After the early years of the Doctor Who reboot, there has always been an awkward pause between its titular character's regenerations. Season 1 to Season 2 sidestepped having a gap because the show made no other changes initially. The news that the series was recasting Ninth Doctor Christopher Eccleston with Tenth Doctor David Tennant happened just as the show debuted its first episodes in 2005. But since that switch, every time a Doctor casting change happens (or a showrunner departs), there's an awkward gap year as schedules realign, filming gets underway, and the show reinvents itself once more.
It says a lot that Doctor Who is not taking off for 2022 the way it has in the past. Part of the reason is the historic nature of this year: It marks the 100th anniversary of the BBC launch in 1922. As one of the corporation's longest-running programs, Doctor Who is a show whose presence seems both desirable and obvious as part of this landmark event. (Also, the ratings could use the boost.) In previous years, the series might have just done a holiday special at Christmas/New Year's, then aired a special in the fall for the BBC celebration, one more holiday special, and then the 60th anniversary in November 2023. But for 2022, there's an extra springtime special to give fans a bit more continuity.
The spring special is titled "Legend of the Sea Devils" and will bring back the titular monster for the first time in almost forty years. The Sea Devils are a Classic Who villain that hasn't appeared since the reboot. These aquatic creatures were initially introduced in the Third Doctor serial "The Sea Devils" in 1972. They were last seen in "Warriors of the Deep," a mid-1980s Fifth Doctor serial. The Sea Devils are related to the Sirulians, which were brought back in a significant way during the Steven Moffat years, and the Sirulian update inspired their new look.
Here's the special's synopsis:
Legend of the Sea Devils finds the Doctor, Yaz, and Dan in 19th century China, where a small coastal village is under threat – from both the fearsome pirate queen Madame Ching and a monstrous alien force that she unwittingly unleashes. Will the Doctor, Yaz, and Dan emerge from this swashbuckling battle with the Sea Devils to save the planet?
Jodie Whittaker will return as the 13th Doctor and be joined by Mandip Gill and John Bishop as her companions Yaz and Dan. This will be the trio's penultimate outing; their final appearance will be in the centennial special in the fall. Guest stars for the new special will feature Crystal Yu (A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby) as Madame Ching, along with Arthur Lee (The Great) and newcomer Marlowe Chan-Reeves. This is also showrunner Chris Chibnall's penultimate adventure with the series before passing the baton to Russell T Davies.
Meanwhile, Doctor Who Season 14 has started filming, and a new Doctor is currently being cast.
Doctor Who: Legend of the Sea Devils will premiere on Easter Sunday, April 17, 2022, at 6:25 p.m. BT on BBC One and then at 8 p.m. ET on BBC America.