Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Specials: Everything We Know So Far

Ready the Tardis, as the Doctor has an anniversary coming up. Next year, the iconic British sci-fi hit Doctor Who will mark 60 years on air with an all-new series of specials.

First premiering back in 1963, the series initially ran for 26 seasons until 1989. A TV movie followed in 1996, and the series resumed new episodes in 2005. The 2022 specials recently concluded with the third and final event, “The Power of the Doctor.” There, Jodie Whitaker’s Thirteenth Doctor regenerated into the fourteenth incarnation of the traveling Time Lord. Stepping into the role of the Fourteenth Doctor is none other than David Tennant, who previously portrayed the Tenth Doctor from 2005 to 2010. The return of Tennant isn’t the only surprise for the program’s 60th anniversary, and the crew is planning other events to celebrate six decades of the Doctor.

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With that, let’s look at what else we know about the Doctor Who 60th anniversary celebrations. Where will the story take this new incarnation of the Doctor? Will any other famous faces pop up? When and where will the specials air? And what else should audiences know about the 60th anniversary of Doctor Who?

Doctor Who 60th Anniversary: The Plot

As mentioned, we currently know very little about the plot of the anniversary specials. Showrunner Russell T. Davies has teased what audiences can expect, saying:

“If you thought the appearance of David Tennant was a shock, we’ve got plenty more surprises on the way! The path to Ncuti’s [Gatwa] Fifteenth Doctor is laden with mystery, horror, robots, puppets, danger and fun! And how is it connected to the return of the wonderful Donna Noble? How, what, why? We’re giving you a year to speculate, and then all hell lets loose!”

That statement doesn’t give much about what we can expect, but it’s meant to build up hype. Davies references Ncuti Gatwa, who has been cast to play the landmark fifteenth incarnation of the doctor. Gatwa will also be the first Black actor to take on the role. His first season as the Fifteenth Doctor will premiere after the anniversary specials conclude.

Davies also mentions the return of Donna Noble, who appeared alongside Tennant’s Tenth Doctor on and off from 2006 to 2010. The circumstances behind Noble’s return are being purposely kept ambiguous, with Davies teasing that it could be anything from a flashback to a dream sequence to an alternate universe.

It’s clear that the production team wants fans to speculate endlessly until the eventual release date of late next year. For now, that’s all we can do until more information is revealed as production continues.

Doctor Who 60th Anniversary: The Cast

BBC

We know that David Tennant will be back in the role of the Doctor, this time playing the character’s fourteenth incarnation, who is physically identical to the tenth. Catherine Tate will also return to the series as Donna Noble. As Jodie Whitaker bowed out as the Doctor after “The Power of the Doctor,” it is unlikely that she will appear in the specials.

In addition to Tennant and Tate, Jacqueline King will return as Sylvia Noble, the mother of Tate’s Donna Noble. Bernard Cribbins is also set to return as Wilfred Mott, Sylvia’s father and Donna’s grandfather. Cribbins reportedly had completed filming before his death in July 2022. English actress Yasmin Finney is set to join the cast as a new character named Rose. Finally, in one of the more unexpected casting pieces, Neil Patrick Harris is set to join the 60th anniversary in a currently unknown role.

“The Power of the Doctor” went all out with former Doctor cameos, with brief appearances by Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor, Colin Baker as the Sixth, Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh, Paul McCann as the Eighth, and David Bradley as the First (originally played by the late William Hartnell). We could see some of these names return again to the 60th anniversary if it is truly meant to celebrate all the series’ distinct eras.

We can expect additional casting information to follow in the coming weeks and months as the milestone anniversary approaches.

Release Date

BBC

While there is no exact release date set for the specials, we know that they are set to premiere on the BBC in November 2023. Some have speculated that the first special will premiere on November 23, the exact date when the series first premiered in 1963. If the specials do all premiere in November, that will mark a significant change for the show’s airing schedule. The 2022 specials were spaced apart by a few months, airing on January 1, April 17, and October 23, respectively.

While regular seasons of Doctor Who air weekly, the specials are broadcast less frequently, often with only one airing per year. Showing three specials consecutively would mark a change for the show, but the celebration of 60 years could warrant a change. All we can do is wait and see how the BBC chooses to release the specials to mark six decades of one of the most iconic sci-fi series ever produced.