How to watch the Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Specials in Australia

Doctor Who

I’m a Doctor Who fan going back many decades — and the 60th anniversary specials are about to land on our shores. Here’s how to watch them down under.

How Do I? covers the basics, because we’ve all got to start somewhere.

Introductory note: I’m staying as spoiler-free as possible, so the ONLY thing about the specials I’m putting in here are the episode names and the name of one of the cast members (but not the role they play). No trailers, no other images, and any comments that are spoileriffic will be deleted before being published. Just so you know. Obey Wheaton’s Law, people.

This is one of those topics that seems to be doing the rounds yet again, with a lot of disinformation or misunderstanding about what’s available where.

That kind of thing makes me cranky, and when I’m cranky, I write about it. So I’m going to break this down into a series of pretty simple questions.

What are the Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Specials?

The BBC has commissioned three special episodes of Doctor Who, timed to (mostly) coincide with the sixtieth anniversary of the transmission of the first episode of Doctor Who “An Unearthly Child”.

The three specials are:

  • The Star Beast
  • Wild Blue Yonder
  • The Giggle

When are the Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Specials being broadcast in Australia?

So… this is where it gets trickier.

Classically, the answer to that would have been “on the ABC and/or ABC iView”… but not this time around.

In the UK, the episodes will have the following transmission dates and times:

Episode Transmission Date Transmission Time
The Star Beast Saturday, 25 November 2023 6:30pm GMT
Wild Blue Yonder Saturday, 2 December 2023 6:30pm GMT
The Giggle Saturday, 9 December 2023 6:30pm GMT

However, for everywhere except the UK, the specials are exclusive to paid streaming subscription service Disney+.

Disney+ has (at the time of writing) not made it entirely clear when they will make the episodes available. It may be simultaneous with BBC transmission, or — as the older ABC iView deal had it — the minute those episodes conclude.

Here’s how that timing would look if they’re able to simulcast for current AEDT timing (because that’s the time zone I’m in, folks in Brisbane/Adelaide/Perth, adjust as needed)

Episode Transmission Date (Australia) Transmission Time
The Star Beast Sunday, 26 November 2023 5:30am AEDT
Wild Blue Yonder Sunday, 3 December 2023 5:30am AEDT
The Giggle Sunday, 10 December 2023 5:30am AEDT

If Disney+ doesn’t get the rights to them until the BBC’s finished its first broadcast of each episode, add an hour or so to those times. Mind you, this is guesswork, because right now, just a few days before assumed transmission, if you search Disney+ in Australia for “Doctor Who”, you get…

Doogie Howser.

Which is entertaining given that Neil Patrick Harris is in the new Who specials, but not that helpful.

Update: With a huge nod of thanks towards Puggs — both for the tip-off and the tip (remember folks, support independent media if you want it to be independent!), Disney+ has finally actually added some detail.


Not much.

I’ve cropped the picture just a little as it has a plot synopsis, and I want to stay true to my promise not to spoil anything, but this is what you get if you search for Doctor Who now:

Doctor Who Disney Plus

Which doesn’t tell us much — and it’s equal parts amusing that it’s just “Special 1”  and that Doogie Howser MD is STILL the first search term returned. It also doesn’t tell us when in terms of the time of day.

The essential takeaway here is that the episodes should be available on Sundays for Australians, probably early-ish in the morning.

Update: And that’s exactly what happened — and by all reports, both BBC iPlayer and Disney Plus had the first special available at the start of UK transmission time, so we can expect the second two to be available on Sundays from 5:30am.

Though if this morning’s episode is any indication, you may still need to search for it; Disney’s not doing much to promote the fact that it has the specials at all.

Also read:
12 Random Thoughts on Doctor Who: The Star Beast (contains spoilers)


Why isn’t Doctor Who on the ABC?

Put simply, money.

The BBC makes a lot of money out of Doctor Who, but it’s also under intense pressure around its finances and especially what its licence fee might look like in the coming years.

As such, it’ll take money from overseas sources wherever it can — and indeed, the original ABC transmissions of classic and new Who were all commercial deals as well.

But who do you think was going to win in a money-flinging battle between the chronically underfunded ABC and the House of Mouse?

I really don’t want Disney+. Is there another way I can watch the 60th Anniversary Specials?

Yes… eventually.

No, they won’t then be rebroadcast on the ABC next Monday or the week after or anything like that.

But they are having physical media releases once all three episodes have aired. So far, all I can see are pre-order options for UK buyers, not Australian ones, and with varying availability dates between mid-to-late December.

The availability of DVD and Blu-Ray options for Australian buyers have been spotty of late, with current distributors Madman Entertainment not listing them as locally available as yet.

However, we sit in the same DVD and Blu-Ray region as the UK, so if you’re super-keen, you could always import once it’s available.

Won’t people get the 60th specials “another way” (Nudge, Nudge, Wink, Wink, Arrrr)?

Yes, obviously, as with anything else, people are going to pirate these episodes, because people pirate everything and a lot of them have rather entitled attitudes.

But as someone who makes their living in a creative way, I’m not a big fan of saying “just go out and pirate it”.

