“We’ve Got to Visit Them”: A Doctor Who/Star Trek Crossover Would Be Unforgettable TV

That "Space Babies" nod is just the latest in Russell T Davies' campaign to get these two sci-fi shows together

Ncuti Gatwa as the Doctor in Doctor Who and Paul Wesley as Captain Kirk in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
Photo: James Pardon/Bad Wolf/BBC Studios/Kharen Hill/Paramount+

“We’ve got to visit them one day!”

It is, among everything else happening in “Space Babies“, a pretty throwaway line. Ruby Sunday notices the TARDIS has landed indoors, and says “Is that like a matter transporter, like in Star Trek?” And the Doctor answers, “We’ve got to visit them one day!”

Blowing that one line up into an entire article may seem excessive (although it’s not like the
pipeline from “throwaway gag” to “entire episode” is a long one – the premise of “Mummy on
the Orient Express
” started out as a comedy phone call the Eleventh Doctor had at the end
of Season Five’s finale, “The Big Bang”).

But the thing is, when Russell T Davies announced he’d be getting back on his throne as the King of Doctor Who, he had lots of new ideas, but also, some that he never got around to. We already know that episode five of this series is based on an idea that was too expensive to film last time.

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And one of the Great White Whales of Davies’s last tenure, ever since the Eccleston days, was a Doctor Who/Star Trek crossover episode.

Russell T Davies Wants the Doctor on the Enterprise

In his memoir/stack of emails that got turned into a book, The Writer’s Tale, written with Benjamin Cook, Davies writes “I would so love to see the Doctor on board the Starship Enterprise, puncturing all that Starfleet pomposity with his sheer Doctor-ness.”

He goes on to say that “When we began in 2004, Star Trek: Enterprise was still on air, and I told [producer] Julie [Gardner], in all seriousness, that I wanted to do a Doctor Who/Star Trek crossover. It was on our list of plans, until Star Trek: Enterprise was axed.”

It was an idea that Davies loved so much he went back to it for the Easter special that would eventually become Planet of the Dead, in an episode that would have potentially seen the TARDIS land on a starship Endeavour, with crinkly forehead aliens and all the Trek tropes. But eventually Davies discarded the idea as too much like parody – if you can’t land on the real, actual Enterprise, what’s the point?

But sadly, for Davies’ tenure, there was no real, actual Star Trek anymore. Let’s be honest, even Star Trek: Enterprise wasn’t proper Trek, with its faintly industrial looking, submarine-esque sets and its NASA jumpsuit-inspired costumes, the prequel never really managed to be the iconic Trek show of our imaginations.

But now Davies is back, and so is Star Trek, and not just any Star Trek.

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Strange New Worlds

If (and that is a massive “if”) that TARDIS were going to land on a Federation starship, there’s no prizes for guessing which one it would be. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is begging for the chance.

Strange New Worlds is an episodic show whose tone is a mix of drama, comedy, and high science fiction concepts that would gel well with new Doctor Who, and has already demonstrated that it is not above a little bit of crossover horseplay with last season’s Lower Decks overlap.

Strange New Worlds also offers the Enterprise. With all due respect to all other Trek iterations, if  you are bringing the actual TARDIS into the world of Trek, you don’t want the Doctor getting to know Saru, or Boimler, or even having a drink in Quark’s Bar, as great as any of those things would be to see. You want the Doctor on the actual Enterprise 1701 no-bloody-A,-B,-C-or-D. You want him meeting Spock, and Uhura, and more-often-than-seems-statistically-likely Kirk. And that is what Strange New Worlds has to offer.

So, before we all run off and start writing our fan fiction of what that episode might be, the question is “Could it actually happen?”

Davies is the first to admit such a crossover, between multiple huge media franchises and everybody’s lawyers and writing teams, would be a logistical nightmare. Talking about it to The Times in 2009, he said “Can you imagine what their script department would have wanted, and what I would have wanted? It would have been the biggest battle.”

And that was before Doctor Who fell under the Disney umbrella.

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Why Not Star Wars?

In fact, a Star Wars crossover might be a good deal more plausible under the circumstances (the Star Wars alphabet “Aurebesh” has already appeared in alien graffiti in the Who episode “Face the Raven” and the current TARDIS art team reportedly hid an R2D2 Easter Egg in the design), but while that might seem an easier fit, it is nowhere near as satisfying.

