Opinion

Russell T Davies' new Doctor Who will change the landscape of TV. Again

The 2005 return of Doctor Who changed UK TV. The new series looks primed to repeat the trick

Ncuti Gatwa as The Doctor and Millie Gibson as Ruby Sunday

Ncuti Gatwa as The Doctor and Millie Gibson as Ruby Sunday. Image: BBC Studios,/James Pardon

Back in the mid-’80s, it was never cool to like Doctor Who, despite it being utterly brilliant. We geeks have always been trendsetters…

But with ratings dwindling, the BBC were trying to get rid of the show and eventually succeeded in 1989. After 26 years on screen, the Time Lord walked into the sunset with no future in sight. A brief return in a 1996 TV movie aside, the long-running sci-fi show wouldn’t be seen again until 2005 – a revival that ultimately changed the landscape of both British and genre television. 

It’s this production team who have, 13 years later, returned to breathe new life into the franchise, once again under showrunner and TV legend Russell T Davies. Despite each era since – a further six actors have now played the Doctor following Christopher Eccleston – having a loyal audience, it’s fair to say that the series has not been as critically acclaimed in recent years. With the BBC looking to overhaul Doctor Who, Davies stepped back in – “It needed looking after,” he told SFX magazine

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Now the show is, for the first time, reaching a truly global audience in more than 200 countries. We might find it hard to believe but there are people who haven’t seen Doctor Who, and what a trip they’re in for. More than 800 episodes have now been made available on iPlayer, just in time for those coming on board the TARDIS. 

Yes, there’s much love for the nostalgia of David Tennant and Catherine Tate returning for three anniversary specials, but it’s what’s to come next, with Ncuti Gatwa as the 15th Doctor and Millie Gibson as Ruby Sunday, that will take the series to new heights.  

This quintessentially British juggernaut will finally be able to compete with other heavy hitters in the sci-fi arena. Though let’s not forget that Davies had already built a ‘Doctor Who Universe’ years before it was a thing. It’s something this new iteration will seek to repeat and the returning production team know exactly what they’re doing.

The show’s never looked better, easily standing alongside others with impressive special effects and budgets. Gatwa and Gibson sparkle with energy and there’s a feeling of public excitement and goodwill that long-running shows don’t often enjoy a second time round, let alone a third.  

As editor of the world’s longest-running sci-fi magazine, writing about Doctor Who has never been more exciting. All those years ago, I always knew we were the cool kids. 

Darren Scott is the editor of SFX.

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