Epic Return: Classic Doctor Who Coming To BBC iPlayer

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In an exciting turn of events for Doctor Who fans, a monumental selection of classic episodes from the iconic show is making its way to BBC iPlayer.

This remarkable unveiling, named “60 Years of Doctor Who,” will drop on BBC iPlayer along with a significant online archive, marking an era of digital accessibility to the beloved series.

Over 800 episodes of the timeless show will be readily available to viewers, each equipped with subtitles, audio description, and sign language, catering to a wider audience for the first time.

Since 2019, Classic Doctor Who episodes have all been available on BritBox (which is now a part of ITVX Premium) – a paid service.

Doctor Who Britbox

Therefore, the launch on BBC iPlayer is more than just a nostalgic trip down memory lane –  it’s an opportunity for fans to traverse through the show’s magnificent six-decade history, without having to pay an extra subscription.

This expansive digital collection will be added to iPlayer on November 1, 2023 – just in time before the Anniversary Specials hit the screens, allowing fans to reacquaint themselves with the classic series and explore the extensive Doctor Who universe.

Besides the original series, spin-offs like The Sarah Jane Adventures, Torchwood, and Class, as well as every episode of Doctor Who Confidential, will also be available on the platform (along with all the episodes of the modern incarnation of the Doctor).


And, as a perfect companion to the back catalogue, the BBC is simultaneously launching an extensive online archive at bbc.co.uk/doctorwho (it will also go live on November 1).

This digital treasure trove comprises everything from cast interviews, long unheard audio and behind-the-scenes photos, to written documents, narrating the groundbreaking journey of the series through 60 archival gems to mark its 60th anniversary.

The online archive invites aficionados to delve deeper into the show’s legacy with curated journeys like the genesis of Doctor Who, where audio from former Head of Drama, Sydney Newman alongside documents with his original handwritten notes, guides enthusiasts through the origins of Doctor Who.

This initiative by the BBC not only commemorates the journey of Doctor Who but also paves the way for a modern audience to engage with the classic series and its expansive lore.

Classic Series Returning to iPlayer

Doctor Who’s rich legacy, stretching back to its first airing in 1963, is certainly making a triumphant return to BBC iPlayer.

Doctor Who classic
Photo: The BBC

This means fans will soon be able to traverse through time with First Doctor William Hartnell’s initial encounter with the Daleks, experience the transition to colour TV with Third Doctor Jon Pertwee, and revel in the fan favourites from Fourth Doctor Tom Baker’s iconic run, including episodes like City of Death and The Brain of Morbius.

The 1996 TV movie with Paul McGann, where he takes over from Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy, is also part of this digital streaming treasure.

Accessibility is at the forefront of this initiative, with each episode from the back catalogue now available with multiple accessibility options.

This includes subtitles, audio description, and sign language, making the series more inclusive – something that was not available, for most episodes, on the BritBox version of these episodes.

This is a commendable step, ensuring that the show’s rich narrative and captivating adventures are accessible to a broader audience.

Doctor Who shada tom baker
Photo: BBC

With a whopping 800 episodes of Doctor Who programming coming to iPlayer, the enthusiasm within the Doctor Who community is palpable.

Returning showrunner Russell T Davies expressed his gratitude towards the BBC for this initiative and shared his excitement for new viewers:

“Imagine being 8 years old, spending winter afternoons exploring the 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond. And we’re determined this won’t be a dusty museum – we have exciting plans to bring the back catalogue to life, with much more to be revealed!”

Dan McGolpin, Director of iPlayer and channels, shared the same sentiment. He emphasised the show’s ability to captivate countless millions over the years and lauded this move as a celebration of the show’s remarkable journey.

The accessibility features are a significant part of this celebration, as they ensure that everyone can enjoy the breathtaking back catalogue, from William Hartnell’s earliest adventures to the latest series and the upcoming anniversary specials with David Tennant.

The Transition From BritBox To BBC iPlayer

Until this momentous launch, the classic episodes of Doctor Who had found a home on BritBox, the streaming service once owned by ITV and the BBC.

This platform, now part of ITVX Premium, had been the go-to destination for fans to indulge in over 600 classic episodes from the show’s extensive history.

BritBox ITVX Premium ad
ITVX Premium – with BritBox

The transition from BritBox/ITVX to BBC iPlayer is a significant shift in the digital availability of the classic series, making it more accessible to a broader audience.

The move not only brings Doctor Who back to its original broadcaster but also aligns with the BBC’s mission to provide a more inclusive viewing experience. 

However, ITV confirmed to us that the classic Doctor Who episodes will remain on BritBox / ITVX Premium as well – so subscribers will be able to choose where to watch them.

For the ardent followers of Doctor Who, this transition from BritBox to BBC iPlayer is more than just a change of platform; it’s a homecoming.

Fire HD 8 BBC iPlayer
BBC iPlayer

The show’s six-decade-long journey has come full circle, providing fans old and new, a chance to revel in its timeless adventures once again.

New Online Archive: A Deep Dive into Doctor Who’s Legacy

The launch on BBC iPlayer will be accompanied by an extensive online archive, marking a significant milestone in Doctor Who‘s digital journey, and allowing fans to delve deeper into the show’s rich history than ever before.

In the initial phase, the site will feature curated journeys through the archive, bringing the show’s extensive history to life with interviews, news pieces, audio, imagery, and written documents.

Doctor Who revolution of the daleks
Doctor Who (Photo: BBC)

Over time, more content will be added, including a special collection of photos scanned at 8k resolution from an estimated total of 25,000 prints, negatives, slides, and digital images, providing an unprecedented insight into the show’s journey over the years.

Additionally, the expanded archive will showcase over 100,000 documents, including memos, correspondence, designs, audience research, and orchestral scores of sheet music.

A selection of audio clips about Doctor Who, including radio programmes, documentaries, interviews, and music, will also be added, enriching the archive.

This digital archive, coupled with the extensive collection on BBC iPlayer, is a grand celebration of Doctor Who‘s enduring legacy as it steps into its 60th year, promising more adventures, more explorations, and an enriching experience for its ever-growing fandom.

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