Time for a new spin-off?
Guest contributor Henry de Ferrars analyses several ideas for potential spin-off shows.
It’s been over two years since we last saw a Doctor Who spin-off on our screens, and the gaps between each series of Doctor Who are becoming more and more noticeable. I think it’s fair to say that the demand for a new spin-off is becoming larger, due to both the mysterious state of Torchwood and the rise of recurring characters appearing in Doctor Who. People have been asking for a Paternoster Gang spin-off, an Eighth Doctor spin-off and various other suggestions. I felt like it was time to analyse these at the start of a new year, and see what we could end up getting.
The Paternoster Gang
Possibly the most common suggestion is a spin-off featuring the Paternoster Gang. For those who are unaware this is a collective term referring to Strax, Jenny and Madame Vastra, the title originating from where they live in Victorian London: Paternoster Row. Personally, I think there is great potential for a Paternoster Gang spin-off. It has the possibility of bringing the same charm that The Sarah Jane Adventures brought to our screens – a fun, yet serious drama that unites together both adult and younger audiences.
The range of themes are brilliant; not only could there be a historical element given the setting of Victorian London, but there’s an opportunity to bring in monsters and aliens from past episodes of Doctor Who that Moffat may not want to feature in the mainstream. There’s an opportunity to feature Sontarans and Silurians given Strax and Vastra’s heritage, as well as Jago and Litefoot from The Talons of Weng-Chiang who have since been given their own Big Finish spin-off.
Of course, there’s the prospect of the Doctor featuring, as we saw with Death of the Doctor and The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith. As with any other possible spin-off, it is extremely likely that this would occur once a series, if not once every other series. Having the Doctor return to see the Paternoster Gang and then join up with them to fight some classic force would be fantastic!
The Eighth Doctor
This is probably the spin-off under highest demand, however it also seems the most unlikely. I’ve already written an article concerning the logistical possibilities of an Eighth Doctor spin-off here. I covered a few story possibilities; however this feels like a good opportunity to go into more depth.
The easiest storyline to turn to would be the early days of the Time War – what caused it, the Doctor’s early participations, and what drove him to become a warrior. We saw a glimpse of how other races felt about the Time Lords in The Night of the Doctor; they were disgusted by them. Cass hated the Doctor for what he and his race had brought upon the universe, and in The Day of the Doctor we only saw the tiniest glimpse of what it could be.
Of course, there’s the issue of the casual viewer already knowing the outcome, but prequels are normally well received, and I think there are so many stories to tell that any viewer could be surprised and pleased with. A lot of people have been asking for a darker Doctor Who, and this would be the perfect opportunity for darker, more serious storylines.
It could, potentially, be quite an adult show. Not to the extent of Torchwood, but simply with less comic relief and child-orientated themes that Doctor Who sometimes features. Paul McGann would be brilliant at portraying a darker Doctor, similar to John Hurt’s recent War Doctor. It would please fans who want a darker Doctor and a darker show, without having to drastically change the mood of the mainstream Doctor Who.
One particular possibility that I often see overlooked is a U.N.I.T spinoff. Given the successful reintroduction of them in The Aliens of London and their many appearances ever since, U.N.I.T would be a very good choice – the viewer is familiar with them whether they only watched Series 1 or if they only watched Series 7, and there is infinite potential in terms of storylines.
U.N.I.T have featured heavily in Doctor Who, SJA and Torchwood since 2005; they have had fifteen appearances in Doctor Who, five in Torchwood (compiling Children of Earth into one) and three in SJA. We have been introduced to characters such as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, Osgood, Malcolm Taylor, Erisa Magambo, Colonel Mace, Mike Yates and even Martha Jones – there is no shortage of possible characters that the viewer would know and be familiar with. There are also extensive chances for newer characters; they would not be hard to introduce.
The primary focus of the series could be alien encounters that occur when the Doctor is away from Earth. This would allow for familiar aliens to reappear without their appearances having to have a huge scale or interrupting the stories featured in the main show – similar to the appearances of the Slitheen in SJA. U.N.I.T has extensive knowledge of many alien species, so they would be able to encounter anything with ease (in terms of storytelling) and new aliens could be introduced too.
Dare I say that it could take inspiration from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? While the actual quality of S.H.I.E.L.D may not be of the expected standards, it shows how a spin-off can use the events of its inspiration to create stories that work well. While it may be too late now, we could have seen the resolution of the Zygon situation introduced in The Day of the Doctor sorted out within the spin-off.
Personally, this is my favourite possible spin-off. Not only does it allow the return of older characters and puts them in the limelight, but it also allows the return of older enemies too without them having to appear in the main series. As said before, the potential is infinite.
An Old Companion
The Sarah Jane Adventures was, undoubtedly, a success. Not only did it introduce younger viewers to the revived series, but it introduced them to the classic series too – not only was the main character a companion from the classic series, but there were appearances from Jo Grant, K-9 and the Brigadier too. Along with that, Russell T. Davies had plans for Sophie Aldred to appear as Ace in Series 6 of SJA, alongside a possible cameo from Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor!
Sophie Aldred has since said that she would have been more than happy to appear in SJA, and Katy Manning was due to appear in the Series 5 finale of SJA. Here we have two classic companions who would be suited to their own series. Katy Manning could take a more classic, adventure approach to a spin-off (given the background given in Death of the Doctor), whereas I can see Sophie Aldred taking an action packed, witty approach to a spin-off.
Of course, there are other companions and other scenarios that can be looked into; Moffat could do something similar to School Reunion and introduce a companion of his own choice into the main show to lead on to a spinoff. In fact, I think it’s almost vital that an older companion is brought back to meet Capaldi’s Doctor, to create a link to the past for his incarnation – also, he seems like the perfect Doctor to embrace the past and value it.
In conclusion, I think a spin-off sooner rather than later is vital. It’s time for there to be another alternative to Doctor Who for fans to watch, but one that maintains similar themes. Moffat and the BBC have hundreds of possibilities; I’ve listed only a few here. I feel that a child-orientated spin-off should be prioritised over a more adult spin-off – SJA has left a noticeable hole in the CBBC listings, and if kids are given a lighter, friendlier show then it could possibly give Doctor Who the opportunity to become darker without upsetting and putting off younger audiences too much.
Whatever theme and whatever audience a spin-off is aimed at, I have faith in the BBC and the Doctor Who team to allow it to appeal to all audiences. Both SJA and Torchwood were brilliant spin-offs, and they’re going to be tough acts to follow, but whatever comes our way in the next few years is bound to be absolutely fantastic.