Over the past decade, Marvel Studios has paved the way in cinematic history for arguably creating the first hugely successful shared-universe franchise. While it’s certainly not the first to do so, it’s the first to create an enduring legacy that will no doubt be felt once it’s over (though I don’t see that coming for some considerable time yet).
Creating a more concise universe hasn’t just been done by Marvel, indeed, DC Comics have tried to follow suit, as have franchises like King Kong and Godzilla and even the Conjuring-Verse, creating a world of connected horror movies. Now it seems like TV should be following suit — if the Arrowverse (DC Comics’ more successful connected universe) is anything to go by, there is certainly a market for it.
Former Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies seems to agree. In a recent interview with Waitrose Weekend, surrounding the release of his latest show, It’s a Sin — in which the Daleks get a little cameo — he talked about creating something of a connected universe, with his spin-offs The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood running alongside the main show itself.
All the Doctor Who shows memorably came together in the final trilogy of Series 4, Turn Left, The Stolen Earth, and Journey’s End. This was the same year Marvel Studios came along with Iron Man, and it was a huge pay off for the fans of all the shows seeing these characters coming together to defeat the literally universe-ending threat of Davros and the Daleks.
“There should be a Doctor Who channel now. You look at those Disney announcements, of all those new Star Wars and Marvel shows, you think, we should be sitting here announcing The Nyssa Adventures or The Return of Donna Noble, and you should have the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors together in a 10-part series. Genuinely.”
I’d happily watch The Nyssa Adventures and The Return of Donna Noble! But is Doctor Who in threat of being left behind? While it survived the might of Star Wars in the 1970s, at a time when franchises like Marvel are dominating the box office and small screen, might Doctor Who be threatened to relegation to a little curiosity show once more?
I doubt it, but I think Davies is onto something: creating a connected universe like this allows for so many stories to be told. Whatever happened to Martha and Mickey, Gwen and Captain Jack? What did Rose get up to in the parallel universe? What did the Daleks do to escape at the end of Genesis of the Daleks? All questions that could be answered in new series…
I think that a connected universe might be the shot that Who needs at the moment. The Chibnall era hasn’t impressed me much, though I’m still watching, so bringing back past characters, even from the classic series or the BBV properties in the Wilderness Years could bring some of the old fans back, and make Doctor Who properly exciting again!
And as luck would have it, I’ve always wondered the same thing as Davies and over on The Doctor Who Big Blue Box Podcast, a fantastic podcast, I’ve created my own connected universe of adventures in the form of a pitch. Along with 5 series of Doctor Who, I’ve created stories for A Charitable Earth, UNIT, and then a new Torchwood series. I’ve also got plans for Gallifrey in its early years and a few short series featuring characters like Lytton and the Cult of Skaro!
With connected universe franchises being much more mainstream now, could one with Doctor Who exist and work? And with rumours of this era possibly coming to an end, though I doubt it, will a new showrunner look at things like Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek and decide to do something similar? I guess only time will tell…