Latest ‘Doctor Who’ Special From Russell T Davies Race-Swaps Real World Historical Figure Issac Newton

Isaac Newton (Nathaniel Curtis) attempts to grapple with his recent visitation in Doctor Who Special 302 "Wild Blue Yonder" (2023), BBC
Isaac Newton (Nathaniel Curtis) attempts to grapple with his recent visitation in Doctor Who Special 302 "Wild Blue Yonder" (2023), BBC

The neoliberal hits just keep rolling for Doctor Who, as after the first of returning showrunner Russell T Davies’ new specials saw the series’ titular protagonist raked over the coals of identity politics, The Doctor’s latest outing has seen him come face to face with a race-swapped version of real-world historical figure Isaac Newton.

Isaac Newton (Nathaniel Curtis) discovers gravity in Doctor Who Special 302 "Wild Blue Yonder" (2023), BBC
Isaac Newton (Nathaniel Curtis) discovers gravity in Doctor Who Special 302 “Wild Blue Yonder” (2023), BBC

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Premiering on the BBC on December 2nd and bearing the title Wild Blue Yonder, the long-running sci-fi series’ most recent adventure finds both The Doctor and Donna being sent for a ride across time and space following the Tardis’ accidental, coffee-spill-related activation, as seen during the conclusion of the last special, The Star Beast.

But before the audience is made aware of the pair’s current whereabouts, the episode opens on a shot of a dark-skinned, curly-haired man exiting his abode in England sometime during the fair-weather months of the year 1666.

Upon his exit, the man, as portrayed by half-Indian actor Nathaniel Curtis (Brían in The Witcher: Blood Origin), is met by an elderly woman, ostensibly a housekeeper of sorts, who pauses to greet him, “Ah, ’tis a glorious day sir!”

“Mmm, England at it’s finest!” the as-of-yet-unidentified man replies, before informing the woman that his plans for the day involve going “to yonder apple tree, there to contemplate the mysteries of God’s universe.”

Isaac Newton (Nathaniel Curtis) prepares to meet the day ahead in Doctor Who Special 302 "Wild Blue Yonder" (2023), BBC
Isaac Newton (Nathaniel Curtis) prepares to meet the day ahead in Doctor Who Special 302 “Wild Blue Yonder” (2023), BBC

Once there, the man is struck on the head by an apple – the first major hint that this is the man who, among numerous scientific achievements, most notably formulated his Theory of Gravity after experiencing this very historical fruit assault – before being bombarded by more as they’re shaken from the tree’s branches by the sudden crash arrival of the Tardis.

Understandably taken aback by the time machine’s arrival, the man rushes to check out the site, only to be met by its equally-confused occupants.

Isaac Newton (Nathaniel Curtis) discovers the crash landing of The Doctor (David Tennant) and Donna (Catherine Tate) in Doctor Who Special 302 "Wild Blue Yonder" (2023), BBC
Isaac Newton (Nathaniel Curtis) discovers the crash landing of The Doctor (David Tennant) and Donna (Catherine Tate) in Doctor Who Special 302 “Wild Blue Yonder” (2023), BBC

“Oh!” exclaims The Doctor upon peeking his out of the Tardis and noticing the onlooker. “Sorry, we’re just slightly out of control.”

“I just need to triangulate,” the Time Lord then tells the man. “Could you tell me what year this is?”

“It’s…1666,” the bewildered man replies.

Isaac Newton (Nathaniel Curtis) informs The Doctor (David Tennant) and Donna (Catherine Tate) that they've landed in England, 1666 in Doctor Who Special 302 "Wild Blue Yonder" (2023), BBC
Isaac Newton (Nathaniel Curtis) informs The Doctor (David Tennant) and Donna (Catherine Tate) that they’ve landed in England, 1666 in Doctor Who Special 302 “Wild Blue Yonder” (2023), BBC

Met with this confirmation, The Doctor shouts back, “Oh! Mmm, stay away from London,” – a warning regardindg the then-soon-to-take-place-Great Fire of London – before realizing, “Wait a minute. Apple tree. Apple. Man holding an apple in 1666. Are you…Sir Isaac Netwon?”

