Doctor Who: The Return of the Russell T. Davies–What I’m hopeful for

Its been a big news cycle for Doctor Who lately, with the announcement of a new showrunner for the series after Chris Chibnall steps down at the end of 2022.

(Daily Doctor Who #308)

The name has sent ripples of reaction, discussion and opinion to the online world of Doctor Who fans…as it is none other than Russell T. Davies. 

Davies of course was the head writer and producer who shepherded the series’ creative direction when it returned to the airways in 2005. He oversaw the entirety of the eras of both the Ninth and Tenth Doctors—Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant. 
The majority of response that I’ve seen to this news has been unreservedly positive—almost messianic in tone at times—with the sense that the guy in charge the last time Doctor Who was great is back, and that he will pull the show up from the dregs it has been lost in for the last two or eight (or whatever number suits the view) seasons.

Other responses (including mine) are more guarded. There are certainly things that Davies brought to the show that I really liked, but there were others that I didn’t.  And the world, the show, and I am sure Davies himself are not all the same as they were in 2010 when he finished up his last run…so who knows how that will effect things.

Here are some of the things it makes me feel hopeful about…

Some good episodes

I really have not enjoyed most of the Chris Chibnall-era of Doctor Who–very few of the episodes have I unreservedly enjoyed. I’m hoping that Russell T. Davies can pull off some episodes as good as his classic ones that I enjoyed (my favorites including Midnight, Journey’s End, Doomsday, The Next Doctor, Turn Left, etc.)

I’m also hoping that Davies will inspire his writers to make some strong contributions as well, which is something that I haven’t seen happening in the last couple of seasons of the show.

A more consistent production schedule

Of course, I don’t know all the ins and outs of producing Doctor Who…indeed, I probably don’t know .1% of them. But I do know that Russell T. Davies managed to pull off four complete (13 episodes each) series in four consecutive years, each with a Christmas special, and then another year with a handful of specials. By contrast, Steven Moffat never got more than two complete seasons out in consecutive years, and Chibnall only managed one (and that was before COVID hit).

So I’m encouraged by the Russell T. Davies announcement first because it means the show has a future at all, and secondly because it makes me hopeful that there will be a way to keep the show on the schedule a bit more frequently than it has been for a while.

60th Anniversary Plans

2023 is the 60th anniversary of the show–with a new Doctor and new showrunner getting involved only that year, it’s hard to imagine that plans for any sort of celebratory story will be the highest priority. However, with that new showrunner being an experienced guy like Davies, one is more hopefully that the series will do something for the occasion, and that it will be fun.

Christmas Specials

Christmas special episodes became a thing under Russell T. Davies, and were continued by his successor Steven Moffat. Then Chris Chibnall came along and abandoned them in favor of the occasional “New Year’s Specials” or “Festive Specials”. He’s still managed to get an episode out each year, but it doesn’t have the sense of reliability that there was with the annual Christmas special episode. Hopefully Davies will put them back into play once again.

A better job with the companions

Russell T. Davies worked with three main companions–Rose Tyler, Martha Jones and Donna Noble. None of them are in my top tier favorites (though Donna is very close but still they each had well-developed personalities, a clear role in the series, and strong story arcs. The companions of the most recent seasons of the show have sadly lacked all of those. I’m still hopeful that Chris Chibnall can up his game in his last year and a half, but I think it’s more realistic to think that it’ll be Russell Davies who bring the show back up to this basic level of achievement.

But like I said, I have ambivalent feelings about this news, so tomorrow I’ll share some of the things I don’t want to see again in this new era of the show.

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