On Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary Episode

Here we are, it’s early April, 2013, and Doctor Who fans are anticipating the show’s 50th anniversary later this year. We’ve had some confirmations from the BBC as to what we can expect from the special, and there are hints to what else we can expect.

At the outset, I’ll warn you that this column contains spoilers for the 50th anniversary special. If you want to abstain from any announcements, any confirmations, anything possibly spoilerish, click away. The rest of the column is after the jump.

The first episode of Doctor Who, An Unearthly Child, aired on 23 November, 1963. This was a Saturday, and the show has a history of airing on Saturdays (except for much of the Fifth Doctor’s era, where it was twice weekly, usually on Mondays and Tuesdays), so it’s quite nice that 23 November of this year falls on a Saturday.

Anyway, what do we have confirmed so far for the 50th? The BBC is still promising more details in the coming days and weeks, but quite a bit has already been confirmed. Let’s review.

Obviously, Matt Smith and Jenna-Louis Coleman will star in the episode, as the Doctor and companion Clara Oswald, respectively. Joining them for this episode are David Tennant and Billie Piper. Tennant played the tenth incarnation of the Doctor, the second for the BBC Wales era of the show, whereas Piper played the frequently returning companion Rose Tyler, a character who bookended the Russell T. Davies era.

Not appearing in the episode is John Barrowman, who confirmed on Twitter that he will not be involved in the episode.

Other guest actors, those who are making their first appearance on Doctor Who include John Hurt. Hurt is an English actor and voice actor perhaps best known for such roles as Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man, Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four, and Caligula in I, Claudius. His voice actor roles include Watership Down, the animated Lord of the Rings from 1978, and BBC’s television series Merlin.

Jemma Redgrave has been confirmed for this episode. Redgrave previously appeared in the episode “The Power of Three” as Kate Stewart, the daughter of Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart. This also confirms UNIT’s involvement in the story.

Also appearing is Joanna Page, a Welsh actress best known for her role of Stacey in the BAFTA-winning television series Gavin & Stacey.

Another actor appearing is Ken Bones, an English actor known for television, stage, and film performances. His credits include Upstairs, Downstairs, Wing Commander, Doctors, Holby City, and The Bill. Bones is listed as playing “The General” in Doctor Who‘s 50th anniversary episode.

That’s it for confirmed actors. What else do we know for certain about the episode?

As of this morning, we have confirmation that the Zygons, a foe from a story early in Tom Baker’s era, will be returning. Even though the Zygons only appeared in one story, that being Terror of the Zygons, they remain a popular foe, and are often on the tops of fans’ lists of original series villains they’d like to see make a return to the show. David Tennant himself has claimed that the Zygons are his favorite original series monster. The Zygons have been referenced twice on the modern series, first on The Pandorica Opens as part of the fleet that was swarming over Stonehenge. Their second mention was on The Power of Three, where we had a flashback to an off-screen adventure that involved the Zygons.

Steven Moffat is penning the script for the 50th anniversary episode, which is to be expected, given that he is the current showrunner. Nick Hurran will be directing the episode. Hurran has become a somewhat regular director during the Moffat era, and has directed four episodes thus far (The Girl Who Waited, The God Complex, Asylum of the Daleks, and The Angels Take Manhattan).

The 50th anniversary special will see the debut of a new Executive Producer, to replace Caroline Skinner who is stepping down after the current series concludes. Replacing Skinner is Faith Penhale, who is currently Head of Drama for BBC Wales.

That is all that we have confirmed for the episode as of this writing.

Matt Smith previously gave a one-word hint for the episode’s plot: “paintings”.

Filming for the episode is currently underway, so expect more details to break officially in the coming days and weeks.

The episode will be broadcast in 3D, and shown at select cinemas around the UK.

An update: It looks as if Doctors 5 through 8 (Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, and Paul McGann) will be making appearances at conventions both this weekend and next. Given that filming is currently underway for the 50th anniversary special, this might rule out their appearances in the episode.

Another update: Lately, Sylvester McCoy has denied involvement in the 50th anniversary episode. Furthermore, he’s claimed that none of the surviving original series Doctors will appear in the episode, indeed that none of them have been approached by the BBC. We’ll see how this pans out, seeing as how both Tennant and Piper denied involvement.

Update the Third: According to DoctorWhoNews.net, the BBC have confirmed that Christopher Eccleston will not be in the 50th anniversary special. As reported, Eccleston was originally interested, and in talks with the BBC for the episode, but eventually decided against appearing in the 50th anniversary episode.

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