There’s still a Christmas special to come, marking Ncuti Gatwa’s first full adventure as the Fifteenth Doctor, but for all intents and purposes, Doctor Who‘s big 60th anniversary birthday party is over.
And, in so many ways, the celebrations did not disappoint. The trilogy of three hour-long specials brought back David Tennant as a brand-new incarnation of the Time Lord, the Fourteenth Doctor, with a host of familiar friends and foes from Whoniverse history following in his wake. We even got a truly canon-breaking development in the final story that gave us a surprise multi-Doctor team-up.
But, despite all we have to be thankful for, there is one way in which the specials left fans a little crestfallen. Fellow fan-favorite Doctor Matt Smith was nowhere to be seen. So why wasn’t the House of the Dragon daddy involved in the Doctor Who 60th anniversary?
Matt Smith coming back alongside David Tennant would’ve repaid a 10-year-old favor
Photo via BBC Studios
We weren’t expecting any other modern Doctors to return — Christopher Eccleston has long distanced himself from the series, Peter Capaldi has announced he’d like to move on to other projects, and Jodie Whittaker only just left — but Whovians were sure enough to bet their copious collection of sonic screwdriver toys that Matt Smith would turn up in the anniversary specials somewhere. Anywhere.
As it happened, he was not to be seen — we didn’t even get a sneaky glimpse at a bowtie or a fez. In many ways, that’s a great shame. For the 50th anniversary special, “The Day of the Doctor,” Tennant was invited back opposite then incumbent lead Smith, so it would’ve been a welcome gesture for Smith to be brought back for Tennant’s new mini-era this November.
Unlike Eccleston’s junked return for the 50th, however — John Hurt’s War Doctor was a last-minute addition once the Ninth Doctor actor passed — it seems like there was simply never a place for Smith in the storylines, rather than any kind of snub or scheduling conflict occuring. In a video commentary for special 3, “The Giggle” (available on BBC iPlayer in the U.K.), EP Russell T. Davies admits that traditional multi-Doctor stories don’t appeal to him as a writer, so he put in the shared scenes between Tennant and Gatwa as a concession to the fans’ desire to see that kind of thing in the 60th anniversary.
With that mindset from Davies, then, he likely never even considered bringing Smith back. While that’s a shame for Eleventh Doctor enthusiasts, it probably was the right call for these action-packed episodes. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem to have dimmed Smith’s own love for Doctor Who either, as he appeared at LACC the weekend of “The Giggle”‘s broadcast, and gushed about the character.
When it comes to the 70th anniversary, though? It’s either Matt Smith or bust. Geronimo, or geroni-no-thank-you.