Doctor Who 60th: BBC Confirms 4K For The Three Specials

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As Doctor Who gears up to commemorate its 60th anniversary, we can now reveal some good news: The three special episodes, debuting this November, will be available in Ultra HD (4K) on BBC iPlayer.

The news, confirmed to us by the BBC, is notable given that the majority of Doctor Who episodes have not graced iPlayer in Ultra HD before, despite the format now being widely common on other streaming services.

4K (UHD) content on BBC iPlayer is still part of an ongoing “experiment”, and it only works on certain compatible devices – see our full guide below.

Therefore, as the Time Lord gears up to traverse through time and space in enhanced clarity, this initiative by the BBC marks a rare venture into the realm of 4K broadcasting for the iconic series.

And for those who want even more – a DVD / Blu-ray home release has also been announced. 

Doctor Who The Star Beast
Doctor Who: The Star Beast (Photo: BBC)

For audiences outside the UK and Ireland, the upcoming Doctor Who specials will be available on Disney+, also in 4K.

In an era where ultra-high-definition streaming is almost a norm, the availability of Doctor Who episodes in 4K has been notably scant.

Before this, only two specials – Doctor Who: The Power Of The Doctor and Doctor Who: Revolution of the Daleks made their way to iPlayer in 4K, as we previously reported.

Doctor Who the power of the doctor

While the upcoming 4K specials are a step in the right direction, the sparse availability of ultra-high-definition episodes in the past leaves much to be desired.

Furthermore, the lack of 4K content also casts a shadow of uncertainty over the resolution in which the forthcoming series, starring Ncuti Gatwa, will air.

Although the 60th-anniversary specials bring a glimmer of hope, looking at the track record, there’s a palpable concern among fans whether the high-definition treatment will extend to future episodes.

Doctor Who classic collection

Meanwhile, a vast collection of classic Doctor Who episodes, over 800 in total, will be made available on BBC iPlayer from November 1, 2023, marking a significant move towards digital accessibility for the series, especially as these episodes were previously only hosted on a paid service, BritBox (which is now part of ITVX Premium).

Doctor Who Celebrates 60 Years With Three Spectacular Specials

The iconic TARDIS is set to make a triumphant return to BBC One and iPlayer on Saturday, November 25, marking a historic milestone for Doctor Who.

As the time-honoured series celebrates its 60th anniversary, fans are in for an exhilarating journey through time and space with three special episodes airing consecutively on Saturdays.

The beloved duo, David Tennant, reprising his role (but this time as the Fourteenth Doctor), and Catherine Tate, returning as Donna Noble, will be at the helm of these extraordinary adventures.

The grand unveiling commences with The Star Beast on November 25, presenting a dramatic rendezvous between the Doctor and Donna after many years apart.

The adventure continues with Wild Blue Yonder on December 2, and culminates with The Giggle on December 9, promising viewers an interstellar expedition that transcends the ordinary.

Accompanying Tennant and Tate is a star-studded cast that adds a vibrant dimension to the unfolding narrative. Yasmin Finney steps into the shoes of Rose Noble, while the legendary Miriam Margolyes lends her voice to the character of the Meep.

The ensemble also includes Jacqueline King as Sylvia Noble, Karl Collins as Shaun Temple, Ruth Madeley as Shirley Anne-Bingham, Jemma Redgrave as Kate Stewart, and Neil Patrick Harris portraying the Toymaker.

Doctor Who The Giggle
Doctor Who: The Giggle (Photo: BBC)

How To Watch Doctor Who In 4K On BBC iPlayer

Venturing into 4K broadcasting is not new for BBC iPlayer, but the offerings have been limited, as part of an ongoing “experiment” with Ultra HD (4K) content.

As part of their UHD Experiment, the BBC offers a select few programmes in 4K, and also occasionally streams live events – such as sports, and – recently – The Coronation of King Charles III.

For viewers to be able to watch the Doctor Who specials in 4K, the first step is to make sure your TV supports 4K.

If you also want to watch with HDR, you need a TV that supports the HLG format, which is the one the BBC uses (and isn’t as popular as some of the other HDR formats).

BT Sport 4K
BT Sport Ultimate in 4K

In addition to a 4K TV, you also need a streaming device that supports 4K and has the BBC iPlayer app. This can either be your Smart TV or a dedicated device.

