Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Rumours: Sorting the Fact From the (Fan) Fiction

Speculation abounds, but how accurate are these fan theories about what Russell T Davies has planned for the 60th anniversary Doctor Who specials? Spoilers ahead!

Doctor Who 60th anniversary David Tennant Catherine Tate
Photo: BBC Studios,Alistair Heap

If there’s one thing that 60 years of Doctor Who has taught us, it’s that the show likes to keep us guessing, and its unique brand of fans really, really like to guess what might happen in the show’s future. Or the past. Or in a parallel universe. You know, timey wimey… stuff.

We’ve still got a while to wait to find out what the show’s 60th anniversary celebrations will bring, as episodes are not set to air until the end of 2023, but photos and videos of the filming taking place this summer have sent fan theories into overdrive. 

Unsurprisingly, returning showrunner Russell T Davies really gets what makes Doctor Who fans tick, and his savvy use of Instagram has teased some very special announcements about the 60th anniversary. These so far have included the return of David Tennant and Catherine Tate, upcoming roles by Neil Patrick Harris and Yasmin Finney, and of course Ncuti Gatwa becoming the next Doctor.

But, according to the fans, what is the nature of the tenth Doctor and Donna Noble’s return? Why is Yasmin Finney’s character called Rose? And which classic Who villain is Neil Patrick Harris reviving? 

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Let’s take a look at some of the best theories and how likely they are based on what we know so far… 

Warning: Major 60th anniversary SPOILERS AND filming info ahead.

Will There Be Three 60th Anniversary Episodes?

Eagle-eyed fans spotted the clapperboard used during filming in Bristol on 16th June suggested they were filming episode three. This was later backed up on the Instagram account of the episode’s director, Chanya Button, who posted a different clapperboard also suggesting they were filming episode three:

We already told you about fan favourite Rachel Talalay confirming she’s returning to direct some 60th anniversary scenes, so this adds a second director to the ‘confirmed’ list. 

Three episodes seem fairly likely, so get ready for three times the fun…

Does the Tenth Doctor Return in a Regeneration Gone Wrong?

Some fans (including this potentially very spoiler-heavy rumour) are speculating that Jodie Whittaker’s regeneration at the end of the centenary special in October this year will see the Doctor temporarily return to his tenth iteration. Why? Who knows? But fans have a very good memory, and pointed out that a scene from the 50th anniversary special ‘The Day of the Doctor’ backs up the theory that the Doctor might regenerate into a past self:

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Others have pointed out that David Tennant’s Doctor is returning with both a new tartan suit and a new sonic screwdriver so it doesn’t seem as simple as a flashback.

With the 60th anniversary specials seemingly the next scheduled instalment of Doctor Who after Jodie Whittaker departs at the end of this year, it’s not a massive leap to surmise some regeneration misfiring could result in Tennant’s temporary return…

Why (and How?) is Donna Back With the Doctor?

As Russell T Davies pointed out when he announced their return, the Doctor wiped Donna’s memory and if she remembers him, she’ll die. Which makes the substantial footage of David Tennant and Catherine Tate filming together this summer all the more intriguing. Davies hinted at several possibilities, including a flashback, a multiverse or a trick.

As we’ve already said, a flashback seems unlikely given Ten’s new costume, but what about a parallel universe, as some have theorised? After all, the metacrisis that caused Donna to need her memory wiping also created a second, half-human version of the tenth Doctor who now resides in a parallel universe – so perhaps that’s where the story takes place. There’s not much evidence to support this theory, though.

So what about a trick? This could make perfect sense if the rumoured identity of Neil Patrick Harris’ character is correct – a previous Who villain who has the power to warp reality and turn his enemies into pawns in his deadly games. More on that later.

Whatever the truth of the Doctor and Donna’s relationship in the anniversary specials, the pair definitely appear to time-travel together, as during filming there were cars, extras and props suggesting one episode is set just before Halloween in 1925. But where does that leave modern-day Donna Noble? That leads us nicely onto…

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Does Yasmin Finney Play Donna’s daughter?

When it was announced Yasmin Finney was joining Doctor Who as a character called Rose, fans were quick to theorise on how she could be linked to Rose Tyler. 

It would appear that those lucky enough to watch the filming might have solved this mystery: in one take, multiple sources reported that Rose appears to call Donna ‘mum’. 

Donna’s mum Sylvia and husband Shaun have reportedly also been spotted during filming:

One fan even gives a detailed account of some of the scenes he saw being filmed, if you’re a fan of big spoilers.

One theory is that fragments of Donna’s memories remain, enough for her to want to name her daughter Rose without really knowing why, with others suggesting Rose discovers the truth about Donna’s travels with the Doctor and tracks him down. 

One other important fact we know about Rose is she is trans, after Yasmin Finney confirmed this during London Trans Pride:

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Is Neil Patrick Harris Bringing Back the Toymaker?

We’ve already speculated about which classic villain Neil Patrick Harris will portray in the 60th anniversary specials, discussing the most popular theory now is that he is bringing back the Celestial Toymaker, last seen in the TV series in 1966. The Toymaker also appeared in a comic in Doctor Who magazine in 1996, where he created a fake version of the Doctor, another hint that he could be behind the tenth doctor’s ‘return’ in these specials.

Props spotted on set – including a toy shop and ‘Toymaker of the Year’ sign – certainly make this theory pretty likely:

As does the press shot released by the BBC, where Harris is pictured wearing an apron with what appear to be toy-making tools.

Glimpses of filming so far show him wearing a different outfit – a top hat and tails – and even dancing with the Doctor, so the relationship between them looks interesting to say the least.

Is Russell T Davies Bringing Some Doctor Who Comic Book Monsters to Our Screens?

Among the film set reports were various photos of strange-looking Doctor Who monsters, for instance:

While some fans suggest these could be Viperox, who appeared in a previous animated story, others theorised these are Wrarth Warriors, a species from a comic featuring the fourth Doctor called Doctor Who and the Star Beast. In the comic, the Wrarths battle a furry, adorable-looking race called the Meeps (more on them here), so this theory was bolstered by a sighting of a similar-looking monster on set:

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It would certainly be fairly on-brand for Russell T Davies to bring some particularly geeky, Whovian-pleasing monsters to life, but this particular theory is as yet unconfirmed.

Does UNIT Return?

We haven’t seen UNIT – the force dedicated to protecting Earth from alien invasions – for a while, but they featured frequently in Russell T Davies’ previous reign as showrunner, so it was no surprise to fans when they spotted what looked like UNIT vehicles being brought on set:

There also seems to be a formidable new UNIT uniform:

This one seems a dead cert, which is promising, as episodes with UNIT tend to be high on drama.

And lastly, is Wilf back?

Yes, yes he is.

We’ve already explored what Bernard Cribbins’ character Wilfred Mott meant to Doctor Who fans, and it’s even more poignant that we heard about his death just weeks after discovering Cribbins was taking part in the 60th anniversary specials. 

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If one thing is certain about what these episodes of Doctor Who will bring, it’s that fans will be able to pay their respects to a beloved character and much-missed actor.