Doctor Who zips around the planet in 50th anniversary TV special
LONDON - Agence France-Presse
An undated handout photo made available by the BBC showing the Eleven Doctors, from left, William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith. AP PhotoThe Time Lord popped up simultaneously in nearly 100 countries on Saturday -- in a special episode marking 50 years of the BBC's cult sci-fi series "Doctor Who".
The show was screened in 3D in more than 1,500 cinemas from Australia to Mexico as well as on British television, in what the BBC said was probably the largest simulcast of a TV drama in history.
Fittingly, for a two-hearted, time-travelling alien who reincarnates every time he suffers a fatal mishap, the Doctor appeared in the show as three versions of himself: the current one, played by Matt Smith, and previous ones embodied by David Tennant and John Hurt.
Exactly 50 years after the first episode was broadcast on November 23, 1963, "Doctor Who" boss Steven Moffatt said the anniversary special would deliver an "emotional wallop" to millions of fans worldwide.
"It's the most ambitious episode we've ever done," he said.
The 75-minute special kicked off with Smith dangling from his Tardis spaceship -- which takes the form of a vintage British police telephone box -- as it flew over London.
Traditional Doctor Who villains such as the Daleks and the Zygons also made an appearance, as did England's 16th century queen Elizabeth I.
The episode saw the three Doctors team up to re-write history by averting the destruction of their home planet, Gallifrey.
Doctor Who is the world's longest-running science fiction series, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, and has been sold by the BBC to more than 200 territories around the world.
Smith, the 11th man to play the doctor, is to quit the show in a special Christmas episode -- meaning another reincarnation that will usher in Scottish actor Peter Capaldi, best known for playing a foul-mouthed spin doctor in the BBC satire "The Thick Of It".
Viewers got a first, fleeting glimpse of their new Time Lord in Saturday's episode when Capaldi was shown glancing at the camera.
To fans' delight, there was also a surprise cameo for Tom Baker -- the fourth doctor, who played the role from 1974 to 1981 -- who was seen chatting to Smith at the end of the episode.
Many other previous doctors also popped up in the show's climax, which used CGI and archive footage to bring them together. And there were nods to the past throughout, including a character wearing Baker's famous multi-coloured scarf.
Hurt was introduced as an incarnation of the doctor in an episode in May, while Tennant played the role between 2005 and 2010.
There have been a string of events to mark the programme's 50th year, including a three-day convention in London this weekend attended by some 20,000 fans.
US search giant Google also got into the act by changing its web page banner to a game featuring cartoony images of a Dalek and the various doctors.