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Doctor Who 2022 specials: release dates, plot, trailer, and more

The Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) looks into the camera dressed in an orange spacesuit.
What's in store for the Doctor's final adventure? (Image credit: BBC Studios/James Pardon)

The third of the Doctor Who 2022 specials will air this autumn.

After the last series came to an end, we were promised three more specials before the next full series would arrive. Now that "Legend of the Sea Devils" is over, there's just one adventure left before we find out who the next Doctor will be! 

“It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for,” the fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) famously said before he turned into the fifth (Peter Davison), and it seems this is as true now as it was back in 1981.

The clock is currently ticking on Jodie Whittaker’s 13th Doctor, as she announced she'd decided to leave the show alongside the departing showrunner, Chris Chibnall last year. 

Here’s everything you need to know about the 2022 Doctor Who specials…

Doctor Who 2022 specials: release dates

The first special, "Eve of the Daleks", aired on New Year's Day on BBC One and BBC America on January 1. 

"Legend of the Sea Devils" aired on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and BBC America on April 17, aka Easter Sunday.

The third and final Doctor Who special will then air at some time this autumn as part of the BBC's 100th birthday celebrations. 

The Legend of the Sea Devils 

Sea Devil Doctor Who

And old friend gives the Doc a devil of a job. (Image credit: BBC)

What’s the plot?

Ahoy, me hearties! The Doc visits pirate territory for the first time since "The Curse of the Black Spot" in 2010. That story saw the Doctor crossing paths with English pirate Henry Every, and "The Legend of the Sea Devils" also centers on a real-life historical figure.

The episode sees the Doc alongside Yaz and Dan head to a small coastal village in 19th century China, where they encounter the fearsome pirate queen Madame Ching. According to legend, Ching rose from prostitute to the commander of a vast force of over 300 ships and leader of over 180,000 pirates.

The special saw our trio embarking on a swashbuckling adventure where they came into conflict with a beloved classic Who monster (more on that below!) and saw the Doc confessing her feelings for Yaz but its not these hijinks—or Dan's ridiculous pirate get-up— that had fans very excited…

Dan Lewis (John Bishop) steps out of the TARDIS dressed as a pirate.

Dan's dressed the part for his nautical adventure! (Image credit: BBC Studios/ James Pardon)

Who’s the big bad?

At 7.58 pm on 1 January 2022, Doctor Who fans up and down the country let out a collective cry of "YES!" A trailer screening after "Eve of the Daleks" saw a figure loom into the camera and slowly come into focus, revealing itself to be… a Sea Devil!

The Sea Devils were first seen in the 1972 Doctor Who serial of the same name. There, the aquatic monsters teamed up with the Master when they clashed with Jon Pertwee’s Doc. The sight of the Sea Devils emerging from the waves to confront the Doctor and companion Jo was the stuff of many children’s nightmares in the 1970s.

When asked why he decided to bring the Sea Devils back, Chris Chibnall said: "We didn't start with Sea Devils at all, but the great thing about Doctor Who’s history is sometimes you can pull on all of that history and go, “Oh wait okay, the perfect monster has already been created, and is already in there!” 

"So you can spend a long time thinking about creating or making a bespoke monster for this story, but actually, we thought, “If you add the Sea Devils in, this becomes really exciting” – they bring an extra layer of story, an extra layer of thrills and an extra layer of meaning for the fans. And so it wasn't always in there but when we put them in and tried them out it really worked."

Sea Devils Doctor Who

The Sea Devils rise from the waves. (Image credit: BBC)

Less fondly remembered is their second – and last to date – appearance in "Warriors of the Deep", a 1984 story featuring Peter Davison. The creatures’ wobbly heads and Samurai-inspired costumes brought derision from fans. Not as much, though, as their fearsome pet, the Myrka, which was clearly two men in a green pantomime horse set-up!

Sea Devil

These Sea Devils were less fright, more of a sight.  (Image credit: BBC)

Myrka Doctor Who

The fearsome Myrka prompted mirth! (Image credit: BBC)

The Sea Devils have an interesting backstory, though. They are part of the reptilian species which were the original intelligent life on earth, long before man evolved.

They put themselves into suspended animation deep below the ground to hide from a huge asteroid that was going to collide with earth. But the impact never happened — the body being caught in the Earth’s gravitational pull and becoming our moon. So, the creatures' alarm clock was never triggered, and they continued sleeping.

