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SYFY WIRE Doctor Who

Three Doctors unite for a timey wimey Doctor Who panel on HBO Max

By Ani Bundel
Doctor Who side by side

There's plenty of British TV on streaming services like BritBox, AcornTV, and Netflix, but only the recently launched HBO Max has the TARDIS. HBO Max partnered with BBC America, bringing the channel's entire lineup of original shows to the streaming service. But, the biggest get as part of this deal is the rebooted series of Doctor Who. For the first time, all 11 seasons can be found in one place, making binge-watching far easier. (For Classic Who fans, the First through Eighth Doctors are on BritBox.)

To celebrate, HBO Max brought together as many Doctors as possible for a virtual panel. For the first time, the current Doctor, Jodie Whittaker, joined with two fan favorites, the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors — David Tennant and Matt Smith — to discuss the legacy and future of Doctor Who from their respective homes. The trio's lively conversation spanned a number of topics, including the possibility of bringing back past Doctors, the legacy of the series, and what comes next, especially now that it's all streaming in one place. Tennant seemed entranced at the idea of someone discovering the show for the first time. "What a treat to never have seen Doctor Who, to get to watch it now," Tennant said. "What a treat. I'd love that. First time ever." Such a binge has advantages, as Whittaker pointed out. A first-time viewer wouldn't need to wait to find out who the next Doctor is going to be — you just jump to the next episode, "click to click."

But, with 11 seasons, it's still a time-consuming endeavor, as Smith noted. "You need to book off about a month of your life," he said.

For all three Doctors, looking back at being cast was a crash course experience in taking on the iconic role.

"I think growing up in Britain; you're very aware Doctor Who has been ubiquitous for all of our lives," Tennant said. "Even when it wasn't on TV, it was still one of those sorts of cultural things. So when you realize it's your turn, you kind of know what that means: a loss of anonymity and the fact that the first line of your obituary has almost certainly been written. It's a huge privilege and also feels very precious because people love it so much."

But Whittaker said if she could pass on one piece of advice to the person who does it next, it's not to let it overwhelm you, because once you put on the costume, it's yours. "Once you are in your own doctor's clothes, and you've got your own friends in it," she explained. "In a weird way, all that pressure disappears because it's yours to play with."

Whittaker, who has played the Doctor for two seasons, is still enjoying the role and she isn't ready to think about who might come after her. Smith and Tennant, who both have passed on the part to others (in Tennant's case, to Smith), see the passing of the torch as a bittersweet moment. Smith did cop to missing one thing in particular: The Christmas Specials, and Tennant echoed the sentiment.

"You know, they're always fantastic. And it's always such great stories," Smith said. "But it's also a great thing to pass on, isn't it? It's a great sort of gift."

Tennant admitted leaving had been a bit of a jolt, though, going from being "indispensable" to "Right, next one." But he also pointed out that, even though others take on the role and carry the show forward, it's not like playing the Doctor ever really goes away. "I mean, honestly, it's been 15 years since I did it. I'm here!" he said.

All three actors are very aware of the Doctor Who's storied history — even the Classic Who era, prior to the reboot. Tennant, when asked if there was a particular companion that he wished his Doctor had gotten a chance to work alongside, answered that he would have loved to bring back some Classic Who actors, like Nicolas Courtney, who was the Brigadier during the Third Doctor's run at UNIT. (Tennant and Courtney actually almost appeared together in an episode of the Doctor Who spinoff, The Sarah Jane Adventures, but it didn't happen.)

Tennant also said he'd love to bring back the original First Doctor, William Hartnell, if only to show him what the series became. "I'd bring him back and say 'Look at this! Look at this! Still going!" he said.

Whittaker, meanwhile, wanted to bring back someone from a more recent part of the series. "I'd say Grace O'Brien (Sharon de Clarke), because she's absolutely incredible, and she was snatched away too soon," Whittaker explained. "I feel like that's someone the Doctor didn't get to spend enough time with." As for which companion she'd bring back from another series, she went with Rory, which should set off fanfiction writers across the web.

Looking to Doctor Who's future, Whittaker couldn't talk much about her upcoming Christmas special (or in her case, probably another New Year's Special). She did confirm what fans already knew, that it would come "during the holidays," and it would be called "The Revolution of the Daleks."

"The Revolution of the Daleks" will premiere this holiday season on BBC One and BBC America, as always, before moving to HBO Max for streaming. Until then, fans can binge-watch every Doctor Who season, starting with Christopher Eccleston's Ninth Doctor.

Doctor Who is available to stream exclusively on HBO Max and future seasons and specials will premiere on BBC America.