With Russell T Davies recently hinting that some new Doctor Who spin offs could be on their way, here’s a run-down all of the shows we’ve had so far…
K9 and Company (1981)
K9 and Company was one of the shortest-lived Doctor Who spin offs, airing for one episode only at Christmas in 1981. And as the title suggests, the series focused on the Doctor’s lovable robot dog K9 who (as we discussed in this blog post) has possibly been involved in the greatest number of Doctor Who spin offs to date.
Surprisingly, K9’s co-star in this series was Elisabeth Sladen (alias Sarah Jane Smith) who receives a ‘version’ of K9 from the Doctor, and together they set about untangling the mystery of a witch’s coven that has a penchant for ritual sacrifice.
Alas, although this pilot episode had strong viewing figures (with some 8.4 million tuning in) it was never picked up for a full series, but it left an indelible mark on the Whoniverse; the connection between K9 and Sarah Jane was stronger than ever when Doctor Who returned in 2005. But more on that below.
Doctor Who Confidential (2005 – 2011)
It can be debated as to whether Doctor Who Confidential counts as a Doctor Who spin off given that it’s a documentary series, but with some 102 episodes airing between 2005 and 2011, its contribution to the Whoniverse was significant, and it was even used as a vehicle to announce the casting of the Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith in 2009.
Moreover, when this Doctor Who spin off was cancelled in 2011, an online petition garnered some 50,000 signatures from unhappy Doctor Who fans who hoped to reverse the decision. They didn’t succeed, alas, although Doctor Who Confidential was succeeded by the shorter-form Doctor Who Extra in 2012.
Now all we need to decide is whether we should class Totally Doctor Who and The Fan Show as Doctor Who spin offs…
Torchwood (2006 – 2011)
Torchwood was the gritty ‘adult’ version of Doctor Who which starred John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness who, from his underground base in Cardiff, led a crack team of disparate experts as they fought a host of monsters that fell through the city’s infamous rift.
Torchwood was arguably one of the darkest and most ‘grown-up’ of the Doctor Who spin-offs and was not afraid to incorporate coarse language and sexual themes into its stories. That being said, a number of younger viewers were disappointed that they weren’t able to watch this Doctor Who spin off for themselves, and so for the second season the BBC aired some edited ‘child-friendly’ versions of the episodes which could be enjoyed by younger fans.
This Doctor Who spin off ended on something of a cliff-hanger in 2011 after the 10 part Miracle Day serial, although it was later picked up by the audio company Big Finish who produced the official continuing adventures.
The Sarah Jane Adventures (2007 – 2012)
The Sarah Jane Adventures was, in some ways, the antithesis of Torchwood in that it was produced primarily for younger viewers and aired on CBBC. Despite this, it was still much-enjoyed by many of Doctor Who‘s older fans, and continues to be enjoyed to this day.
As you might have deduced from the title, this Doctor Who spin off focused on the character of Sarah Jane Smith and her young team of friends as they combated alien threats from her house in London. K9 also appeared from time to time, and the Tenth Doctor put in a number of appearances, as did the Eleventh, and Jo Jones (formerly Jo Grant.) This Doctor Who spin off was also notable for featuring the final appearance of the Brigadier played by Nicholas Courtney.
Sadly, The Sarah Jane Adventures came to an abrupt end midway through the production of its fifth series due to the untimely death of Elisabeth Sladen. Its 53rd and final episode was broadcast posthumously in October 2011.
K9 (2009 – 2010)
Unlike the other Doctor Who spin offs on this list, K9 was not produced by the BBC but by a combination of production companies in both the UK and Australia. And indeed, apart from K9 himself, the series had few links to the rest of the Doctor Who universe, but the series was made possible owing to the fact that K9’s creator Bob Baker owned the rights to the series’ infamous dog. He was therefore able to produce the series independently.
And despite being filmed in Australia, the series was actually set in London in the year 2050, and saw the ‘original’ K9 team up with a group of youngsters and a space-time professor in order to fight alien threats.
This Doctor Who spin off is definitely something of an obscurity and is perhaps one of the least-known on this list. A movie follow-up titled K9: TimeQuake was slated for 2017, and promised the return of the popular Doctor Who villain Omega, whom Bob Baker also created. Alas, this has yet to materialise, and its future remains uncertain owing to Baker’s death in 2021.
Few people were expecting a Doctor Who spin off when Class was announced in 2015, but this gritty YA series once more expanded the Whoniverse under the guidance of creator and lead writer Patrick Ness.
This time, the series didn’t centre on a familiar Doctor Who character, but on a location – the Coal Hill School in Shoreditch, now upgraded to the Coal Hill Academy. And even though the Twelfth Doctor himself made an appearance in its opening episode, the main focus of the series was on the school’s students and one of its teachers, the mysterious Miss Quill.
And like Torchwood, this Doctor Who spin off finished on a cliff-hanger which teased the return of the classic Doctor Who monster the Weeping Angels. The production team had hoped that a second series would be commissioned, but the series was officially cancelled in 2017 after just eight episodes. Despite this, Big Finish took up the mantle in 2018 to tell the continuing adventures of its characters.
Other Doctor Who spin offs
There are of course a number of other series that haven’t been included on this list, most of them audio spin offs from Big Finish. Which ones would you most like to see on the screen? And which new Doctor Who spin offs would you like Russell T Davies to produce? Let us know in the comments below.