Doctor Who has introduced us to many fantastic characters and settings during decades of time travel and exploring the universe. Often the stories of these characters and worlds leave the audience wanting more and, across the years, several successful Doctor Who spin-off series have made it onto our screens.
As far back as the mid-1960s, spin-off shows were suggested. Back when the Daleks were everywhere and at the height of their popularity, without luck, their creator Terry Nation tried to get an American-produced series with his audience-pleasing monsters off the ground.
After Doctor Who returned in 2005, there was mention of a Young Doctor Who series which would take us back to explore the Doctor’s life as a child. Something as revealing and important as this to the Doctor Who legacy was abandoned quite quickly, with the idea of a young Doctor never really explored until the “The Timeless Children”.
What makes a good spin-off?
To work, a spin-off series must be faithful to the original characters and worlds where we first encountered them. Production values also play a big part in their success and they need to be similar enough to their original worlds to be credible. Also, any new adventures definitely can’t break any of the rules from the history of Doctor Who.
To maintain interest and for them to succeed in the eyes of Doctor Who fans, you have to believe that the Doctor and the TARDIS could drop in on these spin-off series at any moment and not look out of place – and this has worked successfully several times so far.
Expanding the Whoniverse
To date, there have been just five spin off shows created on the back of the Doctor’s adventures.
- K-9 and Company (1981): The first spin-off show brought back the popular companion Sarah Jane Smith (played by Elisabeth Sladen) and placed her in a sleepy Gloucestershire village setting with a Mark III version of K-9 (voiced by John Leeson) and her own companion in the shape of schoolboy Brendan. Sadly, this cosy, festive tale of witchcraft and kidnappings didn’t lead to a full-time series. And if you’ve never seen it, stop everything immediately and check out the opening credits and theme tune, which are very of their time and loads of fun.
- Torchwood (41 episodes, 2006-2011): The Torchwood organisation was set up by Queen Victoria after her encounter with a werewolf in the Doctor Who episode “Tooth and Claw” (2006). The spin-off series Torchwood stars former TARDIS companion Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), who protects the world from alien threat with his small team from a secret underground base in Cardiff. Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) from Doctor Who turns up in three episodes.
- The Sarah Jane Adventures (53 episodes, 2007-2011): Sarah Jane Smith and K-9 returned to our lives with this successful CBBC series. Throughout, Sarah Jane and her friends encounter many alien threats including monsters from the world of Doctor Who, and are even visited by the Tenth (David Tennant) and Eleventh Doctors (Matt Smith) along the way. Former Doctor Who companions Jo Grant/Jones (Katy Manning) and the Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney) make memorable appearances in the series too.
- K-9 (26 episodes, 2009-10): This Australian-produced show features a radically updated version of K-9, voiced by John Leeson. The series features aliens from other times and planets and has the occasional nod to its source series, Doctor Who. Plans for a second series were mooted, but K-9 is yet to return.
- Class (8 episodes, 2016): Created by writer Patrick Ness, the underrated Class series is set in Coal Hill Academy, previously the school that Susan Foreman was attending in Doctor Who’s first story “An Unearthly Child” in 1963. This more adult-themed show features some violent alien threats and, without spoiling anything, has a surprise from the world of Doctor Who in its final moments. The Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) crops up in the first episode.
And that’s it, so far – with no current spin-off shows in production. However, with nearly 300 stories featuring some brilliant ideas, characters and worlds left behind by the Doctor – surely there are loads of other potential ideas for spin-off series? But where to start? There are endless pairings of characters from such a rich history to draw from. As we revisit Doctor Who companion Rose Tyler on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the show’s return to the big screen, here are some suggestions for new stories from the worlds of Doctor Who that we think would make great spin-off shows, with input from members of Fandom’s TARDIS community.
The Adventures of Sally Sparrow
First seen in the Doctor Who episode “Blink” (2007), the character of Sally Sparrow (played by Carey Mulligan) is just too great to be left inside the confines of that one story. The fact that the character carries the episode successfully without the Doctor or a companion, shows us how a full series with Sally and her boyfriend Larry might work.
On Earth, without help or intervention by UNIT, Torchwood or the Doctor, Sally could ably run into new threats and menaces and logically and calmly work out how to get rid of them like she did in her only Doctor Who story. Of course, in a season finale, with a menace too great for Sally – let’s say the Daleks – she might need the help of an old friend. Enter the Doctor, now with a different face and played by Jodie Whittaker, who remembers Sally well and who might even persuade Sally and Larry to join her in the TARDIS – after she convinces them both that she is the same person they had briefly met before, of course.
The Nestene on Earth
As fans discovered after the global rewatch of Doctor Who’s “Rose” last week, writer Russell T Davies had prepared a special lockdown treat for us all with “Revenge of the Nestene”. This sequel to “Rose” begins in the aftermath of the episode where we discover that a piece of the Nestene survived the Doctor’s anti-plastic attack.
