The BBC has set into motion the full court press of Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary. The show is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest running science fiction television program in the world.
From merchandizing to multi-media content to a sneak preview at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, all roads lead to the 50th Anniversary Episode, to be shown on BBC One and BBC America on November 23rd 2013.The episode will also be available in 3D, both via a BBC channel and by cinema screenings as the episode is broadcast on television.The BBC intends to broadcast the episode in all available countries simultaneously and is set to be the world’s biggest drama simulcast.
The folks at the BBC have kept many details of the 50th anniversary episode under tight wraps, but they have released some teaser tidbits to keep fans wanting for more. At the top of the list is news that David Tennant and Billie Piper will join Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman (the current Doctor and companion) in the special. Also marked to co-star is John Hurt, revealed as a previously unknown incarnation of the Doctor in The Name of the Doctor the last episode in Series 7.
Tennant was last seen as the Doctor on January 1st, 2010 in The End of Time. This is not the first instance previous incarnations of the Doctor have met each other in anniversary specials: The Three Doctors saw William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, and Jon Pertwee share the screen for the show’s 10th anniversary special; the 20th anniversary special The Five Doctors saw Tom Baker (in then-previously unreleased footage) and Peter Davison as the Fourth and Fifth Doctors, respectively, join in on the fun. Original Doctor, William Hartnell had since passed on, and Richard Hundall took on the role for The Five Doctors.
However, there are grumblings from Who fans for the BBC to include the previous actors in the upcoming special. As of April 2013, former Doctors Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann revealed they weren’t involved in the anniversary special, as they were in Australia attending sci-fi conventions while the episode was being filmed. Ninth Doctor Christopher Eccleston declined to take part in the special (and he also declined to return as the Doctor for a second series when the show was revived in 2005).
That being said, Radio Times reported in July 2013 that the “50th anniversary show will feature one of the five former doctors who wielded the Sonic Screwdriver before the Eccleston reboot”, which, according to sources, means either Paul McGann, Tom Baker, or Peter Davison will be in the episode alongside Tennant and Smith’s Doctors.
Perhaps the former Doctors were asked by the BBC to keep mum about their involvement, and there certainly is enough time between April and November to fit the schedules of the actors. However, Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee have since died and obviously problematic to work an eleven Doctor story with the first three actors gone. What is that, you say? Use previous footage? It has been done before, and who knows what the BBC has planned.
The BBC have announced that the Dalek’s, the Doctor’s most famous foes, will return for the anniversary episode, alongside the Zygons, shape-shifting aliens seen only once in a 1975 Tom Baker era episode. Steven Moffat, lead writer and executive producer, said “The Doctor once said that you can judge a man by the quality of his enemies, so it’s fitting that for this very special episode, he should be facing the greatest enemies of all.”
The Big Push
The BBC is promoting Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary with an extensive range of tie-in merchandising. Big Finish Productions’ 50th anniversary audio adventure – The Light at the End – will be released on a limited edition vinyl featuring the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Doctors. Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann star together for the first time on audio, which is also available as a two disc or special edition CD set.
Also on the docket is Regeneration, a DVD set of all of the Doctor`s televised regenerations as well as a reconstruction of The Tenth Planet. Included is a 24-page book of the history of the series as well as a critical analysis of the stories by Who novelist Justin Richards.
IDW have teamed up with the BBC to produce a joint celebration of the Doctor’s 50th anniversary with a series of comic books, culminating with a special oversize issue written by Paul Cornell and art by Jimmy Broxton.
This special one off sees the Doctor and the TARDIS flung into our universe, where he meets a 10-year old girl who is also a fan of the TV show. The Doctor must come to terms with being a fictional character, take on a monster at the girl’s school and met the actor who portrays him, Matt Smith.
The BBC also has a biopic planned for premiere later this year, titled An Adventure in Space and Time, a fictional recount of the show’s creation and the team behind the series. According to CNN, the biopic is a stand alone piece that allows viewers to enjoy it, without having followed the series in its entirety, nor understanding the show’s extensive mythology.
Current Doctor Matt Smith sent shockwaves through the Whoniverse as he announced in June he was leaving the series after four years as the famous Time Lord. Smith’s final appearance will be in the Christmas special, when the Doctor will regenerate. Smith managed to turn the beloved character into a truly global sensation, as comic conventions on this side of the pond accurately prove, with over 77 million fans in the UK, North America and Australia.
In August, Smith’s successor was announced, as Peter Capaldi was unveiled during a live BBC broadcast as the Twelfth Doctor.
“Being asked to play the Doctor is an amazing privilege. Like the Doctor himself I find myself in a state of utter terror and delight. I can’t wait to get started.” Capaldi said.
Capaldi, a life-long Doctor Who fan, first appeared in the 2008 Who episode The Fires of Pompeii and played Caecilius. Funnily enough, it was that same episode where now former Who companion Karen Gillan played a soothsayer. What better way to suss out future talent than “audition” actors in supporting roles?
Steven Moffat, lead writer and executive producer, said Capaldi is “one of the most talented actors of his generation” who will “play the best part on television.” While Capaldi seems well known in his native UK, it will be interesting to see if he can strike the right chord with global audiences as Matt Smith did in 2010. Not to make comparisons between the two, but Doctor Who has now become a global phenomenon and it’s not a reach to think Moffat and the executives at the BBC were likely stunned Smith decided to leave the show, especially when the series is at its height of popularity with big money in overseas distribution, DVD sales, novels, and other merchandising that fans have and will swallow up.
Consider the heavy hitters who made statements for the official press release:
Charlotte Moore, BBC One Controller said Capaldi “has all the genius and versatility needed to take on the mantel of the great Time Lord and make the role his own. He’ll bring his own particular wisdom, charisma and wit to the Twelfth Doctor and take the show into an exciting new era.”
Controller of BBC Drama Commissioning Ben Stephenson believed Capaldi “might be the right person to take on this iconic part a few months ago. But it was only when he did a secret audition at Steven’s house under the cover of darkness that we knew we had our man. He’s an extraordinarily talented actor who can seemingly turn his hand to anything. We can’t wait to premiere his unique take on the Doctor on Christmas Day and we are sure he’s going to become one of the all-time classic Doctors.”
Hopefully Capaldi will deliver; clearly the BBC thinks so, otherwise they wouldn’t have cast him. Audiences will have to wait until the 50th anniversary episode and Christmas special to get their Doctor Who fill. And then let the blogs light up; I’m sure fans will have a lot to weigh in on.