For 60 years (minus a 16-year hiatus), Doctor Who has been a staple of worldwide television, captivating audiences with its trips back in time and across space. With such a special celebration on the horizon, the Doctor Who team has pulled out all the stops to ensure such a big milestone is rightfully appreciated, from releasing 600 classic episodes to the general public to bringing Daleks to Heathrow Airport. However, no television milestone would be fit without a celebratory episode, with Doctor Who giving fans not one but three.
Despite expectations having once been that Sex Education star Ncuti Gatwa would directly replace Jodie Whittaker‘s (Time) thirteenth incarnation of the titular role, last year the world was shocked to see David Tennant, Doctor number 10, make a surprise return. With Tennant now confirmed to be playing the Fourteenth Doctor, and with his and Catherine Tate‘s reprisal of their roles arguably the greatest talking point heading into the specials, it is the cast of incredible characters that has drawn the most attention. So, with that in mind, here is a comprehensive breakdown of the cast and characters you can expect to see in the Doctor Who 60th Anniversary specials.
The show follows the adventures of a Time Lord “The Doctor” who is able to regenerate, and the Doctor’s human friend (s). The Doctor and companion’s journey through time and space in the TARDIS – a time-traveling ship shaped like a police box – saving the universe with a combination of wit, bravery, and kindness. Orbiting around them is the wider Whoniverse – infinite galaxies and countless civilizations filled with incredible friends and dangerous foes.
- Release Date
- March 17, 2006
- Jodie Whittaker, Peter Capaldi, pearl mackie, Matt Smith, David Tennant, Catherine Tate, Ncuti Gatwa, Jenna Coleman, Alex Kingston, Karen Gillan
- Main Genre
- Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
- Streaming Service(s)
David Tennant as The Fourteenth Doctor
Of course, the first and most important inclusion in the cast for Doctor Who is the titular Time Lord himself. The last time we saw the Doctor, apart from the recent short aired during Children in Need, it was Jodie Whittaker’s thirteenth incarnation at the helm of the TARDIS. In a shock twist, Whittaker regenerated into Tennant despite the expectation that Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor would be next, with the fandom erupting into speculation. It has now been confirmed by returning showrunner Russell T. Davies that this Doctor will be different from Tennant’s previous role as the Tenth Doctor, with this incarnation being “slightly more human”. Tennant’s Tenth Doctor, in his penultimate season, traversed the stars with Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble, who is also reprising her role. After having to wipe her memory due to some wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff involving a Time Lord/ human hybrid, it was confirmed that Donna could never remember her time with the Doctor for fear it may kill her. From promotional material and interviews, we now know that Donna will in fact remember the Doctor, and this time the Doctor isn’t so sure he can save her life.
After having fair success prior to Doctor Who as a British television actor, David Tennant was thrust into the mainstream thanks to his role as the iconic character, with many referring to his incarnation as one of the show’s best. Since leaving the series in 2010, Tennant has gone on to be one of the best-loved British actors of a generation, with his roles on both stage and screen winning him millions of adoring followers. From his time at the Royal Shakespeare Company to starring roles on the likes of Broadchurch, Staged, and Good Omens, David Tennant is not just a shining light of a bygone era of success for Doctor Who, but a casting choice that represents just how popular the show still is.
Catherine Tate as Donna Noble
As mentioned before, Donna Noble’s last trip out in the TARDIS ended in disaster when, despite having just saved the universe, her memory was wiped, reversing the incredible arc she had gone on from an insecure Chiswick temp to a battle-ready, confident icon. It was a harrowing scene and one that many consider Doctor Who‘s saddest, but her impending return to the show promises that those memories are not as lost as once thought. Donna will be back as the biting, charismatic companion the world fell in love with in the upcoming specials, however, according to the trailers, it looks as if her life may be in even more danger than ever before, especially considering the promise that the remembering of her time with the Doctor would lead to her demise.
With a background in comedy, Catherine Tate’s time as Donna Noble would bring her talent as a dramatic actor to the masses. Widely celebrated as one of Doctor Who‘s best companions, Tate’s ability to work with the best on some of the biggest shows in the world is not limited to Doctor Who considering her time on the hit comedy The Office, with her even having her own sketch show, The Catherine Tate Show, alongside many other critically acclaimed comedians. Her chemistry with David Tennant is certainly iconic and has also seen the pair working together on stage in a much-heralded production of Much Ado About Nothing in 2011.
Yasmin Finney as Rose
A lot of time has passed since Donna Noble was last seen in the Whoniverse, with that fact summed up by the pending introduction of Donna’s daughter Rose. A new addition to the ensemble, Rose looks to be integral to the upcoming 60th Anniversary specials with promotional material placing her alongside Tennant’s Doctor from the beginning of episode one. Despite her mother only slated to be appearing in the upcoming specials, Russell T. Davies has suggested that Rose might be sticking around, with this potential proving just how pivotal she will be to the plot.
Young star Yasmin Finney found her breakout success thanks to the hit Netflix series Heartstopper. A beacon of hope to the trans community, Yasmin Finney’s rise to the top represents a shift towards better representation within mainstream media, something exemplified by Finney’s confirmation that her character in Doctor Who will be trans. Beyond Heartstopper and Doctor Who, the actress and model has had a whirlwind couple of years since first finding notoriety, showcased by her being the front cover of the December 2022 issue of British Vogue.
