In a prime time live television event that promises to combine the theatrics of the final of Miss World with the nostalgia trip of This is Your Life, the next incarnation of Doctor Who is set to emerge from the TARDIS on Sunday.
The unveiling on BBC One will be hosted by Zoe Ball and a number of the previous 11 doctors will be in attendance, along with former “companions” of Time Lords and “celebrity fans”. The grand ceremony at Elstree Studios, near London, will be broadcast simultaneously to the United States.
The Doctor, who famously has the ability to travel through time, also possesses the means to bring the nation to a standstill, the BBC believes. A live audience will be brought to a frenzy of anticipation with old clips, featuring favourite former Doctors such as Jon Pertwee and Colin Baker and “excitement will reach fever pitch”, the BBC predicted.
Then the new Time Lord will give his (or her) “first ever interview in front of a live studio audience set against the backdrop of a swirling vortex, amongst Daleks and the TARDIS”, it said. Charlotte Moore, the new controller of BBC One, said: “BBC One is the home of big live events and this special live show is the perfect way to reveal the identity of the next Doctor and share it with the nation.”
Doctor Who celebrates its 50 anniversary this year. Since William Hartnell made his debut as the first Doctor in 1963 the character has grown to become the most famous science fiction role in television. The show is a valuable international franchise for the BBC and a 50 anniversary episode on 23 November will be shown around the globe on BBC Worldwide.
The “regeneration” - when the current Doctor, Matt Smith, hands over to his successor - will take place during a Christmas special episode of the show. A new series of Doctor Who will begin in 2014. Peter Capaldi (who played the spin doctor Malcolm Tucker in BBC satire The Thick of It) is the bookies favourite to succeed Smith.
The BBC was so fearful of its great secret being leaked that its published schedule for BBC One on Sunday at 7pm - when Doctor Who Live: The Next Doctor will be screened - shows a repeat edition of Mastermind.
“We’ve been using the codename Houdini as a decoy! It’s the biggest secret in showbiz,” said Ben Stephenson, controller of BBC Drama Commissioning. “Even those working with the new Doctor on other projects at the moment have no idea they are in the presence of the 12 incarnation.”