Doctor Who will embark on a bold new era of storytelling next year, with a trilogy of special episodes to mark the show's 60th anniversary being followed by a new season with a new Doctor and a new companion.
Russell T Davies is returning as showrunner, having previously revived the series to great acclaim in 2005, with Sex Education star Ncuti Gatwa playing the Doctor and Coronation Street's Millie Gibson cast as Ruby Sunday.
"If you thought the appearance of David Tennant was a shock, we’ve got plenty more surprises on the way!" Davies teased last month. "The path to Ncuti’s Fifteenth Doctor is laden with mystery, horror, robots, puppets, danger and fun! And how is it connected to the return of the wonderful Donna Noble?
"How, what, why? We’re giving you a year to speculate, and then all hell lets loose!”
Easily the most popular demand from fans who responded to our social media post was the return of "pure" historical episodes – if you're not familiar with the lingo, that's stories set in Earth's past which feature no "alien" elements other than the Doctor, their companion(s) and the TARDIS.
"Pure historicals, please," said @ollyjames94. "The return of the pure historical," echoed @GerMurphy01. "One a season. No aliens in the episode. Just The Doctor and companion visiting a historic moment or figure and getting caught up in events. It would be great."
"Please bring back historical episodes without any aliens or monsters. even if it's just one a series – it'd do so much for world building and story variety," agreed @MistressOfNull.
There were also a number of requests to explore the history of countries outside of the United Kingdom, including Egypt and Germany.
Pure historicals were a key part of Doctor Who's format in the show's early years, serving as a regular alternative to outer space escapades, but had been mostly phased out by the mid-1960s. Could they see a return?
- Get the new Doctor Who action figure regeneration set featuring the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Doctors for just £29.99
Gallifrey falls no more (again!)
Oh, Gallifrey – the Time Lords' home planet has regenerated after 'certain death' almost as many times as the Doctor.
It was actually Russell T Davies who did away with it first (if you don't count spin-off fiction, which – for the purposes of our sanity – we won't here), revealing in the revived show's second episode that the planet had been obliterated. Its destruction came, we later discovered, at the climax of an almighty war between the Time Lords and the Daleks, with the Doctor himself pressing the self-destruct button.
Gallifrey was resurrected years later by Steven Moffat, who revealed that the planet and its inhabitants had in fact not been destroyed, but rather were left frozen in time in a pocket dimension, before being moved to "the end of the universe give or take a star system" for its own protection. (Still following?)
More like this
Moffat's successor as lead writer on Doctor Who, Chris Chibnall, then opted to lay the planet to waste again – but will Davies revive it for a second time in the show's history? Fans would love to see it.
"Gallifrey revived! Honestly, there was no need to destroy it," argued @IAmDanielFord. "I want Gallifrey back," agreed @gerber_babies. "There is so much to explore, and especially with the budget tripling they’ll have the money to build Time Lord buildings, costumes, and everything else."
One fan, going by @HammanStef, even argued that Gallifrey "needs to have some sort of on-going presence in the show, as opposed to being in the background as it always is".
Two-parters (at least!)
The return of stories lasting more than a single episode was another popular demand. "Multi-episode stories with cliffhanger endings, please!" said @iwitteronandon. "More two parters – longer, slower stories," echoed @conbrunstrom.
"Two parters – please," begged Q_Review. "They happen so rarely now and one-part stories just have such poor pacing."
Doctor Who did, of course, experiment with more serialised storytelling last year with the six-part epic Flux – an approach partly adopted as a way of dealing with COVID-19 restrictions on filming, but which earned a largely positive response from fans and critics.
Other than that, we also had a pair of two-parters bookending season 12 in 2020. Jodie Whittaker's first season in 2018 was composed entirely of standalone episodes, though in 2017 the late Peter Capaldi era featured both a two-parter to round off season 10 and the "Monk trilogy" encompassing Extremis, The Pyramid at the End of the World and The Lie of the Land.
Spin-offs (or the "MC-Who")
Though he's yet to address the matter directly since taking back the showrunner mantle, fans are widely assuming that Russell T Davies is set to expand the Whoniverse with a series of spin-offs, building out a shared universe the likes of which is de rigueur in the age of the MCU.
Yes, we know, RTD actually got there before Marvel, building out a family of shows by adding Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures to the fold alongside the revived Doctor Who, but in a 2021 interview, he himself acknowledged that Disney had taken the concept to the next level.
"You look at those Disney announcements, of all those new Star Wars and Marvel shows, you think, we should be sitting here announcing The Nyssa Adventures or The Return of Donna Noble, and you should have the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors together in a 10-part series," he suggested.
This coupled with the fact that Disney Plus will now be Doctor Who's home outside out of the UK has fans convinced that the "MCU-Who" is only a matter of time, with a spin-off featuring Paul McGann's short-lived (at least on television) Eighth Doctor high up on most wish lists.
@andybfaedundee called for a "Doctor Who Marvel-style universe" with, amongst other things, new shows featuring the Eighth Doctor and UNIT, while @WhoPotterVian went even further. "I want Doctor Who to be the TV equivalent of the MCU, tons of spin-offs that all interconnect, with RTD as the Kevin Feige figure.
"Let's have RTD at D23 next year announcing Doctor Who Televisual Universe Phase One."
Old friends (and foes)
It seems The Power of the Doctor's "companion support group" has sparked something in fans, who are calling for encore appearances from Sophie Aldred as Ace, Janet Fielding as Tegan, Katy Manning as Jo and Bonnie Langford as Mel, plus the returns of Louise Jameson and Wendy Padbury as classic companions Leela and Zoe (respectively).
There were also shout-outs for the likes of Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman), UNIT's Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) – notably MIA despite a recent comeback for Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) – and The Sarah Jane Adventures' Rani (Anjli Mohindra) and Clyde (Daniel Anthony).
There were also calls for certain old monsters to reappear – though probably not the ones you're expecting. (If anything, some were asking for a moratorium on the Daleks.)
Instead, more niche threats like the Fendahl from 1977's Image of the Fendahl, the Silence, the Axons from 1971's The Claws of Axos, and the Voord(s) from 1964's The Keys of Marinus were among those named as desired returnees. There were also, of course, multiple requests for the return of Time Lord villainess The Rani, arguably the most iconic Doctor Who villain yet to be touched by the modern series – especially if those Celestial Toymaker rumours are true...
Read more about Doctor Who:
- Doctor Who fans thrilled as Ncuti Gatwa and Peter Capaldi come face to face
- Ncuti Gatwa quizzes Millie Gibson after joining Doctor Who in new video
- Who is Millie Gibson? Meet new Doctor Who star and Corrie favourite
- Coronation Street stars celebrate Millie Gibson's Doctor Who casting