Your 4K streaming device or Smart TV also needs to be supported by the BBC Ultra HD trial – and many devices are NOT yet supported, including some very popular ones like the Google Chromecast or even some versions of Sky Q (though Sky’s streaming TV – Sky Glass, as well as the Sky Stream standalone puck – do support 4K on BBC iPlayer).

Additionally, the BBC’s 4K trial is NOT supported on mobile phones and computer/desktop browsers.

Some devices that DO support the BBC’s Ultra HD standard are the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K and some Freeview recorders like the Manhattan T3-R and the Humax Aura.

New fire TV Stick 4K Max 2023 closeup
The Fire TV Max

You can find the full list of 4K devices the BBC supports here.

Also, remember that for 4K streaming, you need a fast broadband connection – the BBC recommends a connection speed of 24MBit/s for the full 4K experience (3840 pixels), or 12MBit/s for a lower (2560 pixels) resolution. 

BBC iPlayer Ultra HD Settings

Before you can watch in 4K, you need to make sure you have the right settings on your BBC iPlayer app, where you must set the video quality to “Best”:

  • Go to BBC iPlayer’s “Settings”
  • Select “Video Quality”
  • Choose “Best Quality”

BBC iPlayer video quality selection

Then, look for content with the UHD icon – the Doctor Who specials will show the UHD icon on the main iPlayer menu (as long as your device supports it), once they’re available to stream.

BBC 4K UHD mark Doctor Who

To learn more about the BBC’s 4K content, see our full BBC iPlayer UHD Guide.

Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Specials Blu-ray And DVD Release

Following the televised spectacle of the Doctor Who 60th Anniversary specials, enthusiasts of the series have another treat in store.

Starting December 11, 2023, fans will have the opportunity to own a slice of history with the release of all three episodes on Steelbook, Blu-ray, and DVD.

This three-disc release, laden with exclusive content, is available for pre-order from Amazon, ensuring that the fervour surrounding the Fourteenth Doctor and Donna Noble’s cosmic adventures finds a cherished spot in home entertainment collections.

Doctor Who Wild Blue Yonder
Doctor Who: Wild Blue Yonder (Photo: BBC)

This release is not merely a recapitulation of the specials but an immersive venture into the Doctor Who universe. Apart from the episodes – The Star Beast, Wild Blue Yonder, and The Giggle, the collection is packed with additional content that takes fans behind the scenes:

Exclusive to the 60th Anniversary specials release:

  • Rachel Talalay’s Scene Breakdown
  • Chanya Button’s Scene Breakdown
  • Tom Kingsley’s Scene Breakdown

Special Features:

  • The Fourteenth Doctor Reveal
  • The Star Beast Behind The Scenes
  • Wild Blue Yonder Behind The Scenes
  • The Giggle Behind The Scenes
  • The Giggle In-vision Commentary
  • The Star Beast In-vision Commentary
  • David and Catherine’s Flashbacks
  • Yasmin Finney Introduces Rose Noble
  • Designing the Fourteenth Doctor
  • Set Tour with Yasmin Finney
  • The Star Beast – Behind The Scenes Trailer
  • Wild Blue Yonder – Behind The Scenes Trailer
  • The Giggle – Behind The Scenes Trailer
  • The Cast Introduce the Villains in ‘Wild Blue Yonder’
  • Behind The Scenes Fun with David and Catherine
  • Video Diary with David Tennant’s Stand-in
  • TARDIS Set Tour with David Tennant and Phil Sims
  • Ruth Madeley Introduces Shirley Bingham
  • Becoming the Toymaker
  • Neil Patrick Harris Introduces the Toymaker
  • 60th Specials Recap with David Tennant

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4 thoughts on “Doctor Who 60th: BBC Confirms 4K For The Three Specials”

  1. I would like to point out the Home Releases that the BBC distributed for the 60th Anniversary Specials were also only 1080p HD.

    I have been trying to get any kind of comment from the BBC on the lack of a 4K UHD Blu Ray Home Release.

    Disney is anti-home release since launching Disney Plus… so I am hoping this is not a matter of BBC’s hands were tied due to Disney having some of the home release rights now.

  2. It wouldn’t surprise me if Disney+ have 4K with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos for the specials. If that’s the case then I’ll be switching the VPN on…

  3. It’s a pity you have to choose between 4k and stereo sound or HD and 5.1 sound. I would presume Disney+ will have both and leave us in the UK and Ireland out of luck.


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