It’s been quite a year for Doctor Who.
From The Bells of Saint John to The Time of the Doctor, no year has given the Doctor Who fandom the highs (and the lows) that 2013 gave. So, as the anniversary year draws to a close and 2014 looms on the horizon, we’ve made a two-part retrospective of Doctor Who‘s biggest year ever – and why 2014 holds plenty of its own treats.
In part one, we’ll look at the first half of the year – from Series 7: Part 2 to the announcement of Matt Smith’s departure as the Doctor.
The 50th anniversary year cranked into life in January after the second death of Clara Oswald in the 2012 Christmas Special, The Snowmen. There might not have been much Doctor Who around, but with BFI beginning their series of special screenings with the First Doctor story The Aztecs, Eoin Colfer penning the first of eleven e-books for each Doctor and the first in Destiny of the Doctor series, the anniversary was certainly underway.
Details of the highly anticipated 50th anniversary special were firmly under wraps, but whispers of an eleven Doctors story with digital trickery letting even the first three, sadly deceased Doctors, star in the special. While these were just rumours at the time and eventually proved wrong, they weren’t far off the mark…
Best January moment: The BBC’s surprisingly early yet welcome announcement that the Doctor would be returning for eight new episodes on Saturday 30th March.
As the new series edged closer, the first details of the 50th anniversary were announced, including news of a 3D broadcast and a special cinema release. The yawning gap after the anniversary began to be filled in with confirmation of a Christmas Special (little did we know…).
Elsewhere, 90-minute origins drama An Adventure in Space and Time, starring David Bradley as William Hartnell, filmed across the month in locations including the iconic (and now closed) Television Centre and Westminster Bridge, which saw a group of Daleks in a recreation of the iconic scene from The Dalek Invasion of Earth.
The 50th anniversary special found a director, Nick Hurran – and exciting news came when classic monster the Ice Warriors were confirmed to return an upcoming episode, Cold War.
As the month drew to a close, we were teased with an ‘exciting’ midnight announcement on the first day of March…
Best February moment: The Ice Warriors are confirmed to return!
… and as March began, the Doctor was confirmed to return in The Bells of Saint John, an urban thriller featuring new villains the Spoonheads and new (new) companion Clara Oswald.
As news trickled through about the new series, the 50th anniversary special geared up for filming in early April – but no-one was attached to the special just yet. The series wasn’t even officially commissioned yet, but Jenna Coleman confirmed in mid-March that she would return for series eight.
Marketing for the new series began with a blast with a thrilling new trailer on Saturday 16th March, accompanied by episode titles and posters. A week later, we also got a prequel to The Bells of Saint John, with the Doctor meeting yet another young Clara Oswald.
Saturday 30th March brought the most exciting news a fan could hope for – the return of David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor for the 50th anniversary special, alongside Billie Piper (playing ‘Rose’) and John Hurt, whose role wasn’t ready to be revealed just yet. As fans celebrated, the new series began with a blast as The Bells of Saint John hit our TV screens.
Finally, after a false start and feverish speculation, the 50th anniversary special began filming, with shape-shifting classic villains the Zygons confirmed to return in the anniversary episode. Pictures upon pictures were released, but secrecy held… for now.
On the telly box, the new series continued with the rather divisive space-faring adventure The Rings of Akhaten, the rather divisive return of the Ice Warriors in Cold War, rather divisive spooky fun in Hide and rather divisive timey-wimey antics in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS. Sensing a common theme here?
50th anniversary filming reached Trafalgar Square in mid-April, where the Eleventh Doctor was seen dangling from his TARDIS, which had mysteriously been picked up by a UNIT helicopter, with crowds lining the square to see Matt Smith holding on to dear life above the square.
Best April moment: The Doctor and Clara go ghost hunting in superb chiller Hide.
May saw the new series conclude with three audacious (and yes, rather divisive) episodes – Mark Gatiss’ wacky period story The Crimson Horror, Neil Gaiman’s reboot of the Cybermen in Nightmare in Silver, and a heap of excitement as classic Doctors returned and a new Doctor was revealed in series finale The Name of the Doctor, which incidentally did not see the name of the Doctor revealed. Might be a while.
50th anniversary filming reached iconic location Coal Hill School before wrapping up in early May – and in ‘the real world’, the BBC faced the leak to beat all leaks as The Name of the Doctor‘s top-secret ending found itself in the public domain after several hundred copies of the Series 7: Part 2 Blu-ray were delivered in America.
May drew to a close with the six-month wait for the anniversary special just beginning – but a big surprise was about to hit Doctor Who fans…
Best May moment: Steven Moffat tears up canon and sets the internet alight as John Hurt makes his debut at the end of The Name of the Doctor.
As June began, the fandom was hit by a piece of news as big as the Titanic – the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, revealed that he was to leave Doctor Who in the Christmas Special. Tears and frantic tabloid speculation followed as the shadowy face of the Twelfth Doctor rumbled into view.
Who would be the Twelfth Doctor? Names as reasonable as Ben Daniels and Daniel Rigby sat aside slightly more interesting suggestions such as Tom Cruise or David Beckham – and of course, the speculation about the Doctor possibly changing his gender flared up again.
And outside all the Twelfth Doctor speculation, the Christmas Special found itself a director in the form of Jamie Payne, a whopping Series 1-7 Blu-ray boxset was announced and the Cybermen invaded Heathrow Airport to promote the 50th anniversary.
As the first half of the 50th anniversary year concluded, no-one quite knew what was waiting around the corner – but with San Diego Comic Con on the horizon, it looked like we could get our first look at the 50th anniversary…
Next time: In the second and final part, we take a look at the last six months – from trailer-gate to Matt Smith’s emotional farewell at Christmas, plus a look at 2014 and what Peter Capaldi’s first series could hold…