On Saturday at 11:30AM, the BritTrack presented on YouTube a lively discussion of Doctor Who spin-offs, past and present, featuring Earth Station Who panelists, Mike Gordon, Mary Ogle, Christian Basel, and Melanie Dean. Mike Faber moderated the discussion.
Faber was quick to note that in the Whoverse, spin-offs include not just TV shows but also movies, comics, the Doctor Who Magazine, and the Big Finish audio productions. Gordon agreed, noting that past and recently reinstated showrunner Russel T. Davies (RTD) “really embraced the complete universe” of media and that he’s going to go further, creating something not unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe
“You are missing out on a lot,” Faber said, if you aren’t listening to the Big Finish audios, which feature all the classic Doctors, villains such as Missy, and even U.N.I.T., the latter of which he’s heard will feature in its own spin-off.
With RTD back at the helm, Ogle hopes that he’ll explore all this (i.e., characters, worlds, past shows) and also bring back some of what he did in the past with prologues and epilogues.
“You have this wonderful treasure trove of characters,” Basel added, saying that no matter who is brought into the mainstream fold, good CGI better be used.
All this led to a deep discussion on what is considered cannon, and how that compares to continuity, for the Whoverse, with Basel suggesting even other series that star multiple actors that played the Doctor are fair game and also noting he’s met people who see cannon as multiple things divided by media (i.e., tv, comics, movie, social media, etc.). But, as Gordon pointed out, no matter what fans think, the BBC has the final say and it will come down to what the broadcast company owns and pays for and, as he said, “Artistic oversight gets lost the more a universe opens up.”
For Faber, Gordon, and Ogle, the inconsistencies within the canon(s) don’t bother them. “It’s the perfect show,” Gordon said, “because it can take leaps.” And this he noted, has helped it stay afloat for sixty years while also adapting to new realities, as Ogle pointed out. Don’t like a Doctor or a Companion? Wait a few years—this is part of its staying power.
No matter what, the Whoverse if ripe for spin-offs, and the panelists have wide-ranging ideas on what would be good. Dean wants more Strax and the Paternoster Gang, with Faber agreeing they provide so many possibilities. Ogle thinks U.N.I.T. is the most likely, and easiest, spin-off and it could include past Companions such as Teagan, Ace, and Martha. Basel wants to see much of what Big Finish has done come into the mainstream, using characters like Iris Wildtime or the third Romana, or further exploring Galifrey and the Time War. For Gordon, it’s all about the popular, adult-centric River Song, played by Alex Kingston who has done over 50 Big Finish productions and has proven she can carry a show.
Faber would like to see a villain series (wherein they are still villains), more with the Doctor’s Daughter (played by Georgia Moffat) and even a series around the Companion support group as they have so many more stories to be told. He also suggested it would be good to use the actors while they are still around, noting how Susan from the original series could come in and even regenerate into a younger actress.
On a discussion of AI, most panelist agree, however, that deep fake uses of actors’ likeness is a bad idea, runs into issues of consent, and takes a lot of budget to pull off well unless animation was used.
Dean is hopeful for a return of Captain Jack, as played by John Barrowman. However, she acknowledged, as did others, that the controversy around his on-set behavior and propensity to expose himself make it less likely when even five years ago a Captain Jack spin-off would have been a shoo-in.
To wrap up, Faber noted that fans have great stuff coming from RTD and, hopefully, next year Dragon Con will be running panels on the spin-offs and crossovers.