Doctor Who: Looking towards the 60th Anniversary

7 mins read

As a staple of British television, Doctor Who looks forward to celebrating its sixtieth anniversary in November of 2023.

Following the shock regeneration of the 13th Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) into the 14th Doctor (David Tennant) in the “Power of the Doctor” special, the BBC announced that the Scottish actor would reprise his role as the Doctor, albeit four incarnations later, in three anniversary specials.

The Fourteenth Doctor, portrayed by David Tennant stands in front of his TARDIS, a wooden blue police box.
David Tennant will take over the reins as the Fifteenth face of the Doctor | Image Credit: BBC Studios

These specials will debut around the 60th anniversary which falls on Thursday 23rd November 2023. The current premiere schedule is unconfirmed, with some speculating that the episodes will be spaced evenly throughout the week and others suggesting a daily or weekly schedule.

Actress and comedian Catherine Tate will also reprise her role as Donna Noble alongside Tennant’s 14th Doctor.

Donna Noble, portrayed by Catherine Tate, looks surprised at something to the right of the frame.
Catherine Tate returns as Donna Noble after 14 years. Image Credit: BBC Studios

Context for the 60th special

Doctor Who Series 4 spoilers ahead! In fairness, you’ve had nearly 15 years to watch it.

The 2009 episode “Journey’s End” was the penultimate story for Donna’s character.

In a monumental three-parter, several characters and stories from previous seasons unite under the Doctor in a struggle against the Daleks and their creator, Davros, as they attempt to destroy the universe.

Luckily, due to various things that happen in the plot (go and watch the episodes), a meta-crisis occurs that creates the meta-crisis Doctor (a half-human clone of the 10th Doctor) and the DoctorDonna (a Time-Lord intellect that inhabits Donna’s mind).

Eventually, once the plot is all wrapped up (go and watch it), the Doctor and Donna are in the TARDIS. It quickly becomes apparent to both characters that human biology cannot sustain even half of a Time-Lord consciousness.

While the DoctorDonna begs the Doctor to let her die, he opts for a non-consensual memory wipe. We see Donna forget all of her travels, neatly undoing the past season of character development.

The Doctor also made it incredibly clear that if Donna were to remember anything relating to the Doctor or the TARDIS, her mind would burn up and she would die.

Her final episodes in the Series 4 finale see her begin to remember her travels and almost burn up and die, as advertised. However, the Doctor reveals that he implanted a self-defense mechanism within her mind that released a burst of energy, putting her and those around her to sleep.

The show then leaves Donna on her wedding day sometime in the local future, as the Doctor gifts her what we can only presume to be a winning lottery ticket, bought with a pound that he borrowed from her deceased father.

How is Donna able to return?

So, you could be forgiven for assuming that Donna would burn up and die upon seeing the Doctor.

However, clips in the title announcement trailers show the Doctor and Donna in conversation.

60th Anniversary Specials Title Reveal Trailers. Image credit: Doctor Who YouTube Channel

Clearly, she doesn’t die. How exactly Russell T Davies got around his own 2009 plot is yet to be seen, but the prospect excites fans.

Further returning characters

Further characters set to return are as follows:

  • Donna’s mother, Sylvia Noble (portrayed by Jacqueline King).
  • Donna’s grandfather, Wilfred Mott (portrayed by Bernard Cribbins, marking the actor’s final appearance on television before his death).
  • Donna’s husband, Shaun Temple (portrayed by Karl Collins).

New characters set to debut

Incoming characters include the child of Donna and Shaun, Rose Temple-Noble, portrayed by Yasmin Finney, known for her role as Elle in 2022’s Heartstopper.

Furthermore, the character of the villain for the specials is unknown, but they will be portrayed by Neil Patrick Harris, best known for his portrayal of Barney in the US sitcom “How I Met Your Mother”

And of course, as featured in the 60th Anniversary trailer, the 15th Doctor portrayed by Ncuti Gatwa will make his debut appearance in the specials.

60th Anniversary Specials Trailer. Image credit: Doctor Who YouTube Channel

Structure of the specials

As mentioned, the airing schedule is unknown.

However, the BBC has confirmed that each special is one hour in duration and will air on BBC One in the UK and release on Disney+ internationally.

What crew is returning?

As mentioned, lead showrunner Russell T Davies is returning for the specials and following 2 seasons. Whether he’ll continue after that is unknown.

Murray Gold will return as composer for the specials, following Segun Akinola’s departure.

The Bad Wolf production company holds creative control of the show, leading some fans to believe the show will finally outgrow its reputation for terrible, yet charming, computer effects.


Rachel Talalay, director of some of Peter Capaldi’s best-performing episodes, will return for the first special “The Star Beast”.

“Wild Blue Yonder”, the second special, will be directed by Tom Kingsley, known for his direction of Ghosts and Stath Lets Flats.

Chanya Button will direct the final special “The Giggle”. Button has directed two feature films and two period dramas.

When does Series 14 start?

Ncuti’s 15th Doctor will begin with a Christmas special in 2023.

Following that, a slip-up on the BBC website, revealed that Series 14 will begin properly in Spring 2024.

Featured Image Credit: BBC Studios

+ posts

2nd year Journalism and Politics student from Stockport.

%d bloggers like this: