediately went to is, again, the Toymaker, but does the Toymaker have… flunkies now? He has toys he plays with, so if the Meep is in the pocket of Big Toy, “Boss” doesn’t seem like the relationship here.
    Plus, on the In-Vision Commentary, Tennant asks Collinson whether they know what that means yet, implying they didn’t while Tennant was actively involved in production. Perhaps the answer is in scenes that were shot much later.
    Really, all we have is the word “Boss” and set reports and casting announcements, so, a wild mass guess to the answer: Whoever Jinkx Monsoon is playing?1The rumour is the Terrible Zodin, but I dunno, is that where this is going? It doesn’t feel like that’s where this is going. Much of early days Arc Watch is gut-based.

The Small Ones

Who We Are
  • Still Figuring It Out: “Do I say things like that now?” Dr Who is still exploring their new personality. Clearly a big thing is that the vanity and egocentrism of the last time they had this face has cleared like bad acne, and their anguished cry of “Why did it have to be this?” when forced into a scenario not unlike the one that killed the last version of this face suggests that that well of emotion this face never would’ve been capable of before may be quite deep.
  • Couldn’t Keep It In: Much has been made of the ease with which Donna and Rose simply let go of the metacrisis energy. Is it that easy? Is that story over? Or is this just the start of its final chapter?
The World Around Us
  • UNified Intelligence and Skyscraper-Building Taskforce: Seriously, how is UNIT just fully back in business already again? I’m gonna assume this is just, let’s get this piece back on the board like usual and not worry about it too much, but there’s been quite a lot of shifting that kind of thing around a little too fast recently, and I wouldn’t mind if this one went somewhere.
  • Gonkage: Is Rose’s one customer in Abu Dhabi just one of those RTD background details, or something we should be keeping an eye on? Who would have reason to send money to Donna’s family? Or maybe, who would recognise what her toys were?
  • 1
    The rumour is the Terrible Zodin, but I dunno, is that where this is going? It doesn’t feel like that’s where this is going. Much of early days Arc Watch is gut-based.
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