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How Likely is an Eighth Doctor Spin-off?

Guest contributor Henry de Ferrars shares some views on the possibility of Paul McGann spin-off.

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After Paul McGann recently reprised his role as the Eighth Doctor, the comments on this site have been packed with demands for the Eighth Doctor to be given even more screen time – whether that be another appearance in an episode or even a spin-off series just for him. This would be the first time a Doctor has had his own personal series alongside the main run of Doctor Who, and it would be a major event for the show if it was to happen. However, is it likely to happen? I’m going to look at how possible this spin-off could be, by drawing points from both the fictional side of things, and the non-fictional side.

The Fictional Argument

Possibly the first thing that springs to the mind of a quizzical fan is, in terms of stories, how would this spin-off work? When would it be set throughout the Eighth Doctor’s lifetime? Would the stories be set in a series-wide arc similar to Torchwood’s Children of Earth and Miracle Day, or would it be similar to the way the series are at the moment?

In my opinion, a series-wide arc seems far more likely. I saw someone suggest that the Eighth Doctor could be in exile in Victorian London and meet the Paternoster Gang, or he could be fighting an alien force on earth over the space of a few episodes. It would work perfectly – there would be no need to worry about interfering with canon set already in the series since the revival, as the arc could operate perfectly well without the Doctor having to meet the Daleks or another enemy.

If it was to be a five episode series similar to Children of Earth, it would be left open to it being a single outing for the Eighth Doctor. Some will see that as a good thing, some will see it as a bad thing. Personally, I see it as a good thing; there is no need for there to be a 13-episode, Sarah Jane Adventures-esque spin-off. Make it something worth watching, and make it something worth savouring. We already have a series of Doctor Who each year (or a half series at the moment), the potential spin-off shouldn’t steal the limelight from it. It should be a special event – it could have been a 50th Anniversary event – and that should be respected. I feel that Doctor Who needs to be rationed, and that it needs to be savoured.

The Non-Fictional Argument

This is the slightly more disappointing part of the article. I’m going to look, realistically, at how possible this spin-off is in terms of how the BBC might see it. Is it likely to be a success? Is it likely to be easy to orchestrate? It is going to be easy to promote? I’m going to weigh this all up and try to reach a realistic conclusion.

Firstly, we have to realise that the BBC are already putting time and effort into a series of Doctor Who each year. To take on another series would require hiring new staff (assuming that The Moff is already too busy doing the main series), it would require new marketing, and of course they would consider if they could be more successful with a different spin-off.

For example, a Paternoster Gang spin-off seems far more viable and easier to produce. It could be aimed at kids, and gives them a way to link up the series that they watch on Saturday nights and CBBC. I doubt a huge number of them know and realise who the Eighth Doctor is, and how much of a big deal this series would be. On the other hand, they would be far more aware of the Paternoster Gang and they would appreciate the series.

The fact that Doctor Who has gained so many fans since the relaunch, rather than before the cancellation, also poses a problem. Another Eighth Doctor series would just confuse people. I already had one friend who didn’t know what was going on in Night of the Doctor – yes, we all know that it’s Paul McGann, but the casual viewer doesn’t. They would be completely and utterly confused; how are Paul McGann and Peter Capaldi the Doctor at the same time? How is this Paul McGann show linked in with the Peter Capaldi show? There’s a reason that prequels to TV shows are never broadcast the same time as the main series.

Conclusion

I think the whole reason that Night of the Doctor was made a webisode in the first place shows how unlikely a spin-off is. If Moffat expected people to appreciate McGann’s appearance for what it really was, it’s possible that it might have made its way into the pre-credits sequence of The Day of the Doctor. However, it’s evident that Night of the Doctor was just a treat for the fans. My respect for Moffat for taking the effort to make that episode is immense; we were asking for Paul McGann, and we got him (and an explanation for Hurt’s Doctor). We should be grateful for that, and not go asking for too much – a problem that’s lasted 17 years has been resolved, surely that’s good enough for us?

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