The upcoming Doctor Who Once and Future special will feature seven returning actors who have played The Timelord.
The upcoming Doctor Who Once and Future special will feature returning actors David Tennant, Christopher Eccleston, Tom Baker, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Peter Davison, and Paul McGann. According to Digital Spy, the new Doctor Who special will consist of eight episodes, which will air over seven months beginning in May 2023, and will have a ridiculous number of previous Timelord actors returning to the role. David Tennant has already returned in the final 2022 special, so it looks like it is on from here.
Specifically, David Tennant returned as his fan-favorite Tenth Doctor in “The Power of the Doctor,” though now the official Fourteenth Doctor after regeneration. The Doctor Who special episode was the final to feature Jodie Whittaker as the Timelord, the first female actor to play the character; of course, it should probably be taken with a grain of salt that she could pop up again at any point and that this was her last “regular” appearance.
It seems that the eight-part Doctor Who Once and Future sequence will involve the Timelord being injured during the Time War event (much alluded to and finally depicted in the 50th anniversary special “The Day of the Doctor”). Rather than experiencing the regeneration process familiar to fans in which the Doctor transforms into a new body/person (conveniently allowing the BBC to recast the role), he begins to “degenerate” into past versions of himself. Presumably, this is the mechanism through which all these previous Doctor Who actors return for Once and Future.
Chronologically (at least by real-world time), the first of the seven actors assembled for this new Doctor Who special to play the character was Tom Baker, who played the Fourth Doctor between 1974-1981. Baker’s scarfed version of the Timelord is generally considered one of the most distinctive visual elements of the show, and he was succeeded by Pete Davison as a blonde, more natty Fifth Doctor from 1982-1982. Davison in turn was followed by Colin Baker (the rainbow jacket one) from 1984-1986.
Sylvester McCoy took on the role from 1987-1989 (umbrella guy), followed by Paul McGann’s Eight Doctor for an attempted reboot television film in 1996. There was a long gap in Doctors until the Russell T. Davies reboot of the show in 2005, which cast Christopher Eccleston in the role. Eccleston was then followed by David Tennant, one of the most popular incarnations of the show to date, who portrayed the character until 2010.
It seems this latest Doctor Who special is not including Matt Smith, Jodie Whittaker, or Peter Capaldi (who has made his feelings about the iconic science fiction series pretty public). However, there was a time not that long ago that it seemed extremely unlikely that Christopher Eccleston would ever return to Doctor Who, so pretty much anything is possible in this particular franchise. Even Hugh Grant.
Following the Once and Future episodes, Ncuti Gatwa has been announced to be portraying the latest version of the Doctor, being the first person of color to play the Timelord as a regular.