It's practically here! The long awaited 50th anniversary celebration of Doctor Who, "The Day of the Doctor", is just hours away, and geeks all across the globe are holding their breaths as we await to see exactly how you mark the half-century mark on a show like Doctor Who.
One of the traditions of big anniversaries is having old Doctors return to help the current incarnation battle larger threats than he can handle himself. These have been of rather dubious quality in the past, but fans love the chance to see their favorites one-screen one more time.
Rumors of everything from a return of every incarnation to none but Eleven appearing in the episode have swarmed since last year. Eventually, it was revealed that David Tennant would reprise his role as the Tenth Doctor, but with virtually all the possible evidence in, today I rank the odds of each other Doctor returning.
Note: When I say "returning" I mean contribution something new to the episode, not just old footage sandwiched in. Technically, every Doctor returned this year in "The Name of the Doctor", but we're looking for more than that.
First Doctor (5 to 4 odds): Why on Earth would I give the least likely Doctor to return (William Hartnell being long dead and all) such a high likelihood of appearing one more time? It's simple, William Bradley has already been cast as Hartnell Though I can't wait to see the biopic for its own merits, do you really think that the producers would go to all that trouble to find the perfect First Doctor, rebuild his Tardis, and then not allow him a moment back in the spotlight for the proper special.
Second Doctor (1 to 4 odds): Nobody's really been talking about it, but the Second Doctor has also been recast for An Adventure in Space and Time. Reece Shearsmith will appear as Patrick Troughton, but I don't hold the same hope for him filling in for Two as I do Bradley as the First. Still, it would be very appropriate, as the Second Doctor appeared in more classic multi-Doctor episodes than any other, and I'm sure Matt Smith would love to enlist his personal favorite incarnation as well.
Third Doctor (1 to 10 odds): The longest shot of the bunch is easily the Third Doctor. First, Jon Pertwee is sadly no longer with us, and if someone was being searched for to replace him we probably would have heard about it. Mix that with the fact that the Third Doctor's style of show was so markedly different than any other version and any attempt to return Three to life would more than likely seem awkward. With the Brigadier, Sarah Jane, and Roger Delgado all passed on, it's probable that the time of the Third Doctor is really at an end.
Fourth Doctor (8 to 1 odds): There is no more universally beloved classic Doctor than Tom Baker, and even among fans who primarily associate with the new show alone he remains extremely well-regarded. He is also the oldest surviving Doctor, and aside from Colin Baker the least able to resemble his on-screen persona. Regardless, according to Huffington Post Baker has confirmed involvement in some new form. It was always unlikely that the show wouldn't offer Baker one last chance while we still have him. The only question is how.
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Fifth Doctor (1 to 3 odds): Though he's clearly aged, Davison showed in "Time Crash" that he can still pull off the Fifth Doctor on-screen if called upon. Add in the fact that he's the only classic Doctor to meet a new one, his familial connection to the show through David Tennant, and the fact that he had some rather abrupt cancellations on the convention circuit this year and who knows if he'll show up. That said, he did get a really stellar, if short encounter already in the new show, and with so many other Doctors to try and sandwich in that seems like a good enough reason to skip him.
Sixth Doctor (1 to 6 odds): Colin Baker is not only one of the least regarded Doctors (Though check out his audio adventures with Maggie Stables to hear some really good evidence refuting that estimation), but he is also looks the least like how he appeared on the show in the '80s. He also has arguably the best multi-Doctor special. "The Two Doctors", already on his dance card, so he's hardly missing out on the fun if he's skipped for "Day of the Doctor". Baker does have that incredible voice to offer, though, arguably the best of the remaining Doctors, and I'm willing to bet if he appears it will be in audio form.
Seventh Doctor (1 to 5 odds) : Though not as sprightly as he used to be, his appearance in The Hobbit showed that McCoy still has something of an action hero in him, albeit an unconventional one. Physically he can probably still pull of the Seventh Doctor, if not in his prime then at least near the end of his life before he regenerated in the 1996 movie. The only argument against it is scheduling. With one exception he is the busiest of the former Doctors thanks to The Hobbit, and even with Peter Jackson's well-known fanboy status for Doctor Who it's unlikely that he had any real free time to shoot scenes.
Eighth Doctor (1 to 20 odds): Until a week ago I would have said that the return of the Eighth Doctor was all but certain. After all, not only does Paul McGann look virtually identical to the incarnation he played over a decade ago, years of work on the audio stories have actually made him one of the best Doctors. Now that we've finally seen the end of his life in "Night of the Doctor" I have no hope of further appearances in the actual special.
Pity, but maybe one of those petitions to have him star in a spin-off will get BBC's attention. If they're listening, I just want to let you guys know that I have hosted screenings of classic episodes at Alamo Drafthouse for more than a year now, and only McGann's movie sold the place out. Think about it, BBC. Eight is definitely bigger on the inside than we thought.
Ninth Doctor (1 to 2 odds): Christopher Eccleston left after one year, has had virtually no association with the show since, and just came off starring as the lead villain in Thor: The Dark World. On top of that, he's bluntly stated that he considered being involved and decided against it. So why do I feel he we'll see him?
The first reason is showrunner Steven Moffat. He likes to kill things. He's killing his own Doctor twice (Ganger version and the upcoming Christmas special). He made a special mini-episode just to kill Eight, and he killed four parody incarnations in "The Curse of Fatal Death." There is no chance at all that he will pass up to also kill John Hurt's War Doctor as well, and that means a regeneration into Nine. Moffat's unlikely to have finally filled in the on-screen regeneration gap only to create another one, and that means Eccleston even if he's just lying on the floor for a few minutes.
I hope for more, though. Eccleston has warmed to the show some since his departure. Last year he even said during a Q&A at the National Theatre that there was more for him to do with the Doctor. Of all the actors associated with the show, he's one of the most cagey and private, and it's not hard to see him keeping quiet to make sure his triumphant return remains a surprise.
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Twelfth Doctor (1 to 4 odds): As far as I can tell, this is the first time an anniversary special has coincided with a Doctor getting ready to leave. Exactly how long Peter Capaldi has been firmly cast as the new Doctor isn't known, but there has certainly been plenty of time to shoehorn him into something. With Moffat repeatedly saying that "The Day of the Doctor" was about looking forward rather than behind, it might very well be that Capaldi will be the first future Doctor to make an appearance in a special!
We find out if I'm right on Saturday!
Looking for more information about "The Day of the Doctor"? Check out our previous coverage here to find out what you need to know.