Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials: Cast, plot and release speculation

The Power of the Doctor was a spectacular end to the Jodie Whittaker era in the TARDIS. We saw returning classic Doctors, companions from throughout the ages and of course that shocking twist at the end of the episode that saw Whittaker regenerate into David Tennant’s Fourteenth Doctor, leaving us guessing as to how and why the Tenth appears to have become a new incarnation – and how Ncuti Gatwa’s Fifteenth Doctor will fit into the whole situation.

We also saw in The Power of the Doctor the end of the Chris Chibnall era as showrunner of the long-running BBC science fiction series, giving way to the triumphant return of Russell T Davies, the man who brought Doctor Who back from the wilderness in 2005 and oversaw its most popular series of the modern era with a certain David Tennant at the controls of the TARDIS.

Now, we know these are exciting times for Doctor Who fans as there is a lot of change coming. Not one but two new Doctors in David Tennant 2.0 and then Ncuti Gatwa, a brand new deal with Disney to distribute the show globally on Disney+ outside of the UK and Ireland (and much speculation about how that could supercharge the upcoming series’) and of course the small matter of the 60th-anniversary specials which are coming at the end of 2023.

Yep, it’s a good time to be a Whovian, and now we have a brief period of calm as the show resets for its next exciting chapter, it’s time for us to take stock and consider what we can expect for the 60th anniversary specials in 2023, who will be in them and what we know so far…

If you are ready, let’s go on some adventures in time and space and speculation as we examine the facts and rumours surrounding the 60th.

Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials release date

There is no confirmed release date for the Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials as we’re a long way out from the shows at the moment, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some educated guesses as to what might happen.

We know that are going to be three episodes that make up the 60th-anniversary Doctor Who specials.

We also know that the 60th-anniversary of Doctor Who will fall on Thursday 23rd November 2023.

Now, it’s not clear how the specials will be spread out or indeed how long they might be, but a guess could be that there could be a Doctor Who three-night event that plays out from Thursday 23rd November to Saturday 24th November? Alternatively, perhaps it could be an event running across Friday, Saturday and Sunday… or a midweek event that starts on Tuesday night and culminates in the finale on the actual birthday of Thursday 23rd November.

In another scenario, perhaps the specials could be spread out across three weekends in November to ramp the anticipation up to eleven.

At this stage, we’re just speculating, but it feels like the specials will likely be in late November however exactly they are scheduled on BBC One in the UK, and of course for release on Disney + across the globe (where presumably they will be simulcast with the BBC broadcast?)

The new logo for Doctor Who revealed with the announcement of the Disney+ international deal

Will Ncuti Gatwa feature in the 60th-anniversary specials?

The answer to this is, well, probably.

At the moment we have had a tiny glimpse of Ncuti Gatwa at the very end of a very short teaser trail for Doctor Who in 2023 which aired at the end of The Power of the Doctor. We see Gatwa in character asking “Can somebody tell me what the hell is going on?” but it’s not clear if this is footage that’s been filmed for the 60th-anniversary specials or if it is from the first full episode of Gatwa’s time as the Doctor-proper, which we have been told will begin around the festive period of 2023.

So is Gatwa going to feature as part of a multi-Doctor episode in the 60th opposite David Tennant’s Fourteenth, and if he does, how much of a role would he have in such episodes, well, for now we may have to wait for more trailers and announcements to find out.

Ncuti Gatwa as the Fifteenth

Will the 60th-anniversary specials feature other Doctors?

It looks likely from the footage we’ve seen that David Tennant’s Fourteenth Doctor could be the lead Doctor in the 60th specials, but that said, there could also be time for Ncuti Gatwa as the Fifteenth.

Chris Chibnall has hinted that he didn’t want to mess up any plans for the 60th by including modern Doctors in The Power of the Doctor which saw most of the living classic Who Doctors return.

“I didn’t want to tread on anything that might be happening in future, so those ones felt the right ones,” Said Chibnall at his decision to only include classic Doctors.

