Next November will be the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. It's shocking how quickly time has gone. And invariably this brings up the question of how it should be celebrated.
Way back in 1972/3 the series had an answer to this. Almost every week someone suggested a story which brought together all three incarnations of the Doctor and it was decided to make such a story to celebrate the series' tenth anniversary. Ten years later the series went a few steps further by commissioning an extra special edition of the series, bringing bold old companions and enemies as well as old Doctors and even getting around the small problems of one past Doctor declining to take part and another having passed away.
Inevitably there have been expectations of a reunion story every ten years. In 1993 there was much excitement about a special one-off revival of the series to be called "The Dark Dimension". However the project died before filming began. (From what I've since seen this was probably a mercy killing.) We did, however, get a brief mini-adventure that brought together the five surviving Doctors and model stand-ins for the other two. It was good for what it was, but fans expected so much more and crucified it.
By 2003 most fans had probably concluded that Doctor Who was never going to be revived onscreen and we would have to do our best with the various spin-offs. But we still got a reunion story that year when four of the five surviving Doctor actors unite in a special audio adventure "Zagreus", which even managed to add one of the deceased Doctors via a little used recording.
Of course 2003 was also the year the show's revival was announced and when it arrived two years later, it exceeded all expectations. After a few yeas it became clear this wasn't just a one-off nostalgic success but once again something that was going to last and last. Which brings us to 2013...
On the face of it, the answer seems obvious. There should be a story bringing together all surviving Doctors, and if possible find some way to "include" the three deceased actors, in a glorious epic adventure. Throw in lots and lots of other past elements and the result is bound to be an audience pleaser.
Or is it that easy? It's much harder than it seems to come up with good ideas and successfully implement them, but when you have to write to include a big list of elements, and make sure the script can be easily adapted to take account of actor availability, there's a real danger of producing a poor, incoherent mess that's little more than a few good elements strung together. With six surviving Doctor actors there would be an awful lot of balls in the air if all were to be involved.
And it's also difficult to ensure that all the old actors will be available and willing. Several have been unhappy with past proposals (although who turned down what varies depending on what you read and who you speak to), especially those that seem to have given their parts little more than a few tacked on scenes. Others have a general reluctance to revisit past roles. There's also the question of salaries - let's be honest, the series is much bigger now than in previous years and lead actors (and their agents) will expect a reasonable modern salary.
Is it even possible to do "The Eleven Doctors" without it collapsing under its own weight? And in an era when virtually the entire series is available in one form of home entertainment or another, is there really as great a need for bringing back past Doctors?
And the elephant in the room is fans' awkward relationship with return appearances and past continuity. In the early 1980s the return of the likes of the Master and the Cybermen were applauded no end and other old elements also came back. But over time fandom started angrily denouncing those years of the series for "pandering to the fans" and "alienating the casual viewer" (who, by definition, is not represented in fan discourse), believing it was responsible for the show's (temporary) demise. During the wilderness years the spin-offs oscillated between the various extremes of using lots of fan pleasing elements to consciously trying to avoid absolutely any past reference whatsoever. The revival of the series has plotted a middle course with a number of old elements returned but usually taking time to introduce them anew and most people have been happy. Of course it helps when those elements come in stages, not all at once.
Perhaps the answer isn't some grand reunion tale but instead a focused good adventure featuring the current Doctor and companion that acknowledges the past but also takes the series firmly forward. Good, exciting adventures that grip the audience - that's not too fanciful an idea is it?