Who Is Bernard Cribbins? Doctor Who 2023's Wilfred Explained

By Sam Hargrave Posted:
Bernard Cribbins Doctor Who Wilfred Explained

Late actor Bernard Cribbins made his Doctor Who comeback as the iconic Wilfred Mott in Special 2, "Wild Blue Yonder."

Returning showrunner Russell T. Davis has gone all-in with bringing back old favorites for the 60th anniversary specials, including David Tennant's Doctor, Catherine Tate's Donna, and the whole Noble family.

Doctor Who's Wilfred Mott Explained

Having finally made their way back from the edge of the universe, the final moments of Special 2, "Wild Blue Yonder," saw the Doctor and Donna return to the London alleyway from where they departed, landing "a day or two out" from when they left.

It was here the Doctor and Donna were met by Bernard Cribbins' wheelchair-bound Wilfred Mott, who featured in David Tennant and Catherine Tate's first era leading Doctor Who as a recurring character.

Doctor Who Bernard Cribbins Wilfred Mott Wild Blue Yonder
Doctor Who

Beyond obviously being thrilled to finally reunite with the Doctor and Donna, Wilfred revealed how he had kept faith the whole time the Time Lord hero would "come back and save [them]" as everyone has been "going mad," with chaos unfolding, explosions detonating, and even a plane falling from the sky.

Doctor Who Wild Blue Yonder Ending
Doctor Who

World War II veteran Wilfred is the grandfather of Donna whom the Doctor actually met several years before he met Donna on Christmas Eve 2008, continuing to man his newspaper stand all the way through an alien disaster.

Doctor Who Bernard Cribbins Wilfred Mott Voyage of the Damned
Doctor Who

Wilfred Mott last appeared on Doctor Who in the New Year's Day 2010 special, "The End of Time Part 2," as he bid farewell to the Doctor at Donna's wedding.

Doctor Who Bernard Cribbins Wilfred Mott End of Time Part 2
Doctor Who

He was referenced several times during 2023 Special 1, "The Star Beast," as Donna revealed to the Doctor he had been living in a care home in London - paid for by the alien-hunting military group U.N.I.T. and its leader Kate Stewart.

The credits rolled on "Wild Blue Yonder" with a tribute to Bernard Cribbins, who tragically passed away on July 27, 2022 at age 93, just months after he was spotted filming his final Doctor Who scenes in May.

Doctor Who Bernard Cribbins Wilfred Mott Wild Blue Yonder Tribute
Doctor Who

Cribbins' first acting credit role in 1956's The Black Tulip, and his 2023 appearance in Doctor Who now concludes a 67-year career.

Doctor Who Showrunner Breaks Silence on Wilfred's Final Role

After "Wild Blue Yonder" finished airing on BBC One in the UK & Ireland, Doctor Who showrunner Russell T. Davis posted on Instagram to commemorate the return of Bernard Cribbins' Wilfred Mott, one last time.

Davis, unfortunately, revealed the scene featured in Special 2 was "the only scene Bernard was able to film" before his death, seemingly confirming he will not feature in next week's "The Giggle:"

"Farewell, old soldier. That’s goodnight and goodbye to our beloved Bernard. Wilf is mentioned in dispatches next week, all safe and sound, don’t worry, but that’s the only scene Bernard was able to film."

The showrunner noted how he "never lost touch" with Cribbins over the years since they last worked together on Doctor Who in 2009, giving details on the process behind bringing him back for the 60th anniversary:

"We had a wonderful time! We’d never lost touch, in all these years, so I phoned him up and asked him to come back. He sniffed and said, ‘Let me see the script.’ We had a wonderful readthrough with 120 people at which he was adored by one and all. A lovely dinner in Cardiff where he regaled us with tales galore, twinkling as ever. Then the shoot in Camden - you can see in Unleashed and read in next week’s DWM how much he enjoyed that."

He concluded by confirming the team had "a little more written" for Cribbins and Wilf "but it wasn't meant to be" due to his passing:

"And then… we had a little more written, but it wasn’t to be; at 93 years old, the old soldier had given us his best, and stepped away. Night, Bernard, and thank you. I love you."

So, despite how the ending appears to tease more of the 14th Doctor, Donna, and Wilfred in "The Giggle," it appears his story will now have to be concluded exclusively through dialogue due to Cribbins' untimely passing.

Doctor Who's first two 60th anniversary specials are streaming now on Disney+ in most territories and exclusively on BBC iPlayer in the U.K. & Ireland.

- About The Author: Sam Hargrave
Sam Hargrave is the Associate Editor at The Direct. He joined the team as a gaming writer in 2020 before later expanding into writing for all areas of The Direct and taking on further responsibilities such as editorial tasks and image creation.