Doctor Who’s Comic Relief Return: A New Incarnation

    Doctor Who has often been a staple of Red Nose Day over the past few decades, beginning with an appearance of the Seventh Doctor in the 1991 Comic Relief Special Comic. Since then, it’s been an adventure of minisodes, sketches, live-stage appearances, competitions – and even The Curse of Fatal Death.

    So whilst last year had been absent of involvement, no doubt due to the end of production on NuWho and the Chris Chibnall era… It was certainly a great delight to see the show once again involved in the Comic Relief charity teleathon this time round. As David Tennant noted as a lead presenter for the appeal, usual lead Lenny Henry was not available for the teleathon. But as David said, “before he regenerated” out of events… he was able to film a fantastic little Doctor Who sketch.

    Though controversially, it did not air on BBC One Scotland – raising questions about the layout of the show across channels.

    SKETCH: A New Incarnation

    The brief but fun opening sketch began the proceedings with a bang. Opening with Lenny Henry in a dressing room readying himself for the teleathon… He is given his final 90-second-to-show call. Doing a vocal warmup, unfortunately it seems he has been injured. By an excess of hotel breakfasts. A coy joke about the presenter’s previous work doing adverts for Premier Inn.(Other hotel chains are also available, as the BBC might say!)

    Running on with a little more wordplay, he asks a stage crew member to get him a glass of water. Feeling sickly, he decides that what he really needs right now is a… Doctor. Cue regeneration. Complete with Segun Akinola’s final music for the Thirteenth Doctor, Lenny Henry goes up in a ball of fiery energy. And settles back down as David Tennant, dressed in his Fourteenth Doctor costume.

    Newly regenerated, Tennant does a reenactment of his opening moments as Doctor Fourteen from The Power of the Doctor. Which was then capped off by a sudden look at his watch. Realising that he had to now host Red Nose Day as his new self… Tennant then dashed out of the dressing room.

    In perfect time for the sketch to end, and for Tennant to begin his hosting duties on the teleathon. (With an implied quick costume change.)

    David Tennant on set for filming of the opening Red Nose Day sketch [Courtesy: Comic Relief]

    Why Didn’t Scotland See The Comic Relief Sketch?

    Scottish viewers would perhaps be a little surprised by this news. Why? Because it didn’t air for them on BBC One Scotland. Instead, the Scottish airwaves featured the channel awkwardly and abruptly shifted from another broadcast… into the teleathon, just as it was coming up on the starting links for the sketch for the TV show Ghosts. (featuring fabled singer & one-time Doctor Who companion performer Kylie Minogue as a guest)

    It’s unclear if the exact impact was the same across all of Scotland, but generally, it seems that for reason: BBC One Scotland’s feed was accidentally switched over to that of BBC Two Scotland, ultimately showing the opening three minutes of Saving Lives At Sea instead. Oops. Bit ironic that Scotland didn’t get to see the Scottish Doctor.

    Thinking On The Comic Relief Sketch

    Though very short, it was a nice little treat that made good use of Lenny’s small availability and David’s position as a lead presenter to open the show. Some fans will perhaps wonder why the item wasn’t longer… but given that the Fourteenth Doctor has made only a short amount of official screentime so far, it seemed like an obvious compromise. The Doctor and how he will act towards things going forwards in the 60th Specials isn’t quite so known to the general public. And there is a desire to keep as much as possible about those specials away from the eyes of the general public. A more involved appearance of the Fourteenth Doctor would surely have taken away from that.

    It also would’ve perhaps detracted from the sketch’s purpose as a little nod to Lenny Henry, both as a host and a founding member of Comic Relief. Ultimately, it was evidently a cheeky joke rather than designed to be a ‘significant’ addition to the Doctor Who continuity. If one is looking for a Fourteenth Doctor story right now, there’s certainly a medium for that…

    It was certainly a nice opportunity to see that new outfit again one more time before November. And well, I’m sure someone will have a theory on how this fits together the Lenny Henry Seventh Doctor with ‘mainline’ Doctor Who. And how the Fourteenth Doctor can have possibly come into existence twice. But if nothing else, on a night of laughter and generous deeds – it acted as a nice opportunity for the wider public to again see that David Tennant is back as the Doctor.

    A Side-Thought

    Certainly, no one can accuse the team of ‘bigging up’ this little sketch, given its existence wasn’t noted in any press releases, and was only officially confirmed by David today during a special TikTok livestream for Comic Relief.

    Another Cheeky Appearance For Red Nose

    Just before 8pm, as part of a sketch featuring Lulu, Graham Norton and Sam Ryder judging a bunch of comical auditions for Eurovision… another little Whoniverse treat came in the form of a Dalek.

    Auditioning for Eurovision, the Dalek (voiced by Nicholas Briggs) gave a… IN-TER-EST-ING performance of Daft Punk’s Harder, Faster, Better, Stronger. We’ll let you adjudicate it yourself, but we thought it was quite a nice gag.

    A Dalek comes to audition for Eurovision. Only on Red Nose Day… [Courtesy: BBC & Comic Relief]

    Past Comic Relief Events

    • 1991: The Comic Relief Special Comic
    • 1999: The Curse of Fatal Death
    • 2007: The Doctor v. Lauren Cooper
    • 2009: From Raxacoricofaliptorious With Love: the SJA mini-special
    • 2011: Space – the first minisode
    • 2011: Time – the first minisode
    • 2011: The Eleventh Doctor’s live-stage appearance
    • 2013: One Born Every Minute crossover minisode
    • 2013: The Eleventh Doctor makes another live-stage appearance
    • 2021: The Movie Trailer for ‘2020: The Movie’

    Donation Details

    You can donate to Comic Relief:

    • Online at the official website  using a credit card, debit card, or PayPal by selecting: pay in fundraising.
    • By post – simply send in a cheque (made payable to Red Nose Day 2023) and a giro slip if you have one to EY, PO Box 51543, London SE1 2UG.
    • By phone – to donate £5, text FIVE to 70702. (Texts cost donation + standard message rate)

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    Jamie H. Cowan
    Jamie H. Cowan
    A wildly varied sci-fi fan. When not dragging people down the Time Vortex with his Doctor Who theories, Jamie is often working his way through 'The Flash' comics (he insists they can be sci-fi!) or trying not to dream of the return of cult sci-fi shows.

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