It’s been about a month since we had a slew of Doctor Who announcements straight from the BBC’s mouth. In quick succession, the news started with the announcement that Ncuti Gatwa was cast the Fourteenth Doctor, beginning with a full series in 2023.
Just about a week after that, there was official confirmation of David Tennant and Catherine Tate’s return to Doctor Who. Rumors of their return had been circulating since late January stemming from the same individual who leaked that Sacha Dhawan had been cast the Master.
The final piece in that avalanche of news was the casting of Yasmin Finney as Rose, a new character alongside Tennant and Tate. Fast forward to today when Doctor Who showrunner Russell T. Davies decided to break the internet once again with another announcement.
Neil Patrick Harris joins Doctor Who
Earlier Davies posted to his Instagram a similar message that preceded the other castings about a month ago. The picture shows two emoji hearts, representing the two hearts that Time Lords have, with a plus sign and a diamond. The caption read “Wait. What? WHAT?? Incoming! Woooo! KLAXON!! Stand by your socials..!” Check out the post here!
This post alone doesn’t give us much to go by, but almost instantly fans began to speculate! Many thought it signaled the return of Matt Smith or Peter Capaldi to the show, however, the person who was actually cast was not someone I expected as all! An hour after the initial post, RTD posted a picture of Neil Patrick Harris in character to his social media, along with a greeting welcoming him to the team.
In the picture, Harris looks like he has been aged up a bit, with graying hair and an old man’s scowl. Between his glasses and his outfit, he looks to be from the past, reminding me of sometime in the 1800s. However, with the apron and the tools barely visible at the bottom, it seems that Neil Patrick Harris is either playing a toymaker of some kind, or even a doctor. The jury’s still out if he is playing a version of The Doctor, or the Master, which I wouldn’t necessarily rule out in a show that has constantly changed the rules about its lore.
If you thought that perhaps the official statement from the BBC would have given us more to go on, such as a name, you’d be wrong. The announcement confirmed his appearance in the show and a little snippet from the showrunner. In the statement, Davies said,
“It’s my huge honour to open our studio doors for the might Neil Patrick harris…but who, why, what is he playing? You’ll just have to wait. But I promise you, the stuff we’re shooting now is off the scale. Doctor beware!”
Who, Why, what is he playing? That seems like a clue. So how does this piece factor into the puzzle that is the 60th anniversary? Let’s speculate.
What we know and 60th anniversary special speculation
So what we know right now is that David Tennant, Catherine Tate, Yasmin Finney, and now Neil Patrick Harris have officially been announced for the special(s). We also know, thanks to some set images, that Bernard Cribbins has also returned to Doctor Who.
From these videos and images on the set, we see The Doctor cross paths with Donna again, who follows him back onto the TARDIS, with her husband and daughter Rose waving her goodbye. We also saw the Doctor pushing Cribbins, who plays Donna’s lovable grandfather, Wilfred, around in a wheelchair and being chased by something, however, we don’t know what that is.
The initial rumor indicated that Tennant and Tate were returning to Doctor Who for a series of three specials that would play out over the 60th anniversary. We haven’t received official confirmation of how many specials or the length of their return, but it seems totally possible we’re getting three specials, seeing that the rumor was correct about their return. So perhaps Harris is appearing in one of the other specials, not necessarily attached to the same one we saw filming.
If Neil Patrick Harris isn’t playing a Doctor or a Master from the Time Lord’s past, the toymaker appearance could mean the return of the Celestial Toymaker. First appearing as a foe to the first Doctor in the episode The Celestial Toymaker, the character is known for ensnaring sentient beings into his game, making this play for their freedom. Think like a PBS version of Jigsaw from the Saw franchise. The Doctor has come head to head with the Celestial Toymaker many times, so it makes sense that we may see him again.
Regardless of who he is playing, it is incredibly exciting to see someone like Neil Patrick Harris joining Doctor Who in what is sure to be an exciting anniversary for this landmark show. With filming still commencing, we here at The Cosmic Circus will keep an ear to the ground for more rumors and announcements, because there is likely to be more for this monumental occasion.
Doctor Who returns later this year with Jodie Whittaker’s final episode.