Doctor Who's Russell T. Davies Has Great Reason Why David Tennant's Doctor Returned With New Clothes

David Tennant as The Doctor in Doctor Who
(Image credit: The BBC)

Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor Who lead recently said farewell, and many fans were quite surprised when she didn’t regenerate into Ncuti Gatwa’s iteration, but instead seemed to revert back into David Tennant’s Doctor, and the character's body wasn't all that regenerated. Now, as fans are eager and latching onto any details hoping they explain what’s ahead in Doctor Who, returning showrunner Russell T. Davies explained why The Doctor’s clothes changed. 

It’s rare The Doctor's appearance is affected in ways beyond their physical structure when regenerating, so there were definitely some confused Doctor Who fans when the character’s whole outfit changed as well. Russell T. Davies confirmed to Doctor Who Magazine that this wasn’t some mistake or oversight and that he had a definitive reason for ensuring David Tennant didn’t appear in Jodie Whittaker’s outfit (via Radio Times): 

I was very certain that I didn’t want David to appear in Jodie’s costume. I think the notion of men dressing in women’s clothes, the notion of drag, is very delicate. I’m a huge fan of that culture and the dignity of that, it’s truly a valuable thing. But it has to be done with immense thought and respect.

Doctor Who is a progressive franchise, so it’s of little surprise Russell T. Davies’ reasoning was rooted in sensitivity to other cultures. He didn’t want David Tennant appearing in what one might perceive as women’s clothing to come off as disrespectful, and as such, ensured they made the costume change for the regeneration. Which isn't to say Tennant wasn't a peach during his stint as Davina in the Scottish comedy Rab C. Nesbitt, but still.

Russell T. Davies continued explaining his point, sharing why he didn’t feel it was right to put David Tennant in Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor outfit. He noted that the move was just as much to respect Whittaker’s legacy, as well as to prevent what might be an awkward image from living on in tabloids, newspapers, and the Internet for decades to come:

With respect to Jodie and her Doctor, I think it can look like mockery when a straight man wears her clothes. To put a great big six-foot Scotsman into them looks like we’re taking the mickey. If they [newspapers] can play with gender in a sarcastic or critical way, they will. We could have the Doctor dressed as a knight, or dressed as God, or dressed as William Hartnell, and the only photo they’d print would be of David in what they considered to be women’s clothes.

One thing that Russell T. Davies didn’t mention was whether or not Doctor Who will provide some canonical explanation for why this occurred. After all, it’s usually quite common for The Doctor to at least spend a little time in their predecessor’s outfit so that fans can see “their look” unfold in the opening episodes. Of course, that wasn’t necessary with David Tennant’s Doctor, since fans already know he’s a tie and trenchcoat type of Doctor. 

Now that there’s some official response out there, I'm not sure Doctor Who needs to address it in full. The series likes to play fast and loose with the rules of its universe as is, and ultimately, this isn’t some show-breaking detail that fans will talk about for years. In fact, I'd wager many will forget as Doctor Who jumps into the Disney+ era with a potentially larger budget and a chance to draw more eyes. Still, it’s nice to have some clarity on the situation and see that Doctor Who is still looking out for smaller communities and protecting them. 

Doctor Who is on a break, but fans can expect to see the 60th Anniversary celebration kick off in 2023 with a star-studded cast. Anyone can get hyped for that by binging the series with an HBO Max subscription, and maybe checking out some of David Tennant’s greatest moments as The Doctor. 

Mick Joest
Content Producer

Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.