The future of 'Doctor Who'

The British sci-fi show has big plans for its 60th anniversary and beyond

David Tennant in Doctor Who
(Image credit: BBC / Screenshot)

Allons-y! "Doctor Who" is undergoing yet another regeneration, as a new actor will soon step into the lead role. But this won't be quite like any of the series' past reinventions, as before meeting the new Doctor, fans will spend time with an old one. More changes are also in store, and Disney is even getting involved in the series. Here's everything we know about the future of the beloved British sci-fi franchise, 60 years on:

Ncuti Gatwa is the new Doctor

"Sex Education" star Ncuti Gatwa was cast as the new Doctor in 2022. "This role and show means so much to so many around the world, including myself, and each one of my incredibly talented predecessors has handled that unique responsibility and privilege with the utmost care," he said at the time. "I will endeavour my upmost to do the same."

He's succeeding Jodie Whittaker, who played the Thirteenth Doctor until 2022. Yet Gatwa will be portraying the Fifteenth Doctor, not the one directly after Whittaker.

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David Tennant is returning as the Doctor

The 2022 special "The Power of the Doctor" surprised fans by having Whittaker regenerate into Tennant, who played the Tenth Doctor from 2005 through 2010, instead of Gatwa. This incarnation has been confirmed as the Fourteenth Doctor, indicating the Doctor has regenerated into one of his old forms for mysterious reasons.

"David Tennant, previously known as the 10th Doctor, is now also known as the 14th Doctor," the BBC said. "Confused? Don't worry, he seems a little perplexed too."

The show will return with three specials

"Doctor Who" returns in November 2023 with three specials marking the 60th anniversary of the show, and Tennant will star in all three. Gatwa is also expected to appear, as teased in a trailer for the specials, meaning Tennant's Doctor will likely regenerate into Gatwa's by the end of the third one. The specials will be titled "The Star Beast," "Wild Blue Yonder," and "The Giggle."

From there, Gatwa will fully take over as the Doctor for season 14, and the BBC said his first episode will air "over the festive period in 2023." Season 14 will likely debut in 2024.

Catherine Tate is back as Donna Noble

Alongside Tennant, Catherine Tate is returning as Donna Noble for the 60th anniversary specials. She was the companion of the Tenth Doctor in season 4 of the reboot, and by the end, the Doctor wiped her memory so she would forget about the time they spent together. The trailer for the specials suggests Donna will have a vague awareness that she's missing memories, while the Doctor will try to ensure she doesn't remember him. "If she ever remembers me, she will die," Tennant's Doctor warns in the footage.

Bernard Cribbins, who died in 2022, will also be making a posthumous appearance as Wilfred, Donna's grandfather.

Russell T Davies is back as showrunner

The most surprising return, though, may be Russell T Davies, the man who revived "Doctor Who" with the 2005 reboot. He wrote many episodes during Tennant's tenure but left before the Matt Smith era. Davies is returning as "Doctor Who" showrunner, replacing Chris Chibnall. Former composer Murray Gold is also coming back.

Millie Gibson is playing the Fifteenth Doctor's companion

Once the era of Gatwa's Doctor officially begins, he'll have a new companion: Ruby Sunday, played by "Coronation Street" star Millie Gibson. The BBC revealed images of the two in an episode set in the "swinging 60s."

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New cast members include Neil Patrick Harris and Jonathan Groff

"Heartstopper" star Yasmin Finney will be playing the character of Rose, who may or may not have something to do with Rose Tyler, previously portrayed by Billie Piper. "How can there be another Rose?" Davies teased. "You'll find out in 2023, but it's an absolute joy to welcome Yasmin to the 'Doctor Who' set." Neil Patrick Harris also joined the cast of the 60th-anniversary specials. His role hasn't been revealed, though fans have speculated he could be playing the Celestial Toymaker from the William Hartnell era.

Additionally, Indira Varma, who played Ellaria Sand on "Game of Thrones," was cast in the mysterious role of the Duchess, and Jonathan Groff will have a "key role" that hasn't been revealed. Jinkx Monsoon, a two-time winner on "RuPaul's Drag Race," booked a "major role" as the Doctor's "most powerful enemy yet," and 14-year-old Lenny Rush is playing a character called Morris, who Davies said "joins the TARDIS team just in time for the Doctor's greatest nightmare."

Bonnie Langford is also returning as Melanie Bush, the companion of the Sixth and Seventh Doctors.

At least one spin-off is in the works

Davies told GQ his plan for "Doctor Who" includes more spin-offs, and one is already in the works. According to Deadline, there will be a spin-off series about the military research organization UNIT starring Jemma Redgrave as Kate Stewart. Redgrave will also be in the new season.

Disney+ will be the show's new global home

Beginning in late 2023, Disney+ will be the "new global home" of "Doctor Who" outside of the U.K. and Ireland. "Under a shared creative vision," the BBC and Disney+ will "deliver this quintessentially British show to future generations on an unprecedented scale," the announcement said.

The Telegraph reported Disney will give the show "vast budgets beyond the BBC's means," though Davies denied a rumor that each episode will have a £10 million budget. "If we did," he told the Independent, "I'd be flying around on a private jet."

"You'll see in November that it's not a radically changed show," Davies also said. "It's lasted for 60 years because it's good. It needs a bigger budget and a bigger profile, and hopefully that's what we're bringing to it."

Christmas specials are coming back

"Doctor Who" shifted from Christmas specials to New Year's specials in recent years, but Davies has confirmed the show will return to having a Dec. 25 episode. He teased to "Doctor Who" Magazine in 2022, "For the first time ever, I'm writing a Christmas Special … at Christmas!"

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Brendan Morrow

Brendan is a staff writer at The Week. A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in journalism, he also writes about horror films for Bloody Disgusting and has previously contributed to The Cheat Sheet, Heavy, WhatCulture, and more. He lives in New York City surrounded by Star Wars posters.