Doctor Who is not far off from celebrating another decade on television, and just like it did with the 50th anniversary, The BBC is planning to do big things for the 60th. Former Doctor Who showrunner Russell T. Davies will return, and he’s bringing two major stars from the past, David Tennant and Catherine Tate, along for the ride. Anniversaries like this are always loaded with talent, but who can we expect to see when the celebration is finally here?
With only months to go before the start of the specials, it looks like the cast list is pretty rounded out for now. Check out who is on the list for the 60th below, and be sure to check back, as this list will be updated as more names are announced for the big event.
David Tennant is considered by many to be the best Doctor of all time, so it’s always a treat to hear when he’s involved in the Doctor Who franchise. It’s a rare sight to see him in the actual show these days, but considering he reprised his role for the 50th, some might’ve suspected he’d have some role in the 60th anniversary.
However, I’m sure few didn’t know David Tennant would be announced as the first Doctor to be a part of the fun! As far as why or how Tennant’s Doctor returned, that’s still a topic of much speculation. We do know for a fact, though, that Tennant is being called the 14th Doctor, meaning that the 13th Doctor's regeneration wasn't a reversion back to the 10th or anything like that. As for the other details, we'll likely have to wait until the special premieres.
Catherine Tate stole the hearts of many fans with her performance as Donna Noble in Doctor Who, but her exit was one of the saddest of The Doctor’s companions. Donna absorbed some Time Lord DNA during their journey, and thanks to an electrical shock, it activated and made her just as brilliant as The Doctor himself. Unfortunately, the fun was short-lived, and Donna and The Doctor soon discovered that if they didn’t do something, Donna would die from being unable to cope with the Time Lord DNA.
The Doctor was forced to erase Donna’s memories of their adventures, which makes one wonder how she’s tied to this upcoming adventure in Doctor Who. This is a sci-fi show, so there’s never any shortage of explanations to how that part of the story will be retconned. Ultimately it’s just exciting to see Catherine Tate in the show and a part of such an important anniversary celebration.
Neil Patrick Harris
Neil Patrick Harris has played a few doctors in his career, though it’s unlikely that’s who he’s playing when he comes to Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary special. Neil Patrick Harris comes into the fun as one of the greatest enemies The Doctor ever faced, but there’s not much more we know beyond that. It seems like Harris might be playing a familiar villain from The Doctor’s past, but who that could be, we can only speculate.
The most popular Doctor Who-related speculation was that Neil Patrick Harris will play the Toymaker, and it turns out those people were right on the money! The BBC did confirm Harris' role as Toymaker ahead of the airing, though they might be trying to deceive us and he's playing both the Toymaker and someone else. We'll just have to wait and see!
Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary is loaded with tons of returning stars, but there are a few fresh faces as well. Joining the cast for the 60th is Yasmin Finney, who will also be one of the first transgender actresses to appear in the franchise. Finney will come into the special to play Rose, a name with quite a bit of history in this show. With all the theories about a multiverse working its way into the story, is it possible that there’s some connection with Billie Piper's Rose Tyler?
That remains to be seen, but returning showrunner Russell T. Davies has already pointed to the significance of there being two people named Rose in Doctor Who. It’s entirely possible he’s just having a bit of fun or throwing some red herrings out there to draw fans off of more obvious origin of the character, such as the popular theory that she's playing the daughter of Donna Noble.
Another prominent Doctor Who character will return, though we've seen this actress way more over the years than we've seen David Tennant or Catherine Tate. Jemma Redgrave will return to the franchise once again to portray the head of UNIT Kate Stewart. Kate is likely one of the most resourceful humans on Earth with the knowledge and manpower to handle intergalactic threats, so she should be of great service to the Doctor in this adventure.
Bringing back Catherine Tate and David Tennant was definitely a treat, but bringing back Bernard Cribbins as Wilfred Mott is the cherry on top. Wilfred is Donna Noble's grandfather and proved instrumental in a few adventures. It wouldn’t feel right to have an adventure with this duo and him not be involved in some way, so good on Doctor Who for bringing him in for a performance we can’t already see with an HBO Max subscription.
Unfortunately, the upcoming 60th anniversary of Doctor Who will serve as one of Bernard Cribbins final acting roles, as he died after filming his scenes. At the same time, the fandom is blessed with the fact that Cribbins was able to suit up one final time as his character and get to be a part of such a major celebration in the franchise before his death. Hopefully Cribbins is honored further with a dedication or some sort of title card when the special airs as a tribute to all he’s given the series over the years.
Such as the case with Bernard Cribbins, it’s equally as distressing to think of a Donna Noble adventure where actress Jacqueline King isn’t in the mix. King portrayed Donna’s mother, Sylvia, in the series, and she was always a character that had a nuanced relationship with the Doctor. She, of course, harbored some resentment towards him after The Doctor was forced to remove a chunk of Donna’s memories, though that seems like a reaction par for the course that any mother would have.
As for what Sylvia will be up to in the special, my guess will be looking out for Donna’s best interests. Most mothers would be concerned if the man that almost killed their daughter suddenly came back into their life, so I’d expect Sylvia to have some of that fear, even if she did gain some respect for The Doctor years ago.
Ncuti Gatwa will take over as The Doctor after David Tennant's return in the 60th anniversary, so it makes sense that the 15th Doctor will have some presence in the specials. We've seen Gatwa in the promotional materials for the specials, seemingly confused on what is going on.
Right now, we can only speculate on how he'll come into the story. Whether his appearance will happen right at the end as Tennant's latest Doctor regenerates, or if he's in the waiting place introduced during Jodie Whittaker's run where Doctors hang out we don't know. All I know is I'm excited to see him, and glad he found time away from the set of Barbie to film.
Ruth Madeley will come into Doctor Who as the character of Shirley Anne Bingham. We know very little about the character, though her inclusion is one being celebrated by many fans far and wide.
Madeley's appearance in the 60th anniversary will likely be another step forward for disabled characters in major franchise projects. Madeley, who uses a wheelchair due to spina bifida, has often played roles that flip the usual narrative on characters with disabilities in pop culture. Here's hoping Doctor Who continues that trend, though I feel pretty sure it will.
Harry Potter veteran Miriam Margolyes will come into Doctor Who, in the weirdest role in the 60th anniversary. Margolyes will play Meep, the freaky little creature from the trailers that gets poked in the eyeball. To be clear, Margolyes is only voicing the character, but it will be great to have such an icon involved in any way she can be.
Karl Collins didn’t have a massive role in Doctor Who his first outing, but his character Shaun Temple was integral to the story all the same. Shaun was the man who Donna eventually married, and they're likely still together during the 60th anniversary. Seeing Collins return as Shaun will be a treat, and maybe this go around, he’ll be more aware of The Doctor and what he’s about.
There’s an interesting bit of Doctor Who trivia about Karl Collins that likely isn’t relevant to the 60th anniversary but worth bringing up all the same. Collins’ character never crossed paths with Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor, but they’ve both shared the screen in the Black Mirror episode “The Entire History Of You” and appeared in the movie Attack The Block. It doesn’t seem like Whittaker will be around for the 60th, given her regeneration episode precedes it, but perhaps we’ll see them reunite again if her casting ends up being announced.
One thing readers should note is that David Tennant has hinted that not all the surprises for the 60th anniversary are publicly known (via Radio Times). Most of the castings announced were done so because the actors were spotted by onlookers during the public filming sessions. It's entirely possible there were some actors who filmed on a closed set, and there'd be no one who could leak their appearance without some sort of penalty. I'm crossing my fingers for some surprises, and that we'll see at least one more Doctor in this massive special.
Doctor Who’s 60th-anniversary special is due out in 2023, with some thinking it’ll arrive in November to coincide with the official anniversary month. We’ll have to wait and see, and binge our favorite episodes of the series on HBO Max in the meantime.
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