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 be here very soon

“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.

After the last series came to an end, we were promised three more specials before the next full series would arrive and a new Doctor took the helm. Now that "Legend of the Sea Devils" is over, there's just one adventure left before we say goodbye to Jodie Whittaker’s 13th Doctor and meet the 14th Doctor!

By the looks of things, Jodie will be going out with a bang, as there are plenty of special guest stars and iconic villains lined up for her final, feature-length adventure.

Here’s everything you need to know about the 2022 Doctor Who specials, including what went down in "Legend of the Sea Devils" and what we can expect from the final special...

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, "The Power of the Doctor" will air at some time this Autumn as part of the BBC's 100th birthday celebrations, though the Beeb has not scheduled a specific date just yet.

Legend of the Sea Devils

Sea Devil Doctor Who

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

What was 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 centered 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 was the big bad?

At 7.58 pm on January 1, 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)

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 offers up a nice moral dilemma — as they were the original inhabitants of the earth, do they have a right to take their planet back? Or should humanity take charge?

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.


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 was 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 Ten Percent, 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 showed the facing 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:

The Centenary Special: The Power of the Doctor

Doctor Who - The Doctor (JODIE WHITTAKER)

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

What’s the story?

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.

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.

The official plot summary for the final Doctor Who special doesn't give much away, either. It reads: "Having faced many perilous journeys battling some of the most feared monsters throughout space and time, it’s the final instalment for the Thirteenth Doctor. 

This epic blockbuster special will see the Doctor fight evil across the galaxy one last time but just who will she come up against in her final battle before the Doctor regenerates once more…”

Who’s the big bad?

The Master (Sacha Dhawan) sitting down and brandishing a figurine

The Master is back to cause more chaos. (Image credit: BBC Studios)

The Doc faces three of her deadliest enemies in this upcoming episode; the Master, the Cybermen (once again led by Ashad, the Lone Cyberman), and the Daleks. Surprisingly, this is the very first time that all three of these iconic villains have appeared in the same episode.

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

Who are the guest stars?

As if anticipation for the final special wasn't strong enough, the teaser contained a huge surprise for classic Doctor Who fans; two ex-companions are heading back to the show! 

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.”

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 returning after their appearances in the Flux saga to help the Doctor take on her most fearsome foes. 

Is there a trailer?

You can watch the teaser trailer which aired at the end of the second special below. 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! 

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 will we see the new Doctor cropping up at the end? 

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? The teaser for the final special suggests we'll at least see Jodie regenerate, but we don't know whether we'll see her transform just yet.

At least we know who the next Doctor will be! After months of speculation over who would play the 14th Doctor, we found out that Sex Education star Ncuti Gatwa would be replacing Jodie Whittaker back in May.

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. 

Work on Russell T. Davies' new series is now well underway, and we've learned a bunch of exciting things about the new season that are sure to delight every Whovian.

Aside from the reveal of the next Doctor's identity, we know that Catherine Tate and David Tennant will be back for the 60th anniversary special in 2023. How or why the Tenth Doctor and Donna have returned is still being kept under wraps; all that Russell was willing to share was that the centenary special is "going to be spectacular, as two of our greatest stars reunite for the battle of a lifetime."

Catherine Tate and David Tennant.

Catherine Tate and David Tennant will be back in action next year. (Image credit: BBC Studios/Alistair Heap)

Along with David Tennant and Catherine Tate's return to Doctor Who, we also know that Heartstopper star Yasmin Finney is set to play Rose in the new series. Again, Russell wouldn't willing to explain how there can be another Rose along with Billie Piper's former companion, so we'll have to wait to see how that plays out.

The most recent update surprise saw Russell revealing It's A Sin and How I Met Your Mother star Neil Patrick Harris has joined the cast of Doctor Who. Like all the other reveals, Russell T. Davies shared the news on his Instagram account with the below post.

When he shared the news himself, Neil Patrick Harris wrote: "Never looked more dashing. Thank you for inviting me into your Whoniverse, @russelltdavies63. I’ll try my hardest to do my worst. This Doctor has no idea what’s in store. And even if he does… Who cares? Ha ha ha HA ha-ha-ha!”

Although Neil's role hasn't been officially confirmed, going off the above photo of and the fact he was described as "the greatest enemy the Doctor has ever faced", some fans believe Neil is playing the Celestial Toymaker.

The Toymaker has a long history with the Doctor. The character first debuted in 1966 opposite William Hartnell, where he was played by Michael Gough. Traditionally, the Toymaker is a powerful being who traps people in childish games where they're forced to compete for their which are definitely rigged in the Toymaker's favor.

Steven Murphy

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