BBC America will not be accused of under-celebrating the 50th anniversary of “Doctor Who” later this month, as the channel just announced an elaborate weeklong schedule of “Who”-related events, culminating in a global simulcast of the show’s anniversary special on Saturday, November 23 at 2:50 p.m. Eastern.
For the last few years, BBC America has aired each new “Who” episode on the same day as it premieres in the UK in an attempt to discourage online piracy. This is the first time, however, that an episode will air at the exact same time as in England – and more than 75 countries worldwide – and it sounds like a big one, featuring a team-up between Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor and David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor, plus the return of Billie Piper as Rose and guest star John Hurt as another man introduced in the most recent episode as “the Doctor.” BBC America will then re-air the episode that night at 7 Eastern, supplementing it with interviews featuring Smith and Tennant.
The night before at 9 p.m. will see the premiere of “An Adventure in Space and Time,” a TV-movie about the real-life creation of the “Doctor Who” series, written by frequent “Who” collaborator (and “Sherlock” co-creator) Mark Gatiss, and starring David Bradley as William Hartnell, the first actor to play the Doctor. Other “Who” events for the week include:
* On Monday, November 18, a marathon of “Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited” specials from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., covering the First through Tenth Doctor.
* That night at 9 p.m. is “Doctor Who: Tales from the TARDIS,” a retrospective special featuring interviews with Smith, Tennant, past Doctors Tom Baker and Peter Davison, plus others associated with the series over its run.
* That night at 10 p.m. is “The Science of Doctor Who,” with popular TV physicist Brian Cox (not to be confused with the actor of the same name, who appears in “An Adventure in Space and Time”) delivering a lecture on how the TARDIS, the sonic screwdriver and other aspects of the “Who”niverse might actually work.
* On Tuesday, November 19 from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. will be a marathon of episodes from Christopher Eccleston’s brief run as the Ninth Doctor. On Wednesday the 20th from 2 a.m. to 11 p.m. will be a marathon of Tennant episodes. The Smith era will be marathoned over multiple days, on Thursday the 21st from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., on Friday the 22nd from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and then on Saturday the 23rd from 1 a.m. to 2 p.m.
* Friday the 22nd at 8 p.m. is the premiere of yet another retrospective special (featuring interviews with many of the same people as “Tales from the TARDIS”) called “Doctor Who Explained.”
* On Sunday the 24th, if you’re not sick of “Doctor Who” in general or Matt Smith in particular, BBC America will marathon the top 11 Smith episodes, as voted on by fans, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. At 8 p.m., the Eleventh Doctor gets his own “The Doctors Revisited” special.
So, yeah. That’s a lot. But it’s not every day that a TV series turns 50 (even if the show was defunct from 1989-2005, other than an attempt to re-launch the character with a FOX TV-movie in 1996).
It might be nice to mix in some repeats from the original series, but I don’t know what the rights issues are there, or if the BBC just fears that the show’s young audience would be turned off by the cheapness of a Patrick Troughton or Tom Baker episode. UPDATE: As several commenters have pointed out, the “Revisited” specials each fold in an episode from that Doctor’s tenure, so objection withdrawn.