The Doctor Who 60th Anniversary special (or trio of specials) is almost a full year out, and we know a lot about them. Since the BBC revealed Russell T. Davies was returning to the series as showrunner since leaving in 2009, there's been a flurry of news. David Tennant, who played the Tenth Doctor during Davies' reign, is confirmed to return, as will his final companions, Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) and her granddad Wilfred Mott (the late Bernard Cribbins in his final on-screen role). A new Rose (Yasmin Finney) will join Team TARDIS, and American actor Neil Patrick Harris will play a villain believed to be the Celestial Toymaker. Ncuti Gatwa will wind up as the Doctor following these specials.
But there's also a lot that we don't know, though perhaps the thing we know that makes everything feel so unsettled is this: Rule One: The Doctor lies. That trope was from the Moffat era, not the Davies one, but it resonated because it also could be easily extrapolated to refer to the marketing around the series. ("The Next Doctor" special, anyone?) Currently, Tennant is being referred to as "The 14th Doctor" (which would be unprecedented, having the same actor play two iterations deliberately) and Gatwa, his successor, as "The 15th Doctor," despite being cast initially as the 14th.
But fans aren't sure this is real, and Doctor Who isn't trying to pull a fast one again. They'll believe it when they see it and not before. The new trailer is not going to help matters, either. Though 2022 marks the first year with no Doctor Who holiday special since the show's reboot, Davies didn't forget us, with the BBC dropping the first teaser for the 2023 60th Anniversary during Strictly Come Dancing's Holiday special. In it, Tennant doesn't seem to be a new Doctor at all.
Those suspicions come with good reason, and not just because bringing Tennant back is a super savvy casting stunt to pull in viewers who have tuned out since Tennant's last appearance in the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary (which, incidentally, happens to have been the series' high water mark for viewership). Tennant seems, well, like he's the Tenth Doctor, coming back for an extra spin, with Donna and family exactly as they were since the last time he left them behind. He looks a bit older — and has a new outfit — but there's nothing to indicate he's not the Tenth Doctor trying to pretend he's the 14th because he couldn't bear to leave. Tennant even has the same old catchphrase, "Allons-y."
Gatwa's roar demanding to know what's going on only adds to that theory. However, much like everything else about this special, it remains just that, a theory, one of a plethora of them that will proliferate until next fall. Speaking of which, the trailer doesn't clear that up either, with no release date beyond what fans already knew, "Coming in 2023." However, as our own Lacy pointed out, the actual 60th anniversary falls on a Wednesday, November 23. Three days of back-to-back specials to get us to the weekend over American Thanksgiving, anyone?
Along with Tennant, Gatwa, Finney, Noble, and Cribbins, the Doctor Who 60th anniversary will see the return of Jacqueline King as Donna's mother, Sylvia Noble, and Karl Collins as Donna's husband, Shaun Temple. The special will also introduce Ruth Madeley as Shirley Anne Bingham.
Doctor Who's 60th Anniversary trio of specials is expected to arrive in November 2023. A Christmas special will follow on December 25, with Season 14 debuting in 2024. As a reminder, the show has moved house here in the states and will begin streaming on Disney+ starting with the 60th Anniversary and all episodes going forward.