Before Russell T Davies was announced as the returning showrunner of Doctor Who, he floated the idea of a vast ecosystem of small screen spin-offs that would, in an ideal world, orbit the mothership show.


"We should be sitting here announcing The Nyssa Adventures or The Return of Donna Noble," he told Paul Kirkley (who writes for Doctor Who Magazine and "The whole science fiction world is so creative and so money-making right now, I think your wildest dreams can come true."

Since then, we’ve had no official news on spin-offs, but if recent tabloid scuttlebutt is to be believed, the folks at Bad Wolf have a number of offshoots in the planning stages, including shows centring on some of Doctor Who's most iconic baddies.

“Fans can expect to see Sontarans, Weeping Angels and Sea Devils in separate series showing what they get up to when the Doctor isn’t there to stop them, along with Daleks and Cybermen," a source told The Mirror.

If true, this is a pretty radical plan. Every Doctor Who spin-off before now – on TV at least – has focused on the good guys of the Whoniverse, whether it’s K-9 (K-9 & Company), Sarah-Jane Smith (The Sarah-Jane Adventures), Captain Jack Harkness (Torchwood) or, er, the pupils of Coal Hill School (Class).

The Daleks in the Doctor Who Centenary special
The Daleks. BBC Studios / James Pardon

Yet over at Big Finish – the audio company who, since 1999, has been producing officially licensed Doctor Who stories – villain-centric ranges have been a mainstay of its output for years.

Dalek Empire was one of the company’s first offshoots, yet crucially it wasn’t told from the Daleks’ point of view, instead zeroing in on a fresh set of protagonists. Ditto its Cyberman series of plays. Even though their TV voice, Nicholas Briggs, was in charge of these ranges, he was savvy enough to know that an hour of Daleks or Cybermen talking among themselves is likely to send even the most devoted fan crazy.

“Showing what they get up to when the Doctor isn’t there” is the slightly concerning detail. These spin-offs don’t necessarily need the Doctor to pivot round, but they do need protagonists, a person or persons that we can identify and empathise with, that the monsters can pit themselves against.

Is there really potential in a Sea Devils show showing us what they do when they’re just hanging out with each other, shooting the breeze? And if we’re getting a Weeping Angels series that’s going to show us what they do when no one’s watching (darting about all over the place, presumably), isn’t that going to tarnish some of their carefully cultivated mystery?

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Back in the 1960s, Dalek creator Terry Nation attempted to launch a series based around his fascistic pepperpots in the US. He didn’t get far. But the fact that, even with their titanic popularity and Nation’s not inconsiderable wealth, we’ve never had a small-screen Dalek spin-off tells you something about their limitations as characters.

The short-lived Daleks! web series from 2020 arguably only worked because of its relative brevity (it consisted of just five 13-15 minute episodes).

The trouble with a series focused tightly on those monsters named by The Mirror is that any show would be blighted by an aural and visual sameness. A bunch of Daleks or Cybermen talking monotonously amongst themselves, each character indistinguishable from the next, does not good telly make.

That’s presumably why Star Trek has never considered a Borg or Klingon-focused series and why Disney isn’t planning any Star Wars shows based around the Hutts. None of these potential WhoCU series necessarily need the Doctor, but they do require some kind of human character for us to lock onto, however speciesist that sounds.

Doctor Who - Cybus Cybermen
Doctor Who's Cybermen. BBC

Of course, this is all wild speculation. The newspapers have got it wrong before, and may well have done so again. For all we know, The Nyssa Adventures may be in its final stages of planning, and who knows, maybe she’ll be fighting Sea Devils and Weeping Angels as part of it.

And if RTD and Bad Wolf really are planning an avalanche of new shows and spin-offs, maybe one featuring the Daleks and the Sontarans really are a small part of it. But, according to social media, villain-centric spin-offs are not what fans want.

When asked what spin-off fans would most want to see, the overwhelming response was calls for a return for Paul McGann's Eighth Doctor.

Whether it’s The Polly Adventures, The UNIT Files or Turlough & Co, it’s the good guys the fandom wants to see more of, not the private life of General Staal or a Dalek version of The West Wing.

But wait and see, because if anyone can make a Sea Devils or Weeping Angels series work, however implausibly, it’s Russell T Davies.

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