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Everything We Know About Doctor Who’s 60th Anniversary

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November 23rd, 2023 marks Doctor Who‘s 60th anniversary, and details have already begun to emerge during the filming of the special episodes. Created by Canadian television impresario Sydney Newman, Doctor Who has been an integral part of UK culture since it first began airing in 1963. The show returned in 2005, following a 16-year hiatus and an unsuccessful American reboot to become a global phenomenon. It introduced the world to actors like David Tennant and Karen Gillan and will also play a key part in the BBC’s centenary celebrations later this year.

Doctor Who‘s 50th-anniversary celebration in 1963 was a huge global event featuring a simulcast of Matt Smith and David Tennant’s multi-Doctor anniversary special “The Day of the Doctor” to cinemas across the globe. The 50th also introduced the legendary screen actor John Hurt as a hitherto unknown incarnation of the Doctor. The 60th anniversary looks set to be a similarly headline-grabbing event given everything that has been released by the production team so far.

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The hype surrounding Doctor Who‘s 60th anniversary began with the announcement of Ncuti Gatwa as the new Doctor prior to the actor’s appearance on the BAFTA’s red carpet. A week later, the returns of David Tennant and Catherine Tate were also announced prior to commencing location filming for the anniversary special. Heartstopper‘s Yasmin Finney’s role as Rose was the next announcement before Hollywood’s Neil Patrick Harris joined the production. It’s clear from these casting announcements that the 60th anniversary special is aiming for as broad an audience as possible – those who grew up with the Tenth Doctor and Donna, younger Netflix viewers who’ve binged Sex Education and Heartstopper, and Neil Patrick Harris’ many followers on social media. However, the reveals don’t end there, and other information from official and unofficial sources gives Doctor Who audiences an idea of what to expect next year.


Russell T. Davies Is Back For Doctor Who’s 60th Anniversary


Doctor Who announced the return of Russell T Davies to the show in September 2021, over two years before the show’s 60th anniversary. Excitingly, it was made clear that rather than being a rare anniversary treat, RTD would take Doctor Who beyond 2023. His tenure will begin with the 60th anniversary special in 2023, during which he will no doubt establish his bold new vision for Doctor Who. That’s the purpose of an anniversary special of course, to celebrate the past while also looking toward the future. Given that Davies revolutionized the show in 2005, and going by the decisions he’s already made as showrunner, there’s the exciting possibility that Doctor Who will enter a revitalized and exciting era under his stewardship.


Is David Tennant Playing The Tenth Doctor Again In The 60th Anniversary?


Doctor Who The Day of the Doctor Davd Tennant as the Tenth Doctor

The return of David Tennant and Catherine Tate heavily implied that it would be the Tenth Doctor and Donna who would be heading the 60th anniversary. Due to Doctor Who‘s time travel elements, it’s entirely possible for an audience to drop into a previously unseen Tenth Doctor adventure, as they did during “Day of the Doctor.” However, Doctor Who set photos revealed David Tennant wearing an updated, alternate version of his iconic look. Rather than the brown trenchcoat, he was wearing a navy blue one. While the subtle change of trenchcoat doesn’t necessarily preclude Tennant from playing the Tenth Doctor – the TARDIS does have big wardrobes after all – it has led fans to speculate that he’s playing a new incarnation. If true, it suggests the possibility that Jodie Whittaker will be regenerating into David Tennant, rather than Ncuti Gatwa in 2022’s centenary special.


Will Jodie Whittaker Be In Doctor Who’s 60th Anniversary?


Jodie Whittaker wrapped filming on Doctor Who in late 2021, several months before the 60th anniversary began filming. Whittaker has since given birth to her second child and is presumably taking a short break from acting to welcome this new arrival. This doesn’t mean that the Thirteenth Doctor won’t appear in the 60th anniversary but it does make it more unlikely. Her return so soon after Jodie Whittaker’s last Doctor Who episode would also undermine the emotional impact of her regeneration. It’s therefore doubtful that the Thirteenth Doctor will appear in the 60th anniversary special beyond a reprise of her regeneration scene unless her last days of filming included a special insert for the anniversary. After all, Matt Smith’s Doctor made a surprise cameo in Peter Capaldi’s debut episode, “Deep Breath.”


Are Matt Smith & Peter Capaldi Returning For Doctor Who’s 60th Anniversary?


Peter Capaldi and Matt Smith in Doctor Who 60th anniversary?

Rumors of the involvement of other previous Doctors persisted in the wake of the David Tennant and Catherine Tate announcement. Given Christopher Eccleston’s flat refusal of being involved in multi-Doctor stories, he’s never been a serious consideration in fan speculation. Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi on the other hand have been more prominent suggestions. Rachel Talalay, who directed many of Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor’s greatest adventures is back for the 60th anniversary, leading many to speculate her involvement may entice Capaldi to return. The Twelfth Doctor’s chemistry with the Tenth’s (or whoever it is Tennant is playing) would surely be hilariously prickly while the Eleventh and Tenth’s squabbling brothers double-act was one of the highlights of “The Day of the Doctor.” However, so far, no further past Doctors have been announced since Tennant’s return.

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Is Ncuti Gatwa The 14th Doctor In Doctor Who’s 60th Anniversary?


When he was cast in Doctor Who, Ncuti Gatwa was never officially referred to as the 14th Doctor. The official BBC press release stated that he was “the new Doctor set to take charge of the TARDIS.” While David Tennant and Catherine Tate have been filming scenes for Doctor Who‘s 60th-anniversary special, Ncuti Gatwa has been working on Greta Gerwig’s upcoming movie Barbie. It’s therefore unlikely that, should he appear in the 60th beyond a final regeneration scene, he’ll be playing the 14th Doctor. Gatwa’s absence lends credence to the Whittaker/Tennant retro-regeneration theory, with Tennant’s new incarnation securing Ncuti Gatwa’s future as the next Doctor by defeating Neil Patrick Harris’ villain.


Who Is Neil Patrick Harris’ Villain In Doctor Who’s 60th Anniversary?


Neil Patrick Harris in Doctor Who

There has been much speculation over Neil Patrick Harris’ mysterious role in Doctor Who‘s 60th-anniversary special. Given the “Doctor beware!” tone of RTD’s statement, and Neil Patrick Harris’ promise to do his best to do his worst, it’s clear that he’s a villain. The name of this villain has not yet been revealed, which suggests that it’s a returning character from Doctor Who‘s extensive back-catalog of villains. The current favorite suggestion is Doctor Who‘s cosmic game player, the Celestial Toymaker, backed up by location photos of toy shops and amusement arcades. However, RTD has admitted to planting red herrings in the press, so the toymaker references could be a masterful piece of misdirection to distract from who Neil Patrick Harris is really playing.

What Is The Doctor Who 60th Anniversary’s Story?


David Tennant and Catherine Tate smile for the camera, and the Tenth Doctor and Donna stand in front of the RTD era TARDIS console room.

In a statement to announce the return of David Tennant and Catherine Tate to Doctor Who, Russell T Davies offered suitably enigmatic hints as to the storyline for the 60th anniversary. “Maybe this is a missing story. Or a parallel world. Or a dream, or a trick, or a flashback. The only thing I can confirm is that it’s going to be spectacular, as two of our greatest stars reunite for the battle of a lifetime.” If the Doctor and Donna’s return is a trick, then it would fit rather neatly with the rumored involvement of Neil Patrick Harris as the trickster god the Toymaker. Set photos have also suggested a remake of the classic Doctor Who comic strip, “Doctor Who and The Star Beast” in which the Doctor and his friends are duped by a cute, fluffy white creature who hides murderous intentions.


How Many Episodes Is Doctor Who’s 60th Anniversary?


Doctor Who All The Doctors 50th Anniversary

Announcing the return of RTD back in 2021, the BBC stated that the showrunner would be back to “celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Doctor Who in 2023, and series beyond.” The wording of the statement suggests that there were will be some serial element of Doctor Who‘s 60th anniversary. The announcement of David Tennant and Catherine Tate’s return said they were “filming scenes that are due to air in 2023 to coincide with the show’s 60th anniversary celebrations.” This, coupled with the fact that Rachel Talalay has handed over the director’s chair to Chanya Button for Neil Patrick Harris’ scenes all but confirms that Doctor Who‘s 60th anniversary special will take the form of multiple episodes.

Doctor Who’s 60th Anniversary Release Date Prediction


David Tennant as Tenth Doctor and Catherine Tate as Donna in Doctor Who

If Doctor Who‘s 60th-anniversary special was a single feature-length episode, it would be easy to predict that it would air either on, or as close as possible to the 23rd November 2023. However, as it appears that Davies’ plans for the 60th are more elaborate, audiences may see the anniversary celebrations begin much earlier that year. Steven Moffat began the 50th-anniversary celebrations in earnest with the 2012 Christmas special “The Snowmen”, which brought back a classic 1960’s villain and reintroduced a familiar face in Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman).

Given that Jodie Whittaker’s final episode is likely to air in October or November of 2022 to coincide with the centenary celebrations for the British Broadcasting Corporation, it’s unlikely that the 60th celebrations will begin a month or two later. However, during Chris Chibnall’s time as Doctor Who showrunner, the show has kicked off the new year with a festive special. Given the long lead time between the start of filming in May 2022 and the actual anniversary in November 2023, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if Russell T Davies’ 60th anniversary Doctor Who episodes kick off on New Year’s Day 2023.

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