Time Lord’s half-centenary will be celebrated with special screenings in 3D in cinemas and on BBC HD channel
The Time Lord is accustomed to travelling through space and time, but BBC1’s Doctor Who will have an added dimension for its 50th-anniversary special, which will be filmed in 3D and shown in cinemas.
Doctor Who will celebrate its half centenary with a special birthday edition on 23 November, exactly 50 years after its first ever adventure, An Unearthly Child, starring William Hartnell in the title role. Viewers will be able to see the 3D version on the BBC HD channel.
The BBC’s controller of drama commissioning Ben Stephenson said on Monday the anniversary of the time-travelling show would be a national event and compared it to the Queen’s diamond jubilee and the Olympics.
Doctor Who’s executive producer and lead writer, Steven Moffat, said: “It’s about time. Technology has finally caught up with Doctor Who and your television is now bigger on the inside. A whole new dimension of adventure for the Doctor to explore.”
Stephenson revealed details of the 50th-anniversary show along with a new drama slate that will include a new BBC1 Saturday teatime fantasy adventure, Atlantis.
“It’s a nationwide celebration of both Doctor Who and the BBC because I think they are so synonymous. We will be doing a big Doctor Who special in 3D which is very exciting and feels very innovative,” he said.
“We will be doing it on cinema screens as well. We are working out the logistics of that at the moment because we need to make sure the main BBC1 experience remains absolute value for money for the audience.”
There has been no shortage of speculation about the content of the 50th-birthday show, and whether it will see a reunion of previous doctors. Tom Baker memorably declined to appear in the 20th-anniversary special, the Five Doctors, and three of the 11 actors to have played the role are now dead.
Moffat is still working on the script for the show which will be filmed, like most of the series, in south Wales, and will follow an eight-part run of Doctor Who.
Stephenson said: “There will be lots of aliens and daleks and things like that – or maybe there won’t. There are many different things to take into account and we will also have a Christmas special after that and it all connects. Or maybe it doesn’t. There’s lots to work out.
“It’s that thing of, how do you make individual programmes more than the sum of their parts? The Doctor Who 50th is a bit like when we did EastEnders’ 25th; it is more than just a programme, we have all had a relationship to it.
“Ninety per cent of the British public know about Doctor Who and have a personal connection to it. Most people have their own Doctor Who. It’s drawing on that nostalgia to say something bigger about the BBC and its values.”
The BBC will also mark the event with a BBC2 drama about the beginnings of the show, An Adventure in Space and Time, scripted by Mark Gattis and featuring David Bradley as the late Hartnell.
The BBC is no stranger to the big screen through its film-making arm, BBC Films, but it is unusual if not unprecedented for TV shows to be given a cinema release – natural history epic The Blue Planet among them.
It is not the first BBC drama to be filmed in 3D – that honour goes to its Christmas adaptation of David Walliams’ children’s book, Mr Stink – but it will be the biggest, said Stephenson.
BBC’s dramatic announcement
New Saturday teatime drama Atlantis will air in the slot previously occupied by another BBC1 drama, Merlin, which was axed last year.
Filmed in Morocco and Wales, it will feature a young character, Jason, who finds himself in the lost city of Atlantis and is written by Howard Overman, who created E4’s Misfits.
Other new BBC1 dramas will include Breakdown, about the search for a young boy who goes missing in France, and The Interceptor, about a team of undercover operatives on the hunt for Britain’s most dangerous criminals.
BBC1 will also screen a three-part adaptation of PD James’ Death Comes to Pemberley, the Jane Austen homage in the 200th anniversary year of Pride and Prejudice, as well as a three-part adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn and Remember Me, a ghost story by Gwyneth Hughes (Five Days, The Girl).
David Hare returns to BBC2 with the second and third parts of his spy drama trilogy which began with Page Eight in 2011. The two new instalments, Turks and Caicos and Salting the Battlefield, will both star Bill Nighy, who appeared in Page Eight.
BBC4, which has had its drama budget axed as part of BBC cost-cutting, will go out with a bang with Dominic West and Helena Bonham Carter to star in Burton and Taylor, a 90-minute drama about Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor’s 1983 revival of Noel Coward’s stage play Private Lives.
BBC1 dramas Call the Midwife and Death In Paradise have both been recommissioned for a third series.
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