In recent years, things have been a little shaky for long-running British sci-fi classic Doctor Who. For some fans, the decision to cast a woman, Jodie Whittaker, as the Thirteenth Doctor was a controversial one, while patchy writing, long gaps between new episodes, and the equally controversial 'Timeless Child' storyline saw others struggle to get into the Whittaker era. However, things seem to be picking up with the approach of the show's 6oth Anniversary, which will see David Tennant, previously the Tenth Doctor, return as The Fourteenth Doctor in three TV specials alongside Catherine Tate as popular companion Donna Noble, before passing the torch to The Fifteenth Doctor, Ncuti Gatwa, just in time for Christmas.
With the excitement building around the 6oth anniversary, some Whovians are looking back ten years, to Doctor Who's 50th anniversary. While all anniversaries are special, the 50th anniversary year was especially memorable. Then starring Matt Smith as The Eleventh Doctor, the show's popularity was at an all-time high, with fans around the world celebrating the show through a series of trailers, shorts, and other special events, culminating in the record-breaking worldwide simulcast of the movie-length 50th anniversary special, 'The Day of The Doctor', which also happened to be the first multi-Doctor story of the NuWho era, featuring John Hurt as the mysterious War Doctor alongside Tennant and Smith.
Let's look back at the best moments and events from Doctor Who's 50th anniversary year.
1. 'Doctor Who: The Day of The Doctor'
That 'The' anniversary special would be the biggest event of a show's anniversary year goes without saying. What makes 'Day of The Doctor' truly memorable is that it is a great Doctor Who story regardless of it's anniversary special status. Written by then-showrunner Steven Moffat, 'Day of The Doctor' features three incarnations of The Doctor- Ten, Eleven, and the previously unknown War Doctor- uniting to save Earth from an attempted invasion by the shapeshifting Zygons. The trio also grapple with the unpleasant memory of what the War Doctor had to do to end the Time War, culminating in an epic joint effort to change history.
'Day of The Doctor' set a record for the largest worldwide television simulcast, and in some countries, fans were lucky enough to see it played in theatres. Ten years after it's release, it still often ranks among the most popular Doctor Who stories of all time.
2. An Adventure In Space And Time
Produced to coincide with the anniversary, the telemovie An Adventure In Space And Time dramatises the early days of Doctor Who, focusing on it's first Producer, Verity Lambert, and William Hartnell, the actor behind The First Doctor. Covering the time from Doctor Who's conception through to the ailing Hartnell's reluctant departure from the series, the film depicts Who as a little show that could, overcoming various obstacles on it's path to small screen success.
An Adventure In Space And Time was well received by fans, but few would have expected the influence it would eventually have on the wider Whoniverse. David Bradley, who portrayed William Hartnell in the film, would eventually appear as The First Doctor in three NuWho episodes.
3. 'Night of The Doctor'
Night of The Doctor was one of two shorts aired in the lead up to The Day of The Doctor's first airing. Set during the Time War, the minisode begins as The Eighth Doctor, who has mostly stayed out of the conflict, attempts to rescue a young pilot, Cass, from her crashing ship. Cass rejects The Doctor's help upon learning he is a Time Lord, but he refuses to leave her, and both suffer mortal injuries as the ship crash lands on the Planet Karn. The Sisterhood of Karn convince the dying Doctor that it is time he intervened in the War, offering a potion with which he can influence the traits of his next incarnation. He decides he must be a warrior, prompting his regeneration into the War Doctor.
While Paul McGann's only previous televised appearance as The Eighth Doctor was in the 1996 Doctor Who telemovie, he became a fan-favourite through novels and the Big Finish audio dramas, so his return for this short was a very welcome surprise. Aside from answering the long running question of how The Eighth Doctor regenerated, Night of The Doctor proved an extra special treat for Big Finish fans, as it officially canonises some of his most popular companions, including Charley Pollard and Lucie Miller.
