Doctor Who – The Giggle

The Fourteenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) in The Giggle (Image courtesy BBC / Disney+)
The Fourteenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) in The Giggle (Image courtesy BBC / Disney+)

“The Giggle” is the third 2023 special episode in the TV show “Doctor Who” that celebrates its 60th anniversary and follows “Wild Blue Yonder“. It’s available in the UK and Ireland on BBC channels and in many other countries on the Disney+ platform.

Note. This article contains some spoilers about “The Giggle”.

The Fourteenth Doctor (David Tennant) brought Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) back home but the travelers find a situation that seems absurd with people apparently going mad. They’re found by UNIT and Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) explains the strange events. Thanks to the analysis of the information he’s provided, also by Mel Bush (Bonnie Langford), the Doctor finds a secret message transmitted by all the electronic screens in the world and understands that his enemy is the Toymaker (Neil Patrick Harris).

Russell T Davies was inspired by the true story of television pioneer John Logie Baird and his experiments. The real Stooky Bill was a ventriloquist’s dummy used in television broadcast experiments conducted since 1924. In “The Giggle” the inventor (John Mackay) unwittingly helps the Toymaker target all of humanity.

Someone accused Russell T Davies of not having really celebrated 60 years of “Doctor Who” in the first two 2023 specials but from this point of view, “The Giggle” offers many references to the past. Mel Bush, former companion of the Sixth and Seventh Doctors, returns as part of UNIT.

The Toymaker appeared in a First Doctor serial of which a few colourized bits are broadcast. There was a script in development for a new Sixth Doctor-era appearance that was canceled and then was adapted into a novel and audio adventure by Big Finish. Other adventures published in various media over the years see the Toymaker face different incarnations of the Doctor. With this new “official” appearance, this character becomes legen… wait for it… dary! 😉

The Toymaker (Neil Patrick Harris) in The Giggle (Image courtesy BBC / Disney+)
The Toymaker (Neil Patrick Harris) in The Giggle (Image courtesy BBC / Disney+)

Many other references to the past have been included in other ways. The Toymaker torments the Doctor by reminding him of the fate of some of his companions. In other cases, there are mentions in dialogues between the Doctor and someone else such as that of Adric, and above all it’s officially established that Sarah Jane is gone.

A tradition of these big anniversary episodes is for them to include more than one Doctor. When Ncuti Gatwa was announced as the new Doctor, fans assumed he would be the Fourteenth but the character’s story took an unexpected turn. It’s irrelevant now, as the numbering has become arbitrary for years due to various decisions by the new series showrunners.

In this case, Russell T Davies invented something new and surprising, the bigeneration. “The Giggle” only included the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Doctors in the final part but is a multi-Doctor episode. Now if some new spinoff is produced, it will be possible for the Doctor to appear in it without strange narrative tricks.

For the success of an episode you also need a worthy villain. Neil Patrick Harris is a great Toymaker with a performance that even makes the German accent work! Combined with that of the other protagonists, it is an interpretation that gives strength to this episode. The clash between the Doctor and the Toymaker has profound consequences that will partly need to be evaluated in the future. The Fourteenth Doctor now seemed exhausted after all the fighting he’s been through. The new series marked various phases of the story but also of the Doctor’s mental state and the Fifteenth seems to represent a new beginning.

It remains to be seen how long the Fifteenth Doctor will have a quiet traveling, also thinking about certain statements from the Toymaker and the hand that picked up his tooth in a moment when Russell T Davies referred to one of his own episodes. Davies also made important statements concerning the extension of bigeneration and it remains to be seen whether he intends to follow up on them. Meanwhile, we have the Fifteenth Doctor and I found his first impact positive. I look forward with curiosity to seeing this incarnation’s development, which will begin with the Christmas special.

The Fifteenth Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) in The Giggle (Image courtesy BBC / Disney+)
The Fifteenth Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) in The Giggle (Image courtesy BBC / Disney+)

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