News about Ncuti Gatwa's first season of Doctor Who has been coming fast and furious of late, with regular updates on returning favorites and new guest stars, along with a flurry of speculation about what stories Season 14 might include. So much so that you might be forgiven for forgetting that there's a whole anniversary series of specials — with a completely different Doctor (sort of?) — to get through first. We haven't even really gotten much in the way of an update on the 60th anniversary since May when the titles of the three upcoming specials were announced.
Granted, part of that lack may be due to the ongoing WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. In a normal year, it's almost certain that the series would have had splashy panels at both San Diego and New York Comic-Con, along with the subsequent flow of content that each would have spawned, including press interviews, new footage, and other sneak peeks. But, thanks to the fact that multiple studio bigwigs are still unwilling to pay their writers and performers fairly, we've been stuck with virtually nothing for months on end. (Thanks a lot, y'all!)
Thankfully, that seems as though it's finally about to change. With the series' anniversary now just over two months away, rumors are flying that a new trailer is about to be released at last and a quartet of new images, a mix for the three specials, dropped as part of Entertainment Weekly's annual Fall Preview issue, alongside a few choice pre-strike quotes from former (and returning) Doctor David Tennant (Good Omens), in which he described his return to the Whoniverse as "joyous".
"Just an unexpected treat to get to revisit something that had been such a lovely wonderful experience 15 years ago," he told the magazine. "To get to have another proper runaround, in an albeit slightly different long coat, was a joy I never really imagined."
There is established precedent for former Doctors popping back aboard the TARDIS for guest appearances over the years. The 1973 episode "The Three Doctors" saw Jon Pertwee's Third Doctor join forces with predecessors William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton. Twentieth anniversary story "The Five Doctors" brought an entire set of previous Time Lords together through the magic of recasts and judiciously employed footage from unfinished serials. Tennant himself came back for 50th anniversary special "The Day of the Doctor" and retconned the Time War alongside Jon Hurt's War Doctor and Matt Smith's Eleven.
But what sets his second return apart is that he's the first former Doctor to play what is ostensibly a current version of the character. How this has all come about is a mystery that only Russell T. Davies can solve, but everyone involved with the show seems quiet insistent that Tennant is playing the Fourteenth Doctor, not some version of the Tenth.
Of course, Tennant is not the only familiar face returning for Doctor Who's big anniversary outing. The trio of specials also marks the return of once and future showrunner Russell T. Davies (It's a Sin), who is once again taking over the reins of the Whoniverse for the foreseeable future.
Former companion Catherine Tate (Hard Cell), who was on board the TARDIS for Tennant's final season with the show, is also back to celebrate its 60th, and it seems likely that Doctor Who is finally set to address one of its greatest wrongs, which was, incidentally, perpetrated by Davies himself. For those who don't remember, Donna had all her memories erased after the events of the Season 4 finale "Journey's End," and her time with the Doctor ended with threats of dire consequences should she ever remember him or the adventures they shared.
Donna Noble was saved, but she was forced to forget everything she'd done, how important her very existence was to the universe, and the fact that she'd saved the world many, many times. It was, quite frankly, a truly awful ending for one of Doctor Who's best characters who deserved better, both then and now. That she might, at long last, get some justice is pretty much all many long-term fans want from this trio of episodes.
How Donna is going to survive a reunion with the Doctor and whether she'll fully regain her memories are questions only Davies can answer, but he certainly sounds enthusiastic about returning to their story.
"I realized that there was a third act to be written, and it was so much fun writing it," he told EW. "On a really simple level, it's working with two of the best actors in the world. I love them. I love them as friends. I love their presence. I'm really interested to push the Doctor and Donna into things they've never done before."
The three 60th anniversary specials — titled "The Star Beast," "Wild Blue Yonder," and "The Giggle" — will also feature Yasmin Finney (Heartstopper) as Donna's daughter Rose, a character we all assume is somehow named after Billie Piper's (I Hate Suzie) former companion Rose Tyler, and Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) as an unnamed villain that is heavily rumored to be the Celestial Toymaker. (I'm a fan of this theory both because it's a pretty deep-cut bit of Whovian lore and also because the Toymaker's reality-bending powers are uniquely suited to allowing Donna to be around the Doctor again without immediately melting her brain. A win-win, if you ask me.)
How Beep the Meep — an adorable if incredibly criminal character from a comic in Doctor Who Magazine that Davies has chosen to bring to life in at least one of the upcoming episodes — fits into all this is anybody's guess. But if we don't get plushies of that little thing by Christmas, it'll be a crime.
There's still no date set yet for any of the upcoming specials, but given that November 23 is the actual 60th anniversary of the series premiere, it seems a pretty safe bet that particular Thursday will somehow be involved.