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Posted on Nov 18, 2013

The 50 Things You Need To Know About The "Doctor Who" 50th Anniversary Special

The moment is coming. But it has been prepared for.

1. 50th anniversary special The Day Of The Doctor is the biggest thing Doctor Who has ever attempted.


And at 75 minutes it will be the longest-running episode since the show was revived in 2005. It will air Saturday November 23, 50 years to the night of the very first episode, An Unearthly Child.

2. The episode was shot in 3D.

“I think Doctor Who was born to be in 3D on some level,” says Matt Smith. “There’s loads of things that are going to look great in 3D. Dangling down on Trafalgar Square will work really well, and David {Tennant] has a fantastic entrance.”

3. It will be simulcast globally in over 75 countries.

4. It will also receive a limited cinematic release.

Getty / George Konig

5. Although lots of fans wanted it, it was never seriously considered to bring all the old Doctors back.


The Expendables of Doctors?" asks showrunner Steven Moffat. "That’s a crude way of talking about the three dead ones. The very expendable Doctors! With the three dead ones yes, there would be some appalling gaps in the conversation. And some very tasteless decisions.”

No, to put it mildly, I've got enough to think about on a day-to-day basis without thinking about the shows I'm going to make in a while. I knew it was coming, so with a little bit more time than I normally have, I saw it coming over the hill. It's not a good idea to have an idea two or three years before you write it. You should have an idea at the time because you're responding to everyone around you. So I had a notion, and then it became clear, in a blinding flash of nonsense.

7. He also felt less pressure over such a biggie than you might think.


“People ask, quite reasonably, do you feel pressure because it’s been so successful," he says. "I can tell you, I’ve worked on some real stinking failures in my life and they’re pressuring. Working on a second series of something that’s currently tanking on television, that’s pressure. It’s like asking is it more pressuring to be on a ship that’s sailing magnificently towards the horizon, or one that’s sinking. I can tell you, not sinking is better. There’s your exclusive!”

I honestly think every Saturday [that we have to blow people away]. It sounds ridiculous and you may often think that we don't, but I always think we've got a fantastic one on Saturday and we're gonna knock em for six. And generally speaking we do, dammit! You feel pressure but you, there's a challenge but there is also a massive opportunity and to be lucky enough to be the person who's writing and exec-ing the show at a time when you get that audience, it's everything you asked for. They say be careful what you wish for – no, absolutely wish for stuff. There's nothing wrong with that."

9. The story will nod to the past, but it is more about securing the future.


“You’re gonna get every single kind of retrospective in the ruddy world when it comes to the 50th,” says Moffat, “you’re not gonna be short. But make this show just a walkdown, just a tribute to the past, would be a backward glance. It would be like one of those end of year shows, the history of us, it would feel slightly old and sad. Of course it’s a celebration of the past of Doctor Who, although I try to avoid the word past, I say myth or legend or look there’s one of those cool bits again – but more importantly, it’s ensuring there’s gonna be a 100th anniversary.”

Attaching the word 50 to anything, I almost tried to rip the logo off. Why's that good? That show you're watching it's really old! Why's that a great thing to say? It's about proving we've got many more stories to tell, and in a way being able to say the story really starts here. People ask me how am I going to please the fans, pleasure the regular audience, I say I'm actually trying to recruit. I'm on a recruitment drive the entire time to get people who've never watched Doctor Who. When you've got a massive show with all the publicity we're going to have. I apologise in advance, there's some people out there who've never watched it before – God help them in some ways – I want them to think 'I've been missing out, I'm gonna join in now'. It's not just a walkdown, it's not just a parade of our greatest hits. You'll get that anyway.

11. Paul McGann's Eighth Doctor will definitely not be appearing.


Because we've already seen him regenerate in the INCREDIBLE mini-episode The Night Of The Doctor.

12. John Hurt is the "War Doctor".


We now know that Hurt's Doctor came after the Eighth and the one we all thought was the Ninth. The lore of the revived show has it that the Daleks and the Time Lords were killed off in the Last Great Time War, leaving the Doctor as the last survivor. It has also been widely intimated that the Doctor had to make terrible choices to end the war once and for all. It now looks like we're about to see all that play out.

13. Although this does not change the numbering of Doctors post-Eight.


Moffat cleared this one up in Doctor Who Magazine after the minisode had aired. "No, I've been really, really quite careful about the numbering of the Doctors," he said. "He's very specific, the John Hurt Doctor, that he doesn't take the name of the Doctor. He doesn't call himself that. He's the same Time Lord, the same being as the Doctors either side of him, but he's the one who says, 'I'm not the Doctor'. So the Eleventh Doctor is still the Eleventh Doctor, the Tenth Doctor is still the Tenth..."

