The BBC firmly switched the hype for the 60th anniversary Doctor Who specials up a few dozen notches on Saturday when it aired a brand-new two-minute trailer for the episodes just before Strictly Come Dancing. And if – like the new Strictly cast – the trailers were being marked by Craig Revel-Horwood, it might even have earned a rare use of his 10 paddle:
What a belter that was. Explosions! Potty-mouthed Donna Noble! A helicopter flying The Doctor over the swanky new UNIT HQ in London! Kate! David Tennant acting his socks off, and also getting walloped by Donna’s mum Sylvia! A two-second glimpse of Ncuti Gatwa as the Doctor!
And – finally – confirmation that Neil Patrick Harris will be recreating the Toymaker (formerly known as Celestial), a truly terrifying villain who first appeared back in the sixties, and who makes people his playthings by trapping them in twisted games and making them fight for their freedom.
But it wasn’t all fun and games, as fans were quick to speculate on a particularly alarming line from the trailer suggesting Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) might not survive.
Despite frolicking in a bed of rose petals American Beauty-style and doing a spot of ballroom dancing in the trailer (no wonder they showed it before Strictly), the Toymaker seems to elicit a genuine fear from The Doctor. As this trailer increasingly suggests, his fear is not for himself, or even for Earth – it’s for his beloved ex-companion Donna Noble.
So much so, that in a crucial moment at the trailer’s climax – after we see The Doctor running towards the Toymaker screaming “Your fight is with me!” and a scared Donna putting her hands up defensively while a (comically massive) gun points directly at her – an emotional Doctor tells her: “I don’t know if I can save your life this time.”
Which led to fans collectively reacting along the lines of “Well you’d bloody better, mate”:
Fans can be forgiven for having such a strong reaction to the idea of Donna losing her life – after all, she had one of the series’ all-time saddest exits. Just as she felt she’d found the meaning she’d been missing all her life, and would spend the rest of her days traversing the universe having adventures with the Doctor, he was forced to wipe all her memories to save her life. She was forced to return to Earth and live the humdrum life she’d been trying to escape, completely unaware of just how remarkable she’d been.
The thought that Donna would then briefly get these glorious memories back just to be killed off is painful. But then again, showrunner Russell T Davies has something of a penchant for (figuratively) ripping viewer hearts out, so we should probably brace ourselves.
While many Donna fans were begging the Doctor Who team to “please say sike” (sic), others were more optimistic (some, even cynically so):
But many were content with ignoring Donna’s peril entirely and spending the next few weeks before the November specials enjoying the return of her no-nonsense bad-assery:
Not long to wait, now.
Doctor Who returns to BBC One (UK) and Disney+ (rest of the world) in November 2023