4. The Name of The Doctor
In the final episode of the Doctor Who revival's seventh series, the kidnapping of the Paternoster gang at the hands of The Great Intelligence forces The Eleventh Doctor to embark upon a rescue mission to a forbidden location.. his own grave. After being granted admittance to The Doctor's tomb, the Great Intelligence enters The Doctor's exposed timestream aiming to undo all his victories, before current companion Clara bravely pursues it, allowing herself to be split across The Doctor's lifetimes to thwart the Intelligence's evil plan. Entering his own timestream to rescue Clara, The Eleventh Doctor briefly encounters The War Doctor, an incarnation that broke the promise of his name.
As well as solving the mystery of how Clara Oswald became The Impossible girl, 'The Name of The Doctor', which includes cameos from all The Doctors prior to the reveal of The War Doctor, was a perfect set up for the anniversary and Christmas specials that followed it.
5. The Five-ish Doctors Reboot
In fun parody special The Five-ish Doctors Reboot, Peter Davison, the actor who played The Fifth Doctor, and Father-In-Law to Tenth Doctor actor David Tennant, is becoming increasingly frustrated over not receiving an invitation to reprise his role in Doctor Who's 50th anniversary special. Peter eventually recruits the equally frustrated Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy, the Sixth and Seventh Doctors, on a mission to crash the filming of the 5oth and ensure they appear in it.
The Five-ish Doctors Reboot was conceived by Davison as a fun way to celebrate Classic Who and the surviving classic Doctors. It includes plenty of fun cameos and Easter eggs for fans of the classic era.
6. The 'Save The Day' Teaser
In the interest of preventing spoilers, the BBC held off on releasing a trailer with actual footage from 'The Day of The Doctor' until relatively close to the special's airdate. However, to help keep Whovians' excitement levels up in the intervening time, a short teaser was released. Created using a mix of CGI and archive images, with a voice over from then current Doctor Matt Smith, the teaser includes images of every Doctor, and plenty of fun Easter eggs for fans. It closed out with establishing #SaveTheDay as the official social media hashtag for the anniversary.
Running at just one minute, the 'Save The Day' teaser was a massive hit, with fans the world over combing through every frame in search of clues. It is a masterclass in building hype without spoilers, perhaps a lesson today's promoters could learn from.
7. Doctor Who at The Proms
The BBC proms is a yearly, eight week season of Classical music concerts played at the iconic Royal Albert Hall. Doctor Who concerts were previously featured during the 2008 and 2010 Proms seasons, but the 2013 season included an extra special Doctor Who at The Proms to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary. Both the second and third concerts of the 2013 season were devoted to Doctor Who.
A 75 minute version of the concert aired on television. As well as a full Orchestra playing some of Murray Gold's most popular pieces of Doctor Who score, the show featured an appearance from Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman in-character as The Eleventh Doctor and Clara Oswald, and at some points in the show, various Doctor Who monsters invading the stage. It was a fun celebration of all things Who.
8. The Time of The Doctor
The Doctor's plan to spend Christmas with Clara and her family is scuppered by an unexpected trip back to Trenzalore, then the eventual sight of his grave, and the town called Christmas, where no-one can lie. Sending Clara home, The Doctor stays behind to protect Christmas from a never ending onslaught of enemies who seek to keep The Doctor from answering 'The Question', his true name, which will unlock the timelock placed on Gallifrey. Periodically making it back to visit him with help from The Tardis, Clara discovers The Doctor slowly aging, and eventually learns he is on his final regeneration.
'Time of The Doctor', the 2013 Christmas Special, is not technically a part of the 50th anniversary celebrations. However, it does follow up on some 'Day of The Doctor' plot threads, is a perfect, full circle conclusion to Matt Smith's time as The Eleventh Doctor, and a wonderful cap on Doctor Who's fiftieth anniversary year, sure to always be remembered as a highlight of the franchise's long history.