Doctor Who is about to regenerate once again. With Jodie Whittaker’s tenure in the TARDIS wrapping up later this year, everything’s set to change in the Whoniverse as not only is a new Doctor taking over, but so is a new showrunner, as current EP Chris Chibnall is walking away with his star. In a perfect bit of timing, the latest regime is taking over in conjunction with Who‘s 60th anniversary next year.
Just as with the 50th anniversary, the show’s big 6-0 will be celebrated with an epic feature-length special. While it’s still a while away, the BBC is getting a hefty head-start on the episode with filming already underway. This means that the new Doctor has already been announced, along with a few faces from the past who’ll be returning for the occasion.
There’s still much we don’t know about the special, but here’s your full guide to every facet of Doctor Who‘s much-anticipated relaunch that’s been revealed to date, from the cast and crew to its mysterious story.
Who’s in it?
As far as we’re aware, the special will mark the first appearance of Ncuti Gatwa as the latest incarnation of the Time Lord. At the time of writing, the Sex Education star has yet to be spotted on the show’s set as filming takes place on the streets of London. That’s not all that surprising, though, given that Gatwa is believed to be currently shooting Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie.
The show’s new leading lady, however, is already hard at work on the series. Yasmin Finney, who just landed her breakout role in Netflix’s Heartstopper, is joining Doctor Who as Rose. Yes, Rose, the same name as Billie Piper’s iconic companion, Rose Tyler, who famously appeared opposite Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant.
Speaking of… Yes, David Tennant himself is back for the special! Much to the delight of Whovians everywhere, the Tenth Doctor star is reprising his beloved role for the 60th. And we’ve already seen plenty of him in action thanks to set photos that have made their way online. Tennant has been spotted wearing his trademark pinstripe suit, white sneakers and spiked hairstyle.
Even better, his former co-star Catherine Tate is returning alongside him as Donna Noble. Besides Piper, Tate is Tennant’s other most popular co-star from his original run on the series. We have likewise got some glimpses of the actress back in character as Donna. Fans are eager to find out how she’s involved, given that Donna’s memories of the Doctor were wiped on pain of death last time we saw her.
And the familiar faces don’t stop there. Although his return has yet to be officially announced, Bernard Cribbins has also been spotted on set in London. Cribbins played Donna’s loveable grandfather Wilfred Mott back in the day, even featuring in a leading role in Tennant’s final story, 2009/2010’s two-part epic “The End of Time”.
Unsurprisingly, given that her on-screen daughter and father are also involved in the special, Jacqueline King has also been glimpsed on set, meaning she’ll be reprising her role as Donna’s mother Sylvia Noble, too.
The latest exciting addition to the cast is How I Met Your Mother star Neil Patrick Harris. The Matrix Resurrections actor looks to be playing the villain of the piece, as we’ve been promised that he will be no less than “the greatest enemy the Doctor has ever faced.” Harris has shared a snap of himself in full costume as his mystery character — although fans have a fair few ideas who he might be portraying.
Who’s making it?
Starting with the special, Russell T. Davies is stepping back into the role of showrunner. Davies, who recently penned the acclaimed miniseries It’s a Sin, previously steered the show from its revival in 2005 to Tennant’s exit in 2010. So it’s no surprise that he’s immediately brought Tennant back for this grand birthday bash. Davies has likewise rehired his two past Who collaborators, producers Julie Gardner and Phil Collinson, to make the show with him once again.
Meanwhile, the special is being directed by Rachel Talalay. The veteran filmmaker, known for Tank Girl, Supernatural, and Sherlock, has a history with Doctor Who herself, having directed some of the most well-received episodes of the Peter Capaldi era. These earned her a strong reputation with fans as the woman behind some of the show’s best-looking episodes, so she’s clearly the best choice to helm this one.
What’s it about?
To date, no official plot details have been unveiled about the special, but thanks to the cast and characters who have been confirmed so far, plus what we’ve gathered from set pics, we’re beginning to put together an idea of what we can expect. Before we go ahead, though, be warned that potentially big spoilers are about to drop.
First of all, there’s been much speculation about Tennant’s return. Set pics reveal he’s wearing a completely different coat from his traditional one. Likewise, his sonic screwdriver is a redesigned model and the TARDIS he’s been caught emerging from is Jodie Whittaker’s blue box and not the one from his era. See the evidence for yourselves below:
This has led fans to ponder the ground-breaking idea that Tennant is actually playing the next Doctor. The theory is that Whittaker will regenerate back into Tennant’s form and he will be the protagonist of the special. At some point, he will then regenerate again into Gatwa and the true next era of the series will begin. This is also a scenario that was first rumored months ago, before Tennant’s involvement was confirmed.
However Tennant is back, we know that he’ll somehow reunite with both Donna and Wilf. What’s more, he’ll team up with Finney’s Rose, too, suggesting she’ll serve as his companion on this adventure. The presence of the Noble family has led to the theory that Rose is actually Donna’s daughter, Donna having married Shaun Temple in her last appearance. What’s more, Rose has been confirmed to be 15 years old. Donna’s wedding took place in 2010, so this tells us the special will take place in the near future — 2025 at the earliest.
When will we see it?
The bad news is that we’ve got a while to wait for the 60th. As Doctor Who premiered on our screens on November 23 1963, those math whizzes out there will be able to calculate that this means the big anniversary special won’t arrive until fall 2023.
That doesn’t mean we won’t have something to celebrate the show’s 59th birthday, though. Jodie Whittaker’s final episode, a 90-minute special, is set to air sometime this autumn as part of the BBC’s centenary specials. You can recap everything we know about the Thirteenth Doctor’s farewell here.