All of time, all of space, at your fingertips. That’s the promise of the TARDIS. And despite a strong predilection for London, Earth, in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the Doctor has certainly gotten about a bit.
But the thing about the universe is, there’s a lot of it, and there are still key historical events, massive epochs of history and places in the universe that the Doctor has never been to on screen.
Some of these have made appearances in the books, comics, of Big Finish audios, but as ‘The Haunting of Villa Diodati‘ shows, Doctor Who isn’t afraid of double dipping when the destination is tempting enough.
The Sinking of the Titanic
A big obvious one that the show has flirted with before with ‘Voyage of the Damned‘, and which the Ninth Doctor hinted at being present at in ‘The End of the World‘. The event was even portrayed in the Virgin Adventures novel ‘The Left-Handed Hummingbird’, while the Sixth Doctor Big Finish Audio, ‘The Wreck of the Titan’, had the Doctor aboard the Titanic’s fictional namesake.
But the actual sinking of the actual Titanic itself seems ripe for a TV episode. Big visuals, a race against time, some of those lovely fixed points that the Doctor loves running into so much. It’s an episode that’s begging to be made.
The Sontaran-Rutan War
We’ve met the Sontarans, angry orange potatoes that love shooting at things. We’ve met the Rutans in the classic story ‘The Horror of Fang Rock’- they’re glowing green blob things. We know the two species are locked in bitter, centuries-long conflict, but we’ve never actually seen what that war would look like.
What we do know is that the Sontarans are clones, while the Rutans are shapeshifters, and so there’s room for all kinds of The Thing-style shenanigans if a Rutan can get behind enemy lines.
The Dancing Plague of 1518
Despite being back on the air for 16 years, the new series has yet to attempt that staple of modern television, the musical episode. But in Strasbourg, from July to September 1518, there is the perfect Historical story to allow for just that. Somewhere between 50 and 400 people took to dancing for days, with some rumoured to dance themselves to death.
This is just begging for the Doctor to turn up and attempt to foil a musical invasion.
This is a bit of a weird one, as Doctor Who has portrayed humans encountering aliens pretty much constantly since the dawn of pre-history.
But we’ve never actually seen the moment when aliens went from things that only appeared in behind-the-scenes conspiracies and rapidly forgotten invasions, to a widely acknowledged reality. When does that happen? Do aliens visit us and finally not attempt to kill us? Do we finally send a mission out to somebody else’s planet?
It’s a great big gaping gap in Doctor Who’s future history and it’s dying for someone to come and colour in the gap.
Ea-nasir’s Copper Shop
A celebrity historical not quite like the ones we’ve seen before, Ea-nasir is famous for one thing. He was a terrible copper salesman. The only reason we know he exists is because of the tablets archaeologists found around his shop saying how dreadful he was. The city of Ur in 1750 BC is already a far under-utilised time traveller destination, so have the Doctor show up and face an evil alien threat that can only be defeated with some high-quality copper. It writes itself!
The Silurian Epoch
We’ve seen the Silurians a few times in the old and new series of the show, usually busting out of their underground bunkers and running into trouble with those gosh-darned apes. But what did the peak of their civilization look like?
Now, even the most profoundly dedicated Doctor Who fan might be raising their eyebrows at this as surely the idea of an advanced technological civilization existing in the age of the dinosaurs is ridiculous?
But actually, if you look into the science of it (and this study does), and appreciate just how incredibly long ago the age of the dinosaurs was, it starts to look frighteningly plausible that an entire civilization could rise, fall and disintegrate without trace in that time.
Oh, and give the dinosaurs feathers. Just saying.
Okay this is actually a pretty vague answer, since Cleopatra is closer in history to the iPhone than she is to the construction of the Great Pyramids, so that’s a lot of time to set an adventure in. It’s also a time period we’ve seen briefly, as the Doctor popped in to pick up Queen Nefertiti during ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship‘. We’ve also seen mummies before- whether on the Space Orient Express or from Mars, but never in their natural habitat. Why is that? Ancient Egypt is a great setting, providing you avoid all the more popular historical inaccuracies like the pyramids being built by slaves, or looking like ruins, or everyone being white.
And in terms of monsters, you’ve not just got mummies to draw from – you’ve also got a pantheon of Gods that both look like cool monsters and can be convincingly portrayed by a good mask.
Given that it has been established over and over again that the planet Earth is the Doctor’s favourite place in the universe, you’d think she’d be happy to have a spare. Yes, it all ends badly with the increasingly inaccurately named story, ‘Tenth Planet‘, and we’ve seen (heard) a bit of the path that led there with the classic audio, ‘Spare Parts’, but there’s a whole parallel history that takes place before that. Show us the Mondassian Roman Empire! The Second World War on a Second World! Use it as a chance to tell some really nuts alternate history stories with the spectre of the Cybermen lurking in the background.
We know this happened in 2211 because the Doctor namechecked it in ‘It Takes You Away‘. So I think it’s only fair that the series now devote an entire two-parter to the Doctor fighting sheep.
The Voyage of the HMS Beagle
Surprisingly, Charles Darwin has only appeared in person in one story, the Big Finish Audio, ‘Bloodtide’. Perhaps there’s a reason the TV show hasn’t snapped him up – the period of his life that would make the best Who story, the voyage of the HMS Beagle, takes place years before he adopted his iconic “massive white beard” look, and the TV show tends to like their historical figures to look like they do in the pictures.
But The Pirates! In An Adventure with Scientists has already shown that you can get away with show Darwin just having a set of massive side burns, and this is an on-screen meeting we need to see.
Bethlehem 25th of December, 1 AD
Because I dare you. That’s why.
Read about the classic Doctor Who monsters we can expect to see return in Series 13 here.