TV News

It Pays to Live in the UK – BBC TV & Radio Have a Ton of Upcoming Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Specials

To some degree, Doctor Who is the Green Bay Packers of science fiction.  The Packers are an American National League Football team based in the state of Wisconsin, and operate as the only community-owned major league sports franchise in America.  Doctor Who airs on the publicly supported BBC, thus giving license fee paying British fans an entirely legitimate claim to ownership, albeit ownership of a very small percentage of Doctor Who but ownership nonetheless.  As such, it’s only fair that the BBC give back with a crap-ton of 50th Anniversary Doctor Who specials across its various networks and radio channels.

We now know that the actual 50th Anniversary special episode will be entitled “The Day of the Doctor” and run 75 minutes long, i.e., at least 15-20 minutes longer than a standard Doctor Who Christmas special.  It is scheduled to air on Nov. 23 in the U.S. and the U.K.  Here’s the first poster:

Day of Doctor

There is also the 90-minute television film, An Adventure in Space and Time, from Mark Gatiss which will dramatize the creation of Doctor Who.  It will air on BBC 2…at some point this year.  Don’t ask them exactly when because they aren’t saying.

However, here’s everything else the BBC is throwing out there in the coming months to celebrate the 50th Anniversary (via DenOfGeek.com):

BBC Two

“Professor Brian Cox will take an audience of celebrity guests and members of the public on a journey into the wonderful universe of the Doctor, from the lecture hall of the Royal Institution of Great Britain (1x60mins).  Drawing on the latest theories as well as 200 years of scientific discoveries and the genius of Einstein, Brian tries to answer the classic questions raised by the Doctor – can you really travel in time?  Does extra-terrestrial life exist in our galaxy?  And how do you build something as fantastical as the TARDIS? 

In an hour-long special, BBC Two’s flagship arts programme The Culture Show presents ‘Me, You and Doctor Who’ (1x60mins), with lifelong fan Matthew Sweet exploring the cultural significance of the BBC’s longest running TV drama, arguing  that it’s one of the most important cultural artefacts of modern Britain.  Put simply, Doctor Who matters.  He’ll examine how the show has become a cultural force in its own right and tell the stories of some of the unsung cultural heroes, who pioneered its innovative music, design and storytelling.

BBC Two wraps up its coverage with the previously announced ‘An Adventure in Space and Time’(1x90mins), which will tell the story of the genesis of Doctor Who and the many personalities involved.  Written by Mark Gatiss the drama stars; David Bradley (the Harry Potter films); Brian Cox (The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Identity), Jessica Raine (Call the Midwife) and Sacha Dhawan (History Boys, Last Tango in Halifax).”

BBC Three 


“…will be home to several exciting entertainment commissions. Audiences will be encouraged to get involved and vote in ‘Doctor Who: Monsters and Villains Weekend’, as we countdown to the top Doctor Who monster.  For those less familiar with the show, ‘Doctor Who: The Ultimate Guide’ will introduce fans and viewers to a wealth of archive material and act as a guide to all things Who.  A further exciting commission to be announced later this year will see the celebrations finish with a bang.”

BBC Four

“…will introduce audiences to the first Doctor, William Hartnell, with a special re-run of the first ever story, which marked the start of 50 years of history. The four episodes are being shown in a restored format, not previously broadcast in the UK.

There will also be programmes across CBBC with 12 Again (1x30mins) bringing together CBBC’s super fan Chris Johnson, impressionist Jon Culshaw, Tommy Knight (Luke Smith), Warwick Davis (Porridge), Neve McIntosh (Madame Vastra), Dan Starkey (Strax) Louise Jameson (Leela) and the Seventh Doctor; Sylvester McCoy, to share their memories of watching TV’s top Time Lord when they were young.

While Blue Peter will launch an exciting new competition giving viewers aged between six and fourteen the opportunity to design a new gadget that will become part of the iconic science fiction series.  Two live Blue Peter specials will see presenters Barney, Lindsey and Radzi joined by aliens and monsters, with viewers challenging Matt Smith to answer their Doctor Who questions.”

BBC Radio 1

“Music is a key part of Doctor Who, from the famous theme tune to soaring melodies, but the show has also inspired a whole new phenomenon – Time Lord Rock (TROCK).  Radio 1 will look at this genre of music inspired by the Doctor and his journeys through space and time with a 60 minute documentary.” 

BBC Radio 2  

“…will ask ‘Who Is The Doctor?’ in a 90 minute documentary featuring newly recorded interviews and exclusive archive material. The programme will look at the lasting appeal of Doctor Who and ask how much of its continued success can be attributed to its basic formula.

In ‘The Blagger’s Guide to Doctor Who’, David Quantick will give the iconic Doctor the Blagger’s treatment. He’ll be finding out the answers to questions such as why do Americans think Tom Baker is still Doctor Who? How many Doctors have there really been? Were the Daleks really named after an encyclopaedia?

Finally, Graham Norton will be broadcasting his weekly Radio 2 show live (Saturday 23 November, 10am) from the Doctor Who Celebration in London.  In a special three-hour show, Graham will take a ride in the TARDIS and will also be chatting with some of the series’ stars and fans.”

Radio 4 Extra

“…travels back to 1963 with a three hour special programme, ‘Who Made Who?’, to look at the world that inspired the television series.  Doctor Who may have come from other times, but his roots were very much in the present of 1960s Britain. This distinctive programme combines audio from the archive, new interviews and extracts from audio versions of Doctor Who.  Additionally, the station will broadcast readings and dramas featuring the great Doctor.”

At the moment, it is unclear when exactly any of these programs will air, although it has been indicated it will all revolve around the anniversary weekend and Nov. 23 airing of “Day of the Doctor.”  There are no indications that BBC America will be getting any of these programs other than “Day of the Doctor” and “An Adventure in Space and Time,” which it actually co-produced with BBC Wales.  Many BBC radio programs are region specific, i.e., not downloadable from iTunes if doing so outside of the U.K.  As such, accessing those from the states might be challenging.

But, like I said earlier, we in the states do not literally own Doctor Who; we’re just mere fans.  The people who own it probably get priority.  That actually wasn’t as comforting as I had hoped.

What do you think?  Any one of these specials sound particularly can’t miss?  What do you think of the new “Day of the Doctor” poster?  Do you live in the UK and are now incensed that I have somehow horribly misrepresented the actual financial structure of the BBC?  Let us know in the comments.  

3 comments

  1. I’m particularly looking forward to “An Adventure in Space and Time”. I’m not sure how we’ll get to see it here in the US, but I’m sure there will be a way!

    1. Actually, from what I’ve been able to find “An Adventure in Space and Time” has been confirmed as airing on both BBC2 in the UK and BBC America in the US. In fact, BBC American even co-produced it with BBC Wales. So, we should be getting that…well, if you have BBC America, of course. There will also, obviously, be far more illegal ways of seeing it. I’m so trained by American television, though, that I always find it initially off-putting how vague and uncertain British television airtimes are. We still have no idea when any of these things are going to air other than “Day of the Doctor.”

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