Friday, 24 September 2021

Russell T. Davies returns to guide DOCTOR WHO through its 60th anniversary

In a surprise announcement, it's been confirmed that writer-producer Russell T. Davies is returning to Doctor Who in its 60th anniversary year, and possibly for an extended stay afterwards. He will be helming at least one full season of the show.

Davies previously executive produced and showran the franchise from 2005 to 2010, overseeing the reigns of both Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant, the most popular Doctor since the show's return. Davies will also be responsible for choosing the actor likely to play the fourteenth incarnation of the time traveller.

Davies will take over the reigns in 2023. Outgoing producer Chris Chibnall has overseen a curtailed six-part thirteenth season (of the reboot), which was cut from ten episodes due to the ongoing COVID19 pandemic. This season is expected to start airing in November or December this year. Chibnall and incumbent Doctor Jodie Whittaker will return for three specials to air through 2022, with the Doctor expected to regenerate in an extended episode to air at Christmas or New Year's next year. Davies will then take over after that point.

It's unclear if there will be a fourteenth season of the show in 2023, with the 60th anniversary special to air as part of it in November, or a special followed by a full season in 2024.

In potentially more interesting news, from a longer-term perspective, Davies' reign will be run in conjunction with the aptly-named Bad Wolf Productions, an independent production company set up by former Doctor Who producer Julie Gardner and former BBC Controller of Drama Commissioning Jane Tranter, who made the final call in 2003 to bring Doctor Who back from the dead with Davies in creative control. This will mark the first time - aside from the one-off 1996 TV special, produced in conjunction with Fox - that Doctor Who will be produced with a non-BBC production partner. The move may help the show overcome the severe (and worsening) budget problems it has endured as an inhouse BBC production. The show recently moved from the BBC Drama Department to BBC Studios to help alleviate these issues and a coproduction with Bad Wolf may help further.

Bad Wolf recently produced His Dark Materials (a third and final season is currently shooting) alongside the BBC and HBO, and A Discovery of Witches with Sky. It's possible that Bad Wolf could team with an American partner like HBO or BBC America to give Doctor Who a further cash infusion to help it compete in the international marketplace.

Davies himself returns to the show on the crest of a critical wave, having scored two of the most critically-acclaimed British dramas of recent years with near-future dystopian drama Years and Years and period drama It's a Sin. Davies' re-appointment has been seen by some as an attempt to right the ship, with Doctor Who having slipped in relevancy in recent years, with variable ratings and critical acclaim, despite the generally positive reception to Jodie Whittaker in the role of the first female Doctor. Chris Chibnall's writing has come in for heavier criticism.

Other showrunners had been considered, with the high popular American SFF producer J. Michael Straczynski having thrown his hat in the ring. However, the decision to return to Davies is likely to be seen as a confidence-boosting measure and to win back fans who had drifted away in recent years (ratings have been on a gradual downward spiral since Matt Smith's second season in the role, almost ten years ago), as well as re-ignite interest in the USA, where the show's cult profile has dipped in recent years.

The news will come as a relief to many Doctor Who fans, but may disappoint those who were looking for a completely new, fresh voice to take over and guide the show towards the future, not the past.

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