Doctor Who will get back one of its most popular showrunners in Russell T. Davies following the exits of Chris Chibnall and Jodie Whittaker, and there are plenty of fans thrilled by that news. Everyone has their reason ranging from the prospect of more classic stories to potential returns from former cast members, both of which could happen.
I’m excited for the callbacks, personally. Or at least, callbacks created in a way they haven’t often been in the reboot era. Doctor Who has had a complicated history with reliving the past, and I think that with Russell T. Davies’ return, we can finally see that happen in a way fans haven't previously experienced. In case you're not already super excited that Davies is coming back, here are some of my reasons.
Russell T. Davies' Return Provides An Opportunity For Continuity
Doctor Who has had a complicated history with the continuity of its universe, to put it mildly. Rules for The Doctor’s enemies change, events are retconned or overlooked, and Gallifrey’s destruction and resurrection sometimes feel to be the result of a coin flip. It’s hard to be consistent in a show about time travel, especially one with over fifty years of history.
A large part of this is because Doctor Who, and the BBC, haven't been sticklers about maintaining a consistent canon. As former showrunner and writer Steven Moffat essentially said at San Diego Comic-Con 2008 (via Whoniverse), canon doesn’t make sense for the series.
Despite Steven Moffat’s words, Doctor Who has stories, enemies, and characters it has tried to keep consistent since Russell T. Davies first revived the franchise. For that reason, many fans have continued to search out consistency across the series and hoped that past characters like Captain Jack Harkness and others would return to meet up with their old friend The Doctor. For the most part, successive showrunners obliged and gifted fans some of those moments from past seasons, but given the way the franchise has run, it’s not something fans should ever count on.
Now, Doctor Who is almost forced to confront its own history with the return of Russell T. Davies. Davies' return, for better or worse, could lead to opportunities to establish deep continuity that feels about as close to permanent canon as this show will ever get.
Russell T. Davies Can Revisit His Greatest Stories
As eager as Russell T. Davies may be to tell new stories in Doctor Who, the temptation has to be there to return to storylines he made iconic. He could even bring back some of his most beloved characters, as evidenced by Rose Tyler actress Billie Piper’s willingness to return, despite saying the opposite earlier in the year.
Plenty of Doctor Who fans love callbacks and references to its most memorable stories and characters. Russell T. Davies’ return is a golden opportunity to scratch that itch and do it in a way that the guy originally responsible for those stories has a say in how to tell the new ones. It’s hard to argue there’s a better showrunner than Davies for this, as he’s responsible for who many consider the greatest Doctor of all time.
Of course, Russell T. Davies can’t just unload the nostalgia train when he takes over. He’ll be tasked with establishing and introducing a new Doctor and presumably finding some way to link to the story Chris Chibnall will have told across three seasons and a few specials. I think it’s unrealistic to expect everything Davies does will rehash the past, and it would be irresponsible for him to do that with a new chapter in the franchise to tell.
Still, many Doctor Who fans proved with their response to Season 11 that showing audiences something entirely new isn’t always what they want. There needs to be familiarity, especially in a series where everything fans previously knew can be thrown out with the bathwater.
The BBC rehiring Russell T. Davies to lead Doctor Who shortly after Chris Chibnall’s run has possible subtle messaging. Chibnall came in and tore down a lot of cornerstones many believed to be true about Doctor Who. Now, as his run concludes, it’s seeming like the BBC will bring back Russell T. Davies to perhaps dial things back and do the same things he did to first put the series on the map.
Russell T. Davies' Return Will Make The 60th Anniversary Extra Exciting
Callbacks and nostalgia seem like a given during Russell T. Davies’ upcoming run, especially with the big milestone for Doctor Who in 2023. The 60th anniversary of Doctor Who will happen that year, and if it’s anything like the 50th anniversary, the BBC will make a big deal of it. That means a celebration of the series, though whether that means a full season or just a special to commemorate the anniversary is up in the air. We haven’t gotten any teases about what to expect exactly, but the BBC promoting Davies return for it seems promising.
The 50th anniversary special got creative to bring back a multitude of Doctors and even introduced a couple of new ones. 60th anniversaries aren’t quite the milestone of a 50th, 75th, or 100th anniversary, but every ten years a series is on television certainly calls for some celebration. If the BBC had no plan for the 60th anniversary, it wouldn’t be the best idea to call attention to its arrival a couple of years in advance.
And really, who better to celebrate the milestone than Russell T. Davies? A new showrunner likely wouldn't be able to bring the same energy and excitement, and starting a run with something for the 60th anniversary would be a tremendous task. Davies' return comes at the perfect time.
All these signs seem to point to the idea in my mind that Russell T. Davies will pull from the past of Doctor Who in his upcoming run. That’s exciting because fans will get a chance to possibly experience some rare deep continuity within the franchise, which is about as close as the series can get to “canon,” it would seem. I’m certainly excited to see it, and I wager many other fans of Doctor Who will be happy to see that as well.
Russell T. Davies’ return to Doctor Who is coming, but first is Season 13, which will arrive on BBC America before the end of 2021. For more on the franchise, be sure to read up on some of the rumored names set to be the next Doctor after Jodie Whittaker right here.
Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.
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