Well, the headline says it all really. I don’t really do posts like this based on news announcements, but this one feels a bit different. So, in case you missed it (where have you been?), Russell T Davies will be returning to Doctor Who as showrunner for the 60th Anniversary special in 2023, and unspecified number of series after that.
I think that the news is more significant beyond the headline. Davies will be the first showrunner in the show’s 60 year history to serve two terms as showrunner, and his return will have some of the show’s more recent detractors believing that their views on Chris Chibnall’s era being a failure have been vindicated. Personally, I’ve enjoyed all three eras of the show since the show’s revival in 2005 and admit that every era has a low point (usually a series – for me, Series 2, 7 and 11 have been the weak points so far). But I think Davies’ return is more important than that: both Davies and Doctor Who have changed a lot since David Tennant didn’t want to go on New Years’ Day 2010.
In a lot of ways, Steven Moffat’s era built on the foundations that his predecessor lay down, and it is perhaps safe to say that the more popular episodes of his run as showrunner are those that wouldn’t feel out of place in the first four series of the revival. But the Chibnall era felt like a more obvious break from what had come before it, especially with a series that at times felt devoid of continuity, which worked well at times but less well at others. It’s important to note that we’ve still got another series of this era of Doctor Who to go, including 3 specials, but I can’t see the theme changing from Series 11 and 12 – whilst Series 1 – 10 feel like they took place in a universe that Davies established and Moffat tinkered with, the most recent two series feel like they have largely taken place in a vacuum, with the show only more recently dipping its toes back into what’s come before. In our most recent piece of televised Doctor Who, we had cameos from various foes including the Weeping Angels, and in Series 12, we saw the returns of the Master, Captain Jack Harkness, the Judoon and the Cybermen, as opposed to Series 11, which only saw the return of the Daleks. There are indications and set leaks suggesting that there are more returning foes to come before the end of the Whitaker era, but it has largely felt quite self-contained. The show has also seen declining viewing numbers, although this is more symbolic of the state of television generally: audiences are more likely to want to watch things when convenient to them or even binge watch them now than they were even in 2010. Personally, Doctor Who might be the only television programme that I watch ‘live’ these days, opting to catch up with other things later, or watch old things again.
It would be disingenuous to say that Russell T Davies was a nobody back in 2005, but after series like Years and Years, A Very English Scandal and It’s A Sin, his star has undoubtedly risen. I’m going to be completely honest and say that I have not watched all of the above – in fact I’ve only watched A Very English Scandal to the end – but I’m sure they are great and will get round to watching the others soon. These shows and others have made Davies a household name and I was a little bit surprised, as I’m sure many of you were, when the news broke, initially thinking that it was just a rumour or coming from a hoax Twitter account. Davies has remained engaged with Doctor Who in his time away from the show, illustrating a book of Doctor Who poetry, novelising his first episode Rose for the Target novelisations and being an active part of Emily Cook’s fantastic Doctor Who: Lockdown tweet a longs, and had unequivocally stressed that he is still a fan. In the press release announcing his return, perhaps his most important quote was the following
I’m beyond excited to be back on my favourite show. But we’re time-travelling too fast, there’s a whole series of Jodie Whittaker’s brilliant Doctor for me to enjoy, with my friend and hero Chris Chibnall at the helm – I’m still a viewer for now.Russell T Davies
And ultimately, this news should not detract from the remainder of the Whitaker era. It has the potential to hangover it, with fan excitement peaking at this news, which can only end disastrously – if we get overly hyped, we can only be disappointed with what we end up with. But what this quote perhaps emphasises most is what a great hype man Russell T Davies is and has been for the show since its revival – he doesn’t want this news to detract from the new series that is coming up in the not too distant future. Like when you watched Doctor Who Confidential back in the day, his enthusiasm for the programme seems unwaveringly constant.
Some baseless speculation to finish:
- I think it’s safe to say that we can probably count on at least one returning Doctor for the 60th Anniversary, but I think this news might spell the end of speculation linking Christopher Eccleston to a return to the television series. He’s doing great work with Big Finish at the moment though with a second series of audio adventures recently announced!
- Could we potentially see some returning writers? Perhaps not Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, but maybe others who made their debuts during his era like Toby Whithouse, or even those who debuted in the two eras since. I’d love to see Jamie Mathieson or Sarah Dollard return, or more recently, writers like Vinay Patel, Maxine Alderton or Joy Wilkinson.
- I’d love to see the show return to it’s Saturday slot – even if this may be driven by more selfish reasons, as it would be a lot easier to get a review out without the overwhelming time constraint of work the next day!
I’m still really excited for the return of the Thirteenth Doctor, Yaz and new companion Dan though. The most important thing is for this news not to overshadow the end of the Thirteenth Doctor’s era – like RTD himself has said.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below, or message me using the contact feature on the menu!