Despite Davies’s recent flirtations with the fantasy genre, Trek and Who are pure sci-fi at heart, with values of exploration, empathy and a willingness to shift your own perspective that doesn’t sit so well with Star Wars’ epic battles of good and evil.

The fact that Davies is still saying in interviews that “I love that show… I wish we could [cross over with Trek.] I’m a huge fan of the new franchise” is, counter-intuitively, probably a sign that there are no secret talks going on behind closed doors.

But it has been managed before – just not on telly

The Comic Book Crossover: Assimilation

As many people have no-doubt skipped reading the article to write in the comments already, there has already been a Doctor Who/Star Trek crossover, the IDW comic mini-series “Assimilation2”. It’s a good demonstration of the potential rewards and pitfalls of a TARDIS/Enterprise team-up.

This saw the TARDIS team of Eleven, Amy and Rory land on the Enterprise 1701-D, getting together with Picard and co to take on a Cyberman/Borg super-army. It had some good fan servicey bits in, and some neat ideas (the TARDIS landing in a historical holodeck program and not realising they were in the future was nice), but it also showed the challenges of doing this well.

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First and foremost – Doctor Who and Star Trek both span half a century of various media, with entire wikis full of lore. For instance, if the Star Trek: Enterprise crossover had taken place, the Doctor might have wondered why Starfleet wasn’t busy trying to repel the Dalek invasion of Earth.

And it would have to do this while also dealing with the fact that Doctor Who has mentioned Star Trek, the television show, quite a few times in continuity. The comic mini-series spends a lot of time dealing with this, concocting an elaborate plot about the merging of universes, but it’s all just a little bit unwieldy for 45 minutes of family entertainment.

But even beyond those logistics, which can be pretty efficiently handwaved away, the big issue with the comic series was that the Doctor and the Enterprise crew quickly become just too damn chummy.

Natural Enemies: The Doctor vs Starfleet

Back in The Writer’s Tale, Davies acknowledges that “In an official crossover, the Doctor would have had to learn that Starfleet is wonderful, but that’s a small price to pay.”

But the big issue that any crossover would have to contend with (and also, frankly, the big reason for doing the crossover in the first place) is that the Doctor and Starfleet are natural enemies.

You want to see how Starfleet would handle the Doctor? There’s plenty of Trek episodes to give you a clue. We don’t just mean the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “A Matter of Time” sees a time-travelling historian turn up on the Enterprise and generate no end of trouble, or the Enterprise episode, “Future Tense” that sees it find a time machine that’s bigger on the inside.

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The character that most resembles the Doctor in Star Trek is Q – a (sometimes) exiled member of a stuffy order of beings that transcend space and time who turns up in Star Trek at random times to flirt with the Captain and generally cause trouble.

Meanwhile, if you want to see what Starfleet looks like through a Doctor Who lens, one need only look at the legions of generic space explorers who turn down the Doctor’s help with a curt “Thank you, funnily-dressed weirdo, but as a highly trained team of professionals, I think we can handle this ourselves” before they all get horribly murdered or eaten.

As we’ve already said, the fundamental values of Trek and Who are the same. Exploration, empathy, communication before combat, a desire to learn and enjoy the wonder of the universe. But at its very heart, Star Trek has always been a workplace drama, about professionals who are doing a job. Just as intrinsically, the Doctor is a tourist on a gap year that never ends.

Starfleet’s Prime Directive, for better or worse, is to never interfere. The Doctor’s prime directive is to never interfere unless he feels like it (which is all the time).

And that’s why it would be good! Watching the Strange New Worlds Enterprise crew scanning stuff with their tricorders while the Doctor wanders around licking things and pushing random buttons, and seeing Pike agonise about the Prime Directive while the Doctor just casually overturns a system of government he dislikes, sounds like real fun.

Moreover, Strange New Worlds and the current incarnation of Who are both franchises operating not only at their peak, but also almost in their most platonic forms. Seeing that come together would make an unforgettable hour of TV.

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Doctor Who airs on BBC One, iPlayer and Disney+. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds airs on Paramount+.