Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Allons-Y! Russell T. Davies Returns to ‘Doctor Who’ for 60th Anniversary Special

Veteran screenwriter and Doctor Who Showrunner Russell T. Davies is to once again take charge of the BBC sci-fi show that he originally helped revive back in 2005. He is taking over from Chris Chibnall, current showrunner, in 2023. This places him at the helm for Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary special “and series beyond,” as noted in the official announcement.

Davies will be in an Executive Producer role alongside Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter. Both Gardener and Tranter were key players in the show’s return to television after 16 years when Davies was originally Showrunner. This experienced lineup feels like a deliberate attempt to guide Doctor Who back toward the energy of those early reboot years — such a move is largely unprecedented. The show has not had many executives return (Robert Holmes and Barry Letts in the 1980s are the only ones of note) and certainly never a showrunner.

No change in the leadership of a show as established as Doctor Who is ever universally welcomed, but reactions to the announcement so far seem to be overwhelmingly excited. 

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Davies breathed new life into the world of the Doctor during his first tenure. He worked on the relaunched Doctor Who for five years. In that time, he brought us the 9th and 10th Doctors, Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant. With viewing figures in the latest season flagging, it’s already been said that maybe Davies can help save the show for a second time.

Season 14 will be a co-production between BBC Studios and Welsh-based Bad Wolf. The production studio is owned by Davies’ co-execs and returning Doctor Who alums Gardner and Tranter. When Davies, who is Welsh, revived the show 16 years ago he moved production to Wales. Doctor Who’s successful spinoff Torchwood — written by Davies alongside current Doctor Who showrunner Chibnall — was based in Wales too, so it is no surprise that Davies would want to partner with Bad Wolf for his return to the show. 

One of Davies first responsibilities will be to decide on the next Doctor. Jodie Whittaker, the current holder of the coveted role, confirmed her exit from the show back in July. She will film a new six-part series later this year, and three specials next year, before she leaves. The current showrunner, Chibnall, will exit alongside her.

In the official announcement, Chibnall had this to say: “It’s monumentally exciting and fitting that Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary will see one of Britain’s screenwriting diamonds return home. Russell built the baton that is about to be handed back to him – Doctor Who, the BBC, the screen industry in Wales, and let’s be honest everyone in the whole world, have so many reasons to be Very Excited Indeed about what lies ahead.”  

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Davies, though, seems keen to keep the attention on the current showrunner and Doctor for now. “I’m beyond excited to be back on my favorite show. But we’re time-travelling too fast, there’s a whole series of Jodie Whittaker’s brilliant Doctor for me to enjoy, with my friend and hero Chris Chibnall at the helm — I’m still a viewer for now,” he said.

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