Doctor Who: what do we know about the 50th Anniversary special?

Cameron sifts through the rumour and fact to find out what we actually know about Doctor Who's forthcoming 50th Anniversary celebrations...

Doctor Who is well known for its rumours. Hardly a day goes by without someone claiming either Paul McGann is back or The Rani is making a return, and with the 50th Anniversary Special looming, the rumour mill has never been so busy. 

But what is fact? What do we actually know about the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special. Or, indeed, specials? 

What we do know is there will be at least one special, to be screened in 3D on the small screen and in selected cinemas. Now, we should point out to those who automatically hit the “rant” button whenever 3D is mentioned that you will also be able to watch it in 2D. So desist from your hate now, you won’t be forced to watch it in that medium. 

We also know that it will be directed by Nick Hurran; the man who so stylistically helmed stories such as Asylum of the Daleks and The Girl Who Waited, amongst others. A popular choice and one I’m sure can take on the mammoth task of a 3D spectacular. 

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Cast-wise, the current Doctor Who, Matt Smith, will be present. That’s a surety. But what about new girl Jenna-Louise Coleman, who plays companion Clara; will she be there? All signs point to yes though it’s worth pointing out that costume designer Howard Burden, speaking at an event at the BFI, said that the only cast member he knew of in the special was Matt (though he could, of course, just have omitted Coleman by accident). 

Last year, both Smith and executive producer Caro Skinner teased the fact that actress Alex Kingston, known for playing the Doctor’s “wife” River Song (I’ll leave you to debate whether or not the ceremony was valid), would return in 2013. But when? Is she returning in series seven part two or the 50th Anniversary? Guess we’ll have to play the waiting game on that one. 

Other returnees much mentioned in the press and scurrilous websites include, of course, every actor who has played the Doctor. Some claim they haven’t been contacted, like Colin Baker and Paul McGann, whilst David Tennant and Christopher Eccleston have both made interestingly vague and almost leading, remarks in interviews. 

If I were the betting type, I’d say the most recent Time Lords will be back. Even Steven Moffat, the man behind writing the special, has hinted at the possibility, saying, “Getting the other Doctors involved would be very fitting for the anniversary episode, wouldn’t it?” 

But what about former companions? Again no official word though actress Louise Jameson, who played Leela opposite Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor, recently announced on Twitter that some former Who-ers had been asked to keep days free. Intriguing for sure, though this could simply be for a documentary, for example. 

Actor John Barrowman, known to Who and Torchwood fans as Captain Jack Harkness, has expressed on a number of occasions a desire to return (though stating that no conversations had taken place), whilst Matt Smith would be keen to see his old mucker Billie Piper make an appearance. 

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As for the story itself, some outlets have hinted at an “Eleven Doctors” type romp, in the style of the previous anniversary stories The Five Doctors (1983) and The Three Doctors (1973) with a shock regeneration for The Eleventh Doctor. Though, it should be noted, there is no actual evidence to support these theories at all. 

On this front, producer Marcus Wilson has claimed that the special is a “love letter” to fans (which suggests some returning Doctors/companions/monsters) though Moffat has been vocalising his own fears about the project. The Blink writer said, “It’s half exciting and it’s half absolutely terrifying because I know how excited people are and I feel tremendous pressure not to let them down.” 

He’s right, people are excited. And when The Moff heralds statements like, “I promise you, we’re going to take over television. Trust me,” and the aforementioned Caro Skinner pipes up with “It’s certainly our intention to do justice to the scale of it,” it’s hard not to get excited. But how will Doctor Who “take over” the small screen. In terms of the special, which may or may not be an hour – we just don’t know yet, there could well be more. 

Speaking recently, Steven Moffat said that there’s “a lot of different things going on. Don’t believe the nonsense about one sixty-minute film, that is complete nonsense. We’ve got a lot of things coming up for that. It’s hugely exciting.” Is the showrunner referring to more Doctor Who specials, perhaps connected, or is the Scottish writer merely referring to things such as The Culture Show and Pointless Celebrities one-off specials and documentaries? One certainly hopes it’s the former. 

There will also, of course, be the fantastic-looking “genesis of Doctor Who” drama from Mark Gatiss, An Adventure in Space and Time which is most definitely special. Clocking in at ninety minutes with a terrific cast and classic Who re-enactments, the story looks like a delight for die-hards. 

If I may return to the original question, what do we actually know? What is fact about the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special. Well, as you’ve seen, surprisingly little (and given that we’re still just under than nine months away from broadcast, it’s hardly a shock). With just a few weeks to go before filming begins, however, information is going to start flooding in very soon and I think above all, it’s going to be an amazing televisual event.

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