“Sir Isaac?” the now-confirmed-historical figure questions in turn, to which The Doctor backpedals, “Oh. Not yet. Spoilers.”

The Doctor (David Tennant) and Donna (Catherine Tate) attempt to recalibrate the Tardis in Doctor Who Special 302 "Wild Blue Yonder" (2023), BBC
The Doctor (David Tennant) and Donna (Catherine Tate) attempt to recalibrate the Tardis in Doctor Who Special 302 “Wild Blue Yonder” (2023), BBC

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As The Doctor returns his attentions to recalibrating the Tardis, Donna then fills the air by playfully asserting to their new acquaintance, “But it’s got to be said, MISTER Isaac Newtown, that you, above all others, can appreciate the gravity of the situation!”

Upon the completion of her pun, the Tardis then fires back up, whisking The Doctor and Donna away and leaving Newton standing alone in the apple orchard.

Watching on as the pair depart, Newtown is ultimately left to wonder on the name for his new scientific concept, asking himself “What was that delightful word? Shavity? Havity?” before ultimately deciding upon the term “Mavity!”

Isaac Newton (Nathaniel Curtis) gives a name to the concept of 'mavity' in Doctor Who Special 302 "Wild Blue Yonder" (2023), BBC
Isaac Newton (Nathaniel Curtis) gives a name to the concept of ‘mavity’ in Doctor Who Special 302 “Wild Blue Yonder” (2023), BBC

Though brief, Newton’s appearance in Wild Blue Yonder will surely come across as jarring to most, if not all viewers given that the very historical figure Curtis was meant to portray was ‘white’ by nearly every definition of the word, having been born in Lincolnshire, England to parents who themselves hailed from Lincolnshire – his father, Isaac Newton Sr. – and Rutland, England – his mother, Hannah Ayscough.

Further confusing matters is the fact that, at no point in either pop-cultural or world history has the possibility of Newtown ever being anything other than a white Englishman ever been raised.

Porträt des Isaac Newton  by Godfrey Kneller
Porträt des Isaac Newton (1689), Godfrey Kneller

Interestingly, Davies’ race-swapping of Isaac Newton in Doctor Who presents not only break from real world history, but also the series’ own canon.

As seen in the featured illustrations included within The Lonely Comptuer short story published to the series’ official website in 2008, a historically accurate, classical depiction of Newtown is among the many historical figures whom The Tenth Doctor and Donna discover trapped by the alien Momus on Planet 12 of the Ridion Alliance.

(Interestingly, though Newton appears in the canonical illustration, he is the only attendee of Momus’ ‘party’ to not receive mention in the actual story).

The Doctor is introduced to Momus' dinner party in Doctor Who: The Lonely Computer (2008), BBC. Illustration by Brian Williamson.
The Doctor is introduced to Momus’ dinner party in Doctor Who: The Lonely Computer (2008), BBC. Illustration by Brian Williamson.

Sadly, this particular style of rewriting history is anything but uncommon in the current entertainment landscape.

Not content with merely overwriting fictional canons, recent years have seen numerous identitiy politicians turn their sights on real world history, with such persons as Cleopatra, Jarl Haakon, Stagecoach Mary, Queen Charlotte, and Anne Bolyen all having received the treatment.

Heavy is the head that wears Cleopatra's (Adele James) crown in Queen Cleopatra (2023), Netflix
Heavy is the head that wears Cleopatra’s (Adele James) crown in Queen Cleopatra (2023), Netflix

Davies’ next Doctor Who special, and the last before his Series 14 properly debuts, is presently sent to step out of its phone booth on December 9th, 2023.

NEXT: ‘Doctor Who’ Showrunner Russell T Davies Blasts Modern Television Writers: “I Read Their Scripts And They’re Rubbish”

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