Doctor Who's Wild New Plot Hole Could Be Solved by a Time Loop
With two Doctors co-existing, how exactly does the linear flow of time work?
“The Giggle,” the third and final Doctor Who 60th anniversary special, was more than just a laugh. After two adventures with David Tennant back as the 14th Doctor, a bout with the Toymaker and a nasty U.N.I.T. laser forced him to regenerate again. But just like last time, this wasn’t a normal regeneration: the 15th Doctor, played by Ncuti Gatwa, split from the 14th Doctor like a cell undergoing mitosis.
While this was an exciting development for those hoping for a Tennant-led spinoff, it caused a lot of questions about just how the timeline works, and most importantly, what happens to the 14th Doctor when he inevitably dies. But one line from the episode may reveal a theory that could solve everything.
After the 14th and 15th Doctors come to terms with the “bi-generation,” which was previously thought to just be a myth, the two figure out the logistics of how their co-existence will work. While 14 is giving him a tour of the Tardis, 15 reveals why he thinks the bi-generation happened: because the Doctor has never stopped to rest.
All the Doctors just kept running never stopping to feel their feelings or cope with the massive losses they’ve encountered over the years. “But you're fine,” 15 says. “I'm fine because you fixed yourself.”
This seems to mean that 15, as he exists now, has all the memories that 14 is going to make with Donna and her family, and is benefitting from his previous self-care. If that’s true, that means that when 14 dies, he will simply cease to be — his regeneration into 15 is simply an advance on what would have happened later.
There’s even more evidence for this theory if you know where to look. Donna tells 15, “He's younger because you came after him. So you're the older Doctor.” If the two truly were “born” at the same time, that would make them the same age. But if 15 has the lived experience of 14, then he’d be a good deal older.
Like every good Doctor Who plot twist, there’s timey wimey stuff involved — in this case, a good old-fashioned bootstrap paradox. 15 tells 14 he needs to take a break and get better because that’s what he was told, so there’s a time loop going on. Much like the DVD extra in Blink, that statement has no origin: it exists in a loop, folding in on itself.
It may have completely torn up the Doctor Who playbook, but this theory could actually restore some order. We won’t see two branches of Doctor regenerating on their own divergent paths from here on out. Instead, the 14th Doctor is just sticking around a little while longer and enjoying a well-deserved (semi)retirement.