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Doctor Who 60th anniversary special: everything we know so far

David Tennant and Catherine Tate photographed for the Doctor Who 60th anniversary special
David Tennant and Catherine Tate are returning to Doctor Who for the 60th anniversary special. (Image credit: BBC Studios/Alistair Heap)

The Doctor Who 60th anniversary special is already shaping up to be an amazing celebration of everything Doctor Who.

Whilst we definitely still have lots to look forward to in the third and final Doctor Who special later this year, everything we've learned about the 60th anniversary special coming in 2023 suggests it will be an unmissable event for any Doctor Who fan.  

Filming on Russell's first episode back is already well underway already. Although lots of info is being kept under lock and key to avoid major spoilers, there's still been some very exciting news that already has us feeling very excited.

Here's everything we know about the Doctor Who 60th anniversary special right now.

Doctor Who 60th anniversary date 

November 23, 2023 marks the 60th anniversary of Doctor Who and it's possible the anniversary special will air on the same day, although that's still to be confirmed.

The very first episode of Doctor Who aired on November 23, 1963 with William Hartnell as the Time Lord. 

Which Doctors will be returning? Who's in the cast?

As the 60th anniversary special will be the first time we get to spend some time with the 14th Doctor, we can't wait to see Ncuti Gatwa bring his own personality to the character.

When he was first revealed as our next 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.

Ncuti Gatwa

Ncuti is taking over from Jodie Whittaker. (Image credit: BBC Studios/ Kieron McCarron)

Of course, Ncuti isn't the only Doctor we'll be seeing in 2023. The biggest tease from the show so far has to be the fact that David Tennant and Catherine Tate have been reunited to play the Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble again for the first time since 2010.

The other major casting reveal has been the addition of Heartstopper's Yasmin Finney as Rose. Similar to how he refused to give anything away about the return of the Tenth Doctor and Donna, Russell was not willing to explain how there could be another Rose in the show. 

He 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 Finner in Heartstopper. (Image credit: Netflix)

Bernard Cribbins is reprising his beloved role as Wilfred Mott, Donna's grandfather, and Jacqueline King and Karl Collins are also returning as Donna's mother and husband, as all three have been spotted on set.

Aside from these few announcements, we've learned who's playing the villain (more on that later), but there are still plenty more roles to be filled in the show.

For example, we still don't know anything about Ncuti's companions, or if we'll be seeing any other popular faces from Doctor Who's past cropping up, either. Nevertheless, we'd bank on even more exciting news coming along sooner rather than later. 

What's the plot?

Although Russell T. Davies has happily teased us with casting details for the new series, he’s not given much away about the plot of the 60th-anniversary special.

In the most recent issue of Doctor Who Magazine (opens in new tab), Davies did tease several theories regarding the return of David Tennant and Catherine Tate, although it was unclear whether he'd actually given anything away.

He wrote: “A mysteriously forgotten excursion for the TARDIS in between Planet of the Ood and Sontaran Stratagem? Or maybe a multiverse thing, they’re all the rage these days. Maybe this is the Doctor and Donna from Universe 557, all set to collide with our own. 

"Then again, maybe, just maybe, this return is so impossible that it’s actually an intricate illusion created by an old enemy of the Doctor’s. Or maybe an old enemy of Donna’s. Nerys!”

Since we're also due to meet another version of Rose, it at least seems likely that the 60th anniversary special is dealing with parallel dimensions or alternate universes of some description.

One intriguing fan theory about the special posits the idea that Jodie Whittaker's regeneration at the end of the Doctor Who centenary special might go haywire. This theory suggests the broken regeneration will see the Doc transforming into one of her past selves for the adventure in the 60th anniversary special, before eventually sorting the regeneration process out and transforming into Ncuti Gatwa.

The Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) looks into the camera dressed in an orange spacesuit.

Might Jodie's regeneration go very, very wrong?  (Image credit: BBC Studios/James Pardon)

Who's the big bad?

Similar to how we know we'll be seeing the Tenth Doctor but not how or why they've returned to the show, we know who will be playing the main villain of the 60th anniversary special... but we don't know who that villain is.

On June 13, Russell posted the below image to Instagram, showing Neil Patrick Harris sporting some spectacles and wearing some old-fashioned clothes and an apron. Frustratingly, he didn’t let slip who this villain was, but called him “the greatest enemy the Doctor has ever faced.”

A post shared by Russell T Davies (@russelltdavies63) (opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

Neil didn’t give much away about his role either; he shared the same photo and simply said “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!”

Some people have speculated that Neil’s get-up means he’s going to be playing The Celestial Toymaker, a villain from another universe who battled the who first appeared in the third season of classic Doctor Who.

The Toymaker is an extremely powerful being who uses his powers to trap people in childish games for his own amusement. Those who are trapped are forced to compete for their own freedom, though the games are always rigged in the Toymaker’s favour. Is Neil Patrick Harris bringing the Toymaker back to our screens to face the new Doctor? Time will tell.

Martin Shore
Martin Shore

Martin is a Staff Writer with WhatToWatch.com, 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.