The duo are set to reprise their roles as the titular Time Lord and his companion Donna Noble for a trio of specials later this month, 15 years after they last travelled in the TARDIS together.
And speaking in a Q&A ahead of the first special on November 25th, Russell has revealed that he convinced David and Catherine to return after they took part in a Who ‘tweetalong’ during the Covid lockdown in 2020.
‘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.’
Revealed: Dr Who showrunner Russell T Davies has revealed he convinced David Tennant and Catherine Tate to reunite for the show’s 60th Anniversary before he was approached by BBC
Iconic duo: The duo are set to reprise their roles as the titular Time Lord and his companion Donna Noble for a trio of specials later this month, 15 years after their last stint
Russell added that it was Catherine who suggested she’d like to reprise her role as Donna in an upcoming episode.
‘Catherine said, ‘Oh, I’ve always loved Donna Noble and wouldn’t it be marvellous to make some more?’ And I went, ”Oh yeah, yeah, yeah,” like that. And then she asked David. She said, ”Would you make some more?” And he said he would, in a heartbeat,’ Russell said.
‘So then she told me that and I genuinely felt honour-bound to go to the BBC and say, ”Look, these two stars have just said they would love to come back.” I knew it was the 60th anniversary coming up. Simple as that.
‘So I just sent off that email about Christmas Eve or something – best Christmas present you ever had!’
‘All I got was a reply saying, ”Thank you. We’ll think about it.”
The first special, titled The Star Beast, is based on a 1970s Who comic strip about Beep The Meep, with Miriam Margolyes set to voice the alien.
It’s an old conversation from 1979 that I always loved,’ Russell said.
‘You’ve got Donna getting her memory back, so you need that, which kind of takes a whole episode, and you need an alien invasion at the same time.
New face! Russell also confirmed that Bridgerton star Nicola Coughlan has joind the cast for a festive special next year, and is currently filming her scenes
Also set to star in the first special is Heartstoppers’ Yasmin Finney, who will play Donna’s daughter Rose, with Karl Collins and Jaqueline King reprising their roles as Shaun Temple and Donna’s mother Sylvia respectively.
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.
‘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.’
David and Catherine will front the trio of specials before Ncuti Gatwa takes over the role of The Doctor on Christmas Day, in an episode titled The Church On Ruby Road
Russell also confirmed that Bridgerton star Nicola Coughlan has joind the cast for a festive special next year, and is currently filming her scenes.
He said: ‘Nicola Coughlan [is joining]at Christmas, next year. We are shooting Christmas 2024 now.’
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.