Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials guide: how to watch, cast, plot, trailers and more

The 14th Doctor (David Tennant) and Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) inside the newly-revamped TARDIS in the Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials
The 14th Doctor and Donna have embarked on a new set of adventures. (Image credit: BBC Studios/Bad Wolf/James Pardon)

After all that waiting, it's hard to believe the three Doctor Who 60th-anniversary specials have already been and gone. But with that regeneration twist, the stage is set for the Doctor Who Christmas Special 2023 with our new lead star, Ncuti Gatwa.

These three adventures saw David Tennant's 14th Doctor crossing paths with a slew of villains, including an adorable creature who wasn't quite as friendly as they first appeared, plus some terrifying creatures from the edge of the universe and, of course, Neil Patrick Harris' flamboyant version of The Toymaker, who arrived in a sequence so fabulous it might well sneak onto our list of Doctor Who's 60 greatest moments...

We've got plenty of coverage from this landmark miniseries, including a full Doctor Who episode 1 recap for "The Star Beast" and a guide detailing how to watch the Doctor Who specials if you're not quite caught up just yet. But without further ado, here's everything you need to know about the Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials...

Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials release date and how to watch

All three of the Doctor Who 60th-anniversary specials have now aired, but you can find them all as part of the Whoniverse section on BBC iPlayer

The first special arrived on Saturday, November 25 (just two days after the series' actual 60th anniversary on November 23) in a primetime slot at 6.30 pm. The rest of the series followed suit, releasing in the same timeslot on a weekly basis. 

Fans can also watch Tales of the TARDIS, a series reuniting former Doctor Who stars which is available to stream on BBC iPlayer now.

Are the Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials on Disney Plus?

Yes! If you haven't heard already, Doctor Who's got a new home outside of the UK. 

Thanks to a partnership between Disney Branded Television and the BBC, Disney Plus has become the new streaming home for Doctor Who in the US and around the world, and this also started with the 60th-anniversary specials.

If you're looking to time travel back to some of the Doctor's earlier adventures, past seasons of Doctor Who are still available to stream on Max, whilst the classic series is available on BritBox (and now iPlayer in the UK). 

How many Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials are there?

The Doctor (David Tennant)

What (or should that be Who?) has the Doctor looking so worried? (Image credit: James Pardon/BBC Studios)

The sci-fi show's big anniversary was marked by three special episodes. The titles are below, and you can find the official posters from each episode below, too.

  • Special One: The Star Beast
  • Special Two: Wild Blue Yonder
  • Special Three: The Giggle

In an Empire interview, Tennant teased that these episodes felt 'like the band getting back together for one last hurrah.', adding: "I was surprised when I saw what that first script was based on, then I read the second script, which is unlike any Doctor Who episode ever. These new specials are Russell off the leash.”

Is there a Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials trailer?

There were plenty of trailers released for the specials. Below, you can find the latest one:

A trailer for the Doctor Who 60th-anniversary specials also aired ahead of the Eurovision Song Contest 2023 Grand Final earlier in the year. In it, we see the Doctor, Donna and Yasmin Finney's Rose confronted by all manner of creatures, and learn the episode titles for our three specials. Check it out below:

We were treated to a new trailer on Christmas Day, and it gave us a much better look at what to expect from the new series. Everything seemingly hinges on Donna Noble, and her not remembering who the Doctor was, as she's at great risk. As you'd expect, there's plenty of running and monsters, and our first look at Neil Patrick Harris' mystery villain in action, too!

Our first look at the forthcoming Doctor Who 60th-anniversary specials came at the end of Jodie's final adventure. Check it out:

Which Doctors returned?

The biggest news surrounding the miniseries was that David Tennant and Catherine Tate were making a comeback to the Whoniverse after their tenure early in new Who.  

David wasn't playing his Tenth Doctor self, but a new version of the character who just so happened to take his familiar form. By all accounts, David was thrilled to be back in the driving seat of Doctor Who. 

Talking about the regeneration twist, David called his return a "treat" and said: "What a lovely, lovely thing to get to revisit. It was such a wonderful, happy, significant time in my life... to be able to revisit that and get another shot, it was a total joy from start to finish!"

In July 2023, the BBC teased the 14th Doctor's newly revamped sonic screwdriver in a slick teaser that took us up close and personal with his new device. 

David Tennant stands in front of the TARDIS in The Power of the Doctor.

David Tennant's return in The Power of the Doctor was a huge shock. (Image credit: BBC Studios)

Doctor Who's executive producer, Phil Collinson, all but confirmed that the 60th anniversary specials wouldn't be a multi-Doctor story, which was mostly true (not counting the climactic bi-generation conclusion to the saga!)

