Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials: release date, plot, and cast as David Tennant and Catherine Tate return

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The first Doctor Who 60th anniversary episode, The Star Beast, sees David Tennant, Catherine Tate, and Bernard Cribbins return

Three Doctor Who specials will air ahead of the Christmas Day episode, leading up to Ncuti Gatwa’s appearance as the 15th Doctor. The special hour-long episodes see fan favourite David Tennant return as The Doctor, whilst Catherine Tate returns as the 10th Doctor’s companion Donna Noble, and the late great Bernard Cribbins appears in his last screen role as Donna’s grandfather Wilfred Mott.

The first episode of Doctor Who aired 60 years ago on November 23 1963, the day after the Kennedy assassination in America. The debut episode, An Unearthly Child, saw William Hartnell’s First Doctor, his granddaughter Susan, and her two teachers, travel back in time in the TARDIS spaceship, arriving in the year 100,000 BC.

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In the six decades since, The Doctor and his numerous companions have shared hundreds of incredible adventures together, meeting kings and queens, battling Daleks, Cybermen, Zygons, and Sea Serpents, and exploring planets across all of space.

David Tennant and Catherine Tate return in the Doctor Who  60th anniversary specialsDavid Tennant and Catherine Tate return in the Doctor Who  60th anniversary specials
David Tennant and Catherine Tate return in the Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials

Doctor Who has become a huge franchise and one of the UK’s most iconic cultural exports, with popular spin-off media including TV shows The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood, more than 100 novels, and 172 audio dramas.

This year, as Doctor Who turns 60, and with The Doctor about to regenerate into his 15th incarnation, the BBC celebrates the legacy of one of its most popular shows with three special episodes that see iconic cast members return.

Is there a trailer for the Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials?

Yes there is, and you can watch it right here:

What are the Doctor Who specials about?

The Star Beast finds the newly regenerated 14th Doctor, somehow played by Tennant, the 10th Doctor actor, coming to terms with his familiar face. As a spaceship crash lands in London, an intergalactic battle causes havoc, and The Doctor’s fate converges with Donna Noble, his former companion, once more.

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In episode two, Wild Blue Yonder, the official synopsis states “The TARDIS takes the Doctor and Donna to the furthest edge of adventure. To escape, they must face the most desperate fight of their lives, with the fate of the universe at stake.”

Episode three, The Giggle, sees the human race driven insane by a mysterious puppet, and The Doctor learns that The Celestial Toymaker, a villain who last faced off against the First Doctor, has returned.

Who is in the cast of Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials?

  • David Tennant as The Doctor
  • Catherine Tate as Donna Noble (10th Doctor’s companion)
  • Miriam Margolyes as The Meep
  • Bernard Cribbins as Wilfred Mott
  • Ruth Madeley as Shirley Ann Bingham
  • Jacqueline King as Sylvia Noble
  • Yasmin Finney as Rose Temple-Noble
  • Karl Collins as Shaun Temple
  • Jemma Redgrave as Kate Stewart
  • Bonnie Langford as Melanie Bush (6th and 7th Doctor’s companion)
  • Neil Patrick Harris as The Celestial Toymaker
  • Carole Ann Ford as Susan Foreman (The Doctor’s granddaughter and 1st Doctor’s companion)
  • Indira Varma as The Duchess
  • Ncuti Gatwa as The 15th Doctor
Three special Doctor Who episodes celebrate the show's 60th anniversaryThree special Doctor Who episodes celebrate the show's 60th anniversary
Three special Doctor Who episodes celebrate the show's 60th anniversary

Which characters are returning in the Doctor Who specials?

The biggest surprise was Jodie Whittaker’s regeneration into David Tennant, who played the 10th Doctor. The specials will need to explain how The Doctor was able to regenerate into an earlier likeness.

Also returning is the 10th Doctor’s companion Donna Noble, last time she appeared in the show The Doctor had to wipe her memory of him to save her life, so it will be interesting to see how the specials navigate this obstacle.

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Donna’s mother Sylvia, and grandfather Wilfred, are also appearing in the specials and will try to protect Donna from The Doctor’s return. Bernard Cribbins, who passed away last year, played Wilfred from 2007-2010, and had appeared as companion Tom Campbell in the non-canonical 1966 film Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.

Another huge return is that of Susan Foreman, the Doctor's granddaughter who left the show in 1964 when the 1st Doctor locked her out of the TARDIS because he wanted her to have her own life rather than look after him. He left her with a tearful farewell message promising to return one day. Susan also appeared in the 20th anniversary episode The Five Doctors, and the 30th anniversary, Dimensions in Time.

Melanie Bush is also back - she was a companion to the 6th and 7th Doctors in classic Doctor Who, and left The Doctor to travel with confidence trickster Sabalom Glitz, though she later appeared in the 30th anniversary special and a 2022 special last year.

Kate Stewart, the head of UNIT, and daughter of UNIT co-founder Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, is a recurring character in Doctor Who, who first appeared on the show in 2012. She also featured in the 50th anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor, is back again for the 60th.

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When is the release date of the Doctor Who specials?

The first anniversary special, The Star Beast, airs on BBC One on Saturday November 25, at 6.30pm, and will be available to watch on BBC iPlayer after it is first broadcast. The second special, Wild Blue Yonder, will air on BBC One on Saturday December 2 at 6.30pm and also be available on iPlayer.

The final episode, The Giggle, which will see Tennant’s Doctor regenerate into Ncuti Gatwa’s incarnation, will air on BBC One at 6.30pm on Saturday December 9, and will then be on iPlayer. The first proper Gatwa episode will air on Christmas Day ahead of the new season beginning in 2024.

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