With nearly 60 years of history and countless galaxies, planets and characters, what would an MCU-style Doctor Who shared universe look like in the modern era?
Those of you who have been Doctor Who fans for long enough will know that, back in the day, there was indeed something akin to a Marvel-style Doctor Who shared universe. By 2006, there were five Doctor Who series running concurrently – Doctor Who itself, Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures, Doctor Who Confidential and Totally Doctor Who. The latter two series were documentary-style offerings, detailing the main show’s production (although Totally Doctor Who was aimed at the show’s younger viewers.)
And one of the joys about 2007’s Doctor Who shared universe were the cross-over opportunities. (Spoilers ahead.) For example, the finale of the first season of Torchwood ended with the TARDIS materialising in Cardiff, and the disappearance of the main character of Captain Jack Harkness. Six months later, viewers got to see the other side of this event in the Doctor Who episode ‘Utopia,’ where the Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones landed above the Torchwood hub to refuel the TARDIS – and Captain Jack Harkness hopped aboard for a ride!
Then Doctor Who Series Three fed into Torchwood Series Two, which referenced Jack’s disappearance and also re-introduced Martha Jones, who teamed up with the Torchwood gang for a number of episodes and chatted to them about the traumatic events she and her family had experienced at the end of Doctor Who‘s last season (where the Master took over the world and eliminated one tenth of the human race.)
And so, at this point in the series’ history, the Doctor Who shared universe was a blessed thing. And whilst trying to follow the various threads could get a bit complicated at times, it wasn’t necessary to watch everything; it was perfectly possible for viewers to just watch Doctor Who (or just watch Torchwood) and still get the gist of what was going on.
But there were great advantages to investing in the collection of shows that made up the Doctor Who shared universe. For instance, the Doctor Who Series Four finale ‘The Stolen Earth’ and ‘Journey’s End’ acted as the crossover of all crossovers, bringing together virtually of all the main characters from all of the main shows at the same time – in an epic battle with the Daleks! It was like watching Doctor Who, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures all at once, long before the Marvel cinematic universe made such a thing cool.
Of course, nothing lasts forever, and by 2009 (around the same time that Russell T Davies left Doctor Who) things began to slow down in the Doctor Who shared universe. Torchwood: Children of Earth (acclaimed as it was) was a mere five episodes as opposed to the usual 13, and the untimely death of Elisabeth Sladen in 2011 brought The Sarah Jane Adventures to a hurried conclusion. And even though a fourth Torchwood season did follow the same year, the series quickly vanished into obscurity and never returned to our screens, despite its cliffhanger ending.
But could such an epic Doctor Who shared universe happen today, given that Russell T Davies has returned to the Whoniverse? It’s certainly possible. Indeed, before it was announced that Davies would be returning as the series’ showrunner, the writer pitched an MCU-style universe to the journalist Paul Kirkley.
“There should be a Doctor Who channel now,” he said. “You look at those Disney announcements, of all those new Star Wars and Marvel shows, you think, we should be sitting here announcing The Nyssa Adventures or The Return of Donna Noble, and you should have the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors together in a 10-part series. Genuinely. And I think that will happen one day. If we can just shift Doctor Who up a gear…”
But would something as niche as The Nyssa Adventures be viable? There have been some Doctor Who spin-offs that have failed to really catch on, such as 1981’s K9 and Company and 2016’s Class, which took place at the Coal Hill Academy (a school that appeared in the very first episode of Doctor Who in 1963.) There is no guarantee that audiences would flock to watch any and every show in a Doctor Who shared universe, although Davies’ comments about the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors coming together for a 10-part series is intriguing.
This may have been a reference to the conversations that happened around the time of Doctor Who‘s 50th anniversary, where the incumbent Doctor Matt Smith encountered his predecessor David Tennant. Smith was on the cusp of leaving the role, but apparently he and Tennant had enjoyed working together so much that they’d joked about doing the next season together, and sharing it out between them.
Certainly, it would be the kind of show that would sit well in a Doctor Who shared universe, and it would certainly appeal to fans. And, in a sense, the idea has already come to fruition; David Tennant is returning for Doctor Who‘s 60th anniversary, although it’s not entirely clear how this is going to play out. Is he the Tenth Doctor, or a dream Doctor, or a parallel universe Doctor? And will he be in the special alone, or alongside another Time Lord? These questions remain unanswered.
In the meantime, what other shows could occupy the Doctor Who shared universe of today? Well, the 2006 spin-off Torchwood has an enduring appeal, and it continues to be produced by the audio company Big Finish with many of the original cast members. And with Captain Jack Harkness having returned in 2021’s ‘Revolution of the Daleks,’ it’s certainly possible that his character could re-appear in the Doctor Who shared universe.
A UNIT series helmed by Kate Stewart could also be an option. Indeed, a whole episode was dedicated to UNIT in 2021’s Doctor Who: Flux, and it has since been confirmed that Stewart will be returning for the upcoming centenary special, which will also include Jodie Whittaker’s regeneration. Is there room for a gritty, X Files-style series helmed by Stewart, Osgood and other fan favourites? And could there even be a UNIT / Torchwood crossover just to melt everyone’s brains? It would certainly be interesting.
At the time of writing, though, there hasn’t been any confirmation about a Doctor Who shared universe under Russell T Davies’ leadership, but it’s fun to speculate. What kind of spin-offs would you like to see? And would you tune in for The Nyssa Adventures? Let us know in the comments below.
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