Rumors surrounding Doctor Who's 50th anniversary have been pretty common the last few months. After the conclusion of season seven, part one - which saw the exit of fan-favorite companions Amy Pond and Rory Williams - followed close-behind by the 2012 Christmas Special, fans of The Doctor have been eagerly anticipating any official information about the show's return. Aside from a season seven, part two return date, March 30, 2013, showrunner Steven Moffat has been tight-lipped about upcoming episodes of the series.
While we're still left to speculate about the possible return of David Tennant for this year's 50th anniversary special, the BBC has made one official announcement - Doctor Who is about to enter the third dimension.
In an official press release, the BBC has confirmed that future episodes of Doctor Who could be shown in 3D - teasing that at least one 50th Anniversary-related installment will be stereoscopic. Note: this does not mean that 2D viewers will be forced to watch a blurry version of the show - as any 3D episode would, presumably, air in 2D as well.
According to BBC Controller of Drama Commissioning, Ben Stephenson:
As part of the BBC's blockbuster celebrations to mark the Doctor turning 50, fans will be able to see the Time Lord and his adventures like never before - in 3D!
Lead writer and executive producer, Steven Moffat adds:
It's about time. Technology has finally caught up with Doctor Who and your television is now bigger on the inside. A whole new dimension of adventure for the Doctor to explore.
At this point, details are still relatively scarce and it's unclear how many episodes they'll shoot/screen in 3D, whether or not they'll film using 3D cameras (or post-convert), as well as when we can expect to actually see a 3D Doctor Who episode. Additionally, it'll be interesting to see how the effect is used - given that many viewers are tired of filmmakers drawing attention to 3D with gimmicky implementations (Resident Evil: Retribution) instead of relying on improved but subtle depth (Life of Pi). Keep in mind, especially cheesy 3D would be off-putting for anyone watching in 2D.
That said, Moffat's tease of "a whole new dimension of adventure for the Doctor to explore" certainly indicates that while 3D might be limited to an anniversary episode for now, it's possible that BBC and producers will choose to play with the format more down the line. After all, many Doctor Who episodes are already mindful to depth - given the numerous historic and alien locales (not to mention sizable zany creatures).
Current on-set 3D technology allows directors and cameramen to work in the same production timeline as 2D filmmakers - even on a (hectic) TV schedule. While many consumers may not have a 3D TV (or know their TV is 3D-capable), certain networks are already broadcasting 3D content. Among several 3D stations already in existence (with many more on the way), a few especially high-profile networks are already in the 3D game: ESPN broadcasts certain live events in 3D and Sky 3D in the UK airs 16 hours of 3D-only movies, sporting matches, and original programming every single day. Many readers will also remember that the 2012 Summer Olympics were, in many markets, available in 3D.
Of course, this isn't the first time that the Doctor has traveled into the third dimension. Classic fans will remember that during the Doctor Who 30th anniversary in 1993, "Dimensions In Time" was shown in 3D - using anaglyph glasses.
It's hard to imagine that Moffat and the BBC are talking about red and cyan eyewear this round. As a result, given the current hurdles to 3D viewing (hardware, network availability, etc), many Doctor Who fans will likely have to wait for a home Blu-ray release down the line to fully experience The Doctor in 3D. That said, since that those barriers to entry are becoming easier and cheaper (with upcoming 4K TV sets and other innovations), it's likely that this won't be the last time we see The Doctor enter the third dimension.
In the meantime, if you do happen to own a set of anaglyph glasses, you can get an idea of how The Doctor might look in 3D by checking out the crazy season five trailer below:
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Doctor Who will return (in 2D for now) on BBC and BBC America March 30, 2013.