From a creative standpoint, one of Doctor Who‘s biggest advantages is the show’s “wibbly wobbly” view of time and the main character’s ability to go anywhere (or anywhen) he wants thanks to the TARDIS. This allows producer Steven Moffat to bring back old friends when the story calls for it, but while great power comes with great responsibility and Moffat can’t turn Doctor Who into a fan service factory, he has proven to be somewhat stingy with those visits — particularly when those characters surfaced prior to his time in the showrunner’s chair.
One obvious exception to this is River Song. Moffat created Song when he wrote “Silence in the Library” under the reign of Russell T. Davies and she has returned more than a dozen times under his watch, flirting with Matt Smith’s Doctor and eventually taking his hand in marriage. She’s also become a more three-dimensional character.
This morning, we found out that Moffat will once again bring River out to play, this time opposite Peter Capaldi’s Doctor — a mild surprise considering she had been absent since just before the events of “The Day of the Doctor” and all through Capaldi’s debut season. But while the impulse is to dream on the possibility that River might be the one to end Missy, there is another side of the mind that is a bit less grounded in the land of feasibility. And it’s that side that is going to take the wheel now to talk about a few other long-benched Doctor Who characters that deserve another turn on the show.
Captain Jack Harkness
Let’s get this biggie out of the way first. Created during the Davies’ era, Captain Jack (John Barrowman) befriended the Christopher Eccleston Doctor, became immortal thanks to Rose Tyler, and was always by the David Tennant Doctor’s side when things really went sideways… and then he wasn’t when Matt Smith (and Moffat) took over.
What Jack was, though, is the star of the Davies helmed Torchwood spinoff. Critically acclaimed and quite popular with more mature Whovians, Torchwood isn’t technically dead following the events of the BBC/Starz co-produced Miracle Day final season, but the passage of time makes any further standalone Captain Jack adventures seem unlikely, particularly since the character has been out of circulation for so long.
A guest spot could fix that, but really, fans just want a little bit more of the impossibly charming former time agent. But maybe that’s the cause of Moffat’s hesitancy — we (and also Barrowman) want it so badly, meaning even if Barrowman returns, it probably wouldn’t match the hype.
The Meta-Crisis Doctor
If we’re talking about fan service, then we have to include The Meta-Crisis Doctor. Born in war as a hybrid Time Lord with one heart, a natural human lifespan, and David Tennant’s face, Davies gave everyone but the actual last of the time lords something to cry-smile about when he let Rose have her very own version of the Doctor in Pete’s World, where they remain as an ever playable card that will allow for another David Tennant/Billie Piper return to Doctor Who no matter how old they get.
The thing is, though, Moffat played the Tennant/Piper card and he played it well during the 50th Anniversary special, so an encore to that encore may not interest him all that much, particularly in that a Meta-Crisis storyline would probably be hard to tackle while maintaining the focus on the current Doctor.
If we can’t get more Tennant, perhaps we’d settle for his real-life wife and on-screen daughter (ew), who happens to also be the real life daughter of former Doctor Pete Davison, Georgia Moffett. The “Jenny” storyline also never got a proper end, with the Doctor’s daughter coming back to life thanks to her regeneration juju and her relative newness. From there, she headed for the stars in search of adventure. Those adventures could lead her back to dear old unsuspecting dad, perhaps as the Doctor’s next companion when Jenna Coleman eventually leaves.
Jenny could also easily be re-cast if Moffat wans to go in a new direction with the character since, as a still freshly minted Time Lord, she has more than a few regenerations to play with. Think about it, wouldn’t an actual father/daughter dynamic in the TARDIS be an interesting switch?
Yes, James Corden is pretty busy with The Late Late Show these days, but Craig’s interactions with the Doctor were always excellent ways to point out how very alien the Doctor actually is. Matt Smith’s Doctor always reveled in human things, so seeing him play football and work in a shop were some of the most delightful moments in the Smith era. It would be interesting to see how Craig, and of course Stormaggedon, would react to Capaldi’s no-nonsense, brusque Doctor. I’m not sure that he still speaks baby.
Craig might be inextricably linked to Eleven like the Ponds were, but it could be fun to bring him back. Craig always serves as a sort of interim companion, so maybe he could ease the transition when Jenna Coleman decides to leave. A Christmas back with the Owens could be exactly what this surly Doctor needs.
The Dream Lord
In the season five episode “Amy’s Choice,” Toby Jones played the Dream Lord, one of the most interesting foes that Smith’s Doctor faced. Altering their realities with powerful dreams, the Dream Lord forced Amy to choose between her time with the Doctor and her then tenuous love for Rory, creating timelines that had dire consequences, the least of which was Rory’s horrible ponytail. The Dream Lord jokingly reminds the Doctor that he is “The Oncoming Storm,” and references the Doctor’s complicated relationship with Queen Elizabeth, which reached fruition in “The Day of the Doctor.”
The Doctor frets over the Dream Lord’s possible return at the end the episode, so it would be great to see this villain go head to head with Capaldi’s Doctor. Plenty of mayhem has occurred since his first appearance, so looking at what could have been would bring the emotional gut punch that Doctor Who so often provides.
Donna Noble’s fate might be the cruelest in the entire new series, her memory wiped and forced to forget her time with the Doctor. Arguably one of the Doctor’s best companions, Donna Noble was “the most important woman in the whole of creation,” and was responsible for saving the world, and the Doctor on multiple occasions. Despite being just a temp from Chiswick, Donna became truly extraordinary during her time opposite the Doctor.
Unfortunately, this one is most likely a pipe dream. It was made very clear that her brain couldn’t handle all the information that was poured into it when she was the Doctor-Donna, and any trigger would result in her death. However, one can dream of the banter that would happen if the Earth Girl was reunited with the Space Man. I mean, if Rose can come back from an alternate universe, surely they can figure out a way to fix all that brain business. There are rumors that Capaldi’s previous appearance in “The Fires of Pompeii” will eventually be explained, so maybe there will be a way around the rules and Catherine Tate can make a triumphant return.