The three-part Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Special is fast approaching, with just under six months remaining until release. To celebrate this countdown, the BBC has released its third trailer for the specials and revealed the titles of all three parts.
Much of this trailer is comprised of filler that says very little. Cool action shots and dramatic lines delivered by David Tennant are a good way to stir up an epic feeling. However, they do not give us a glimpse at the quality of the narrative that fans can expect. The most interesting aspect of this trailer’s release is the way that it was hyped up. In the days and weeks leading up to its release, several cryptic teasers were released hidden amongst other BBC commercials in tandem with coded messages on Twitter, requiring binary translation and audio reversal, revealing both the upcoming episode titles and the countdown to the trailer’s release. Public puzzle-oriented teasers like this used to be common, but as studios stopped trusting their audiences’ abilities to display even basic intelligence on top of the studios’ disinterest in interesting fan interactions, these cool marketing techniques were abandoned. If nothing else, the marketing team for the upcoming 60th anniversary should be congratulated on their above-average effort.
All previous speculations derived from the past trailers still stand, but the new things of note are Catherine Tate’s opening lines and the episode titles.
Catherine Tate is a phenomenal actress who has cemented her place amongst the best to ever join this prestigious franchise. Her arc as Donna Noble in series 4 is one of the most haunting and bittersweet in Doctor Who. This arc ended with her memory of the Doctor getting erased, forcing her to return to her mundane life with no recollection of her importance. If she were ever to remember the Doctor, her “mind will burn, and she will die.” As much as fans love Donna, many are, at minimum, skeptical about her return because it requires the restoration of her memories and the undoing of her ending. The latest trailer has confirmed this to be true, as her opening lines show recognition of David Tennant’s face. Already, this show is damaging the past to pull on cheap member berries, and many fans will not stand for it.
— Doctor Who (@bbcdoctorwho) May 15, 2023
The title of each of the three episodes was also revealed in this trailer. “The Star Beast,” “The Wild Blue Yonder,” and “The Giggle.” If it is possible for episode titles to give fans whiplash, these three would doubtlessly accomplish that. “The Star Beast” appears to reference an old comic book that featured Beep the Meep, a character getting brought into live action for the first time during the 60th anniversary. While “The Star Beast” is an Easter egg referencing a better time in Doctor Who, it is still incredibly generic, stirring very tepid reactions.
However, to counterbalance the mediocrity of “The Star Beast” comes “The Wild Blue Yonder.” For NuWho, and especially David Tennant’s initial run, a defining aspect of both the show and the Doctor’s personality is a sense of adventure and exploration. In series 2, when asked what he believes in, the Doctor responds, “I believe I haven’t seen everything.” That is his chief goal and what is always on his mind: exploration, seeing everything that he can. As Captain Jack Sparrow once said, “Bring me that horizon,” so too does the Doctor crave the next discovery and the next horizon. The phrase “Wild Blue Yonder” was popularized by the United States Air Force song, which attempts to stir a similar emotion of venturing into the unknown. This origin and thematic tie to David’s first run, plus the obvious TARDIS blue nod, goes a long way in inspiring positive connections with the title.
Coming out of left field to outdo both the tepidness of “The Star Beast” and the epicness of “The Wild Blue Yonder” is “The Giggle.” Many people’s first reaction to this title was discomfort. What in the world is it meant to reference, and what emotions or connections is it attempting to inspire? It seems to describe very little and simply leaves the audience scratching their heads. Even if the title does refer to an event or aspect of the 3rd episode, “The Giggle” is a very poor title. The wide range of quality amongst these three episodes’ titles is astonishing. Either three separate people named these episodes, or luck was relied upon.
Many fans believe that there is no possible redemption for this franchise after the severe abomination that was Chris Chibnall and Jodie Whittaker’s run on the show. However, if there were any way to resurrect Doctor Who, the BBC is surprisingly on the right track, marketing-wise and only marketing-wise. The return of David Tennant and Catherine Tate can go a long way to bring back disenfranchised audience members. The absence of clear political undertones in the trailers also aids this effort. There may be several behind-the-scenes conversations that are politically motivated and further divide the fans, but the trailers and the story they hint at appear to get back to basics, with nostalgia as a high priority. It must be noted that this is likely just marketing and that getting back to the basics may not be an accurate descriptor of the narrative. The problem with this nostalgia-first mentality is many other studios have attempted it in recent years and have faltered on the final yard line, either by weaponizing this nostalgia against the fans for political reasons or by simple bad writing decisions, further damaging what little the fan base still cared for. Doctor Who will likely succumb to the same pitfalls with their nostalgia.
So far, all leaks, rumors, and official press releases have not even attempted to diverge from the nefarious political goals which brought this show’s viewership to some of the lowest seen in 60 years. So, if the writing and political vitriol that has defined recent seasons continues through this 60th-anniversary special, there is a risk that both David Tennant and Catherine Tate’s past performances can be tainted. Both actors will doubtless bring their A-game and be phenomenal, yet the writing may counteract any positivity derived from their talent.