It’s a big year for Davids returning to their noteworthy former projects after several years: David Tennant is back in the BBC‘s Doctor Who this November. This time, though, he is the Fourteenth Doctor, a new incarnation of the supernatural regenerating time lord (previously he was the Tenth). Here’s everything you need to know about his return.
Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Specials
Why Is David Tennant Back?
Following Series 13 of Doctor Who, a trilogy of special episodes aired on BBC One in January, April and October 2022, written by Chris Chibnall and Ella Rhodes. Without spoiling the trilogy too much, Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor ends up regenerating after a mortal wound in the third episode, transforming into a familiar face: the Tenth Doctor, David Tennant.
This was a surprise for fans who were expecting to see Ncuti Gatwa’s face replacing Jodie Whittaker’s, who had been announced as the next Doctor in May 2022. This is when it was revealed that, rather than the Fourteenth Doctor like we previously thought, Gatwa will play the Fifteenth Doctor. We can assume, therefore, Gatwa will appear at the end of this trilogy of special episodes, taking the full reins for the Christmas 2023 special and 2024’s fourteenth series.
What Will Happen In The Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Specials?
The Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Special will be split into three episodes:
- The Star Beast
- Wild Blue Yonder
- The Giggle
If you need a recap, ‘The Star Beast’ ended with the Doctor and Donna about to embark on another adventure together. No spoilers as to why or how they got to that moment, but the first episode saw the return of some beloved former characters, including Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) and her mother Sylvia (Jacqueline King). Plus, we saw Yasmin Finney playing a character called Rose. As this is a very significant name in the Doctor Who universe, theories flew around that she would be another version of Rose Tyler (played by Billie Piper) in an alternate universe, who we last saw in the 2010 New Year Special, ‘The End of Time’. However, the episode confirmed instead that Finney plays Donna’s daughter Rose, who she shares with Shaun Temple (Karl Collins).
The next episode, ‘Wild Blue Yonder’, is where we expect the rumoured antagonist, The Toymaker (played by Neil Patrick Harris), to come in – a character last seen in 1966’s episode ‘The Celestial Toymaker’, then played by Michael Gough. (That said, perhaps ‘The Giggle’ is a more apt entry episode for a Toymaker…). The teaser is brief, but it hints we have a suspenseful, even horror episode on our hands. Enticing.
While we don’t know any further plot details, we expect more throwback moments and gripping plot lines, thanks to the return of writer Russell T Davies who was not only the lead writer on the first four series of the new era of Doctor Who, but a big part of the series coming back entirely after lobbying the BBC as early as 1987 to bring the classic series back. Since leaving Doctor Who in 2010, Davies has created the likes of A Very English Scandal, Years and Years, It’s a Sin and Nolly.
Additionally, as we got a taste of in ‘The Star Beast’, we can expect everything to be elevated a notch (or three) thanks to Doctor Who‘s new partnership with Disney. ‘There’s been a leap in budget,’ Davies confirmed at the 60th Anniversary premiere. ‘There is an increase in budget and that has allowed the lead two episodes to be more experimental. We all had to learn how to make the show on this budget. We’re not allowed to talk about budgets – it’s not a Star Wars budget. Nonetheless, it’s more than most things I’ve made for the past 10 years added together. So actually learning how to do that, we’re still learning.’
The cast of the 2023 Special Episodes includes:
- David Tennant as the Fourteenth Doctor
- Catherine Tate as Donna Noble
- Ncuti Gatwa as Fifteenth Doctor
- Neil Patrick Harris as The Toymaker
- Miriam Margolyes as Beep The Meep (voice)
- Jacqueline King as Sylvia
- Bernard Cribbs as Wilfred
- Karl Collins as Shaun Temple
- Yasmin Finney as Rose
- Jemma Redgrave as Kate Stewart
Doctor Who Christmas Special
We’ve been itching to see Ncuti Gatwa put his spin on the coveted Doctor Who titular role ever since his casting was announced – and there’s not long left to wait. We expect Gatwa to appear at the end of ‘The Giggle’ as the Doctor regenerates into his Fifteenth form, kicking off the next generation of Who. And we won’t have long to wait after the 60th Anniversary Specials have aired: Gatwa will lead the Doctor Who Christmas special on 25 December 2023.
As well as Gatwa himself, the Fifteenth Doctor’s first companion is Ruby Sunday, played by Millie Gibson. The following actors and characters have also been confirmed, and if they don’t appear on Christmas day, we expect them to appear in Series 14, which is expected to begin in Spring 2024.
- Davina McCall
- Aneurin Barnard as Roger ap Gwilliam
- Indira Varma as The Duchess
- Bonnie Langford as Mel Bush
- Lenny Rush as Morris
- Jonathan Groff
- Jinkx Monsoon
- Anita Dobson
- Michelle Greenidge
Doctor Who Release Schedule
The episodes will air on BBC One as follows:
- 25 November at 6.30pm: ‘The Star Beast’
- 2 December at 6.30pm: ‘Wild Blue Yonder’
- 9 December at 6.30pm: ‘The Giggle’
- 25 December, time TBC: ‘The Church On Ruby Road’
- Spring 2024: Series 14
Where Is Doctor Who Streaming?
In the UK, all episodes of Doctor Who are available to stream on BBC iPlayer. This includes all of the classic episodes (1963–1989), the 1996 television film, and all episodes of the relaunch from 2005 to the present. Internationally, the episodes are available to stream on Disney+.
Note that on BBC iPlayer, the new episodes – created with new investment from Disney – are filed under a separate series: ‘Doctor Who (2023–)’. If you’d like to watch the episodes from 2005–2022 (that is series one to 13, spanning Christopher Eccleston to Jodie Whittaker), you can find them under ‘Doctor Who‘. Confusing…