As had been expected, the BBC are looking to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their hit sci-fi/drama series Doctor Who to the fullest possible extent, confirming the selection of ‘special programming’ that will be offered between now and the anniversary date on 23 November.
At the forefront of their selection will naturally be the highly-anticipated 50th anniversary special, titled The Day of the Doctor, a 75-minute episode featuring starring roles for 11th and 10th ‘doctors’ Matt Smith and David Tennant (pictured).
Smith said of that release, which will be his second-to-last episode before new lead Peter Capaldi takes over the titular role (‘regenerating’ that change on-screen during the Christmas special that follows): “The Day of the Doctor is nearly here! Hope you all enjoy. There’s lots more coming your way, as the countdown to the 50th begins now.”
Despite BBC One being the place on which the biggest piece of content occurs on, it will not be supported by much else in the way of dedicated programming, with the public broadcaster spreading their newly-confirmed slate of special content across their range of channels.
Secondary station BBC Two will receive the more intellectual pieces being commissioned, with confirmed content including an unnamed ’special lecture’ from Professor Brian Cox discussing ‘the science of Doctor Who‘, arts programme The Culture Show holding an hour-long documentary (Me, You and Doctor Who) that will explore the ‘cultural significance’ that Doctor Who has held in its 50 years of history, as told by ‘life-long fan’ Matthew Sweet.
Rounding out the headlining content that BBC Two will hold is the biopic drama An Adventure in Space and Time , a 90-minute film written by Mark Gatiss telling the tale of the show’s conception and behind-the-scenes of its first few episodes, starring David Bradley (Game of Thrones) portraying William Hartnell, the actor behind the 1st incarnation of ’The Doctor’, when the show was beginning in 1963.
BBC Three has an equal number of special features planned, led by a new countdown series to discover the show’s most popular antagonist (based on viewer votes) in Doctor Who: Monsters and Villains Weekend, whilst a chance to introduce new viewers to the series (or for existing ones to brush up on their knowledge) will occur in Doctor Who: The Ultimate Guide, a special which will include a range of archived material. The third commission from the channel, meanwhile, will not have its identity revealed until later across the next two months.
Whilst getting no new specials to run along with their sister channels, BBC Four will display classic episodes of Doctor Who throughout the build-up to 23 November, including a repeat of ‘An Unearthly Child’, a four-episode ‘serial’ that was the first in the show’s history (and an alteration of an original unaired pilot, part of which can be seen below), with all four full-length segments set to be given a repeat broadcast in a ‘restored format’ that has not previously been seen in the UK. In addition to the main four channels, the BBC are also promising unique content that will air on children’s network CBBC, radio stations BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio 4 Extra, and content that will be exclusive to the BBC iPlayer catch-up service.
BBC Television director Danny Cohen said of the broadcasting events planned to mark the milestone: “Doctor Who is a titan of British television and I’m incredibly proud to have it on the BBC. It’s an astonishing achievement for a drama to reach its 50th anniversary. I’d like to thank every person – on both sides of the camera – who has been involved with its creative journey over so many years.”
Doctor Who’s ‘lead writer & executive producer’ Steven Moffat added: “50 years has turned Doctor Who from a television show into a cultural landmark. Personally I can’t wait to see what it becomes after a hundred.”
Whilst a celebration of similar scale to this one could be dependent on the show still creating new episodes in fifty years (or not, ‘who’ could really predict what the TV industry will be like in the year 2063?), the content itself is now close to being enjoyed by a widespread audience on every possible resource the BBC could realistically use (perhaps only being rivalled by major sporting events for the demographics it will reach), but whilst the line-up itself should be pleasing to the show’s fans, will BBC commissioners complete this anniversary process (amongst other commemorations this year) with the feeling they have done the show’s landmark justice, or will there end up being a lingering feeling that more ‘could’ have been done?