2 October 2015

12 Ideas for Doctor Who Spin off series!

With the news of a new Doctor Who spin off starting next year as part of the online BBC3, Doctor Who has already had more offshoots than most UK tv shows. Class joins The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood to become the third drama spin off from the show. Interestingly each of these has been aimed at a different audience; SJA for pre and younger teens, Torchwood for older teens and (supposedly) adults while Class appears to be something for the audience in between those two. None of the three would seem to be a natural spin off.  Each appears to box its participants into a small location- at least Torchwood had a whole city whereas Sarah Jane and co seemed duty bound only to deal with alien incursions in their neighbourhood. Class is seemingly set in one school though it is Coal Hill School which will probably be at the nexus of a inter galactic vortex interface or something. Funny thing is Doctor Who ’s history is packed with more obvious- or intriguing- spin offs so long as you don’t think about budget! So to celebrate the arrival of Class, here’s our ready reckoner guide to 12 other potential Doctor Who spin offs…
In episode 1 of `Class` an android policeman plans to steal the spooky school to use as a spaceship. Possibly.

The obvious 70s spin off, a UNIT series could have been the Torchwood of its day only with gentle bonhomie replacing surly angst amongst the characters. There must have surely been occasions after the Doctor’s exile ended when aliens turned up and the Brig had to deal with them? You can imagine a UNIT series making liberal use of those scenes involving soldiers piling out of a jeep and chucking grenades that for some reason explode with orange smoke. Some episodes would be more talky with Doomwatch style issues only instead of pollution it would actually be aliens causing the trouble. A bonus would be the use of guest characters drawn from the series or setting episodes at establishments seen in the parent show.
Jago and Litefoot
The only reason Big Finish now do this is because for years fans said what a good idea it would be to continue the macabre adventures of the duo in Victorian London. Wonderful though the audio series is, wouldn’t it have been marvellous to have allowed audience to linger longer in this era? Grisly ghouls and shadowy monsters mixed with all that period banter would have made an excellent spin off plus DW was so popular then you wonder if it was ever seriously contemplated.
You could have done this in the 70s using `Deadly Assassin` as a template with its’ ceremonial and quirky characters (imagine Engin and Spandrell locked in the Matrix room for a night!) or you could do it more recently as a sort of early Doctor series. Then you could build up quite a mythology relating to the Doctor’s life at home before he left.
River Song
Another more obvious option would be to see what River Song got up to when away from the Doctor. A spin off would need to resist the temptation to basically just do the Doctor as a woman and to give River’s adventures their own identity. Alex Kingston could certainly carry a series as lead.
Obviously from the title sequence of `The Adventures of River Song`
Colony In Space
This would be a more adult spin off involving the ongoing struggle to successfully colonise the planet and deal with all sorts of intra colonist strife. Bearing in mind some of the colonists may have backgrounds they are escaping from, the harsh conditions on the planet and the presence of IMC as well this could have been quite a good drama in its own right along the lines of unlikely but successful dramas that the BBC did a lot of in the 70s such as Oil Strike North or Warship.
The Doctor’s Daughter
Well the end of the episode of the same name almost suggested a spin off so somewhere out there Jenny Who is adventuring away. It would probably work best if it was her and a group of diverse characters based somewhere so as not to run away with budgets.
Future Earth
One of the great things about 70s Doctor Who is a sense that a lot of the locales we visit existed before the Doctor arrived. Several stories were set in a future Earth and some sort of scenario of this sort would have made a great spin off series. Combining the fantasy elements with some political drama it could even be used to parallel contemporary issues.
One of the best set ups for an ongoing spin off was `Curse of Peladon` with its scenario of a primitive planet joining the Federation. Apart from the obvious parallels of the time with Britain and the EU the situation of delegates from various planets, the tensions between traditionalists and reformers and also between delegates is a rich seam for drama. Plus the miners could keep going on strike!
With everyone on the brink of war again episode 7 of Peladon sees Alpha Centauri try and keep the peace with a life sized puppet of Ortron. But is Izaxlyr fooled?
Space Station Nerva
Decades before Deep Space Nine, what about a spin off set on Nerva somewhere in between `Ark in Space` and` Revenge of the Cybermen`?
Prequels are all the rage these days but DW could have got in there first with this gritty spin off tracing the early development of the Daleks pre `Genesis`.  
City of Desth’s hapless detective could have been the lead in a funny show set after the story when he’s back in the UK.
Psi and Saibra
The potential for these two to start fighting intergalactic crime seems strong especially as they were so good in `Time Heist`
Er, no.

So who is Patrick Ness then?
Named as the showrunner for Class, Patrick Ness  is so little known outside the world of young adult fiction that most people’s reaction was “who?” He was born in 1971 in the US but is now based in London. His best known series `Chaos Walking` featuring a world where all creatures can hear each other’s thoughts has won a number of prestigious awards. He has written something Doctor Who related before- in 2013 he penned a story `Tip of the Tongue` for Puffin’s anniversary e-shorts.
The series will be his first tv scriptwriting job which is a bold move on behalf of the BBC. While commissioning a script from an author who has never written one before is one thing, giving someone with no tv writing experience a show to run is certainly a risk. On the other hand he may well bring a fresh approach to the show forging a separate identity from its parent. “Growing up in modern Britain- but with monsters” is Steven Moffat’s take on the series which certainly sounds like it has potential.  

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