Without spoiling this for you, the story goes on to reveal that the Nestene now plays an important part in our day-to-day life – more than you might have believed possible. Surely this could lead to an interesting spin-off show focussing around the Nestene plans to take over the Earth and get revenge on the Doctor?
First seen in “The Timeless Children”, the Division is a special group of Time Lords set up on Gallifrey. While we all know that Time Lords adopt a strict policy of non-intervention, it turns out the Division sits outside this and actively gets involved when necessary. Their full story remains untold – most of it hidden from the Matrix to protect someone or something.
“[I’d like to see] a spin-off involving the Ruth Doctor, with a focus on The Division.” — Fandom TARDIS community member, TheDarkBomber
Other Time Lords breaking the rules would be an interesting series and how fascinating to explore the consequences of this as it expands the world of Doctor Who.
The Unknown Doctors
Since the last series of Doctor Who, it’s now an established fact that there have been countless Doctors before all the official ones that we already know and love. This could open up a whole range of adventures exploring the Doctor Who myth.
We could have one-off stories featuring a ‘Doctor of the week’, giving a whole range of actors the chance to play the role. Just think about it – this could run and run, with endless stories for different Doctors paired up with guest friends travelling with the Doctor.
Failing that, let’s just have a full spin-off series with the amazing Jo Martin as the Doctor, first seen in “Fugitive of the Judoon”. Her performance and that TARDIS is too good to waste on just a couple of outings in the series so far.
Clara and Ashildr
Speaking of cool TARDISes, Clara and Ashildr also have their own one. At the end of “Hell Bent”(2015), this pair make off in a time machine stuck in the shape of an American diner – ready for all sorts of adventures.
Clara knows that her fate is sealed and the universe is depending on her death, so she accepts that there is a time limit on her journeying. Rather grimly, she knows that she must return to Gallifrey one day so that the universe can stay on track and for the Time Lords to return her to the street where she must die – but as she says, we all have to face death at some point so she’s not scared and believes they can have a few adventures on the way back to Gallifrey. Brave and limited as that may be, it definitely opens up the possibility of an exciting spin-off series.
“I would LOVE to see what happened to Clara and “Me” because Clara’s just one heartbeat away from death and Me can’t die. Plus they stole a TARDIS so I’d love to see what they’ve been doing.” — TARDIS community member, ADragonAppears
Between them, they both have a sound knowledge of time travel and different worlds and cultures, so they would be perfectly matched as adventurers and travelling companions. Hopefully, to save the universe, she will get back to a point in Gallifrey’s history before the Master destroyed it, otherwise the universe is in trouble. Again.
At home with the Chestertons
In “The Chase” (1965), the original time-travelling school teachers Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton finally got home to London after an adventure with the Daleks. But what happened next? We’d love to know. Surely settling back into teaching history and science at Coal Hill School might be a bit difficult – plus, how do they explain their disappearance?
An episode of the spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures explains that the pair married and are now professors living in Cambridge, and strangely haven’t aged since the 1960s. Now there’s a story to explore. Think classic British 1980s’ sitcom Terry and June crossed with Torchwood…
Susan Foreman in the 22nd century
Left outside the TARDIS in “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” (1964) with only one shoe and on a Dalek-ravaged Earth, what happened to young Susan Foreman? How did she begin her new life with David Campbell? That’s surely a series that could be explored. We know that she survived and made the best of things, as we see Susan again in “The Five Doctors” (1983), but there’s a whole load of unknown stories to tell between those adventures.
Also, since she’s presumably a Time Lord like her grandfather, we can also see Susan regenerating when the lead actress wants to move on too.
Margaret and the Slitheen
The gas-exchanging Slitheen family from Raxacoricofallapatorius made a huge impact in the 2005 story “Aliens of London”. ‘Margaret’ Slitheen, played perfectly by Annette Badland, made an interesting and complex villain – and she made a welcome return to play the role again later in that same series in “Boom Town”.
“I think maybe it’d be cool to have a kind of anthology/documentary series going to different planets and exploring different races. Like, one episode with the Slitheen, another with the Sontarans, etc. The plots of the episodes could help us better understand how their societies work.” — Fandom TARDIS community member, Notarealcannon
Although we see her regressed to an egg at the end of that story, wouldn’t it be fun to find out what she got up to in Cardiff in the months leading up to “Boom Town”? You can imagine all sorts of mischief as she sets herself up as new mayor of the city…
What do YOU think?
We turned to you, the Fandom community, for your ideas on what would make good spin-off shows, and we got some amazing suggestions. Here are some of our favourites.
- AgentE.L.T would like to see Torchwood: USA.
- Rübenbrei suggests the further adventures of Sabalom Glitz with Mel.
- StevieGLiverpool and DJAitch would like to see Ace brought back for her own series.
- Gomez Capulet thought, amongst other ideas, that a series set on Silurian Earth could make a good spin off or also a Gladiator-style story set in the Death Zone.
- TimeyWimeyness thinks that Bill and Heather’s travels would be interesting.
- McCoyForever would like to see more of the Cyber back story.
- Kaladan9 thinks that Alec Palmer and Emma Grayling from “Hide” would make a great series.
