It’s a move that nobody saw coming.
11 years after he waved goodbye to the series he successfully brought back to life, ex-Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies is returning to steer the TARDIS into a new era, taking over from the outgoing Chris Chibnall.
Davies will take over for Who’s 60th anniversary year in 2023 and “series beyond”, the BBC partnering with His Dark Materials production company Bad Wolf to create the series.
“I’m beyond excited to be back on my favourite show,” Davies said. “But we’re time-travelling too fast, there’s a whole series of Jodie Whittaker’s brilliant Doctor for me to enjoy, with my friend and hero Chris Chibnall at the helm – I’m still a viewer for now.”
“It’s monumentally exciting and fitting that Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary will see one of Britain’s screenwriting diamonds return home,” added Chris Chibnall.
“Russell built the baton that is about to be handed back to him – Doctor Who, the BBC, the screen industry in Wales, and let’s be honest everyone in the whole world, have so many reasons to be Very Excited Indeed about what lies ahead.”
There had been much speculation about who could be in the frame to replace Chibnall after his departure was announced earlier this year alongside leading lady Jodie Whittaker, with the likes of Toby Whithouse, Sally Wainwright and Mark Gatiss mooted as possible replacements.
However, it’s safe to say that former showrunner Davies – who rebooted the series in 2005 and turned a defunct TV show into a world-beating franchise – was not on anybody’s longlist, with Davies moving on to acclaimed original series like A Very English Scandal, Cucumber and It’s A Sin.
Still, it’s worth noting that in recent years the screenwriter has kept a toe in the Doctor Who water, novelising his first episode Rose for Target books, illustrating a book of Doctor Who poems and penning some short stories and sketches during lockdown last year to keep fans’ spirits up.
“It’s funny that, because people think I haven’t been involved with Doctor Who at all,” he told RadioTimes.com in 2017.
“I watch it all the time, and all my friends work on it, and we e-mail each other. I’ve been e-mailing Brian Minchin, who’s the outgoing executive producer, just this morning.
“So it looks like it’s gone from my life to you, it’s there every day for me.”
More recently, Davies’ old fan script for Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor was commissioned for an audio drama by Big Finish, with Davies working on Mind of the Hodiac with Scott Handcock, while acclaimed Channel 4 drama It’s a Sin featured a brief cameo for classic Who monsters the Daleks.
And certainly, his return will be a welcome one for fans. Most Whovians look back on Davies’ tenure as a golden age for Doctor Who when it attracted big ratings and was at the centre of the pop cultural conversation.
In recent years, as viewing figures have dropped and reception to the episodes has become more mixed, many have looked back wistfully on Davies’ days in office, and wondered whether there was a “new” RTD who could swoop in to give the series a new lease of life. As it turns out, that new RTD was… the same RTD.
Fans will surely be fascinated to see whether he can pull his regeneration trick all over again, and create a Doctor Who for the 2020s just as he did for the 2000s. Just as soon as they’ve picked their jaws up from the floor, of course.
“As the 13th Doctor prepares to embark on new and extraordinary adventures, the winds of change are blowing… bringing with them news to delight Doctor Who fans across the globe,” added BBC Drama boss Piers Wenger.
“We are thrilled that Russell is returning to Doctor Who to build on the huge achievements of Chris and Jodie. Thank you to the two of them and the team in Cardiff for all they continue to do for the show and hello Russell, it’s wonderful to have you back.”
Doctor Who returns to BBC One this autumn. For more, check out our dedicated Sci-Fi page or our full TV Guide.