As if Whovians weren't already about to explode with anticipation in advance of tonight's Doctor Who mid-season premiere: BBC America has officially announced the return of two fan favorites and the addition of a legend for the 50th Anniversary Special, which is expected to air on November 23rd.
That's right, David Tennant and Billie Piper - the Tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler, respectively - are coming back to Doctor Who to join the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) and his new companion Clara (Jenna Louise Coleman) - and they're bringing legendary thespian John Hurt (Harry Potter) along for the ride.
Besides the fact that the special will be shot in 3D with present showrunner Steven Moffat and frequent Who director Nick Hurran writing and directing, this news marks the first major announcement from the BBC with regard to the onscreen spectacle that we can expect to see for the 50th following months of speculation as to which past cast members - if any - would reprise their roles.
Tennant in particular has been politely hounded by the press for months with questions about a possible return. In January, he told Jonathan Ross in January that a woman from the BBC had approached him while in makeup for his appearance on The Jonathan Ross Show, telling him: "I've been sent to say, that anything about the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary must not be mentioned on television," which prompted Tennant to tell Ross, "That's how scared they are - I don't know anything!"
Tennant also told Time Out London that he was "beginning to give up hope that anything’s going to happen" back in February.
So, was Tennant just being cagey or did this whole thing come together rather recently? We'll likely never know, but with the special set to go before cameras next week, it's unlikely that the BBC could have kept this a secret much longer.
With that said, the wording of their press release does make one wonder if other fan-favorites from the Russell T. Davies era (and/or classic series) could make a return. According to the press release:
"The BBC has today revealed some of the all-star cast that will mark the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who."
Sadly, former companions Freema Agyeman (Martha Jones) and John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness) won't likely be included, with Agyeman having told Crave:
"I’m doing two things for the 50th but nothing to do with being in the drama.
While Barrowman tweeted:
"I will not be involved in the 50th Anniversary Episode of 'Dr WHO.' "
How Tennant and Piper fit into Matt Smith and Steven Moffat's Doctor Who is another question. Granted, Doctor reunions are a part of a lapsed anniversary tradition, occurring during the 10th anniversary with "The Three Doctors" and for the 20th anniversary with "The Five Doctors," but in the regenerated series, only the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) has returned, and ever so briefly in the Steven Moffat penned "Time Crash" mini-episode back in 2007.
However, despite that trip down memory lane Moffat did have this to say recently with regard to the 50th Anniversary and nostalgia:
"The show must be seen to be going forward. It's all about the next 50 years, not about the last 50 years. If you start thinking it's all about nostalgia, then you're finished. It's about moving forward. The Doctor is moving forward, as he always does. He wants to solve the mystery of Clara. He's not thinking about all his previous incarnations and all his previous adventures."
So, how does Moffat go forward while going back? Well, surely the pairing of Piper and Tennant could mean a return to Pete's World and Bad Wolf Bay, with the Meta-Crisis Doctor serving as a clean jumping back point for Moffat, but that is merely speculation and part of the fun that every fan of the show gets to put themselves through until Moffat's master plan is revealed in November.
And that's another thing: Will those rumors about the return of The Master in the 50th Anniversary special come true as well? Could John Hurt be taking on the iconic role of the Doctor's version of Moriarty? See, endless speculative fun.
Doctor Who returns tonight @8PM on BBC America. The 50th Anniversary is expected to air November 23rd, 2013. In the meantime, check out our Doctor Who Viewing Guide: Tips, Suggestions & Complete Episode List.