The Power Of The Doctor Copied 5 Previous Doctor Who Finales
« The Power of the Doctor, » the Doctor Who centenary special, owes at least some of its success to copying elements from five previous Doctor Who finales. Jodie Whittaker’s final episode as the Thirteenth Doctor was built up for months as a monumental moment on British TV, celebrating 100 years of the BBC while also book-ending four years of adventures for Whittaker and showrunner Chris Chibnall, who have delivered three seasons of the long-running series together. The special episode saw Sacha Dhawan return as the charismatic Master, along with his upgraded Cyber Masters, Daleks, and an array of returning characters from throughout Doctor Who’s rich history.
While much of the Chibnall era has been met with mixed reviews, « The Power of the Doctor » has been widely received as one of his strongest episodes. However, despite its grandeur, many have noticed that key plot points seem to have been copied directly from other season finales that have aired since the Doctor Who revival in 2005. Whether this was an intentional move by Chibnall or just a repetition of old stories remains to be seen. Taking elements of previous finales certainly fit the tone of celebrating the history of the show and the BBC, and while it might not be the most original formula, splicing together several intense episodes created a jam-packed send-off for the Thirteenth Doctor.
Ending the run of Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor after only one season, « The Parting of the Ways » saw the Doctor, Rose Tyler, and Captain Jack Harkness go toe-to-toe with an army of Daleks and their Emperor who had been harvesting humans to rebuild their forces. After being sent home by the Doctor and comforted by a hologram, Rose absorbs the energy from within the TARDIS and triumphantly returns to obliterate the Dalek threat and gift Captain Jack Harkness eternal life. To save her, the Doctor shares a kiss with his companion, taking the powerful force from inside her and returning it to the TARDIS. However, the process caused enough internal damage to kickstart his regeneration into David Tennant.
Similarly, « The Power of the Doctor » features the return of the Doctor’s hologram interface, first appearing to Yaz as the Thirteenth Doctor, and then to both Ace and Tegan as the Seventh and Fifth Doctors, respectively. The hologram interface activates automatically when the Doctor is in danger, just as it did during Eccleston’s final episode, in order to guide the companion when the Doctor can’t help. Another mirrored theme in both episodes is that of the unresolved romantic connection between the Doctor and their companion. « The Parting of the Ways » is the first time the Ninth Doctor and Rose share a kiss, though the companion would later fall even more deeply for him in his tenth incarnation, and « The Power of the Doctor » sees the Thirteenth Doctor and Yaz effectively end their relationship sat atop the TARDIS.
While not a regeneration episode for the Doctor, season 2’s « Doomsday » bids farewell to Rose Tyler, who finds herself trapped on a parallel Earth at the end of the episode after a battle between the Doctor, the Daleks, and the Cybermen in the Torchwood facility. This heart-breaking episode features several similarities to « The Power of the Doctor, » most notably the inclusion of both the terrifying Daleks and the Cybermen in one fight, two of the Doctor’s most formidable enemies who rarely cross paths. Where the battle during « Doomsday » takes place in the secret Torchwood facility, « The Power of the Doctor » sees the fight taking place in the secret UNIT building.
Viewers will remember a shocking scene from « Doomsday » which featured millions of Daleks pouring out of the Genesis Ark and into the skies of London. Something similar occurred during « The Power of the Doctor, » where a fleet of Cybermen infiltrate UNIT HQ, stepping out from an enlarged version of the Ashad « toy » that Tegan had been sent, including a cloned version of the lone Cyberman, Ashad, himself. One other smaller detail comes in the parallels between Kate Stewart and Yvonne Hartman, both of whom are strong women who lead their respective secret organizations. Both, incidentally, also sacrifice themselves to the Cybermen in order to save others. While Kate’s conversion is thankfully cut short, Yvonne wasn’t so lucky, transforming into a Cyberman, though not without holding onto fragments of her previous self.
