Doctor Who and Disney +
Of all the unexpected news in fandom that came out this year perhaps none was as surprising as the fact that the BBC and Disney had reached an unexpected agreement to bring the global hit Doctor Who to Disney+. There had been murmurings of negotiations between the two parties but few thought anything would come of it, but now starting next November every country outside of the United Kingdom can watch Grogu and the Daleks in the same place. Given the focus Disney has had in the past few years of growing their streaming dominance this is no doubt a step in the right direction. While Doctor Who is not a production of Disney nor any of their subsidiaries it is an internationally beloved franchise that is bound to bring in new subscribers. There are bound to be grand implications from this deal but for my money it benefits both parties involved.
In the United States it has been far too long since Whovians have had a stable venue to watch the Doctor and his/her companions travel through time and space. In the 70’s and 80’s PBS made sure viewers got their Who thanks to contributions from public television viewers like you. But in the 90’s it would be the broadcast network Fox which aired the controversial Paul McGann TV movie. Once the series was revived it would be Syfy to show the first few seasons several months after the entire thing had aired in Britain so thanks to the wonders of bootleg DVDs and the internet most fans had already seen every episode long before it popped up. Following David Tennant’s tenure Doctor Who found a new TV home on BBC America, and even as that channel drifted away from its initial programming upon gaining new corporate overlords, Who remained a flagship program. Despite all of this, Doctor Who was at its peak popularity in the US when it streamed on Netflix. For many fellow Who fans I have met over the years it was when the show was available here to millions of subscribers that they were introduced to the series. Needless to say as contracts expired and the TARDIS faded away from such a popular streaming service a number of those viewers quit watching. They know about Peter Capaldi and Jodie Whitaker but given that Netflix quit carrying the series during Matt Smith’s run that is where their viewing ends. With Doctor Who once again being available on a streaming service accessible by the masses one hopes those lapsed fans return for more trips to the TARDIS.
In addition to lapsed fans, there are bound to be newbies brought into the fold. And as Rassilon as my witness, if any of you crumb bums try to gatekeep and discourage these fans I will punch you in the back of the head. We need to be encouraging and welcoming them regardless of whether or not they know a sonic screwdriver from Sonic the Hedgehog. Chances are they have someone in their life who has hyped up this show to them to obsessive levels, and now is there chance to finally see what all the fuss is about. It would seem the powers-that-be are already on top of things when it comes to bringing back old fans and welcoming new ones with the choice of bringing a familiar face in David Tennant back to the role of the Doctor. There is no denying, Tennant is the Tom Baker of his generation it has been 12 years since he donned the long coat and Chuck Taylors but this is still the character he is most associated with for countless fans. Starting this whole shebang off with the return of the most iconic Doctor of this era along with his most popular companion is a stroke of genius. Beyond Tennant, fans are truly stoked of the arrival of Doctor number 15 portrayed by Ncuti Gatwa. The young up-and-coming actor has truckloads of energy and charisma, bound to make him a fan favorite once he takes the helm of the TARDIS.
I would venture to say the biggest change to Doctor Who in its new home would be on a production level. If you see any of the Star Wars or Marvel shows on Disney+ it is clear the House of Mouse is willing to invest big into these productions. It is only logical that Doctor Who would benefit in this same fashion. For its six decades run Who has long been associated with budgetary constraints, from cheap hallway sets to Cybermen costumed in aluminum foil. For a show filled with grand ideas and concepts this has been a frequent challenge. But Disney is not about to let a much-hyped new addition to Disney+ go around in rags. There are already rumblings that the upcoming run of the series will benefit from the same Unreal Engine backdrop rendering technology utilized by the current run of Star Wars shows. Beyond the main series, there is rumor that Disney is willing to shell out for spin-offs and if showrunner Russell T Davies’ previous run at the helm of Who is anything to go on he is big into expanding the mythos of the franchise.
If all goes according to plan the marriage between Disney and Doctor Who could be a win-win situation for all involved. On the Disney side of things, they get one of the most popular shows in the world as a boost to their streaming service. On the Doctor Who side of things, showrunner Russell T Davies maintains his freedom without interference from the Disney suits. He is allowed to take fans on adventures through space and time with reckless abandon which is bound to be a thrill for Whovians.