The Surprising Scene Two Doctor Who Showrunners Argue Over

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

For fans of the modern era of Doctor Who, one subject of constant debate is whether Russell T. Davies or Steven Moffat made for better showrunners. Each has different strengths and weaknesses, but the debate always seemed silly because the two are very friendly colleagues who always respect each other’s opinions regarding the show.

However, there is one scene they never agreed on: the NuWho premiere episode “Rose” has Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor surprised while examining his features in the mirror, and the two showrunners disagree over whether the scene implies the Doctor has very recently regenerated and now has a new face.

The Very First Episode Of NuWho Divides Showrunners

If it’s been a while since you watched “Rose,” then we may need to do what Doctor Who does best and take a quick trip into the past. In the episode, there is a brief moment where the Doctor notices his reflection in the mirror. Reacting in what many interpret as surprise, he says, “Ah, could’ve been worse…Look at the ears.”

The Doctor Is Surprised By His Face

The writing highly implies that the Doctor sees a new face for the first time. Because of this, many Doctor Who fans spent years assuming this was meant to be the Doctor expressing surprise at how he looks after a recent regeneration. One of the people who made that assumption was series writer and future showrunner Steven Moffat, who once expressed this idea back in 2013.

Russel T. Davis Defends The Scene

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Surprisingly, he and the rest of the Doctor Who fandom who made this assumption were rebuffed by Russell T. Davies. Two years later, he wrote about how he didn’t see this as a post-regeneration scene but as a scene about someone focused on certain exaggerated features. According to Davies, “If you have certain physical features like big ears or buck teeth, you look at them and sigh every time you look in the mirror.”

While this explanation placated some Doctor Who fans, others thought it was still weird to imagine a Doctor who is so disappointed in certain facial features that he expresses surprise and sadness every time he sees a mirror.

Debate Over How Recently The Doctor Regenerated

Weirdly enough, though, Davies believes the fact that anyone who had “had eight different faces” would similarly “mutter at” these details, “even if you’d been in the current form for a hundred years.” While the showrunner didn’t explicitly say this, his Doctor might dislike certain facial features because he just liked some of his former faces better.

Whether you buy Davies’ logic or not, the Doctor Who showrunner pointed out two other facts that help prove Eccleston’s Doctor has not recently regenerated. First, he wrote dialogue into the episode detailing earlier adventures in this particular body, including Krakatoa and the Titanic.

Fans Recognize The Signs Of Recent Regeneration

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That alone makes it obvious the Doctor hadn’t regenerated very recently, as does the fact that “he doesn’t act very post-regeneration” because, among other things, “he appears in command, waving a bomb” (the character is usually very drained after regenerating).

After hearing his explanations, it’s easy to agree with the Doctor Who showrunner that all of the details add up to a character that must have already regenerated long ago.

The Doctor Wears Many Faces

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With that being said, the confusion of Steven Moffat and countless fans who were skeptical that someone who had worn a new face for a long time would be shocked whenever he saw it is understandable. At any rate, this plot detail soon went away, and Doctors from David Tennant on up were generally much happier with (or at least affably amused by) their new faces.