The venerable British sci-fi series Doctor Who airs what promises to be a very special 50th anniversary episode of the program Saturday as a global simulcast to more than 75 countries. In the United States, BBC America will carry “The Day of the Doctor” (as the episode is titled) live at 2:50 p.m. ET, followed by an encore broadcast that evening at 7 p.m. ET.
As usual, the BBC is cloaking this special episode in the kind of secrecy that usually is reserved for nuclear launch codes, although the network has released the following brief (and enigmatic) summary:
“In 2013, something terrible is awakening in London’s National Gallery; in 1562, a murderous plot is afoot in Elizabethan England; and somewhere in space, an ancient battle reaches its devastating conclusion. All of reality is at stake as the Doctor’s own dangerous past comoes back to haunt him.”
Here’s what else is known about the episode, which is penned by lead writer and executive producer Steven Moffat. First, and most bafflingly, the episode will feature both the current 11th incarnation of The Doctor (Matt Smith) as well as his previous embodiment, the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant), sharing scenes together. As if that’s not enough, John Hurt, who was seen very briefly in the final moments of the Season Seven finale, will appear as The War Doctor, a “forgotten” past incarnation of The Doctor.
Fans who are searching for further clues also can view a related and very tantalizing mini-episode prequel of sorts called “The Night of the Doctor,” with Paul McGann reprising his role as the Eighth Doctor online here: http://youtu.be/-U3jrS-uhuo.
The other big news is that “The Day of the Doctor” also will include an appearance by fan favorite Billie Piper as Rose Tyler, former traveling companion for the Ninth and Tenth Doctors. Jenna Coleman also co-stars in this special episode in her current ongoing role as the Eleventh Doctor’s traveling companion, Clara Oswald. Joanna Page guest stars as Queen Elizabeth I.
Moffat has said in related interviews that “The Day of the Doctor” will “change the narrative” of the series in a big way. Fans are speculating this may involve a long-standing conundrum built into the basic premise of Doctor Who: namely, the notion that any Time Lord can regenerate only 12 times. (Actor Peter Capaldi is scheduled to begin appearing as the Twelfth Doctor sometime after Smith’s upcoming Christmas Day episode. If we count Hurt’s appearance as a regeneration, which is how it is described in “The Night of the Doctor,” that would mean Capaldi’s Doctor would be the 12th time the character has regenerated).
In addition to their joint appearance in “The Day of the Doctor,” Smith and Tennant also are scheduled to appear together late Saturday evening on BBC America’s The Graham Norton Show. That show was taped and aired in the UK earlier this week, however, so expect their comments to be fairly guarded.