Doctor Who fans can’t believe they just made a forgotten Doctor canon

Jessica Cullen
Ncuti Gatwa as the Doctor in Doctor Who

Doctor Who Episode 6 just brought a long-neglected character officially into the canon, and fans didn’t see it coming at all. If you haven’t seen the episode yet, be warned: there are spoilers ahead!

In ‘Rogue’, the Doctor encounters bird-like creatures obsessed with Bridgerton cosplay, as well as a life-changing love interest in the mysterious bounty hunter Rogue. But one sequence featured a throwback to several past Doctors, including one who previously hadn’t been considered canon.

In the scene (which you can watch below), Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor is trying to prove to Rogue that he’s not a threat. To clear his name, he turns on the ship’s scanners, which reveal him to be a Time Lord. With this comes a floating montage of past Doctors, from the old and new era alike. But one face stood out to fans much more than the others: Richard E. Grant.

If you don’t remember him being a Doctor, you’d be right, but only technically. The actor appeared in the 2012 episode The Snowmen, as well as latter Doctor Who episodes The Great Intelligence, The Bells of Saint John, and The Name of the Doctor. But he also played the Time Lord himself in an animated web series, Scream of the Shalka.

In that respect, Richard E. Grant technically played the Ninth Doctor, since Scream of the Shalka was released in 2003, two years before the sci-fi show was officially rebooted with Christopher Eccleston.

When Russell T Davies rebooted the show in 2005, he obviously went in a new direction for the Doctor. As such, in the years since, Grant’s version of the Time Lord has been considered an alternate version of the character, and has been placed out of the continuity.

Fans couldn’t believe it when they saw Grant included in the line-up, quickly taking to social media to express their shock. As one such X user wrote: “IS THAT RICHARD E GRANT?! SHALKA DOCTOR CANON?!?!?!?!”

Another added: “Am I mistaken or did I see the Shalka Doctor canonised?!” while a third said: “They did it! I can’t believe the mad b*stards went ahead and did it. They made him canon!”

“I’m not gonna lie, I knew there would be some sort of crazy reveal here, but when I saw Grant I spent most of the rest of the scene thinking ‘Who IS that?! I recognize them but……. ohhhhhh’!” said another.

“Um, did RTD just canonize the Richard E. Grant 9th Doctor the First, the BBC web animation attempt to get the show off the ground as an online flash series like a year before the Proper 9th Doctor was announced? Cool,” one comment said.

Now that Davies has reincorporated his visage into the montage of Time Lords, it could mean big things. Could this be a warning that the Doctor is in some sort of multiverse? Alternatively, it might be nothing more than a cheeky Easter egg for those who are familiar with the animated web series. Whatever it is, it’s certainly got viewers talking.

For more Who, find out when the new episode of Doctor Who Season 14 is out. You can also keep up to date with all the biggest Season 14 theories, and find out everything there is to know about the Doctor Who Season 14 villains.