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article imageDoctor Who: John Hurt to play 'the Doctor' for 50th anniversary

By Mathew Wace Peck     May 9, 2013 in Entertainment
John Hurt has indicated that he’s to play the Doctor – or, rather cryptically, “part of the Doctor” – in the BBC’s science-fiction drama series.
According to EDP24, the actor told them his character in the episode would form a “kind of trinity” with the current Time Lord, Matt Smith, and his immediate predecessor, David Tennant, in the Steven Moffat-penned adventure, which is due to be broadcast on the show’s actual 50th birthday: Saturday, 23 November 2013.
Hurt has had a long and distinguished acting career, appearing in his first feature film, The Wild and the Willing, in 1962. In 1975, he portrayed Quentin Crisp in The Naked Civil Servant, which was produced by Doctor Who’s first-ever producer, Verity Lambert, and based on Crisp’s autobiography of the same name. Hurt reprised the role in 2009, in the sequel, An Englishman in New York. Dozens of other films and television dramas have included, notably, I, Claudius (1976) Alien (1979), The Elephant Man (1980), 1984 (1984), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) and, from 2008 to 2012, as the voice of the Great Dragon, in the TV drama series, Merlin.
Hurt was in Norfolk to help support a new film-club initiative being launched by Sheringham Little Theatre. While there, EDP24 reports the 73-year-old movie star as confiding that he plays “part of the Doctor” in the golden jubilee episode.
In March, the BBC confirmed that Tennant would be reprising his role as the Tenth Doctor, alongside Smith – who plays the Eleventh Doctor – for the anniversary story.
Originally, Moffat had hoped that Christopher Eccleston would agree to appear in the anniversary special alongside Tennant and Smith but, after careful consideration, the actor – who appeared as the Ninth Doctor in 13 episodes of the series when it returned to TV screens in 2005 – turned down the opportunity.
As reported by Digital Journal at the beginning of April, Eccleston met Moffat “a couple of times to talk about […] plans for the Doctor Who 50th anniversary episode. [but] decided not to be in the episode”. However, the BBC said, “He wishes the team all the best.”
Is that the Doctor?
Then, towards the end of April, pictures emerged from the set of the filming of the anniversary episode of Hurt in a Doctor-ish costume, leading to speculation that he was playing the Doctor, or an alternative version of the Time Lord. Bleeding Cool summed it up by asking, “What if the Eleventh Doctor … is not the Eleventh Doctor?”
The BBC’s eagerly awaited Doctor Who 50th-anniversary special will also see the return of the Zygons – a monster not seen since the mid-seventies, in Terror of the Zygons – as well as the Daleks and the Cybermen. While the Zygons have only appeared once in the TV series up till now, the daleks and Cybermen have returned many times since being introduced in the 1960s.
The Daleks last appeared in Doctor Who in 2012, in Asylum of the Daleks, the first episode to feature Jenna-Louise Coleman as Oswin Oswald. Since then, Colman has played two more versions of that character – Clara Oswin Oswald, in the 2012 Christmas special, The Snowmen; and, in all the episodes this year, Clara Oswald. So far, her character/s remains a mystery, not only to the television audience, but to the Doctor himself.
What's in a name?
With the BBC yet to reveal the title of Doctor Who’s 50th-anniversary episode, speculation has mounted as to what the episode will be called. In 1973, for the show’s tenth anniversary, The Three Doctors was broadcast. The 20th anniversary, in 1983, then followed in that vein with the 90-minute special, The Five Doctors. However, Doctor Who’s silver jubilee, in 1988, saw 25 years of the series celebrated with Silver Nemesis, while its 30th was marked with Dimensions in Time.
Hopes, therefore, that the special could be called The Eleven Doctors – or even, The Twelve Doctors, given that there have been suggestions that Matt Smith may well be handing on the sonic screwdriver this year – now seem slim, with Sylvester McCoy (the Seventh Doctor) having recently confirmed that none of the actors who played the Doctor prior to 2005 have been invited to take part.
John Hurt is the Doctor!
Hurt won’t be the only “new” Doctor to enter the TARDIS this year. David Bradley, who is well known for his role in the Harry Potter movies, is to take on the role of the First Doctor – as originally played by the late William Hartnell – in An Adventure in Space and Time, a 90-minute film written by Mark Gatiss, which tells the story of the creation and early years of Doctor Who. Similarly, Psychoville actor Reece Shearsmith will recreate Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor in the drama.
The current series of Doctor Who ends next weekend, with Moffat’s game-changing episode, The Name of the Doctor. This week’s episode – Nightmare in Silver – sees writer Neil Gaiman return to Who for the first time since his 2011 award-winning episode, The Doctor’s Wife.
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