BBC Unveils 'Doctor Who' 50th Anniversary TV, Radio Programming Lineup

Peter Capaldi - P 2013
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The U.K. public broadcaster will air specials around the time of the anniversary on various networks and shows, including kids' series and talk star Graham Norton's radio show.

LONDON – The BBC on Wednesday unveiled a slew of programs and events across its TV and radio channels to mark the 50th anniversary of the first episode of sci-fi evergreen Doctor Who this fall.

It also said that Matt Smith has started filming his final scenes as the Doctor, which will air in this year's Christmas episode. His successor, Scottish actor Peter Capaldi, was announced in August.

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On Nov. 23, the U.K. public broadcaster will air the 75-minute anniversary special episode called The Day of the Doctor, with soon-to-leave star Smith and former lead David Tennant. The episode, for which a poster was unveiled on Tuesday, also stars Jenna Coleman and former show regular Billie Piper.

Surrounding the special will be such highlights as a lecture on BBC Two by professor Brian Cox on the science behind the hit show and previously announced one-off drama An Adventure in Space and Time, written by Mark Gatiss.

The drama will star David Bradley, known for playing Argus Filch in the Harry Potter films, as William Hartnell, the actor who played the first Doctor Who in 1963.

Meanwhile, the BBC Four network will look to introduce new audiences to Hartnell with a rerun of the first four episodes of the show. "The four episodes are being shown in a restored format not previously broadcast in the U.K.," the BBC said.

Also, BBC Two's flagship arts program, The Culture Show, will air Me, You and Doctor Who, which will explore the cultural significance of the BBC's longest-running TV drama.

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Meanwhile, BBC kids network CBBC will broadcast 12 Again, bringing together stars to share their memories of Doctor Who.
The stars include the seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoyWarwick Davis, who appeared in one episode; Louise Jameson, who was the fourth Doctor's sidekick, Leela; and Tommy Knight.

Popular kids' show Blue Peter will launch a competition giving viewers aged 6-14 the opportunity to design a new gadget that will become part of the series. Also, Smith will appear on the show to answer questions.

Rounding out the TV celebrations, BBC Three audiences will be encouraged to get involved and vote in a special Doctor Who: Monsters and Villains Weekend.

BBC Radio will also join in on the 50th anniversary celebrations. For example, a 90-minute documentary on BBC Radio 2 will use interviews and exclusive archive material to try and answer the question "Who Is the Doctor?"

From the popular theme tune to other featured songs, the show has had its influence felt on music as well. It has inspired a phenomenon called Time Lord Rock (TROCK), which BBC Radio 1 will look at in an hourlong documentary.

Finally, talk show star Graham Norton will be broadcasting his weekly Radio 2 show on Saturday, Nov. 23, live from the Doctor Who Celebration event in London. "In a special three-hour show, Graham will take a ride in the [Doctor's travel vehicle] Tardis and will also be chatting with some of the series' stars and fans," the BBC said.

Steven Moffat, lead writer and executive producer, said: "Fifty years has turned Doctor Who from a television show into a cultural landmark. Personally I can't wait to see what it becomes after a hundred."

And Danny Cohen, BBC director of television, said: "It's an astonishing achievement for a drama to reach its 50th anniversary. I'd like to thank every person -- on both sides of the camera -- who has been involved with its creative journey over so many years."

Twitter: @georgszalai