Neil Patrick Harris as The Celestial Toymaker
Ever since The Celestial Toymaker first appeared in Doctor Who back in 1966, portrayed by Michael Gough in the now mostly missing serial, the fandom has been calling out for the villain’s return. Despite an almost 60-year wait and after plenty of speculation following initial promotional images, it has been confirmed that The Celestial Toymaker will be making his overdue return. An all-powerful being, The Celestial Toymaker will certainly mark one of the Doctor’s toughest challenges to date, with many wondering if his enigmatic, unpredictable style could have something to do with the return of both Donna’s memories and Tennant’s face.
An icon of stage and screen, Neil Patrick Harris dazzles and delights no matter what role he appears in. From How I Met Your Mother to Gone Girl and even Starship Troopers, Harris has a wonderful ability to transcend genres with ease. Able to go toe-to-toe with the best, Harris shines in both dramatic and comedic roles, with the former exemplified thanks to his appearance in Russell T. Davies’s hard-hitting drama It’s A Sin. Interestingly, Neil Patrick Harris is not the only Broadway star to appear in the new era of Doctor Who, with the announcement that Jonathan Groff (Glee) will be joining Ncuti Gatwa in his debut season as the Doctor starting next year.
Bernard Cribbins as Wilfried Mott
Grandfather to Donna Noble and stargazing enthusiast, Wilfried Mott has etched his name into the hearts of Whovians worldwide. His wartime spirit and child-like cheekiness endeared him to fans instantly, with his somewhat comedic ensemble role evolving during Season 4 Episode 11 “Turn Left”, one of Doctor Who‘s greatest ‘Doctor-Lite’ episodes. In the episode, Donna Noble is sent back in time and a simple change of mind at a turning point alters the course of history, leading to the death of the Doctor. With many of the planet-ending events the Doctor had once stopped now moving forward, the country goes into a lockdown, forcing “non-natives” into labor camps. It is with this news that a tear-jerking performance from Bernard Cribbins, a man who, for character and actor alike, had seen this happen before during WWII, earned him the label of one of the best companions in the show’s history, which was cemented during his time with the Doctor in the post-Season 4 specials.
Bernard Cribbins’s performance as Wilf, with shooting on the 60th Anniversary specials taking place just before his sad passing, will go down in history as some of the veteran actor’s best work. The upcoming episodes are remarkable for many reasons. However, it is perhaps the fact that this is one of Cribbins’s last on-screen performances that’s the most poignant of them all, with many ready to celebrate not just the history of one of television’s greatest shows, but also the incredible life of one of its best-loved actors.
Jemma Redgrave as Kate Stewart
Daughter of the late classic-Who favorite Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, Kate Stewart has made fleeting appearances across many of the past 7 seasons of Doctor Who. Her most recent run in Season 13 was possibly her longest. Now confirmed to be appearing in the upcoming specials, which also confirms the inclusion of UNIT (Unified Intelligence Taskforce), Kate Stewart will bring her resourceful, strong-willed attitude to a fight against one of the universe’s most terrifying threats. With a stellar career to date, Jemma Redgrave was most recently a narrator in the critically acclaimed rom-com Red, White & Royal Blue, with her other notable performances coming in the likes of Silent Witness and Howard’s End.
Miriam Margolyes as Beep the Meep
Unless you are a fan of Doctor Who spin-off media, the character of Beep the Meep is likely to come as a breath of fresh, cute air when the specials release. First appearing in the 1980 comic strip Doctor Who and the Star Beast, Beep the Meep’s wide-eyed, cuddly front may actually be hiding a creature with much more sinister intentions if the source material is anything to go by.
With an eye-catching design, Beep the Meep needed to be voiced by someone just as unique, with the casting of Harry Potter alumni and all-round icon Miriam Margolyes a stroke of genius. From The Age of Innocence to Baz Luhrmann‘s Romeo + Juliet, Margolyes’s nearly 60-year career has seen her take on many a great role, with Beep the Meep sure to add to her brilliant legacy.
Ruth Madeley as Shirley Anne Bingham
Admittedly, not an awful lot is known yet about Ruth Madeley‘s Shirley Anne Bingham, although it is certain that her character will play an integral role in the upcoming specials. From the trailers, it is clear that Shirley Anne will have a direct relationship with David Tennant’s Doctor, but the question remains as to just how pivotal this relationship will be.
The BAFTA-nominated Ruth Madeley has been a staple of British television throughout the 21st century. Known for her appearances in comedies such as Brassic, The Cleaner, and Fresh Meat, it is perhaps her time on Russell T. Davies’s Years and Years that made her a name in the world of drama and earned her a spot in this cast.
Jacqueline King and Karl Collins as Sylvia Noble and Shaun Temple
Both Sylvia Noble, Donna’s mother, and Shaun Temple, her eventual husband, have appeared in Doctor Who before, with the former an integral side character during much of Season 4 and the latter making an appearance only once. Although much of Shaun’s character is unknown except his relationship with Donna, it is Sylvia who has certainly already made her impact, with her harsh, belittling treatment of her daughter an important theme throughout Donna’s time on board the TARDIS. Although the Doctor finally puts her in her place during the Season 4 finale, it is clear that Sylvia doesn’t approve of the Time Lord being in her daughter’s life, so it is likely she will be less than pleased when he turns up again.
Both Jacqueline King and Karl Collins have had successful on-screen careers, with King best known for roles in 55 Degrees North and Mammals, and Collins best known for ensemble roles in Attack the Block and The Flash.
Doctor Who‘s 60th Anniversary celebrations will kick off with “The Star Beast” on November 25, with streaming available on Disney+. Subsequent episodes “Wild Blue Yonder” and “The Giggle” will be released weekly, with a Christmas special titled “The Church on Ruby Road” expected for Christmas day. At the moment, previous episodes of the current era of Doctor Who are available to stream on Max in the US.
Watch on Max
You can check out the trailer for the 60th Anniversary specials below:
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