It particularly annoys me when (and I’ve seen this online, more than once) people proclaim that they’re “the biggest Doctor Who fan ever”… but who won’t pay a cent to actually watch it. If you like a creative thing, support that creative thing. Is that so hard?

Ahem. Speaking of which, if you’re finding this handy or like the way I write and create content…

Smooth, Alex. Smooooooooth.

Honestly, I’m also annoyed at the Disney+ deal and the lack of Doctor Who on the ABC, but in this case, I look at it this way.

A month of Disney+ — enough to see all three specials — runs $13.99 for (if you only watched Doctor Who and could resist the lure of a Doogie Howser MD binge-fest) three hours of entertainment. That’s a pretty reasonably priced movie ticket, right there.

What about 2005-era Who or Classic Who?

The Disney+ deal only covers the new specials and the new season — or series, it seems — with Ncuti Gatwa in the role of the Doctor, not the 2005-era episodes or the classic series that either concluded or paused in 1989 or 1996, depending on your point of view.

Right now, if you wanted to watch the 13 series of 2005-era Who, they’re available across a few streaming services, including Binge, Foxtel Now, Stan and Amazon Prime Video.

I don’t have any particular insight into how long those deals will last, but the reporting around the Disney+ deal indicates that Disney either didn’t have interest or wasn’t willing to pay for the rights to those.

What about the classic Doctor Who episodes? Up until recently, the only place streaming those episodes was subscription service Britbox, but they’ve apparently recently pulled all of those episodes. Which is weird, because Britbox is partly owned by… The BBC!

At the same time, The BBC has made all of those seasons available via BBC iPlayer for UK customers only for the first time. Is there a connection there? Maybe.

I suspect the biggest audience for classic Who are fans like myself who have had seriously lengthy periods of physical availability — I mean, there are Who stories I’ve owned as VHS tapes, DVDs and Blu-Rays by now, not to mention Target novels — and that licensing out such a large and diverse library of content, including slower moving black and white serials might be a bit of a tough sell for the commercial arm of the BBC.

Legally speaking, your best bet there might still be physical media — or emigrating to the UK.

11 thoughts on “How to watch the Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Specials in Australia”

    1. Looks most likely that it won’t have a legal release here (unless it’s on physical media) — that one was prepared for BBC iPlayer in the UK, and isn’t part of the Disney+ deal as far as anyone knows.

  1. Here’s the problem with seeing it in Australia.
    A: Disney + does require money, the ABC never did.
    B: Seeing as Disney is now the one distributing Doctor Who in Australia, its a good bet they will insist that they handle the DVD/Blue Ray release. They have stopped physical distribution of media in Australia. No DVD’s or Blue Rays for us.
    C: Spoilers show up everywhere the moment it becomes available over seas. You can’t avoid them without living in a total media vacuum. Which means no news on other important matters.
    D: I can’t speak for other people, but the cost of living crisis is hitting me pretty damned hard. My Disability Support Pension pays just $862 per fortnight. $700 has to go on rent. $80 on meds. The rest, I need to eat and pay electricity. Even $10 for Disney + means missing meals.

    1. It’s not easy, it’s true – but your second point isn’t accurate as Disney only has streaming rights and the local distribution is handled currently by Madman entertainment. As noted a UK release is happening so even if Madman opts not to release importing would be an option (though I realise this doesn’t help folks in more constrained financial circumstances).

      1. And for the record I LOATHE spoilers and especially the culture that seems to have emerged of “Oh, I spoiled it but it’s YOUR fault for reading my spoiler” that seems so prevalent. Which is why I’ve been as careful as I could writing up this piece.

      2. The other problem with DVD/Blue Ray is it requires something to play it on. And the last time I tried importing something, when money was better, it was a book. $50 Aus, $150 shipping. Not going to pay three times the price of the item for shipping.

  2. I’m all for supporting the BBC
    I’m NOT for supporting Disney………….

    I guess it’s either the Black Flag or the VM train for me………….

  3. This is worst thing to haapen a terrible move by the abc as what about people who are older who dont have smart tvs and a tight budget
    Im ok as i have disney plus but i know some of my dads friends who will now miss out
    My concern is disney will want to make changes to doctor who and that would be terrible

    1. Ah well just another thing that has been taken away from free to air TV
      60 years of watching Dr Who has come to this
      No money no view
      Not Darleks that are Exterminating the Dr

    2. ‘My concern is disney will want to make changes to doctor who and that would be terrible’ – you mean, like Russ T anounced yesterday (quotes) “…taking a sly step towards fantasy” and “a whole new Doctor Who mythology that will rock the world” – all very Disneyesque sounding, and only one step away from The Doctor having a special ‘companion mouse’ that’s just The Meep with bigger ears! I think Doctor Who is just about to become the Timelord of The Rings, with magic do anything sonic wand in his hand! I hear that a new Doctor Who song by a band of Goblins is about to be released as well. More Disney I think!

  4. hello interesting article. I have decided I am not that big a fan as I can’t afford nor do I want to subscribe to Disney plus. The cynic in me is waiting for the evolution from UK based to American based format. Often Americans do not get the British take on things. Just look at The Office series UK vs USA. I will miss Doctor Who but hey it was a long time between the original series and the new (now old) series. The sad thing about Disney is they tend to lock up series and movies.

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