‘WHOniverse’ heads to ‘Church’ at Christmas (and lines up UK extras)…

Ahead of the three 'Specials' there's plenty of birthday tie-ins for the Time Lord (if you're in the UK!)...
The Doctor returns for three specials. (Pic: BBC)

With less than three weeks to go until the first Doctor Who 60th anniversary special (the first of three, commencing on the evening of Saturday 25th November and then the following two weekends), there’s plenty of other celebratory programming to keep fans busy.

Here’s a round-up, likely with more to be announced:

If you’re in the UK you now have access to the BBC‘s ‘Whoinverse‘ as part of the corporation’s iPlayer platform.  Though a few legal rights and arguments have kept some episodes from being included – such as the very first An Unearthly Child almost every other episode from the show’s record-breaking run are now accessible to British audiences and that includes some of the spin-off and one-off connected programming over the decades. As the iPlayer platform is only available to UK audiences (or those who possess a British television license and a co-operative VPN

Also included are Tales from the Tardis which has filmed new bridging material for several classic episodes, reuniting some of the surviving classic Doctors and their companions (or fellow companions in the case of the William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee eras, since the main actors have since passed). These sequences take place in a ‘Memory Tardis’ set and though they are clearly done with limited time and a small budget, they are something of a nostalgic treat for fans – some admittedly working better than others.  With the potential to do more, the opening salvo sees Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor reuniting with Janet Fielding as Tegan Jovanka (remembering the events of Earthshock) – though technically they both appeared in the recent The Power of the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker’s final episode). The Second Doctor’s companions, Jamie McCrimmon (essayed by Fraser Hines) and Zoe Heriot (Wendy Padbury) come back together and talk about The Mind Robber, especially effective after they had their memories wiped after their travels with the Time Lord all those years ago. Maureen O’Brien (who played Vicki Pallister) and Peter Purves (who played Steven Taylor) remember the First Doctor in bookends for The Time Meddler.

Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor finds himself with Nicola Bryant’s Peri Brown (another character with a controversial exit which feels awkwardly addressed here) and they discuss that fate via Vengeance on Varos. Katy Manning’s Jo Jones with Daniel Anthony’s Clyde Langer who last shared the screen in The Sarah Jane Adventures feature in footage ahead of The Three Doctors. Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor alongside Sophie Aldred as Ace also last appeared in that Jodie Whittaker sign-off but here meet again to talk about how they survived The Curse of Fenric.

Currently available on BBC Four is a documentary on the ‘classic’ era of the series, hosted by David Tennant. Older fans of the show will recognise a lot of the clips and coverage, though Tennant is clearly delighted to get access to some never-seen-before footage of how the Tom Baker – to -Peter Davison regeneration was filmed (Tennant is, of course, the son-in-law of Davison and is married to Georgina Tennant who originally appeared in the series as ‘The Doctor’s Daughter’).

Classic story The Daleks has been edited down from its original seven episodes (of 25-minute each) into one 75-minute special that has also been colourised and given a new musical score. It may well be available from 23rd November  – the show’s actual birthday – on both BBC Four and stream on BBC iPlayer. (It will also be available in its original format).

Still available for international access is the recent Musical Celebration that was recorded at Cardiff’s Hoddinott Hall with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the BBC Singers (conducted by Alastair King) playing themes that featured in the show over the years – including the debut of the new arraignment that will appear when Ncuti Gatwa takes over the role.

As for the three specials, the collected DVD will be released to buy mere days later and be pre-ordered now. The novelisations  for The Star Beast, Wild Blue Yonder and The Giggle will be released in January 2024.

A Disney+ listing for their own seasonal programming appears to confirm that the Christmas special will indeed be broadcast on Christmas Day itself, the first full episode with Ncuti Gatwa and will be entitled The Church on Ruby Road (a connection to incoming companion Ruby Sunday played by Millie Gibson).