As the final part of the three-episode finale to Doctor Who season 3, « Last of the Time Lords » was packed full of action, heartfelt moments, and true surprises. Freema Agyeman’s final regular episode as Martha Jones showed viewers the world after the Master’s takeover with the help of the Toclafane, the modified human race from the end of the universe. « Last of the Time Lords » not only features the Master as the primary villain, but it also mirrors « The Power of the Doctor » by having the Doctor imprisoned, the Master’s workforce be an army of robotic assassins, and even an entertaining dance number featuring the villain (the Scissor Sisters’ « I Can’t Decide » in « Last of the Time Lords, » and « Rasputin » by Boney M. in « The Power of the Doctor »). Both episodes even feature the apparent death of the Master, after he refuses to regenerate in « Last of the Time Lords, » and is left on the Cyber-converted world as it’s destroyed in « The Power of the Doctor. »
On top of these similarities, both « Last of the Time Lords » and « The Power of the Doctor » display the Master’s tendency to corrupt the TARDIS to work for his benefit. In the season 3 finale, the Doctor’s TARDIS was turned into a « Paradox Machine », enabling the future descendants of the human race to come back in time and kill their ancestors without wiping themselves out of existence. Whittaker’s final episode featured the Master’s TARDIS transformed into a device that would give the Master the power to force the Doctor’s regeneration and even convert the entire human race into Cyber Masters. In both episodes, it’s up to the companion alone to save the day. Martha travels the world between « The Sound of Drums » and « Last of the Time Lords » looking for a way to stop the Master, and Yaz, Ace, Tegan, Vinder, and a returning Graham save the world in « The Power of the Doctor » while the titular hero was trapped as a regenerated version of the Master.
Doctor Who’s season 4 finale, « Journey’s End, » sees the departure of Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble as a regular companion, since her mind had to be wiped of all of her adventures with the Doctor after the human-Time Lord metacrisis during « Stolen Earth. » « The Power of the Doctor » brought back long gone characters such as Sophie Aldred’s Ace and Janet Fielding’s Tegan from Doctor Who’s past, as well as brief appearances from Melanie Bush, Jo Jones, and even Ian Chesterton from the First Doctor’s adventures. But before all this, « Journey’s End » had seen the return of various characters from after the revival of the series, including Martha, Captain Jack, Mickey Smith and Jackie Tyler, and even fan-favorite Rose alongside legendary Third and Fourth Doctor companion, Elisabeth Sladen’s Sarah Jane Smith.
Together, the returning characters in both episodes are taught how to safely pilot the TARDIS by their respective Doctors, and both « TARDIS teams » use the ship to transport an entire planet. « Journey’s End » saw the team tether the TARDIS to a displaced Earth, moving it back to the Solar System after the Daleks’ destruction, whereas « The Power of the Doctor » sees the team move the Cyber-converted world above Earth from 1916 to 2022, where the Doctor could easily defeat both the Cybermen and the Daleks. These scenes resemble each other almost perfectly, meaning it’s difficult to ignore how on-the-nose the inspiration is.
As a continuation of the events of the season 10 finale, « The Doctor Falls, » « Twice Upon a Time » features the regeneration of Peter Capaldi’s incarnation of the Doctor after he is shot by Cybermen on the Mondasian ship. While the Twelfth Doctor tries to delay his regeneration, he finds himself at the South Pole in 1986 where he meets his first incarnation, also delaying the inevitable. After solving a mystery together, the two Doctors find that the other has helped them come to terms with their respective regenerations, allowing both to move on. While this isn’t quite the same during « The Power of the Doctor, » the Thirteenth Doctor is forced to regenerate into the Master, trapping her in her mind where she meets several former incarnations of herself who help her to fight the Master’s hold over them.
Along with these more overt connections between « The Power of the Doctor » and several finales from Doctor Who’s revival seasons, there are also some similarities shared with classic finales. This goes as far back as to when the First Doctor regenerated in 1966’s « The Tenth Planet, » with his clothes changing along with his body, just as Whittaker’s did at the end of the centenary special. As well as this, the Second Doctor was forced to regenerate by the Time Lords in 1969’s « The War Games, » akin to the regeneration forced upon the Doctor by the Master. While « The Power of the Doctor » will surely be seen as one of Chibnall’s greatest achievements in the world of Doctor Who, it’s possible to imagine that its success is only because it’s pieced together on the coat-tails of previous seasons.