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Doctor Who fans left perplexed as BBC breaks away from major Time Lord tradition

Doctor Who fans have been left perplexed by a plot twist at the end of Saturday night’s episode that goes against a long-held tradition when it comes to the regeneration of the Time Lord.

Warning: there are spoilers for the latest episode of Doctor Who below.

During Saturday’s episode titled “The Giggle”, one of three released to celebrate the show’s 60th anniversary, David Tennant makes his last appearance as the Doctor, with the introduction of Sex Education star Ncuti Gatwa as his successor.

While fans knew this transformation was coming, what wasn’t expected was the specific manner in which Tennant would regenerate.

If you’re well-versed in the Doctor Who fandom rumours, then you may have heard of leaks about this specific plot point circulating on social media platforms such as Reddit and X (formerly known as Twitter) this week. However, even die-hard Doctor Who fans were shocked to learn that the rumoured plot was legitimate when they watched it air live on Saturday night.

Typically, the Doctor will transform into their next form, essentially killing the previous actor off. However, Tennant underwent a “bi-regeneration”, which means that, rather than the one Doctor transforming into a new character and allowing a new actor to take up the role, the Tennant incarnation of the Doctor will split into two different entities.

The Tennant Doctor will remain alive, free to go on adventures with his longtime companion Donna Noble (Catherine Tate), and the ongoing series will follow the “new” Doctor Gatwa on his adventures.

This marks a significant departure from Doctor Who tradition that has been in place since William Hartnell first regenerated into Patrick Troughton in the Sixties. Hartnell did not go on to become a new character… but this plot suggests that Tennant could.

The plot point has been subject to much excitement – and confusion – from fans, who have pointed out that having two Doctors living in tandem may mean that there is a “clone doctor”.

The moment the ‘bi-regeneration’ happens (BBC)
The moment the ‘bi-regeneration’ happens (BBC)

Fans have also been left confused since the “bi-regeneration” seemingly suggests that there will be two Doctors existing in the same timeline, something which has never happened before in the show’s history.

Writing on X, one fan wrote: “what the f*** so what now we get 2 doctors flying about ????”

Another excited fan wrote: “DAVID TENNANT AND NCUTI GATWA TOGETHER?!?!? I DON’T KNOW WTF IS GOING ON BUT WE HAVE NEVER BEEN MORE BACK.”

Another wrote: “Bigeneration does that mean we can keep David Tennant?”

One fan remarked that Tennant had said the words “I don’t want to go” when he was regenerated the first time he played The Doctor, writing on X: “OMG. So it’s like, “I don’t want to go” and he actually gets to stay.”

Ncuti Gatwa as the Doctor (BBC)
Ncuti Gatwa as the Doctor (BBC)

Another fan said that this was the best possible outcome, writing on X: “This is so much better than the normal regeneration, we still have him out there somewhere.”

“I’m so confused yet still crying,” another viewer added.

The long-running BBC series returns later this month with showrunner Russell T Davies back at the helm 18 years after he brought the classic sci-fi show back in 2005.

The It’s a Sin creator took over over Doctor Who for three episodes with Tennant returning as the Time Lord and Catherine Tate reprising her role, as Gatwa took over the new Tardis.

Doctor Who will return to BBC One on Christmas Day.