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‘Doctor Who’ 60th Anniversary Specials Release Windows, Trailer, Cast, Plot, and More

What? What?!

David Tennant regenerates as the Doctor on 'Doctor Who'

Last night’s epic Doctor Who centenary special “The Power of the Doctor” made waves in fandom with its dazzling effects, surprising returnees, and heartfelt goodbyes—but one reveal fans weren’t expecting was the 13th Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) regenerating into David Tennant after her final farewell. The shocking return of David Tennant’s Doctor isn’t coming out of nowhere—”Power of the Doctor’s” twist ending is laying the groundwork for the upcoming trio of Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials, which will feature Tennant’s first time donning the sticky-up hair and sand shoes since 2013’s “Day of the Doctor.”

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But as exciting as it is for Tennant’s return, there’s still plenty of questions to be answered about the mysterious and high-profile 60th anniversary specials: when will they air, who will they feature, and what will they be about?

The Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Specials Already Have a Trailer—Sort of

Though you may have been too busy having your mind blown by Tennant’s return and Whittaker’s departure, fans who stuck around after the “Power of the Doctor” credits rolled were treated to a brief teaser trailer for next year’s 60th anniversary specials:

The 36-second trailer gives a brief action-packed look at the upcoming 60th anniversary celebrations, which will feature not just one but three special episodes. You read that right: unlike the 50th anniversary, which also featured the return of David Tennant, the 60th will treat viewers to three separate special episodes (the runtime of which we’re not yet sure, but could very possibly be feature length like Power of the Doctor or Day of the Doctor).

Who Will Star in the Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Specials?

Donna Noble in a wedding dress as the Doctor raises an eyebrow at her.

Though the teaser trailer doesn’t provide much concrete detail in the way of plot developments (more on that below), one thing it does give us is plenty of insight into just who exactly will be starring in the trio of specials. Leading the charge, of course, will be David Tennant returning as the Doctor—though exactly which Doctor he’s playing is very much up in the air. It’s possible that by some trick of fate the 10th Doctor has returned, but it’s also worth considering this may be a different personality altogether, still taking the physical from of the 10th Doctor. Considering the unfinished business the 13th Doctor had with Yaz as she headed into her regeneration, it”ll be curious to see if Tennant’s Doctor will have the memories of the 11th, 12th, and 13th Doctors. The BBC website lists Tennant as the 14th Doctor, not Ncuti Gatwa, as previously announced, which raises a number of questions as to just where this regeneration fits into the Doctor’s timeline.

By Tennant’s side will be another beloved franchise returnee—Catherine Tate as Donna Noble. Though her appearance in the trailer is blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, Tate does have a brief appearance in the teaser, confirming that Donna will be involved in all three specials. As with the 10th(?) Doctor, just how Donna will return to Who is another major question mark, considering her tragic departure at the end of series four saw the Doctor erase all memories of him and their adventures from her mind. Still, regardless of whatever plot contrivances it takes to get her back, the return of Tate/Donna is absolutely worth celebrating. More of Donna, and Tate and Tennant together, is a win no matter how you slice it.

Donna isn’t the only series four companion returning. Though he didn’t appear in the trailer, on-set photos from the filming of the 60th specials confirm the return of the late Bernard Cribbins as Wilfred Mott, one-time 10th Doctor companion and beloved grandfather of Donna Noble. Cribbins sadly passed away earlier this year, but not before filming scenes for the 60th anniversary. Though it’s heartbreaking that Cribbins won’t be around when the special makes it to air, fans will be able to get one last taste of his talent when he returns as Wilf—the 60th specials were likely his final project before passing.

Every good Doctor Who story needs a great villain, and the first new addition to the cast of the 60th anniversary is Neil Patrick Harris, whose tuxedo-clad baddie has been spotted both on-set and in the teaser trailer. Unlike the rest of the 60th anniversary cast, we don’t have solid confirmation yet of who Harris will be playing. But if fan speculation and set photos are to be believed, all signs point to him playing the Celestial Toymaker, a classic who villain who made his first appearance 1966.

Perhaps the most surprising confirmed member of the 60yh anniversary cast is an addition that many fans didn’t see coming: Ncuti Gatwa as the 14th (or possibly 15th?) Doctor. When Whittaker regenerated into Tennant, most fans assumed that Gatwa’s Doctor wouldn’t appear until after the 60th anniversary specials, but it looks as if the 60th will be a multi-Doctor story, considering Gatwa makes a brief but memorable appearance in the teaser trailer.

Ncuti Gatwa in the teaser trailer for the 60th Anniversary Specials

Rounding out the impressive 60th Anniversary cast is franchise newcomer Yasmin Finney as a mysterious character named—of all things—Rose. Finney’s addition to the Doctor Who universe was announced earlier this year, but just who the Heartstopper alum will be playing is up for debate. Some fans speculate that Finney’s Rose will be an alternate universe version of Billie Piper’s character, while others have guessed (based on set pictures) that this Rose may be the daughter of Donna Noble.

Yasmin Finney as Elle in Heartstopper
Yasmin Finney, who will play ‘Rose’ in the upcoming trio of anniversary specials.

What will the 60th Anniversary Specials Be About?

Despite having a solid number of cast members announced, one of the biggest questions surrounding the 60th anniversary specials is what their plot will revolve around—and unfortunately, there aren’t many concrete details yet. With the return of the 10th Doctor, Donna, and Wilf, it’s safe to assume that the stories will feature the Doctor reuniting with his previous companions and trying to right past wrongs in some way, but exactly how and why Donna is back traveling with the Doctor after her mind-wipe is still unknown.

Similarly, there’s not much known about just who or what the Doctor will be facing off against during the 60th, though it’s all but confirmed that Neil Patrick Harris is playing the Celestial Toymaker. Outside of the knowledge of Harris as a villain, and some brief flashes of action sequences during the teaser trailer, it’s anyone’s guess as to the plot of the 60th, so it’ll likely be a while before new plot details emerge.

When will the 60th Anniversary Specials Air?

David Tennant as the 14th Doctor in Doctor Who

The big question in the wake of the teaser trailer is, of course, when will the specials air? The title card at the end of the teaser tells fans that “Doctor Who returns 2023″—but exactly when in 2023 has yet to be confirmed. Though initial speculation varied wildly, the BBC website confirms that the 60th anniversary specials will air in November of 2023, which coincides with the actual 60th anniversary of the series: November 23, 1963.

As of right now, we don’t know exactly when in November 2023 the specials will air, but it’s entirely possible that at least one of the specials may hit the airways on the day of the proper anniversary. Until then though, fans will be sure to analyze every frame of the teaser and set photo for any and all details about the highly-anticipated upcoming trio of specials.

(images via The BBC)

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Lauren Coates
Lauren Coates (she/her)is a freelance film/tv critic and entertainment journalist, who has been working in digital media since 2019. Besides writing at The Mary Sue, her other bylines include Nerdist, Paste, RogerEbert, and The Playlist. In addition to all things sci-fi and horror, she has particular interest in queer and female-led stories. When she's not writing, she's exploring Chicago, binge-watching Star Trek, or planning her next trip to the Disney parks. You can follow her on twitter @laurenjcoates

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