It’s less than six months away but… The Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials have still kept their greatest secrets under wraps. This secrecy has led to wild speculation – not least about a wide range of rumoured guest characters.
Here’s our guide to all the Doctor Who rumoured guest characters who’ve been most frequently rumoured to return… And just what we think about the credibility of these rumors.
Doctor Who Rumoured Guest 1: The Toymaker
This is probably the most credible of the rumoured guest characters. Neil Patrick Harris is rumored to play the villainous Toymaker in the specials. The character debuted in the 1966 story that we typically now call The Celestial Toymaker – where he battled against the First Doctor and sought to turn his companions into ‘toys’ for his cosmic game.
The Toymaker also seems to be a plausible force behind the events of the specials. He is an ancient trickster with immense powers, with elusive origins. Having even been written as a Guardian of Time, or as one of The Great Old Ones. Which is about as Lovecraftian as Doctor Who gets. It would make sense that only an enemy this powerful and vindictive could change the Doctor and Donna’s personal history.
This rumour also seems confirmed by the many pictures and videos taken from fans during the filming of the special. A ‘toyshop’ storefront, some spotted decor of a sad’s clown face (in-fact the face of ‘Clara the Clown’) & a ‘Toymaker of the Year’ award all seem to point towards the Toymaker’s inclusion. The glimpses we see of Harris’ flamboyant costumes and dialogue in the trailer only seem add to the likelihood of the rumor.
Doctor Who Rumoured Guest 2: Melanie Bush
Mel is another popular rumour in terms of guest characters from the classic series. She was a computer programmer who was companion to both the Sixth and Seventh Doctors.
And the reason this one seems somewhat credible has to do with a video posted by BBC Radio Bristol during filming for Special Three in Bristol.
Most of the sound in the video is hard to make out. But there seems to be a clear mention of a ‘Mel’ in the dialogue.
In the video, Donna seems to ask the Doctor: “What about Mel?”, with him replying, “she’s brilliant, isn’t she?”. And well, there aren’t many Mels that the Doctor is overly familiar with.
As well as this, there are other reasons why it would make sense for Mel to return. Mel previously appeared as a cameo in The Power of the Doctor, which is likely to link with the new specials. We know UNIT are back in the Specials, and that Kate will be back by Series 14.
More Mel Would Be A Good Thing
If it wasn’t for these reasons, Mel might otherwise be an odd choice for a rumored guest character. Her original stint in the TARDIS has always been a bit controversial. Due to the nature of The Ultimate Foe – as part of Trial of a Time Lord – Mel was not given a proper onscreen introduction story. And then there’s the matter of the infamous ear-piercing scream that JNT was insistent on including. This meant that Mel has been seen in the general audience’s eyes as one of the least appealing companions.
It would be in-character for Russell T Davies to bring her back for such a big story to try and show that general audience a new side to her. Something that can lift up her reputation. After all, his first pitch for Doctor Who was an unsolicited script send-in story featuring Mel and the Sixth Doctor. A story called Mind of the Hodiac… that has recently been completed and produced by Big Finish.
And with the Meep and the Wrarth involved, it’s clear that Davies is not afraid to use the specials to celebrate the more obscure and underrated corners of the Whoniverse.
Doctor Who Rumoured Guest 3: Susan Foreman
Susan Foreman – the Doctor’s granddaughter (Probably. It’s complicated. Don’t ask our assistant editor about this.) and first ever companion – has been one of the most frequently rumoured guest characters throughout the whole of NuWho. So it’s no surprise that the rumours are continuing into the BadWolfWho era. It’s become almost a running joke in the fandom. But for once, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched that she’d return. What better time for the TV-viewing fans to see the end of The Dalek Invasion of Earth handled onscreen in some way… Than with a return to screens?
And one of the main reasons that Susan is rumoured is because of a cheeky comment left by Russell on an Instagram post celebrating the character. This might not seem like a substantial reason to believe in the possibility… but it wouldn’t be the first time Russell has put the obvious in front of us ahead of time.
Susan’s return could have a big emotional impact, showing the Doctor finally reunite with her in an onscreen capacity. (Surely, we can see an explanation for her surviving the Last Great Time War?) And given how fans adored William Russell’s cameo in The Power of The Doctor… Similiarly, including Susan in the specials would be a perfect way to salute Carole Ann Ford. It would be the perfect opportunity to thank her for her role in the show, as the other surviving performer from the original ‘TARDIS team’.
Doctor Who Rumoured Guest 4: Ian Chesterton
This guest character rumour is based on a tease Russell T Davies mentioned in Doctor Who Magazine back in February.
“The man with an umbrella and his back to camera, walking into the bright red shop in the rain, who’s he? That’s a lovely guest star. Wonderful actor. Walking past unnoticed. Wait and see!”Russell T Davies for his ‘Letter from the Showrunner’ in Doctor Who Magazine February 2023
While this could refer to a new character… Many fans believe that this cryptic teaser must be for a returning character. Some are even pondering if this could be a younger version of Ian Chesterton, originally played by Wiliam Russell. Ian was one of the First Doctor’s companions – a teacher from the 1960s who traveled alongside Susan, and his colleague, Barbara.
Personally, I find this rumor less convincing than some of the others. Firstly, Ian didn’t feature in the Toymaker’s first episode. (Having left the show a fair while before this.) Secondly, set reports indicate that actors for the episode seem to be sporting 1920s-style clothing. And that wouldn’t add up to what we know of Ian’s history in terms of when he was born.
[Assist. Ed. Note: And I’d add that personally, I don’t think it looks like Jamie Glover, who played the roles of William Russell & Ian Chesterton in An Adventure in Space and Time. But who knows?]
But of course, anything is possible with a time machine!
Returning Characters Possibility: The Doctors
This seems the least likely of the guest character rumors for the 60th anniversary. Peter Capaldi has already ruled out being part of it, feeling that it would get too complicated to try and bring back old Doctors without making them akin to sidekicks. While Matt Smith has said that he fears he might be too old for a return.
And Christopher Eccleston infamously turned down the 50th anniversary special, due to his previous experiences on the show. Though he has returned to the role for Big Finish audios… It still feels unlikely he will reprise the role on TV. That leaves mostly the classic Doctors to theoretically be available for the specials. But the jury’s out on whether their cameos in The Power of the Doctor would make similar appearances in the anniversary specials more or less likely.
There would still be the matter of Jo Martin and Jodie Whittaker – though fans are divided on whether it’d be too soon for them to return. Still, Doctor Who fans never take denials at face value.
Most Persistent Of Returning Characters Rumours
Of all the returning Doctor rumors, the most persistent one remains that Matt Smith may have secretly returned to film a part for the specials. This rumor is based on Smith having a gap in filming other projects between the end of May and July last year, the same time the specials were filming. Several purported images of Matt on set have gone around in fan circles, but their authenticity is in strong doubt.
Regardless of how likely these rumors are, it seems to me like it would be a real shame for the specials to only include the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Doctors.
More From Nerdgazm
- EXCLUSIVE – Channel 5 releasing a Doctor Who documentary!
- Another fortnight of Doctor Who history in detail!
- EXCLUSIVE – Doctor Who: Redacted confirmed for a second series!