The Doctor Who Christmas special will be a multi-Doctor storyline that harks back to the early days of the show.
Series 10 came to an end at the weekend, in a story that saw companion Bill Potts transformed into a Mondasian Cyberman, and leave her physical body behind to be with girlfriend Heather, her watery paramour from episode 1. We also saw John Simm’s Master and Michelle Gomez’s Missy come together in the series’ first ever multi-Master narrative.
But perhaps most tantalizingly we saw a glimpse of the First Doctor, originally played by William Hartnell, turn up at the very end of the series’ final episode, coming face to face with Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor. It previews the double-Doctor special which will air at Christmas.
In a cliff-hanger ending, we saw the Doctor fatally shot by a Mondasian Cyberman. Stepping out of the Tardis into a snowy landscape, we witnessed him fighting off the glowing regeneration energy. As he fell to his knees, he declared that this time he wouldn’t live on and change into a new Doctor. An approaching figure calls his vow “ridiculous” before being revealed to be the first incarnation of the Timelord.
The special marks departing showrunner Steven Moffat’s last episode in charge – and shows he’s determined not to leave without a flourish.
The First Doctor is played by Harry Potter and Game of Thrones actor David Bradley in the new episodes. Bradley has previously played Hartnell on screen in An Adventure in Space and Time, a BBC dramatization of the series’ origins. He has also appeared elsewhere in Doctor Who – as a character called Solomon in the 2012 episode “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”. The episode was written by incoming Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall.
Hartnell died in 1975 at the age of 67. He played the Doctor between 1963 and 1966. The First Doctor was last seen on screen in an active role in 1983, in a feature-length episode called “The Five Doctors” while the character was seen briefly in the 50th anniversary special from 2013, “The Day of the Doctor”.
We don’t yet know the significance of the First Doctor’s involvement in the storyline but it’s exciting to consider the possibilities.
The Christmas special will see Peter Capaldi’s Doctor finally regenerate into the 13th Doctor, although it hasn’t yet been revealed who will play the new Doctor. Frontrunners to take over include Kris Marshall and Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
We’ll update you on casting news as soon as we know more.