14. John Hurt was everything you would want him to be, says Moffat.


15. As you may have heard, David Tennant is back as the Tenth Doctor!


16. Which makes The Day Of The Doctor the latest in a grand tradition of multi-Doctor specials.


People would have been disappointed with anything less. But, says Moffat, "It’s one of those things that Doctor Who can really do. You can’t have a James Bond film where Pierce Brosnan turns up for a couple of action scenes and two of the women, you actually can with Doctor Who have another Doctor revisit. So that was part of it, but this story hopefully what I’m aiming for is what would be the Doctor’s most important day, what would be the show that would change him as a person forever. Alter the course of his life, that’s what’s big enough to do for the 50th, rather than just have a parade of the greatest hits, say that’s the adventure, never mind that space badger, that’s the one that he really remembers and really recalls and says that’s the day everything changed."

17. Sometimes the two Doctors get on.


“They’re slightly combative, they’re slightly competitive, but I think they quite enjoy being in each other’s presence as well,” says Tennant.

18. Sometimes they do not.


“It’s like a conversation with your own conscience I suppose,” says Tennant. “You swing from being quite pleased with yourself to being infuriated at your own inadequacies, and I guess that’s kind of writ large.”

19. Like so.

"I think that's what's been quite interesting to find the moments when our two Doctors intersect and the moments when we do things rather differently. I think the fun is in the sort of gap between the two really. We've been finding moments when they quite enjoy recognising the same thing or having the same thought. And they switch between praising each other's ingenuity to trying to undermine at every possibility." (Tennant)

20. But it allows for a lot of comedy.

"I described it as having Stan Laurel and Stan Laurel, and not having Hardy anywhere,” says Smith.

21. Tennant always sort-of-knew he would be back.


“Well there’s precedent for it, isn’t there," he says. "I was aware when I left that the 50th anniversary wasn’t that far away, so you can speculate by putting two and two together. And the thing with Doctor Who, the moment you get the job people are asking you when you leave, the moment you leave people ask you when you’re coming back. So the possibility has always been visited upon you by other people even if not yourself. So it was always something that might happen. I had a wonderful time, and I left very happy. It’s not whether you have a doubt, it’s the other 500 things you have to work out to make this possible. So I was always up for the notion of it, it was just working out the opportunity.”

22. Matt Smith is very excited about all of this.


“I have never seen him so giddy on the set and he’s always pretty giddy," says Moffat. "We’re both very excited. But Matt having been very apprehensive as you would be – the other king from across the water is returning to take my lands – absolutely adores David and the two of them get on so well."

23. So everything was fine in the end.

"It's been really good fun actually. I thought well this'll be great, I'll say yes to this, and then the day approaches and it's a slightly odd sensation because I thought what if Matt feels like I'm stepping on his toes or what if I can't remember how to do it? There's lots of things that you feel slightly nervous about. But because [Matt] and Jenna have been so up for it and so welcoming and generous it's been a really nice experience. It's been really good fun." (Tennant)

24. But meeting yourself would not be much fun IRL.


Moffat: “I tried to imagine what it would be like to interact with yourself – your older or younger self. And I concluded that I’d absolutely hate it. There’s just nothing good about it. My younger self would be a prat and my older self would be even uglier. Imagine the lack of hope you’d have if the moment you saw, if the 30 year old me came into this room and saw the 50 year old me and thought, ‘is that really it?’ Is that as good as it’s ever gonna sodding well get? I didn’t write the show like that because that would be depressing.”

25. The Zygons are back.


The shapeshifters have appeared only one before, in 1975 story Terror Of The Zygons, but have been widely and rightly considered an iconic monster ever since. Now, a new generation get to enjoy them.

26. David Tennant loves him a Zygon.


Tennant would regularly say in interviews that they were his favourite monster as a child. “They’re a design classic the Zygons aren’t they?" he says. "And they’ve hardly been touched since the 1970 design, and they’re great to have around. They’re big and great to squeeze. Man, that big head on latex you can just sink your teeth into! Chew on a sucker!”

27. And unlike so many monsters, the design is unchanged from the old days.


“We no longer need to mine Doctor Who for the icons that define it, because the new show and the old show have somehow joined, they’ve become the same show,” says Moffat. “But what is worth harvesting from the old show are the really great bits. And there are some fantastic decisions in Doctor Who, whether it’s a story or a character, or in this case an absolute design classic. Neill Gorton [prosthetics whiz] agreed with me, we’d been talking about it for years, we just agreed that we would do the Zygons but we’d just do the same design.”

They're not the only villain, but they're the only villain that we shot outside. I'll be honest with you, the things that you know about Doctor Who are entirely conditioned by which bits we had to shoot outside. We just tell you what we have to when we've got no choice. If I could make this show on the dark side of the moon and tell you nothing at all, I'd do it.

