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How About A Retroseries Spin-off?

Guest contributor Shane Spangler looks into the possibilities of a different type of spin-off.

three-doctors-adventure

For a large segment of fans, Mark Gatiss’ An Adventure in Space and Time was anticipated with as much enthusiasm as the “The Day of the Doctor.” The idea of plunging into the backstory and history of Doctor Who, both behind the scenes and on screen, got me thinking about the possibility of a new spin-off series. The BBC could produce a run of new “Classic” Doctor Who episodes, at the same time, possibly launching a whole new genre of television as well: to coin a phrase, a “Retrodrama.”

What on earth is a “Retrodrama”?

Please allow me to explain further. A Doctor Who Retrodrama would be new, “Classic” episodes of Doctor Who, similar to the Big Finish audio series, which fit in between televised adventures. This could include a complete series, or multiple series, starring Paul McGann in the title role, between his first appearance and “The Night of the Doctor”. It could include a Sylvester McCoy series to bridge the gap between 1989 and 1996.

What’s more, a “retrodrama” could even allow for new first, second, and third Doctor episodes, by recasting the leading role, in the same way that David Bradley, Reece Shearsmith, and Mark Gatiss played these parts in An Adventure in Space and Time. Of course, Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee will always be the “definitive” Doctors of their eras, but that needn’t prevent another actor from taking on the role of “First Doctor” with integrity, just as so many actors have played Hamlet, or Sherlock Holmes.

reece-shearsmith-patrick-troughton-adventureWhat would separate the “retrodrama” idea from a regular period piece would be the double task of not only creating a story that fits within the Doctor Who canon, but also recreating the atmosphere and production values of the era within which the story is set. For example, if one wanted to produce a new “Second Doctor” story, it would be shot in black and white, using the correct title sequence (adapted for the face of the new second Doctor actor, of course.) If one were to shoot a new “Third Doctor” story, well, wheel out the Moog Synthesizer for incidental music, and get some stunt men that do tuck rolls while dressed up in rubber monster suits. The goal would be to present a brand-new story that looks as though it was broadcast in, say, 1972. For fun, the production team could even add some “aging” effects to the film; throw in a few wobbly sets, obvious “location film versus studio videotape” effects. The odd “invisible” string holding up a model spaceship could be seen. Some directors might even choose to shoot the studio scenes multi-camera style. None of these gimmicks would overshadow the overall story, however, which would depend upon excellent writing and strong storytelling, as always.

Why do it?

First, because it would make a lot of fans of “classic” Doctor Who extremely happy, because it would breathe new life into the “good old days” of the show. Second, it would also be a huge moneymaker for the BBC, because it could be produced on a shoestring budget, and, like the original series, could be a proving ground for new directors, designers, composers and actors. Doctor Who has become such a big, serious business, the BBC aren’t going to risk letting a new director work on an episode of the new series. However, with a Doctor Who retroseries, the stakes are lower; the pressure is off, giving new talent a chance to shine – and be discovered!

Third, it could be broadcast on BBC 2 – where it would get 2-4 million viewers. That would be an excellent audience figure for that channels.

Fourth, it would be a win-win for both “classic Who” fans, and fans of the post 2005-era series, who have little interest in the classic episodes. Classic series fans would get that nostalgic experience they crave, while those who have little interest in the classic episodes could ignore the retroseries completely. Like the Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood, nothing produced within the context of the retroseries could affect the forward-moving Doctor Who universe, because a retroseries would be “time-locked” within the parameters of the classic era. Viewers could be transported back in time to the 1960s, where Daleks still can’t go up stairs, and you can see the back of the Police Box prop when the door opens. They could laugh at reel-to-reel computers in “futuristic” alien cities, all the while enjoying good acting and storytelling.

Finally, it would help bridge the gap between the new seasons. Dear Elisabeth Sladen has gone to her reward, so the The Sarah Jane Adventures are out. Torchwood is on hiatus. What we need now is more “proper” Doctor Who, and instead of spinning off another series based on some characters that have appeared in a few episodes. Why not spin off a new “retroseries” that is 100% Doctor Who, set within the context and the “look and feel” of the classic era? “The Night of the Doctor” has been received, as was An Adventure in Space and Time, so it seems the time is right for a project like a Doctor Who retrodrama.

Are you listening, Mark Gatiss? You know you want to do this. You are in a unique position to make it happen. Do it for the die-hard Classic Doctor Who fans. Like…you.

Step back in time...

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88 comments
calliarcale
calliarcale

I think it would be a bad idea, actually.  Getting Richard Hurndall in to play the First Doctor in "The Five Doctors" did work out, but . . . well, he wasn't Hartnell, and he did play it differently.  That's inevitable, really.  The genius of Doctor Who is that it allows you to recast the lead without dealing with the inevitable comparisons of who did it better, because actually, although it's the same man, it's also *not* the same man.  It's a different version, so of course it will be a different performance.  But casting someone to play an existing incarnation of the Doctor, for more than just a one-off . . . that takes the essential genius of the format and throws it out the window.  I loved "Adventures in Space and Time", and I think they did a really magnificent job.  But I think it if were drawn out into new classic Who episodes that it would break down.  No, I think this is a series that, on screen at least, should always keep moving forwards, not back.

