Doctor Who producers reassure fans that Disney deal won’t change ‘Britishness’ of show

Ever since it was announced in September 2022 that the BBC had struck a deal with Disney to make Disney+ the international home of Doctor Who there has been a lot of rumour, speculation and innuendo from fans and the press about what exactly such a “shared creative vision” to “transform Doctor Who into a global franchise” could mean for the BBC’s 60-year-old science fiction show.

Some reports have suggested that the deal could mean per episode budgets sky-rocket to £10m each (a claim that has been described by showrunner Russell T Davies as “exaggerated”) while others have speculated that additional funds may be used to expand the Doctor Who universe with spin-offs following the fortunes of people and monsters from the extended Doctor Who universe.

But beyond this breathless excitement of a bigger and bolder future, there has also been some concern from fans that the deal with a huge American streamer could change the nature of Doctor Who, a show that is loved by generations of people as a quirky and uniquely British science fiction programme.

Well, showrunner Russell T Davies, along with executive producers Jane Tranter, Phil Collinson and Julie Gardner recently spoke about the deal in an interview with Doctor Who Magazine and sought to reassure fans of the show that the involvement of Disney was a huge positive for Doctor Who going forward and there was no need to worry about its quintessential Britishness being diluted by Disney dollars.

Speaking about Doctor Who in 2023 and going forward, Julie Gardner explained that Disney had bought into Russell T Davies’ creative vision for Doctor Who and were there to support it.

“Number one is Russell. Disney+ is buying into his vision, and Russell’s vision is very, very clear, and it’s very British, and it’s everything your readers will want it to be,” explained Gardner.

She added: “The second thing is the BBC. The BBC own Doctor Who, and the huge strength of Doctor Who for Disney+ is the title, having a known brand. And having that commitment from the BBC in terms of UK funding – that’s all very, very appealing. And the third thing is Bad Wolf, what we understand the show to be, and how we’re here to serve Russell’s vision.”

Russell T Davies was also keen to address the issue, saying he understood concerns about American producers having notes on British TV shows may seem worrying, but in the modern world of television this was perfectly normal.

“And I know people are, naturally, worried about American producers having notes on things. Well, don’t be. They’re giving excellent notes,” said Davies.

“And I’m here to tell you, you haven’t watched a drama on British television in 20 years that hasn’t had American notes on it. Everything is a co-production. Watch the credits. All your favourite dramas have American co-producers. It’s really, completely normal. And if you want any more reassurance, let me just tell you that we’re about to transmit the words ‘Mavic Chen’ on television for the first time since 1966! It is absolutely still the same show.”

Julie Garner summarised by saying: “Disney is marvellous. They care about the show, and they love Russell’s vision. It’s a proper working relationship, but their hearts and souls are true.”

Doctor Who will return to television in November 2023 with three one-hour-long special episodes starring David Tennant to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the show. These episodes will also feature the return of Catherine Tate as Donna Noble, and will see new characters introduced like Yasmin Finney’s Rose and an unnamed enemy played by Neil Patrick Harris. We also know the shows will feature the comic strip character Beep the Meep.

The 60th shows will be followed by a further special during the festive season of 2023 starring Ncuti Gatwa as the Fifteenth Doctor and former Coronation Street star Millie Gibson as his companion Ruby Sunday. Season 14 of Doctor Who will then air in 2024 when the adventures in space and time of the Fifteenth Doctor get underway properly.

The 60th anniversary episodes in November will be the first to air as part of the new deal between the BBC and Disney and will screen on the BBC in the UK and Disney+ across the globe.