The writer has returned to helm the beloved sci-fi show ahead of the 60th Anniversary later this month, with a new series set to air in 2024.
Speaking at a Q&A ahead of the first special on November 25th, Russell hinted that the second episode will feature some ‘violent and scary’ content that may not be suitable for young viewers.
He said: ‘We do very scary stuff. Some stuff is quite violent. It’s not for children, it’s about children.’
‘It’s not a children’s show but at the heart of it is an eight-year-old watching.’
Controversial: Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies has insisted that despite a fanbase of all ages, the BBC series is not made for children’
Terrifying: Speaking at a Q&A, Russell hinted that the second episode will feature some ‘violent and scary’ content (Beep the Meep is pictured from the special)
Russell said that the first special, which features the comic strip alien Beep The Meep, is a more family-friendly affair, but the next two episodes take a darker turn.
‘It [first special] is like a great big Pixar family film, like a bank holiday film – all the family watching, lots of laughs, a funny monster. The second one, Wild Blue Yonder, is darker. Not scary – it’s genuinely weird,’ he said.
Russell then referred to the third special, which stars Neil Patrick Harris as The Celestial Toymaker, describing it as ‘nuts, completely mad, frightening.’
David Tennant and Catherine Tate are reprising their roles as The Doctor and Donna Noble for the trio of specials, before Ncuti Gatwa takes over the role of the titular Time Lord on Christmas Day, ahead of the new series next year.
‘I just love David and Catherine together, actually,’ Russell said. ‘And I love that TARDIS. David loved that set so much he thought it’d be absolutely brilliant to run around it like that. After eight takes, not quite so fun. He was worn out by the end.’
Having joined forces with Disney+ to take Who in a global new direction, Russell said it’s been a ‘joy’ making the most of a bumper new budget on the show.
Long-awaited: David Tennant and Catherine Tate are reprising their roles as The Doctor and Donna Noble for the trio of specials
‘It’s not a Star Wars budget,’ he said. ‘Nonetheless, it’s more than most things I’ve made for the past 10 years added together. So learning how to do that has been a year-long process. But it was done with so much joy.’
He also revealed that viewers will learn why the Doctor has regenerated back into his old appearance, adding: ‘The mystery of his face does continue over the next two specials. It’s not a huge plot, but it has a nice payoff, actually. So keep tuning in.’
Another big name joining the cast is Neil Patrick Harris and Russell admitted the actor had no idea what he was signing up for as he had never watched the show, and only worked with him on his Channel 4 series It’s A Sin.
He added: ‘Neil had never heard of it. In fact, he read the script and he phoned me up and said, ”So, the doctor is an alien?” He really was from scratch.
‘I was lucky enough to know him because I’d already worked with him on ‘It’s A Sin’, he was in the first episode and so glorious in that, and so we knew him.
‘He was perfect for this because Neil loves magic and magic tricks, and the Toymaker does play with cards and he does magic tricks and sleight of hands and all of that, and Neil already does that.’
Russell added: ‘He is phenomenal. That is a great villain who will scare you, he’s got so much range and had so much fun with it.’
The first Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Special – The Star Beast – will air on Saturday November 25th on BBC One and iPlayer in the UK, and Disney+ internationally.