JoeyDuet
JoeyDuet

As a long time fan of Doctor Who ( both classic and NuWho) I believe this is a wonderful idea and I would welcome it whole heartedly!

CassaraRadio
CassaraRadio

No thanks. Ever forward. Enough lip service is paid to the classics.  Let's not go mucking about in the past any more than we have to. I suspect this interest will die down along with the excitement over the 50th anniversary episode and hoopla. 

StephenHornby
StephenHornby

I love the idea of a retro drama, but rather than get caught up in the continuity hell of slotting stories in, what about showing the early years of the First Doctor.  Worked for Morse.  You could have him on Gallifrrey as a frustrated cleric 'borrowing' a Tardis occasionally and building up to the theft that he would make as an older man that is the start of the series we know.

craig33
craig33

Why doesn't some company animate some of the best Big Finish audios? They would reach a wider audience if they were visual.

shane spangler
shane spangler

Yes, to all those who rightly cry out, "Who must move FORWARD, not backward."  You are quite right!  More than a spinoff, or any kind of alternative series, we need..... a series!  Series 8 in particular.  Bring it on!  (To be fair, though, I did write this thing last autumn, in a fit of nostalgic enthusiasm, after having watched "Night of the Doctor" more times than I care to admit in polite company.)






gwylock1
gwylock1

As much as I like the concept, I feel like gong back to doing the classic series on a shoestring budget would be a mistake. Not only that, but the idea of recasting bothers me. It's one thing on audio when you have someone who does a good enough voice impression, and quite another when you have an obviously different actor onscreen. 

WhoPotterVian
WhoPotterVian

No. Just no. Doctor Who needs to move forward now, not look back. 

TheNameOfTheDoctor
TheNameOfTheDoctor

I think re-making the missing 'Classic Who' episodes in this way would be a better idea :)

NotQuiteATimeLord
NotQuiteATimeLord

I'd like them to re-record lost episodes with new actors playing the main parts, either 'old style' or with updated monsters and effects. Think if they reshot all the episodes of Marco Polo or The Tenth Planet with David Bradley in the main role? They could even shorten them for modern audiences to modern two parters, or keep them as they were. They could use the modern Cybermen or keep the original designs. Endless possibilities.

troughton who?
troughton who?

I'd prefer a classic series spin off, where the actors can record lines, to a live-action show. I find it a bit disrespectful to just keep replacing the actors who have died, so in my opinion they should in particular leave Doctors 1-3 alone.

Xisco Lozdob
Xisco Lozdob

This would be a fantastic idea given that it was rightly produced. But I would love to see a pilot, at least.

Malohkeh
Malohkeh

I'd rather they get busy animating the remaining missing episodes.

Noybusiness
Noybusiness

The exception is a Paul McGann Eighth Doctor series, because we could see what the universe is like when the Time War is revving up in the background of the series and it wouldn't require signing on any Companion actors we're familiar with. Or a special or limited series to finally show how the Seventh Doctor and Ace parted company.

Noybusiness
Noybusiness

To bridge series, I'd rather have Torchwood and a Pasternoster Gang spin-off.



The appeal of having Classic Doctors on the screen in new adventures is limited, especially without their Companions, who really define their eras. Otherwise any previous Doctor can have the same sort of adventures that the current Doctor is having anyway.

Arcadia Boy
Arcadia Boy

"Add aging to the films?

"Obvious location versus studio videotape effects?"

"Throw in a few wobbly sets?"

So that we can laugh at reel-to-reel computers in “futuristic” alien cities?????

Honestly, this is a bit prejudiced against the classic series. Like Colin Baker said, it's ABSOLUTE NONSENSE that people used to watch Classic Who 'cause of the wobbly sets! I like it that you can see there was always good storytelling and acting, but saying this is still going a bit too far!

DawnTime
DawnTime

A very interesting idea. Not heard that one before.

DoctorMayhem
DoctorMayhem

I've often thought the best option would be an animated Doctor Who series to cover all the established doctors.  It wouldn't need to be cannon and would satisfy the desire for content for fans of all ages.  It also offers an incredible opportunity to introduce new fans to old doctors and vice versa.  Maybe the audio stories could have animations created for them?  The possibilities are endless.

MrThorfan64
MrThorfan64

The only other series I would like is one showing the War Doctor. Maybe just audio books John Hurt reads. Perhaps there could be 9, and part-way through the 9th it becomes a 9th Doctor story, as he ties up a loose end from his previous incarnation. 

Creepy_Ghoul
Creepy_Ghoul

It's a brilliant idea. On the casting of the first three Doctors:

-David Bradley should stay as number 1, because you can't get anyone (I think) who bares a closer resemblance to Hartnell, then he does.