Speaking to SFX, Collinson talked about honoring the legacy of the show. While he shared how the new episodes were 'a massive celebration' of the show's past, he was keen to point out that they're also 'forward-looking' and not necessarily doing what's come before. 

"It's all definitely about wanting to look forward", he said, "but as I think Russell does so brilliantly, it's not looking forward without forgetting where you came from. Because you just can't with this show.

"He flies around in a blue box, and, like I say, the enemy they face is someone who goes right back to almost the genesis of the show - so it's definitely there. It's just not multi-Doctors. I love multi-Doctor shows. But we don't need to do it, it's been done." 

The 14th and 15th Doctors separating during bigeneration in the third of the Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials

Ncuti Gatwa made his debut when the two Doctors separated in "bigeneration". (Image credit: Alistair Heap/Bad Wolf/BBC Studios)

Ncuti Gatwa's 15th Doctor also made an appearance in the specials. After The Toymaker shot The Doctor with a laser, he started regenerating. He then asked two of his companion to help "pull" the other Doctor out in a process known as bigeneration. Together, the Doctors then defeated the Toymaker in a climactic game... of catch.

Ncuti's Doctor was compassionate and caring, and even got to send the 14th Doctor off to relax in his own TARDIS, and we'll be seeing more of him when he takes center-stage in this year's festive special, ahead of his first full series, Doctor Who season 14. 

When he was first revealed as the Doctor, Ncuti said: "There aren't quite the words to describe how I'm feeling. A mix of deeply honoured, beyond excited and of course a little bit scared. This role and show means so much to so many around the world, including myself, and each one of my incredibly talented predecessors has handled that unique responsibility and privilege with the utmost care".

"Unlike the Doctor, I may only have one heart but I am giving it all to this show", he added.. 

Who else was in the Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials cast?

A big casting reveal was the addition of Heartstopper's Yasmin Finney as Rose. Before "The Star Beast" revealed Rose Noble was Donna's daughter (and had inherited part of her mother's Human-Time Lord Metacrisis abilities).

Prior to that reveal, Russell T. Davies teased: "Life on Doctor Who gets brighter and wilder, how can there be another Rose? You'll find out in 2023, but it's an absolute joy to welcome Yasmin to the Doctor Who set. We all fell in love with her in Heartstopper, one of those shows which changes the world - and now Yasmin can change the Whoniverse!" 

Yasmin Finney as Elle Argent in Heartstopper.

Yasmin Finney in Heartstopper. (Image credit: Netflix)

In one of his final appearances, the late Bernard Cribbins reprised his beloved role as Wilfred Mott, Donna's grandfather, along with Jacqueline King and Karl Collins as Donna's mother and husband. Jemma Redgrave is back as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart.

The Doctor (David Tennant), Rose (Yasmin Finney), Shaun (Karl Collins), Sylvia (Jacqueline King), Donna (Catherine Tate) and The Meep in the first of the Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials

The Doctor, Donna, Sylvia, Shaun and Rose meet the Meep in the first special.  (Image credit: Alistair Heap/Bad Wolf/BBC Studios)

Miriam Margoyles was also part of the cast. She voiced The Meep, a creature adapted from "The Star Beast" comic strip, and Ruth Madeley was on board as Shirley Anne Bingham, a member of UNIT.

Shirley (Ruth Madeley) in the Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials

Ruth Madeley as Shirley. (Image credit: BBC Studios/Bad Wolf/Disney)

In addition, Jemma Redgrave reprised the role of Kate Stewart, plus Bonnie Langford reprised the role of ex-companion, Melanie Bush.

Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials episode guide and plot

For the longest time, we had precious little info about the plots of these three specials. 

The only official info we had to go off ahead of the series' release came in the form of a short logline, but that only really offered up info that we already knew: that the Doctor's regenerated into a familiar face, and that Donna remembers him, even though the 10th Doctor wiped her mind over a decade ago to save her life. 

It read: "The Doctor finds himself with an old face and something is very wrong. How can Donna remember him and why has he got one of his old faces back?" 

After "The Power of the Doctor" aired, Russell said: "If you thought the appearance of David Tennant was a shock, we’ve got plenty more surprises on the way! The path to Ncuti’s Fifteenth Doctor is laden with mystery, horror, robots, puppets, danger and fun! And how is it connected to the return of the wonderful Donna Noble? How, what, why? We’re giving you a year to speculate, and then all hell lets loose!”

