While the phrase “most wonderful time of the year” typically refers to the holiday season, it takes on a whole different meaning for fans of Doctor Who.
Whovians know that the titular Doctor from the long-running British science fiction series tends to reappear on our planet in their TARDIS around this time of year with all new episodes of their seminal show. And this year, there is so much more to celebrate than a newly regenerated hero ready to take the helm of the iconic blue space and time ship.
2023 marks the 60th anniversary of Doctor Who, which first aired on the BBC in November of 1963. The network is pulling out all the stops to make sure that it’s a celebration worthy of this massive milestone for the Time Lord from Gallifrey. But before the new season premieres with the first of three anniversary specials on November 25, there are a few things to remember about the Doctor’s latest adventure.
The Return of Familiar Faces
When it was announced that Jodie Whittaker would be leaving Doctor Who after three seasons as the Thirteenth Doctor along with showrunner Chris Chibnall, fans around the world began to speculate about who would come next. Eventually in May 2022, it was revealed that Sex Education star Ncuti Gatwa would be Whittaker’s successor.
However, when it came time for the Thirteenth Doctor to regenerate during her final special, it was David Tennant’s face that appeared onscreen rather than the award-winning Rwandan-Scottish actor after all was said and done.
Tennant isn’t the only person returning to Doctor Who for the new season after a bit of a hiatus. He’ll be joined onscreen for the three specials titled The Star Beast, Wild Blue Yonder and The Giggle by Catherine Tate, who played one of the Tenth Doctor’s most beloved companions, Donna Noble. And behind the scenes, Russell T. Davies has returned to his showrunning duties after previously serving in the role from the relaunch of the series in 2005 until 2010.
The Tenth Doctor Is Not In
While Tennant is best known as the Tenth Doctor, it was revealed after Whittaker’s last episode that her former Broadchurch co-star would also be the Fourteenth Doctor. This sort of thing does have some precedence thanks to Fourth Doctor actor Tom Baker portraying the Curator in the 2013 special The Day of the Doctor, which starred Tennant, Matt Smith and John Hurt as different iterations of The Doctor. The Curator (who is understood to be a future regeneration of our hero) told the Eleventh Doctor that he would revisit a few “old favorites” after sharing that he never forgets a face.
However, the idea of having previous actors play new versions of the Doctor is not a new one. According to the book Doctor Who: The Eighties by David J. Howe, Mark Stammers, and Stephen James Walker, series co-creator Sydney Newman wanted Second Doctor Patrick Troughton to return to the show in 1986 for one season before regenerating into a female iteration of the Doctor.
So if David Tennant is both the Tenth and Fourteenth Doctor, where does that leave Ncuti Gatwa? After the anniversary specials, he will star as the Fifteenth Doctor, starting with the show’s annual holiday special titled The Church on Ruby Road.
Once that episode drops on December 25, he will hold the keys to the kingdom during a new season scheduled to air in 2024. Or more accurately, Gatwa will be holding the Sonic Screwdriver after it’s passed off by Tennant at some point during his trio of episodes.
But just how exactly will we get from Fourteen to Fifteen? The production has done an incredibly good job of keeping details under wraps since filming the new season. Although, Davies did offer up a small tease in a press release from BBC. The showrunner said, “The path to Ncuti’s Fifteenth Doctor is laden with mystery, horror, robots, puppets, danger, and fun!”
A New Home
Along with a new Doctor (as well as an old new Doctor), Doctor Who will also have a new streaming home. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the show can be found on the BBC iPlayer as usual. But when it comes to watching internationally, it will be streaming exclusively on Disney Plus.
However, if you want to watch David Tennant’s first run as the Doctor or the rest of Russell T. Davies's contributions to the franchise, you will need to look elsewhere. While Whovians in the show’s native UK have access to over 800 episodes on BBC iPlayer’s Whoniverse, it’s a little more complicated for everyone else.
Previously, the majority of Doctor Who was available to stream on Prime Video. Later, the fan-favorite series made its way to Max. Unfortunately, you can only watch New Who (episodes past 2005) on Max. For classic Who episodes that date back all the way to the beginning of the show’s run, you would need to subscribe to BritBox. And of course, for the newest specials, they can only be found at the Mouse House.
Previously on Doctor Who
Up until this point, we’ve mostly been dealing with the real-world side of Doctor Who. But the biggest question that remains to be answered has to do with the story: How is Donna Temple-Noble not dead after reuniting with the Doctor?
In season 4 episodes “The Stolen Earth” and “Journey’s End,” we see Donna absorb the totality of the Time Lord’s knowledge in order to become the DoctorDonna and save the day from the nefarious Dalek leader Davros. But since her human brain cannot handle millennia worth of information, the Doctor is forced to erase her memory of their adventures against her wishes before her mind burns up.
Later, in the two-part special The End of Time, which marked the end of Tennant’s regular tenure as the Doctor, Donna subconsciously helps her old friend battle against the Master. But when it looks like she may be regaining her memory, a telepathic pulse installed by the Doctor as a fail-safe kicks in to render herself unconscious and safe.
Since Donna can’t remember her time with the Doctor at risk of her mind exploding, will the appearance of the Fourteenth Doctor job her memories? Or do these new adventures with a vaguely familiar adventurer manage to leave her unscathed? Obviously, these questions won’t be answered until the 60th anniversary episodes premiere, but we’re chomping at the bit to find out exactly how this reunion is possible.
More from Tom's Guide
Get the BEST of Tom’s Guide daily right in your inbox: Sign up now!
Upgrade your life with the Tom’s Guide newsletter. Subscribe now for a daily dose of the biggest tech news, lifestyle hacks and hottest deals. Elevate your everyday with our curated analysis and be the first to know about cutting-edge gadgets.
Ben F. Silverio is a pop culture enthusiast originally from Philadelphia, PA who loves storytelling in all forms. For over a decade, he has worked as a journalist, critic, editor, and social media ninja for outlets such as /Film, Wrestling Inc, ScienceFiction.com, the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, and GeekAnything.com. Ben is also a fan of professional wrestling, superheroes, Disney theme parks, and representation in media.