Russell T. Davies on Why Doctor Who’s Disney Partnership Is So Important

If you watched the Doctor Who 60th anniversary specials, the most recent Christmas special, or even just the trailer for Ncuti Gatwa’s first season as the Fifteenth Doctor—you have absolutely noticed the famously low-budget show’s suddenly far more glorious production values. It’s a big result of the BBC staple’s new partnership with Disney, and past and current showrunner Russell T. Davies is grateful for it.

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Speaking on the They Like to Watch podcast with hosts Sara Barron and Geoff Lloyd (via ComingSoon), Davies spoke a bit more about what the Disney presence has done for the show, both in terms of budget and helping increase its reach to audiences. “I think we now live in a science fiction age,” he said. “We live in a world of streaming, and we live in a world where every 11-year-old is watching Stranger Things because there’s 11-year-old kids in it, and that’s their language, that’s their culture, that’s their references, that’s their memes. I think it’s a real shame for Doctor Who not to be up there with the big hitters.”

He continued. “I’m sitting here watching The Mandalorian, the Marvel shows, Stranger Things. I’m thinking, ‘I’m watching that, that should also be Doctor Who!’ So even before [the show] approached me, I had already said in various interviews, ‘I think Doctor Who will have to become a co-production.’ There’s no way the BBC is going to fund that. You’ve also got to look at the long-term, at the end of the BBC, which somehow is surely undoubtedly on its way in some shape or form. What, is Doctor Who going to die then? You’ve got to prepare for that kind of stuff. But all of that is kind of like the flimflam on top of the fact that I love it. And it’s the only chance you have in television for me to really write in pictures, to do pictures. It’s all pictures. It’s skies, it’s explosions, it’s armies, it’s people on their own in a vast landscape … it’s rope ladders in the sky on Christmas Day. I love that.”

He added that the Disney partnership is a key part of bringing those pictures to life, specifically “pictures that match other people’s pictures now. I think that’s the important thing. If something collapsed, if it just becomes, ‘Tomorrow, we have to go back to making Doctor Who on a normal BBC budget’—you know what? We’d all rally around to make it … and suddenly stories would become claustrophobic ghost stories. A lot of people would like that very much. I’m not saying you have to have this happen, but while it’s happening in this way I think it’s unfair that it doesn’t happen to Doctor Who. And it does open up stories for now, sometimes on a vast scale.”

Doctor Who returns May 10 at 7 p.m. on Disney+ worldwide, unless you live in the UK—where you can catch it May 11 at 12 a.m. GMT on BBC iPlayer and BBC One.

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