Added Chibnall: “I wanted it to be classic Doctors and there’s not a huge amount of those. It was a bit of an instinct, and we asked them, and they said yes.”

So, that would leave the door open for Matt Smith, who left in 2013, to return to the show with David Tennant in a repeat of the 2013 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor. When asked, Smith is always very positive about the show and it seems likely he might be open to the idea of a return.

Jodie Whittaker has also talked fondly about her experiences on Doctor Who and been clear that she’d love to return at some point, so that could be a possibility – although it seems like it may be a bit soon for a return as she only left the TARDIS in the previous episode.

“I know this is the end of my tenure properly.” Whittaker said.

She added: “But I’m clinging on for dear life. And I do keep saying that if Russell ever wants me, I would come back. I’m already vying for a walk-on part! I’m trying not to annoy anyone so I will get asked back.” 

Peter Capaldi has said he isn’t planning on joining in with a multi-Doctor episode, although he is clearly still a massive fan of the show. This may be a bluff to put everyone off the scent, but at this stage, it looks like he’s ruled himself out of the specials.

“It’s very hard to imagine how you’d get a decent crack of the whip when there’s 14 of you, you know? So I think I’d rather leave it as is, because I loved my time on Doctor Who and loved doing it,” he said.

“I don’t want to be Doctor Who’s assistant. It used to drive me insane on Doctor Who, not being able to talk about anything. It’s like, ‘Who cares?!’ But then I get into trouble.”

Although we saw many of the classic Doctors in The Power of the Doctor, that doesn’t mean they couldn’t also turn up in the 60th specials. However, it seems less likely that we’ll see them all after such a sensational return in 2022.

Will we see modern companions back?

One of the many thrills of The Power of the Doctor was seeing so many of the Doctor’s classic companions return to mix with Jodie Whittaker’s companions.

However, the modern version of Doctor Who will be 18 years old by the time the specials air in 2023, and in that time there have been many very popular companions who have travelled in the TARDIS who fans would love to see back.

We know that Catherine Tate is definitely in the specials as Donna Noble has been announced and she appears briefly in the teaser reel for 2023.

It is also believed that Bernard Cribbins filmed scenes for the specials as Wilfred Mott before his death earlier this year, so we should expect to see him in the specials in what is likely to be a very emotionally charged experience for viewers.

Billie Piper made an appearance in the 50th The Day of the Doctor when David Tennant returned, so could we be seeing more of her in 2023?

Equally popular are Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill, who were recently seen reuniting with Matt Smith on the Galapagos Islands as part of the Eleventh Doctor’s birthday celebrations. Gillan has spoken about how she would “never say never” to a Doctor Who return.

“If I was asked, I would be really interested and keen… it would be really amazing,” said Gillan earlier in 2022.

She added that if she were to do it, she’d like it to be a part of a mini-reunion with other cast members.

“I would like to do it with Matt Smith and Arthur Darvill if I was going to go back.”

So could we see all three return to the specials with an Eleventh / Ponds storyline?

Jenna Coleman has also left the door open to a return at some time, speaking about how she is still in touch with her co-stars from the Doctor Who days and what a positive experience she had on the show.

“I still speak to Matt (Smith) and Peter (Capaldi). I got a really nice message from Steven (Moffat) the other day saying it was 10 years since I’d been on it, which was terrifying,” Said Coleman recently.

She added: ” But yeah, it’s very much like a family. I feel like it’s one of those jobs that never leaves you.”

Clara Oswald would certainly mix things up with the Ponds and Matt Smith’s Eleventh.

Who else is going to be in the 60th-anniversary specials?

Beyond those mentioned, it is thought that the following people will be appearing in the series because they have either been announced in some way or they have been spotted in or around the set in Cardiff over the last few months.

Jacqueline King is expected to reprise her role as Sylvia Noble and Karl Collin will be back as Shaun Temple.