This immediately gives us a nice moral dilemma — as they were the original inhabitants of the earth, do they have a right to take their planet back?

Who starred?

Crystal Yu Madame Ching Doctor Who

Madame Ching will keep the drama afloat in "Legend of the Sea Devils". (Image credit: BBC)

The main guest star was Crystal Yu as Madame Ching. Crystal is best known for her role in BBC’s long-running medical drama Casualty. She played Lily Chao from 2013 to 2017.

Also appearing were TV newcomer Marlowe Chan-Reeves as Ying Ki and Arthur Lee (Strike Back) as Ji-Hun.

Ying Ki MARLOWE CHAN-REEVES Doctor Who

Life a beach for Ying Ki. (Image credit: BBC)

Ji-Hun ARTHUR LEE Doctor Who

Ji-Hun is armed and dangerous.  (Image credit: BBC)

What about behind the camera?

The special was written by showrunner Chris Chibnall alongside series newcomer Ella Rose.

The episode is familiar territory for Chris. Back in 2010, he wrote a two-part story that re-introduced the Sea Devils' land-bound cousins, the Silurians, to modern Doctor Who viewers, forty years after they were originally introduced to the Whoniverse.

Ella’s sci-fi play The Phlebotomist — exploring questions around genetic ethics — was nominated for an Oliver Award in 2018. TV-wise, she's on the writing team of the UK remake of the hit French show Call My Agent.

Chinese director Haolu Wang takes on her first Who directing role for the special. Her website describes her as specializing in “emotional fantasy”, making her a perfect fit for those deeper moments modern Who has become known for alongside the obligatory thrills and spills.

Is there a trailer?

Yes! The BBC released an action-packed trailer for the new special on April 2 which warned fans to 'Swashbuckle your seatbelts'. It shows the Doc teaming up to face the might of the Sea Devils, and teased a much bigger finned threat that's lurking below the waves.

You can watch it below:

You can also watch the original teaser which aired after "Eve of the Daleks" below:

Autumn 2022: Centennial Special

Doctor Who - The Doctor (JODIE WHITTAKER)

The Doc's final battle arrives! (Image credit: BBC Studios/James Pardon/Matt Burlem)

What’s the story?

Well, that’s the question. The episode will see the departure of Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor, so will have to be something special. Plus, it’s part of the BBC’s celebration of 100 years of broadcasting and will form part of an even bigger event. No pressure, then!

Thanks to the teaser which we saw at the end of "Legend of the Sea Devils", we know that this third special will see The Doctor, Yaz and Dan involved in a climactic final battle with some of her fiercest foes and sees her reunited with some truly shocking guest stars.

Chris Chibnall has teased: "Jodie’s final feature-length story contains a plethora of treats and surprises for audiences and fans, not least the return of two of the most beloved companions in the show’s history. They’ll be helping the Doctor fight on three fronts, against her deadliest enemies: the Master, Daleks and Cybermen,  in one huge story!  

"For the BBC’s Centenary, we’ll be celebrating the past, present and future of Doctor Who, in a fittingly thrilling, epic and emotional send-off for the Thirteenth Doctor", he added.

Who’s the big bad?

As we've now seen, The Doc faces three of her deadliest enemies in the upcoming episode; the Master, the Cybermen (once again led by Ashad, the Lone Cyberman), and the Daleks.

Although we don't yet know what's led to the Doctor crossing paths with these foes yet again, it has echoes with what she was told by Time at the end of season 13: "Beware of the forces that mass against you — and their Master."

Doctor Who The Master Sacha Dhawan

The Master wants to bring about the death of the Doctor. (Image credit: BBC)

Who are the guest stars?

As if anticipation for the final special wasn't strong enough, the teaser which aired at the end of "Legend of the Sea Devils" contained a huge surprise in the form of two ex-companions returning to the show! Yes, long-time Doctor Who fans were stunned to see that Tegan and Ace would be returning for the first time since they left.

Tegan Jovanka (Janet Fielding) was a companion to the Fourth and Fifth Doctors, whereas Ace (Sophie Aldred) journeyed alongside the Seventh. 

Talking about her return, Janet Fielding said: "In some ways, it was a very different experience to what it was like when I finished recording in 1983, but in many ways, it was very similar. It was so lovely to be a working member of the Doctor Who family again.”

Sophie Aldred added: “It’s been quite a challenge to have such a big secret to keep, even from my family, and I couldn’t be more thrilled and excited to have been asked back. I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I adored being part of the TARDIS team again.”

Doctor Who Tegan Ace

The Doctor's gaining two extra companions for her final fight. (Image credit: BBC)

Tegan and Ace aren't the only familiar faces who are set to return, either: Vinder (Jacob Anderson) and Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) are also set to help the Doctor take on her foes once again, too.

Is there a trailer?

You can watch the teaser trailer which aired at the end of the second special below, and it looks like big things are in motion!

Not only does it show off the three big villains set to cause havoc, it sees the Master teasing the "end of [the Doctor's] existence", Jodie's regeneration scene, and the returning stars! 

Check it out here:

What else needs to be tied up?

This already promises to be a final adventure stuffed with action, but there are two other things we'd like to see addressed in the final special before Jodie and Chris Chibnall wave goodbye to the TARDIS.

Now that the Doctor has revealed she has feelings for Yaz, we have to see whether that relationship could go any further; will they get to spend some time together before it's too late?

There's also the small matter of the Doctor's regeneration to address. It's teased at the end of the short trailer that we'll be seeing her regenerate, but does that mean we'll be meeting the new Doctor this autumn?

Doctor Who Season 13 - Mandip Gill, Jodie Whittaker, and John Bishop (L-R)

(Image credit: BBC Studios/James Pardon)

Who’s behind the camera?

Chris has written his and Jodie’s final episode solo, as only seems right and proper.

Jamie Magnus Stone has returned to direct the episode. He’s one of the series’ big guns, having helmed blockbuster episodes including "Spyfall" and the season 12 finale "The Ascension of the Cyberman" and "The Timeless Children". 

His three episodes of season 13 — "The Halloween Apocalypse", "War of the Sontarans" and "Village of the Angels" — were the three most well-received of the series. So, we should expect big things from this final adventure. 

"I can't give anything away, but I can tell you that it's going to be an absolutely spectacular episode with a lot of visual effects," Who digital effects coordinator Emily Lawrence confirmed.

Will we meet the new Doctor?

Traditionally, we see the Doctor regenerate into their next incarnation at the end of their final episode. 

Exceptions have only been Doc two into three (Jon Pertwee wasn’t cast at the time Patrick Troughton filmed his last episode) and Doc six into seven (Sacked Colin Baker refused to return to film a changeover to Sylvester McCoy). But will it happen this time?

Production has wound down on Chris’ Doctor Who (rumors are the Tardis set has already been dismantled) and work is not due to start on the new series until next year, with a view for a launch to line up with the show’s 60th anniversary next autumn. So, will Russell decide to keep the new Doc under wraps, for now, ready for his relaunch?

Rumors for the next Doctor include Years and Years singer Olly Alexander, who took the lead in Russell’s much-lauded It’s A Sin last year, and The Haunting of Bly Manor's T'Nia Miller. More recently, wilder rumors like the possibility of David Tennant returning to play a new Doctor or the possible addition of Hugh Grant have surfaced (though the Love Actually star quickly denied his involvement) but we're still no closer to official confirmation of who the 14th Doctor is right now.

2023… and beyond!

What’s the future for the Doctor?

Last year, fans were left aghast when it was announced that former showrunner Russell T Davies was taking over the show for the 60th anniversary special, and an unspecified number of “series beyond”.

"I'm beyond excited to be back on my favorite show," Davies said in the announcement. 

And things are already underway. He more recently said: "I've already written some of the episodes. The first will go out in November 2023 — that's the 60th anniversary of the show."

The moment has been prepared for, indeed.

Steven is a writer, editor, and commentator with a passion for popular TV and soap operas. He spent 20 years as the editor of Inside Soap magazine, documenting every punch up and pucker up in the Street, the Square and the village. As a feature writer he’s covered TV crime dramas, period dramas and even some real-life star dramas. He’s been seen as a talking head on more TV clip shows than he cares to remember, has a 

a life-long passion for TV sci-fi – the older and creakier the better – and is a slight obsessive about any reality show featuring hotels.