David Tennant surprises 'Doctor Who' fans for 2023's big 60th anniversary party

David Tennant as "Doctor Who."
David Tennant as "Doctor Who." (Image credit: BBC)

It's true: Everyone's favorite Doctor is returning.

Sunday night's special 90-minute airing of Jodie Whittaker's swan song as the Thirteenth Doctor in "Doctor Who: The Power of the Doctor" provided some audible gasps and raucous cheers in millions of living rooms as Whittaker unexpectedly regenerated into … David Tennant, the Tenth Doctor?! (Our friends at our sister publication GamesRadar have more on the story.)

Nobody could have expected Whittaker to morph into "Doctor Who's" fan-favorite Time Lord and his manifestation is a crafty tease at next year's big 60th anniversary bash for "Doctor Who." Currently there's no detailed explanation for Tennant's triumphant return but imaginative rumors are already running rampant.

Related: Five actors who nearly played Doctor Who

As part of the BBC's Centenary festivities, Whittaker's final adventure marked the end of not only the show's first female Doctor, but also of Chris Chibnall's controversial stint as the seminal series showrunner. This last of three sendoff event episodes was intended to usher in a new era for the iconic franchise with "Sex Education's" Ncuti Gatwa slated to become the next TARDIS commander and Russell T. Davies stepping in as showrunner.

"If you thought the appearance of David Tennant was a shock, we've got plenty more surprises on the way," said Davies in a statement. "The path to Ncuti's Fifteenth Doctor is laden with mystery, horror, robots, puppets, danger, and fun! And how is it connected to the return of the wonderful Donna Noble? How, what, why? We're giving you a year to speculate, and then all hell lets loose!"

"The Power of the Doctor" also showcased several notable characters from the past like Colin Baker, Paul McGann, and Sophie Aldred. More major cameos are in the works and we now have an entire twelve months to ruminate over who else might be back when "Doctor Who" blows out the birthday candles with three anniversary episodes arriving in November 2023.

Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor in 'Doctor Who.' (Image credit: BBC)

"What a lovely, lovely thing to get to revisit something that was such a wonderful, happy, significant time in my life," Tennant told BBC News.

Tennant, who played the Tenth Doctor from 2005-2010, will return for this trio of 2023 specials alongside Catherine Tate who played his companion, Donna Noble. After that, Ncuti Gatwa officially takes the keys to the TARDIS as "Doctor Who's" Fifteenth Doctor moving forward.

Meanwhile, Variety reports that Doctor Who will be streaming on Disney+ for locations outside of the United Kingdom starting in 2023. "I love this show, and this is the best of both worlds – with the vision and joy of the BBC and Disney+ together we can launch the Tardis all around the planet, reaching a new generation of fans while keeping our traditional home firmly on the BBC in the U.K.," said showrunner Russell T. Davies, according to Variety.

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Jeff Spry
Contributing Writer

Jeff Spry is an award-winning screenwriter and veteran freelance journalist covering TV, movies, video games, books, and comics. His work has appeared at SYFY Wire, Inverse, Collider, Bleeding Cool and elsewhere. Jeff lives in beautiful Bend, Oregon amid the ponderosa pines, classic muscle cars, a crypt of collector horror comics, and two loyal English Setters.