How Doctor Who fans created the story of Time Lord Victorious – without even realising it
Surveys and online focus groups were used to create the multi-platform sci-fi story, in a fairly unique process.
Time Lord Victorious has made a big splash since it was announced, with the multi-platform Doctor Who spin-off – which tells a sprawling, interlinked story through loosely connected audio dramas, action figures, comics, books and more – already intriguing fans around the globe.
But what those fans might not know is that they may have helped create the content they’re excited about – because Time Lord Victorious has an unusual origin story.
While the individual stories, dramas and experiences announced for the project were created by independent creative teams, the overarching idea – three past Doctors unite for this sort of tale with particular monsters and settings – was drawn from surveys conducted by BBC Studios, who had tried to find out the sort of story fans would be interested in.
“One of the quite surprising and lovely things is that this is actually led by the fans,” Time Lord Victorious producer and creator James Goss told RadioTimes.com.
"There is a thing BBC Studios run called the Audience Panel - and what Studios have been doing is sneaking a few questions for I think a couple of years into the audience panel. They’d actually used the fans as a way of digitally-focus-grouping the idea of what they wanted to do.”
At this point, BBC Studios – and specifically Compliance Manager Cameron McEwan – got Goss involved, calling him in for a meeting where they revealed the story points, characters and monsters that Whovians were apparently the most interested in.
“When I was first called into a meeting, I was sat down by Cameron, and he'd worked through this and they'd actually used the fans as a way of digitally focus-grouping the idea of what they wanted to do,” Goss explained.
“So he was able to say, if we are going to bring all our licensees together to tell a very important story, here are the things that would really resonate with fans, here are the Doctors that would really resonate with fans. Here are some of the monsters and things we could try.”
The feedback wasn’t as “granular” as influencing major story points, Goss went on to explain – rather, it just pointed the creative team in the direction of more general aesthetics and beats fans were keen to see more of. In other words, while the idea of how you’d write a Paul McGann audio drama with Daleks came from the people involved in the production, the release’s component parts – more Paul McGann, more Daleks – were prompted by fans.
“It's more just an idea that it would be great to do something that brings the Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Doctors together, it'd be great to do something with Daleks in because fans really like Daleks, and trying to find an innovative way of using the Daleks, and it would be nice to do something that sort of explores Doctor Who history, but without becoming too exclusive,” Goss explained.
“What's quite nice is effectively being presented with a menu and being told this is what the fans are interested in. So rather than starting and going 'oh, I'd quite like to come up with an idea and maybe it can be this or it can be that...' it's actually trying to meet and delight fan expectations. Which is quite delightful.
“Instead of starting from scratch, being able to go 'oh well, if we can do this and do that, the reaction will be good'. And also it is about producing something that really appeals to the fans. It's nice to know that we're heading in a direction they already want us to be going in.”
In other words, if you’ve ever taken one of BBC Studios’ surveys you might find something to enjoy in Time Lord Victorious – assuming, of course, that you can afford it. One of the biggest criticisms of the project has been the expense of owning the entire thing, with the various book, comic, merchandise and audio releases putting a few Whovians off getting too involved.
However, according to Goss fans shouldn’t be too worried about having to pick up absolutely every scrap of Time Lord Victorious content.
“Absolutely you can enjoy as much of it as you want. It has been designed so that you can just pick up a comic or a book, and you can enjoy that book - it has a beginning, a middle and an end,” he said.
“But hopefully, if we've done our job correctly, you'll get to the end and go 'oh, I want to find out more about this.'
“It's like a patchwork quilt - the idea is that you can explore any chunk of the quilt and go 'this is really cool!' – maybe if you really like the Titan Dalek comic, you might go 'oh there are some linked Big Finish audio dramas featuring these same Daleks - I'll go off and listen to them.'
“You might get to a point with them and go 'but where are they going, why are they trying to go to the Dark Times?', so you might then pick up a BBC Book that continues it. But that doesn't mean you should get to the end and feel like you've been cheated.”
And with that in mind, Goss revealed that some parts of Time Lord Victorious will actually be free – though he wouldn’t be drawn on exactly what they were just yet.
“One of the things we're aware of is that this exists because it's a massive multi-platform licensee-driven project,” he told us. “But at the same time there are some fans who are going to be out there going 'I don't have all of this money.'
“And one of the great things about working with BBC Studios has been that they're very keen that not all content is paid for. And there is some stuff that is going to be happening... it hasn't been announced yet, but it's going to be really nice.”
In other words, however invested a fan is in Time Lord Victorious, they’ll be getting something back. Assuming, of course, that we don’t all get too drawn in and just pick up the majority of the releases anyway…