29. Because for a start, we know that the Daleks are in it.


And it now seems inevitable we'll see some of the action from the Time War. Squee!

30. Billie is back, but Rose might not be.


The trailer sees Piper really-not acting like the Rose Tyler we know and love. And it only depicts her alongside John Hurt's War Doctor. Could the former leading lady be playing someone - or something - entirely different?

31. The most likely explanation would be Bad Wolf.


Bad Wolf was the being that Rose became when she absorbed the time vortex that destroyed the Daleks in series 1/27 finale The Parting Of The Ways. With that power burning up her mind, the Doctor absorbed it and regenerated. We know that the Bad Wolf arc returns from the "movie poster". So is this what is returning? Rose Tyler was certainly never the chipped black nail polish type.

32. So the Rose we left on Bad Wolf Bay with her Human-Doctor may still be there.


33. Joanna Page plays Queen Elizabeth I.


“My agent called and said ‘they want you to be in it and its Queen Elizabeth I’ and my first thought was ‘oh my god’,” says Joanna. “I’d had a baby three weeks before and I’d said I wasn’t going to work for a year but oh my god, I’m playing Queen Elizabeth in Doctor Who, it’s so exciting.”

34. The Doctor and Elizabeth have form, or at least they're about to.


When the older Elizabeth appeared at the end of 2007's The Shakespeare Code, she was not pleased to see him. It has been suggested that the pair had at some point been married. Is this what's about to happen?

35. Jemma Redgrave is back as Kate Stewart.


Introduced in last year's The Power Of Three, Kate is the new boss of UNIT, the United Nations' extra-terrestrial division. She is the daughter of legendary character Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.

36. This UNIT scientist played by Ingrid Oliver is wearing a Fourth Doctor scarf.


BUT WHY?! Oliver's character Osgood forms part of a double act with somebody called McGillop, played by Jonjo O'Neill.

37. Also back: the Fez!


38. The mystery of Clara continues, sort of.

“It kind of will, a little bit," says Jenna Coleman of the almost-resolved "impossible girl" arc. "We had the payoff at the end of this season, and it’s so good! But there’s a last scene, where everybody went ‘aaaaaaaahh!’ And then it goes on into the 50th.”

39. Clara is very much still part of the story and Jenna Coleman will be sticking around next year.


“Jenna brings a sort of diligence and intelligence and sort of tenacity to her companion that challenges the Doctor in a slightly different way,” says Matt. “She refuses to go on trips with him which is sort of bizarre but I think intrigues him. She’s quite forthright with her opinions and her mind, and Jenna works very hard at bringing all that to life.”

40. Something is afoot in an art gallery.


41. But what's that in the painting... Gallifrey?

The home planet of the Timelords was long since destroyed in the Time War.

42. And there is footage of the Time War, real actual footage!


43. There was an audacious stunt over Trafalgar Square.

I loved it. I had to persuade them to let me go up. I got one shot that was it, it was great and you can see right out. People have reported that I didn't go all the way up FYI!

45. A lot of the action takes place inside this mysterious space-barn.

46. We're promised an adventure that's as epic as it is funny.


“It slips in and out of epic really well, this script," says Tennant. “You have those really fun enjoyable moments when they’re bickering and sort of misunderstanding each other or working together and then it’ll go somewhere much bigger and grander and scarier.”

47. And it's probably not what you're expecting.


“I think what really works with this is the script is very story led actually," Tennant continues. "Rather than fill it with things that will make people go, oh it’s a special lovely anniversary pretty thing. That’s all in there, but actually what Steven has come up with is a way of moving the story on, and actually changing the Doctor’s very journey. And that’s in a way not what you might not expect, it could just be a big celebration but actually it’s a lot more than that.”

I can't imagine what will happen to Doctor Who in 50 years, apart from that it'll be around," says Moffat. "Heaven knows in what form, heaven knows if there'll be interruptions at some point, even though there's no evidence of that right now. It is, particularly internationally, going from strength to strength. We can't shed viewers, it's extraordinary that we've had the same rating for so long. But we're so parochial aren't we, ooh its getting nine or 10 million viewers – no, its getting 77 million viewers, if you count the rest of the world. That's quite important, the rest of the world, you watch North Korea demonstrate that. If letting it die in public sight and leaving it off the air didn't work – what the hell's gonna work? It's indestructible.

49. This was Moffat's mission statement to celebrate that.


50. And nothing is ever going to be the same again.


“I think I was the person who appallingly introduced the world “gamechanging” into Doctor Who,” says Moffat. “It’s a terrible expression, I wish I’d never said it. But yes, we’re going to make a change. It’s going to have an effect. You don’t very often do that with a character in a long-running series, but I think after 50 years, you can maybe take the risk. It’s going to have an effect on him. Everything is not going to be the same.”

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