Rumor Has It: Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Speculation Runs Wild

We all know that the second half of Doctor Who Series 7 will premiere on March 30 on both BBC One and BBC America, let’s be real Whovians, what we really want to know is what exactly is going on with plans for the series’ landmark 50th anniversary this year?

As expected, this is an extremely popular topic among fans of the show, and while plenty of people seem to have loads of opinions about how they think everything out to be handled down, but there’s not much official information out there, as (unsurprisingly) this everything’s being kept under incredibly tight wraps by the folks at the BBC. If you can dream it as a possible anniversary scenario, though; there’s probably been a rumor that that’s what’s going to happen this year. The basic situation is – no one really knows anything for certain and since the internet abhors a vacuum, everyone has a theory about everything.

But what do we know?

Well, the one off special film An Adventure in Time and Space dramatizing the genesis of Doctor Who is definitely happening. It’s being written by frequent Who scribe and Sherlock co-creator Mark Gatiss and Harry Potter actor William Bradley is playing First Doctor William Hartnell. A recent tweet from Gatiss indicates that filming on the Adventure special is almost – if not totally – complete.

We also know that the BBC has commissioned a Doctor Who special for the 50th anniversary in November and that this episode will – for some reason yours truly does not exactly understand – be shot in 3-D. (Fun fact: this will not even be the first time that Who gets the 3-D treatment; the 30th anniversary in 1993 also featured a 3-D episode. Boggle.) We have no idea what form this special will take – while the BBC release only made mention of one, singular anniversary episode, showrunner Steven Moffat called that “nonsense.” (Whether this is mean to imply that the anniversary installment will take the form of multiple episodes or merely an extended feature length special is also anyone’s guess.)

Other than that? There’s nothing official out there, but there sure is a lot of speculation, and rumors are flying as the countdown to November 23 ramps up.

There are tons of stories all over the internet that XYZ former companion is or is not returning, that the BBC is really secretly commissioning multiple specials, not just a single episode, that classic Who will be rebroadcast in the run up to the anniversary (in some similar way to what BBC America is doing with their monthly specials on each Doctor). Like I said, the internet abhors a vacuum, and other than Moffat’s previous insistence that Doctor Who was going to take over TV this year, we don’t have much to go on.

The one rumor that refuses to die though, is that the upcoming anniversary special is somehow going to feature all eleven Time Lords. Way back in January, the Birmingham Mail is reported that Moffat was superclose to finishing a script that brought back every previous Doctor somehow or other and the internet ran with it. The story ran in the Metro, the Guardian, the Telegraph, Wired, basically everywhere. But all roads led back to this source, which, let’s face it, seems a bit…well, let’s be kind and call it random. I mean, the Birmingham Mail? Nothing official was ever said in response to this story by either the BBC or Moffat himself and the controversy sort of fizzled out. However, for some reason, has been making the rounds again in the press, which of course is causing everyone to wonder whether there actually might be some truth to it after all.

Consider the source and take it with a boulder-sized grain of salt and all that, but still. You sort of can’t help getting excited at the mere thought of it – because it would be amazing. According to the Birmingham paper’s report, current Doctor Matt Smith will reunite with the seven surviving former Time Lords for this one-off adventure. This particular news story insists that Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant will all join Smith in the TARDIS for an adventure. It’s said that special effects would be used to facilitate flashbacks featuring the series’ first three Doctors – William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee.

Notably however, Sixth Doctor Baker has denied this report, saying that he’s unaware of any plans for a reunion of all the living actors who’ve previously played the Doctor. Via his Twitter account, Baker states that he is “not aware of any 50th stories” nor has he been approached to take part in anything of the sort. Fifth Doctor Davison has also speculated that if the anniversary special involved older Doctors, it was likely to be “footage lifted from (older) stories,” which certainly doesn’t sound like he’s gearing up for a TARDIS return. To be fair, pulling together such a reunion would be a truly massive undertaking, and keeping it secret would be an even more difficult task, especially when you consider that everyone who has ever been involved with Who in any capacity gets asked about the anniversary pretty much anytime they appear in public. I’m as much a fan of fannish wish-fulfillment as anyone – and let’s be honest, I’m in favor of any scenario that lets me see Eccleston’s Nine again – but this just seems too daunting of a task, particularly when we can’t even seem to find out whether or not we’re talking one special or a multi-part episode or what.

Furthermore, we can also deduce from previous news reports and interviews with former cast members that there will be more than a few familiar faces missing from anniversary celebrations. Billie Piper says she hasn’t been asked about returning. Freema Agyeman tweeted that while she is involved with a BBC America special, she’s not appearing on the actual show. Most recent companion Karen Gillan also looks like a no-go.

John Barrowman sort of almost confirmed he’s doing something connected to the anniversary celebrations, but then had to walk his statement back when fans took it as a confirmation he’d be appearing onscreen again (he now says his remarks were taken “out of context”). Former Tenth Doctor Tennant – an infamously cagey interview at the best of times – has been sort of hinting at his involvement for months, but is now apparently less optimistic about the prospect.

Filming on the Doctor Who anniversary special is rumored to start in April and – as you can clearly see – no one seems to have the slightest concrete idea about what to expect. What say you? What would you most like to see to celebrate the Doctor’s 50th? What do you think the anniversary celebrations will look like?

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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