-The Second and Third Doctors should be re-cast, as I find that Reece Shearsmith and Mark Gatiss don't quite look like them. The Second Doctor could be Frazer Hines, who is even able to mimic Troughton's voice and it would be a nice tribute to his good friend Patrick Troughton. For the Third Doctor, I can see Sean Pertwee playing him, as a tribute to his father.

Romanadvoratrelundar
Romanadvoratrelundar

After seeing fantastic cast of An Adventure in Space and Time, I thought it would be great if they reenacted the missing episodes. Imagine David Bradley in The Daleks Masterplan or The Massacre! What I would give to see that!


VictorWong1
VictorWong1

You know what a BBC producer will say, to shoot down the "Why do it?" points?
This:


1.  "It would make fans of the classic series happy." Well, no. That's what the release of the Classic Series on DVD / Netflix / FaceTube will do. And far from shouting with joy, they're going to be nitpicking every detail they see, to see if any "anachronistic" stuff pops up -- things like the First Doctor using a sonic screwdriver, etc.


2.  "It could be produced on a shoestring and therefore make money." Excuse me? What sort of creative talent are you going to attract with a thin budget? We're not just talking about writers, actors and directors; we're talking about editors, costumers, makeup and set people -- all of whom have to earn a living wage, putting out a product that looks decent enough to be broadcast on network television. And the standards, in this age of graphics, have gone up further than the days when a "fan project" could be considered acceptable on the Web.


3. "It could get between 2-4 million viewers on BBC2." Based on what kind of market research exactly? In what time slot are you thinking? Because if you think you'll automatically get the viewership of Top Gear or QI, there are these network executives at BBC1, BBC3, Channel 4, ITV, etc., who'd love to have a word with you about their shows.


4. "It would bridge the gap between seasons." But you know what? Network executives LOVE the gap between seasons. It's used to build up anticipation, expectations, generate buzz for the series' eventual return. And people know that it takes time to deliver a quality product -- look at the anticipation that got built up for Sherlock's third season. That can be damaged if a product is released that's tied to the original series but has quality issues.

redhood22
redhood22

i wouldnt mind seeing some of the bigfinish audios animated

DavidFarmbrough
DavidFarmbrough

This sounds like as good an ideas as First Of The Summer Wine.

shane spangler
shane spangler

Thank you for publishing this, DWTV!  I was surprised to see it today - and, in retrospect, I know it will most likely never happen.  But, it was a fun idea to entertain.  At this point, I'm just excited to see the new series!  Thanks for reading, everyone.  



Iris Wildthyme
Iris Wildthyme

Nice idea, but the Big Finish audios more than cover all of my classic needs. In fact, they do the stories better than the Classic era; looking at you, 5th, 6th, and 7th Doctors. 

sontaran17
sontaran17

Mmm not sure about it, but a really well presented idea all the same

Mercy Reborn2
Mercy Reborn2

maybe if it was animated but it might lessen the impact of the new doctor

Oodkind
Oodkind

I'm not sure that would work well, but it would be great to see McCoy back in the role between 1989 and 1996. He looked a lot older in the movie, so obviously quite a lot of time passed between them. Maybe a few McGann episodes.I doubt it would bode well, though..

However, it would be cool to have a special about the whole of the Doctor's life leading up to Series 8 or 9. They could keep Bradley as the first, the same AAISAT guy as two, maybe Pertwee's son as three. They could cover the best of every doctor, tie up some discontinuity, and have a bit more background on the Time War. It would also be a great thing for new fans who haven't watched classic Who, so they could know a bit more about the Doctor's past. 

And if the Rani was included, Moffat could bring her back! Wasn't his excuse that no one knew who she was? The Doctor knew her before Time and the Rani, so he must have had off-screen adventures with her. It's a great opportunity!

Richy Woo
Richy Woo

I would be happy to see some of the Classic episodes produced with high quality animation, seeing another actor playing a classic doctor would feel like adultery.

Xisco Lozdob
Xisco Lozdob

@DoctorMayhem  Maybe something like the Clone Wars and Rebels TV series that Star Wars is making? I would prefer it was canon, though.

Huknar
Huknar

@Iris Wildthyme  I've only been listening to 8's audios so far, but they sure are good. Amazing even. Aside from Invaders from Mars, loved every one of them. :)

doctorwhomultiverse
doctorwhomultiverse

I don't like Moffat's excuse really as it did not stop him from bringing back the silurians or the Great Intelligence. I doubt that anyone who was not a fan of the classic series would have heard of the Intelligence.

Iris Wildthyme
Iris Wildthyme

@Creepy_Ghoul I mean... why? Most of the stories of Big Finish are better suited to audio, either because A) they were designed that way or B) because they use the advantage of not having sets to create enormous, dynamic settings. And I hate to be a realist here, but any situation where any of these suggestions would occur seems really economically inviable for all parties involved. And lastly, you don't need visuals to make a story good, in my opinion.


Notsosmartguy approves of female thor
Notsosmartguy approves of female thor

Give him a chance geez. His tenure as show runner isn't even over yet he might bring her in later if not the next show runner might etc. etc.