It has previously been announced that the Heartstopper actor Yasmin Finney will appear in the series as Rose, which perhaps has even more significance now we know the Tenth Doctor looks like the Fourteenth Doctor and the Tenth previously travelled with someone called Rose who looked like Billie Piper.

Speaking of joining Doctor Who Yasmin said: “If anyone would have told 8 year old Yasmin that one day she’d be part of this iconic show, I would have never in a million years believed them. This show has a place in so many people’s hearts, so to be seen as a trans actress by the legend himself Russell, has not only made my year, it’s made my life. I cannot wait to begin this journey and for you all to see how Rose blossoms. Get Ready.”

Russell T Davies, showrunner of Doctor Who added: “Life on Doctor Who gets brighter and wilder, how can there be another Rose? You’ll find out in 2023, but it’s an absolute joy to welcome Yasmin to the Doctor Who set. We all fell in love with her in Heartstopper, one of those shows which changes the world – and now Yasmin can change the Whoniverse!”

We also know that How I met Your Mother star Neil Patrick Harris will be appearing in the 60th-anniversary specials. He has been announced and several photos have been shared of him in a costume that many believe resembles the Toymaster. His exact role has yet to be confirmed but with Russell T Davies at the helm, it feels like there are bound to be more twists and turns in the story yet.

Catherine Tate with David Tennant

What can we expect from the Doctor Who 60th plot?

This is the $64,000 question, and the answer is clearly that we’re going to have to wait a year to truly find out.

Teasing the audience immediately after the big reveal at the end of The Power of the Doctor, Russell T Davies said: “If you thought the appearance of David Tennant was a shock, we’ve got plenty more surprises on the way.

“The path to Ncuti’s 15th Doctor is laden with mystery, horror, robots, puppets, danger and fun.

“And how is it connected to the return of the wonderful Donna Noble? How, what, why? We’re giving you a year to speculate, and then all hell lets loose.”

And a year of speculation there will be. Although we imagine there will be more announcements and hints along the way from Russell T Davies and the BBC who can’t help but get us excited about what’s going to happen at as many opportunities as they can.

Who is writing and directing the 60th specials?

All three episodes of the Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials are understood to be written by Russell T Davies, the showrunner of Doctor Who.

The episodes are thought to be directed by three different directors; Rachel Talalay, Tom KIngsley and Chanya Button.

Is there a trailer for the 60th-anniversary specials?

Indeed there is if it’s long enough to really be called a trailer.

The BBC released a post-credits 30-second teaser trail for 2023 Doctor Who at the end of The Power of the Doctor that showed us a little more of the aforementioned danger and fun that we can expect next year.

We get a glimpse of David Tennant as Fourteen and Catherine Tate as Donna Noble, as well as Neil Patrick Harris looking rather menacing. There are explosions and there is a tiny glimpse at the end of Ncuti Gatwa as Fifteen.

We’re sure there will be many more much longer trailers closer to the time, but for now, we have a few seconds to dissect, study and attempt to read meaning into. And how we intend to keep doing that!

How can I watch the Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials?

If you live in the UK you will be able to see the Doctor Who specials as normal premiering on BBC One, and BBC iPlayer.

However, if you live outside the UK and Ireland, the specials will be the first Doctor Who episodes to premiere on Disney+ rather than your current usual host broadcaster for the series. It isn’t yet announced whether the episodes will simulcast with the BBC broadcast, although it feels likely that the specials will be available very close to the UK broadcast across the globe for international viewers.

When will season 14 of Doctor Who air?

It is understood the first full episode starring Ncuti Gatwa alone as the Fifteenth Doctor will broadcast around the festive season of 2023, a month or so after the 60th celebration trio. Whether this is a standalone Christmas or New Year special or will be the beginning of season 14 is yet to be established, but either way, we’re going to see season 14 of Doctor Who plays out in 2024. At this time there is no information about how many episodes there will be in the series or whether it will feature standalone stories or two parters and serials.

It is understood filming for season 14 will begin in November 2022.

We’ll keep updating this page with more information as it comes in as we look forward to a very special year for adventures in space and time.