Now that the three episodes have been and gone, we've included the episode summaries below:

  • The Star Beast: "The Doctor lands in London to find an old friend, a new enemy and aliens wreaking havoc."
  • Wild Blue Yonder: "An out-of-control TARDIS takes the Doctor and Donna to the furthest edge of adventure."
  • The Giggle: "The Doctor is powerless as the terrifying Toymaker holds the human race in his grasp."

Who's the big bad?

The Toymaker (Neil Patrick Haris) surrounded by trinkets in the Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials

Neil Patrick Harris cuts a menacing figure as our new villain the Toymaker. (Image credit: BBC Studios/Bad Wolf)

On June 13, Russell T. Davies posted a photo on Instagram welcoming Neil Patrick Harris sporting some spectacles and wearing some old-fashioned clothes and an apron. 

As was speculated, we eventually learned he was playing The Toymaker, a classic villain from Doctor Who's past. The Toymaker is an extremely powerful being who uses his powers to trap people in childish games for his amusement. Those who are trapped are forced to compete for their freedom, though the games are always rigged in the Toymaker’s favor. He cropped up in the third special.

From the sounds of things, this version of the Toymaker will make quite an impression when he arrives in the show. In a chat with Total Film, Davies talked up Harris' performance.

"You need an extraordinary actor to match David at the height of his powers", Davies said. "Bear in mind that this is David's TARDIS, his Doctor, his name in the titles. It's not easy for guest stars to come into that. 

"You need that size, you need that experience, you need that skill to match him, otherwise you're in danger that the Doctor will tapdance all around you. That's what Neil brings... a vast performance that is properly terrifying." 

The Toymaker wasn't the only villain, though! The 14th Doctor was also tangled up with two other foes in the specials: one was "The Meep", a less-than-friendly alien life form, and then there were the "not-things" that copied the Doctor and Donna's visages at the edge of the universe.

Listen to the new Doctor Who theme song!

The BBC revealed a revamped version of the Doctor Who theme tune ahead of the specials' arrival in November 2023. It's a great update on the theme that feels even more energetic, though it has still preserved that classic Who melody underneath.

See more

What else did the BBC do to celebrate Doctor Who's 60th anniversary?

Although the three specials were the main event, the BBC prepared a slew of other projects to help mark the big Doctor Who anniversary.

On November 1, 2023, BBC iPlayer welcomed the single biggest collection of Whovian content, with over 800 episodes of Doctor Who programming arriving on the platform for viewers to enjoy before (and after!) the new specials aired. 

It was all part of the new dedicated "Whoniverse" iPlayer hub, which now plays host to stories from both the classic and modern eras of the main show, spin-offs, and even every episode of the behind-the-scenes show, Doctor Who: Confidential. 

And if you enjoy stepping behind the scenes, you'll be pleased to know that a new access-all-areas show has launched, too. Hosted by Steffan Powell (BBC Gaming Correspondent), Doctor Who: Unleashed takes viewers on a journey to show how the long-running sci-fi is put together. 

Unleashed features exclusive interviews with the stars in front of and behind the camera, and began airing immediately after the first special on November 25. 

David Tennant in front of the Tardis with Steffan Powell for Doctor Who: Unleashed

David Tennant and Steffan Powell.  (Image credit: BBC Studios/ Alistair Heap)

At the start of November, we were also treated to Tales of the TARDIS, a new six-part series that reunited Doctor Who duos and invited them to step back into character, reflecting on their adventures across space and time. 

Of the show, Davies said: "Tales of the TARDIS is one of the greatest delights of my career - to see old Doctors and companions reunited, still fighting the good fight, is a perfect way to celebrate the Doctor’s 60th birthday!"

As if that wasn't enough, the BBC has also unveiled an artistic colorisation of "The Daleks", the second serial from the First Doctor's adventures. As you'd expect, the particular adventure introduced one of the Doctor's deadliest foes after the First Doctor (William Hartnell) and his companions explored a mysterious metal city. 

The revamped version was woven together into one 75-minute blockbuster, with a new score from Mark Ayres. It aired on BBC Four on Doctor Who's actual 60th anniversary, November 23, and is available on BBC iPlayer, along with the original black-and-white serial.

The 14th Doctor also cropped up in a short scene that was part of Children in Need 2023, and they are due to read "The Way Back Home" by Oliver Jeffers as a CBeebies Bedtime Story on Friday, November 24. 

Martin Shore
Staff Writer at

Martin is a Staff Writer with, where he produces a variety of articles focused on the latest and greatest films and TV shows. 

Some of his favorite shows are What We Do In The Shadows, Bridgerton, Gangs of London, The Witcher, Doctor Who, and Ghosts. When he’s not watching TV or at the movies, Martin’s probably still in front of a screen playing the latest video games, reading, or watching the NFL.