What happened to Wilf in Doctor Who? Bernard Cribbins character explained
The late Cribbins is expected to make his final TV appearance in the 60th anniversary specials.
David Tennant and Catherine Tate have made a grand return to Doctor Who, reprising their roles after last appearing together on the show in 2010.
Tennant steps into the shoes of the Fourteenth Doctor, a new incarnation, while Tate brings back the beloved Donna Noble. Accompanying them are returning characters from Donna's family, including Sylvia Noble (Jacqueline King) and Shaun Temple (Karl Collins).
Tennant has also shared that Bernard Cribbins, who portrayed Donna's grandfather Wilf, was present on set for the show's 60th anniversary specials. This appearance marks his final TV role before his passing in July of the previous year.
Tennant said: "I am thrilled to say that – although very sadly he wasn't in those episodes as much as we hoped – he was on set with us and Wilfred lives on.
"Bernard is much missed and much grieved for, but I am so excited that his final screen performance will be [one] I had the great honour of being part of, and you'll see it all on your screens."
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For those needing a refresher, delve into the history of Wilf's character and his previous adventures in Doctor Who.
When did we first meet Wilf?
We were first introduced to Wilf in 2007 Christmas special Voyage of the Damned, in which he was seen running a stall in the centre of London.
The Doctor had been on a replica of the Titanic in space, but took a teleport along with other guests down to Earth, as part of a scheduled trip.
Confused by the streets being empty, The Doctor approached Wilf, along with Astrid Peth, to ask him what was going on.
Wilf revealed that most people had left London for fear of another alien attack, after the previous two Christmases had seen mayhem on the city's streets.
The Doctor agreed with Wilf that he was right to stay in London, and that he thought nothing alien would happen this year. At that point, he and Astrid were immediately and unexpectedly teleported back aboard the ship, in front of a startled Wilf.
How did Wilf come back into the Doctor's life?
We next saw Wilf in the subsequent episode, Partners in Crime, where it was revealed that he was, in fact, Donna's grandfather.
He was immediately supportive of Donna's dreams to travel with the Doctor and set off among the stars, and aimed to help the pair however he could in any of their adventures.
When planet Earth was stolen and invaded by the Daleks, he took to the streets and attempted to take one out by shooting it with a paintball in the eyestalk. The Dalek was unharmed by this and attempted to kill him and his daughter Sylvia, but they were saved by Rose Tyler.
Later, when the Doctor had to wipe Donna's memory of him and their adventures in order to save her life, Wilf helped him carry her upstairs and put her to bed.
He told the Doctor that he would help to stop Donna from remembering, but was saddened because she had been "better" when she was with him.
He told the Doctor that every night he would look up and think of him on Donna's behalf. He saluted as the Doctor left in the TARDIS.
When did we last see Wilf?
Wilf reappeared in the Doctor's life in The End of Time Parts 1 and 2, where he was seen to be having visions of the Master returning. He also had multiple mysterious interactions with a woman in white, who showrunner Russell T Davies intended to be the Doctor's mother, although this was left unconfirmed in the episodes.
After she cryptically told him that the Doctor was coming back, Wilf put together a search party of friends to find him, and managed to track him down.
The Doctor, who was fearful having been warned of a prophecy that "he" would "knock four times", said this shouldn't have been possible and confided in Wilf that he believed he was going to die.
The Doctor then warned him once again not to tell Donna anything, but he found himself later looking to Wilf for answers, as the Ood had shown him a vision of Wilf.
Together, they travelled to the house of billionaire Joshua Naismith, who had tasked the Master with restoring a Vinvocci medical device. However, he had done more than that, and reprogrammed it so it would turn every human on Earth into him. Wilf shielded himself from the effects in a control room, so he wasn't affected.
He went on to give the Doctor a gun, telling him to use it against the Master. When the Doctor discovered that the Time Lords were returning, he briefly considered using it against Rassilon, but instead used it to break a link between then and the Time War, sending them, and the Master, back.
The Doctor thought it was over, but Wilf had got stuck in the control room and, in order to get the Doctor's attention, knocked four times.
The Doctor explained that the Master had left a nuclear bolt running and that it had gone into overload, and would soon flood the control room with excess radiation. As it had gone critical, the only way to save Wilf was to take his place and absorb the radiation.
Having saved Wilf, the Doctor dropped him at home, and then went on a farewell tour of his incarnation's friends. One of the final visits he paid was to Donna's wedding, where Wilf and Sylvia greeted him away from Donna.
He gave them a wedding present for Donna, which he had bought in the past with money he got from Geoffrey Noble, Donna's father. It turned out to be a lottery ticket.
Wilf saluted the Doctor once again as he left, with tears in his eyes as he knew that his regeneration was imminent.
In The Star Beast, the first of Doctor Who's 60th anniversary specials, we learnt that Wilf was no longer staying with the Noble family but was living in accommodation provided by Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) of UNIT.
What happens next – and how exactly Wilf is reintroduced to the Doctor – is yet to be disclosed.
Doctor Who's first 60th anniversary special The Star Beast airs at 6:30pm on Saturday 25th November on BBC One and BBC iPlayer. Classic episodes are available on BritBox – you can sign up for a 7-day free trial here.