Countdown: What Do We Know About the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special

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Doctor Who is the longest running science fiction show in TV history. Fans of the perennially popular BBC show are excitedly looking forward to the 50th Anniversary Special. The TV special will be 75 minutes long and will be broadcast in 75 countries around the world on Nov. 23, 2013, which is exactly 50 years to the day that the original episode “An Unearthly Child” first aired. It will also be shown in hundreds of cinemas in several countries around the world.

The special, which will be titled The Day of the Doctor, will star Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor, David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor, Jenna Louise Coleman as the Doctor’s companion Clara Oswin Oswald, Billie Piper as returning former companion Rose Tyler, and John Hurt as the mysterious other Doctor, who was introduced in the Season 7 episode the Name of the Doctor.

The BBC released the official synopsis on November 4, 2013: “The Doctors embark on their greatest adventure in this 50th anniversary special. In 2013, something terrible is awakening in London’s National Gallery; in 1562, a murderous plot is afoot in Elizabethan England; and somewhere in space an ancient battle reaches its devastating conclusion. All of reality is at stake as the Doctor’s own dangerous past comes back to haunt him.”

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Not surprisingly, the Doctor’s long-time arch enemies the Daleks are back for the special. What is surprising is that the Zygons are returning. The shape-shifting alien baddies haven’t been seen since the 1975 serial “Terror of the Zygons”, which starred Tom Baker as the fourth Doctor.  

One enticing aspect of the footage that has been released so far is that it seems we may finally see the oft-discussed Time War, which has been such an important plot-point of the show since the series revival in 2005. The footage hints that it may show the very end of the conflict, with the Daleks invading the Time Lord’s home planet of Gallifrey.

The footage shows John Hurt’s new/old Doctor approaching something which may be ‘the Moment’, the weapon discussed in “The End of Time” which may have wiped out not only the Daleks but the Time Lords as well. Rose is heard telling Hurt’s Doctor “the Moment is coming”. This may lend credence to the idea that Hurt is playing either an older version of the 8th Doctor or a hitherto unknown regeneration that exists between 8 and 9. (Doctor 8.5?)

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And speaking of Rose Tyler, it looks like this Rose may be the “Bad Wolf” version of the character, plucked from the Series 2 finale.  “Bad Wolf” graffiti has been used on the show’s promotional material and the scenes we see of Rose hint that she could be playing her time-vortex possessed self. Does she help Hurt’s Doctor discover Rassilon’s “Ultimate Sanction”?

It also seems that UNIT will join in on the action, with Jemma Redgrave’s character Kate Stewart returning. Joanna Page will appear as a younger Queen Elizabeth and it looks like she’ll have a major role. It was hinted in “The Shakespeare Code” that Queen Elizabeth has a history with Doctor 10.

Show-runner/Executive Producer Steven Moffat has commented that the episode “will change the narrative of the show in a big way”. He tells us, “The story focuses on the most important thing that ever happened to the Doctor. We very rarely do that in Doctor Who as it’s usually about the people the Doctor meets or the companion that travels with him. This time it’s different.”

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Moffat further adds: “We’ve got to set the Doctor off in a brand new direction. It’s chapter two of his life. Now something happens to him that changes the way he thinks and the way he will adventure from now on. You can celebrate an anniversary in many ways – I think the most productive one within the narrative is to say ‘This is where the story really starts. This is where he finds his mission, he finds his destiny.’ We’re not fibbing – this one is going to change the course of the series. And it’s very rare in Doctor Who that the story happens to the Doctor. It happens to people around him, and he helps out – he’s the hero figure who rides in and saves everybody from the story of the week. He is not the story of the week. In this, he is the story of the week. This is the day of the Doctor. This is his most important day. His most important moment. This is the one he’ll remember, whereas I often think the Doctor wanders back to his TARDIS and forgets all about it.”

Moffat also hints that the writers have found a solution to the fact that the Doctor can only regenerate twelve times. He has further added, “This should be the next step on the journey, guaranteeing the 100th anniversary”.

The special will also be aired in 3D, for those that have the capacity to see 3D on their TVs. Viewers with 3D TVs or BBC’s HD Red Button can watch the special in 3D from the comfort of their own homes. The special will make good use of 3D in the episode. Moffat says “It had to be part of the plot. I wouldn’t say it’s in every scene, but there is an element of the show that exploits the fact of 3D.”

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And what about the speculation that some classic Doctors may be returning? Well, Fifth Doctor Peter Davison had some interesting teases regarding the 50th Anniversary special. He was quoted as saying: “I’ve heard lots of rumors, none of which I’m allowed to tell you anything about. I’m privy to them actually. I have got a copy of the script which has got my name embossed across it. So it’s top secret, but there’s other stuff, lots of other things that are going on that people should keep their eye open for around the 50th anniversary special!” The most interesting tidbit he dropped was, “I’m making an appearance somewhere over that period of time but I can’t reveal in what…I can’t reveal anything specific about it. I’m not allowed to…It is a big year for the show and we’re all doing our bit for it. Trust me.”

As for Tom Baker, there was an unsubstantiated tweet sent out on Nov. 8th, saying, “Tom Baker confirms to @aaronsagers he’s returning for #DoctorWho 50th Anniv Special!”

That’s what we know so far. We have less than two weeks until we find the answers to all our questions.

**This Just In…(SPOILERS)

Don’t read any further if you don’t want to be spoiled…

The Doctor Who mini-episode “Night of the Doctor” starring Paul McGann (Who played the Eight Doctor) has just been released and it answers several questions, including the nature of John Hurt’s Doctor. He is a regeneration that comes after the 8th Doctor, but he does not take the name ‘Doctor’, so while he is the ninth form of the character, he is not the ninth Doctor. Eccleston remains the Ninth Doctor (But is the tenth incanation of the character.)

The “Night of the Doctor” also gives us…
A definite ending to Paul McGann’s 8th Doctor (Including a great final line “Physician, heal thyself!”); An explanation for Hurt’s outfit; The return of the Sisterhood Of Karn from the classic series episode “The Brain of Morbius”; The official canonisation of the Big Finish Audio companions for the 8th Doctor; and a lot of teasers about the Time War.