6 Doctor Who Episodes to Watch Before the 60th Anniversary Special

Everything you need to know about The Doctor and Donna Noble before their glorious reunion.

Doctor Who Week

Doctor Who is probably the most daunting science fiction series to get caught up on. Not only is there now 60 years’ worth of content, but also 13 different stars, countless Christmas specials — not to mention multiple episodes completely lost to time. However, you don’t need to watch everything in order to understand the three 60th anniversary specials releasing over the next few weeks.

The last we saw of the Doctor, she was played by Jodie Whittaker, only to regenerate into David Tennant, who played the 10th Doctor for three seasons in the 2000s. In the 60th anniversary specials, Tennant’s 14th Doctor is paired up with another familiar face: Donna Noble, played by Catherine Tate.

If all of these logistics and character names are confusing for you, it actually isn’t that hard to get caught up enough to know what will happen in these specials. Here are the six episodes you should watch before anniversary.

6. “The Runaway Bride”

Donna’s introduction to Doctor Who was fighting spider aliens in her wedding dress.


Donna Noble’s first appearance in Doctor Who started with a bang: she materialized in the TARDIS mid-flight while in her wedding dress, plucked from her own wedding reception. When she gets attacked by robots dressed as Santa Claus, the Doctor and Donna fight off a spider-like species known as the Racnoss who came to Earth in a “Christmas Star.” It’s a mediocre Christmas special, but a fabulous character introduction.

Unlike his previous companions, Donna is loudmouthed, snarky, and unafraid to call the Doctor out when he makes dumb assumptions like wondering why her wedding dress doesn’t have pockets. While Donna declines to travel with the Doctor more, it’s clear that the screwball energy these two share is infectious — something we’ll see over and over, up until the 60th anniversary.

5. “Partners in Crime”

The Doctor and Donna reunite in “Partners in Crime” through a hilarious pantomime scene.


A season later, fate brings the Doctor and Donna together again, this time through investigation of a weight-loss drug that makes fat literally fall off and walk away in the form of the adorably alien species called the Adipose. In this episode, Donna fully comes into her own as a temp frustrated with the mundanity of life.

When she gets the chance to travel with the Doctor again, this time she jumps at the opportunity, dropping her car keys in a trash can for her mother to pick up. She asks a woman nearby to tell her mom which one to look in, but that woman is revealed to be none other that Rose Tyler, the Doctor’s lost companion, who will go on to become integral to Donna’s story.

4. “Turn Left”

Rose and Donna connect in the alternate timeline where the Doctor died.


“Turn Left” is the Sliding Doors of Doctor Who. In a chance meeting with a fortune teller, Donna is forced to re-examine the events that led her to the Doctor. She decides to change a small decision — just a turn at an intersection — and suddenly, she never meets the Doctor. Without Donna, the Doctor dies, and the world is plunged into dystopia. It’s up to Donna and a newly returned Rose Tyler to save the world.

“Doctor-lite” episodes are a rarity for Doctor Who, and this one makes for a great character study for Donna, while also setting up the climactic Season 4 finale that will put force Donna into an impossible situation.

3. “Journey’s End”

Donna absorbs Time Lord energy and knowledge and becomes the “DoctorDonna.”


The second half of a two-part adventure, “Journey’s End” begins with the Doctor regenerating, but he manages to siphon all the regeneration energy into an old severed hand of his he had kicking around. Donna touches the hand, resulting in the hand growing into a fully formed clone of the Doctor. But the blowback also ends in Donna suddenly absorbing all the knowledge of a Time Lord.

While the clone was a handy companion to leave with Rose Tyler when the Doctor says goodbye to her for (seemingly) the final time, all that knowledge is too much for Donna’s brain and the Doctor is forced to erase her memory, knowing if she’s ever reminded of the Doctor and their time together, she would die. It’s a tragic end for one of the greatest companions in Doctor Who history: she craved adventure, and now she has to live without knowing how much she truly had.

2. “The End of Time”

David Tennant’s last lines as the Doctor before regenerating were incredibly apt: “I don’t want to go.”


The Tenth Doctor’s farewell tour before his regeneration is everything you need to know about his tenure as the Doctor. He revisits each of his companions, every soul that he touched, and gives them all a wistful goodbye. All of them except Donna, for her own good. But he sees that she gets married again to Shaun Temple — a relationship which will result in a daughter whom we’ll meet in the upcoming 60th anniversary. Donna’s daughter is Rose, presumedly named after the companion who helped her save the world.

David Tennant’s anguished “I don’t want to go” is the final word on the actor’s eternal love of Doctor Who: he’ll always find a way to come back. Maybe that desire to stay is what allowed him to regenerate into him yet again, years later.

1. “The Day of the Doctor”

The three doctors in “The Day of the Doctor:” The Eleventh Doctor, the Tenth Doctor, and the War Doctor.


Time travel shows make it possible for there to be two different versions of the same character, and that’s exactly what we got in “The Day of the Doctor.” The 50th anniversary special saw the meeting of David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor, Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, and the previously unseen “War Doctor,” played by the late great John Hurt.

As the three face off against the Zygons, they confront some shameful events from the past, but this anniversary special was first and foremost about the fans. If you want an idea what to expect from the 60th anniversary, this is probably your best bet.

Doctor Who (2005-2023) is now streaming on Max. The 60th anniversary specials will be available to stream on Disney+ starting with “The Star Beast” on November 25.

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