The problem with having a show run 50 years is that your original cast may or may not still be around to enjoy it. That’s the case with Doctor Who: actors William Harnell, Patrick Troughton, and John Pertwee passed away in 1975, 1987, and 1996, respectively. Any retrospective about the show’s history has to include them, but you’re obviously limited to pre-existing footage. Or are you? Rumor has it that the three dead Doctors will indeed join up with the surviving Who leads for another adventure. It’s just a question of how they plan to pull that off.
Of course, the digital age means we can resurrect dead celebrities for things as frivolous as vacuum cleaner commercials, so surely a 50th anniversary is a more worthy cause. According to the Birmingham Mail, Hartnell, Troughton, and Pertwee will be resurrected for brief flashback scenes, courtesy of “studio trickery.” That could mean a lot of things, but likely explanations are digital manipulation, lookalike actors, or some combination of the two. From the sound of things, the first three Doctors will have a much smaller role in the special episode, but that’s to be expected. If the rumor is true, this sounds like a simple, respectful way to acknowledge the deceased actors’ role in the long-running series.
Of course, it’s not only the dead Who actors whose return for the special has seemed unlikely. Ninth Doctor Christopher Ecclestone has been noncommittal at best when asked if he’d be participating, but the Mail’s story says the actor is now reconsidering. If even the dead Doctors are taking part, it would seem pretty awkward for one of the recent, and still living, time lords to skip out on the festivities.
Tenth Doctor David Tennant has played coy about his involvement, but it seems more or less a given that he’ll come along for one more adventure alongside his fellow Doctors. As for Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith, he himself doesn’t know much…or at least he won’t admit to it. “We’re as much in the dark as the majority of other people,” says Smith. “I haven’t seen the script so I have no idea what is happening. One thing’s for sure, we’ll make it the biggest in the show’s history.”
Regardless of what else the 50th anniversary has to offer, two very cool events have already been revealed: monthly Doctor Who short stories penned by notable authors, and a new audio adventure starring Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann.