Doctor Who is once more in the loving embrace of Bad Wolf Productions, the only production company to ever send its brand name back in time to paradoxically ensure its own creation. With that, and the shiny new Disney+ revenue flowing in, the word on the street is that Doctor Who is about to try to build its own MCU.
Although as true fans know, really it’s reclaiming the crown after the MCU tried to build its own Whoniverse. Doctor Who did its Endgame with “The Stolen Earth”/“Journey’s End”, while everyone was coming out of cinemas wondering what an “Avengers Initiative” was.
Oh, and now the MCU has Loki, a series about a rogue member of an aristocratic alien race (played by multiple actors) who travels through time and space after his planet was destroyed? We see what you’re doing Disney. We’ve got our eye on you.
But anyway, the point is: We are going to see some Doctor Who spin-offs. And what kind of geeky pop culture website would we be if we didn’t wildly speculate/fantasise about what those spin-offs could be?
First some ground rules to help us narrow down the literally infinite possibilities. Whatever these series turn out to be, they will have less budget than the flagship show, which means probably no combo of “Brand new setting and characters every week” and “A highly paid star who has to appear in almost every scene”. So, we’re probably not going to see a time travelling Master spin-off, a Clara’s Diner Adventures spin-off, or River Song’s Other Secret and More Sexy Diary (That last one is a real shame). For the same reason we’re probably not going to see The Eighth Doctor Adventures – aside from the above reason, we’re pretty sure Russell T Davies is going to want to keep only one Doctor in regular circulation at a time, For The Brand.
And finally, we’re not just going to list old spin-offs we want to come back, former companions we want to give a new show to, or Big Finish series we wish were TV shows (but feel free to do that in the comments), with one exception:
Rose: Defender of the Earth
This show was in development briefly after the heart-crunching ending of “The Army of Ghosts”/”Doomsday”. It would have featured Rose Tyler, teaming up with her alternate universe equivalent of Torchwood to defend a parallel Earth from alien threats. Ultimately, however, Russell T Davies scrapped the whole idea, feeling that it would undermine the tragic ending of Rose and Ten’s story to see her off having fun adventures afterwards.
But now Russell T Davies has decided that he’s totally up for going back to old companion’s tragic endings and tacking a happy ending on (We hope – Don’t hurt us again Russell!), especially if it means giving David Tennant more work (Because who doesn’t love giving David Tennant work?).
Billie Piper has already said that she would be up for a spin-off “like a rat-up-a-drainpipe”, with the small provisos that it is set in London and is only about four episodes, which sounds perfect to us. Also, real respect for any actor to publicly say “I don’t want to work much”. We hear you.
And it seems plausible – it’s not like Doctor Who doesn’t love modern day London as a setting. Speaking of which…
Literally Any Victorian Paranormal Procedural
Torchwood: 1895, Vastra & Jenny Investigate, Jago & Litefoot (recast but with bookending narrations by Christopher Benjamin). We are happy to leave the specifics up to Bad Wolf, but TV is crying out for a steampunky paranormal investigation series set in Victorian Britain. Make it a mix of gothic horror and classic scientific romance, with lashings and lashings of queerness.
There is plenty of room for the show to cut its own path and tell its own stories, while also weaving in Who-lore thanks to all the many, many Doctor Who stories, including classics like Daleks and Cybermen, that have been set in this time period. Maybe they could even investigate Gabriel Chase and figure out what the hell was going on in “Ghost Light”?
If you won’t do it for the high quality television it will doubtlessly produce, then do it for the cosplayers!
Tales from the Black Archives
At its very best, Doctor Who is an anthology show. Each episode could be a Twilight Zone or a Black Mirror or an old horror movie, except the halfway into the second act this weirdo in anachronistic clothing barges in, makes fun of the most important character and then sets about, in their own, haphazard way, changing the ending of the story.
A fun game to play as a fan is to find horror movies and figure out how they might have turned out differently if the TARDIS happened to turn up (Good ones for this: Vivarium, Await Further Instruction, Deep Blue Sea, for starters).
But what happens when the Doctor doesn’t show up? Torchwood attempted to answer this to some extent – but still with a team of secret disaster bisexuals to show up and at least attempt to save the day.
Tales from the Black Archives, named for UNITs secret Raiders of the Lost Ark–style warehouse of captured goodies, would be an anthology like Rod Serling’s The Night Gallery, which each episode focusing on a different alien or unexplained artefact, and the terrible fates that befell the ordinary people who encountered it. SCP with a Doctor Who twist.
The Dalek Invasion of Earth
If I were Russell T Davies, watching telly in 2022, and I saw Andor while seeing what this “Disney+” service was like, I expect I would think two things. The first of those things would “I want one”. The second would be “Hang on a second! Doesn’t this smell a bit… Terry Nation-y?”
Andor’s story of a resistance fought by ordinary, flawed, disproportionately British people, against villains that were more likely compromised collaborators or petty jobsworths than full on cartoon villains, owed a huge debt not only to Blake’s 7, but also The Survivors, and both those shows carried on themes that Terry Nation took for a spin in one of the first great Doctor Who stories, ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’.
Now, Russell T Davies, being Russell T Davies may be already thinking “This sounds a bit prequel-y, and I’m not really a prequel sort of a person. Does it have to be that Dalek Invasion of Earth?” and no, it doesn’t, but it should be. First, the ending of the invasion does not need to be predetermined – there’s been a whole Time War, remember?
Secondly, as Star Wars has aptly shown time and again, knowing the ending doesn’t have to ruin the story. We will still watch films set during World War II while knowing how that turned out, won’t we?
So do it. Give us the story of the rag tag, fleabitten, morally compromised resistance of Earth, 2063. Humans wiped out by plague, hunted by robomen, knowing that even their supposed allies might sell them out for some extra food rations. Terry Nation’s moral pessimism, mixed with the Russell T Davies who wrote “Midnight”, “Children of Earth” and Years and Years, would be a powerful cocktail.
Dark Season but Make It Doctor Who
Most of these suggestions have been for pretty adult-orientated shows, but one of the reasons that Russell T Davies is smarter than us is that he never forgets that Doctor Who’s success is not measured in ratings or downloads or column inches, but in playgrounds. Doctor Who is first and foremost a show for children. You can’t give the Whoniverse its Andor if you don’t also give it its Star Wars: Rebels.
We can be almost certain there will be a show to fill the ecological niche of The Sarah Jane Adventures – fun, zany, not too scary adventures with a team of plucky kids and maybe a mysterious grown-up collaborator.
There are also older fans (naming no names) who have children around pre-school age, too young to expose to even the milder terrors of regular Who, but which have immediately fallen in love with the numerous Dalek figures scattered around the house. Something for them would also be very much appreciated.
But we should also remember that kids’ TV is where Russell T Davies first cut his teeth, with the classic, and terrifying Dark Season, starring the actor who would one day become Kate Winslet (and in fact, she has recently returned to voice her character again in the Russell T Davies-penned continuation of the series for Big Finish).
So as well as doing a big colourful friendly adventure show for kids, maybe we could also throw them some super creepy kiddy horror that will leave them traumatised for 30-odd years?
We’re pretty sure that’s the kind of content Disney+ is crying out for.
ACE in the Hole
After discovering her organisation, A Charitable Earth, has been infiltrated by sinister forces, framing her for a crime she didn’t commit, Dorothy McShane ditches her suit, dons a badge-festooned puffer jacket and goes on the run with a baseball bat and a bag full of explosives.
Okay, two exceptions.
Read our run-down of Doctor Who Series 14 here.