- LauraBatham suggests a Martha and Mickey spin-off.
- SpoonRaptor thinks that Paradise Towers is worth a revisit.
- Rex Gambill would like to see Doctor “Ruth Clayton” having adventures in the TARDIS from the end of “The Timeless Children”.
- Funtybunt suggests Doctor Who: The Companions, a series catching up with friends of the Doctor.
- Sutekh’sGift had loads of ideas – including a series exploring Nyssa working on Terminus.
- Setty121 thinks that a self-help group for all the baddies after they’re thwarted by the Doctor would be a good spin off – with the Adipose serving snacks during the sessions.
- Eclectica737 would like to find out what happened to the Rani during and after the Time War.
- NichtganzHunter thinks that Turlough and Juras (from spin-off novel Turlough and the Earthlink Dilemma) would be interesting.
Adventures in time and audio
As well as regular adventures with past Doctors and companions, the masters of award-winning audio drama, Big Finish Productions, also see the potential in reuniting characters, monsters and settings for an ever-increasing range of audio adventures without the Doctor. Since the late 1990s, the company has successfully created an impressive range of new and exciting adventures that take us to worlds beyond Doctor Who.
The range of their spin-off series is vast and includes:
- Bernice Summerfield – a spin-off series based on a character from a new adventure Doctor Who novel by Paul Cornell (played by Lisa Bowerman).
- Sarah Jane Smith – another spin-off for the ever-popular journalist Sarah Jane Smith (starring Elisabeth Sladen).
- Gallifrey – featuring Romana (Lalla Ward), Leela (Lousie Jameson) and K-9 (John Lesson).
“It would be amazing to see a spin off of the doctor and the master growing up in gallifrey! their friendship is so fascinating it would be awesome to see them as best friends and watch as they slowly become enemies!!” — Fandom TARDIS community member, SuperWhoLock11
- Dalek Empire – stories expanding on worlds invaded by the Daleks, voiced by Dalek supremo Nicholas Briggs.
- I, Davros – follows the story of the Dalek creator.
- Cyberman – takes us to worlds under Cyber control.
- Charlotte Pollard – spin-off adventures with audio companion Charley (India Fisher)
- Jago & Litefoot – Infernal Investigators – with characters from “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” (starring Trevor Baxter and Christopher Benjamin).
- Graceless – sees human Tracers, expanding on ideas from the Doctor Who Key to Time series.
- Torchwood – further adventures based on the television series with the original TV cast.
- Class – continuing the adventures set in Coal Hill.
- UNIT: The New Series – with Kate Stewart and co (starring Jemma Redgrave and Ingrid Oliver).
- Doctor Who: The Churchill Years – sees the return of Winston Churchill (with Ian McNeice).
- Counter-Measures – follows Professor Rachel Jensen (Pamela Salem), Group Captain Ian Gilmore (Simon Williams) and Allison Williams (Karen Gledhill) from “Remembrance of the Daleks”.
- The Lives of Captain Jack – with Captain Jack (John Barrowman).
- Tales from New Earth – takes listeners back to New Earth, five billion years in the future.
- Jenny – The Doctor’s Daughter – sees the return of adventurer Jenny (Georgia Tennant).
- Lady Christina – with Lady Christina de Souza (Michelle Ryan).
- Missy – continuing the adventures of this iteration of the Master (played by one and only Michelle Gomez).
“I think a Missy spinoff would be amazing to do. Missy has had other adventures either before she met Capaldi’s doctor or during his tenure. For example we could see adventures from the missy chronicles book or the missy audio dramas plus others like how she escaped Skaro and what her “very clever idea” was.” — Fandom TARDIS community member, Talon1105
- The Eighth of March – a series connecting River Song (Alex Kingston), Ace (Sophie Aldred) Leela (Lousie Jameson), Benny (Lisa Bowerman), the Paternoster Gang (Dan Starkey, Neve McIntosh and Catrin Stewart) and Kate (Jemma Redgrave) and Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) from UNIT.
- The War Master – sees the return of the Master (played by Derek Jacobi).
- The Dimension Cannon – with Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) and Jackie Tyler (Camile Coduri).
- Kidnapped! – with Donna Noble (starring Catherine Tate and Jacqueline King).
- The Diary of River Song – with River Song (Alex Kingston).
- The Robots – expands on the world seen in “Robots of Death”
- Jago & Litefoot & Strax – (starring Dan Starkey, Trevor Baxter and Christopher Benjamin)
- The Paternoster Gang – with Strax (Dan Starkey) alongside Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh) and Jenny (Catrin Stewart).
- Monster stories featuring the Weeping Angels, the Judoon, the Sycorax, the Vashta Nerada and the Racnoss.
It’s a huge and diverse range of adventures that’s definitely worth diving into. And there are more to come.
Stepping stones to other worlds
As the successful spin-off television series, the Big Finish audios and the Fandom community highlight, there are endless possibilities for shows that expand on the story of Doctor Who. Like the TARDIS, there is potential to go anywhere and while we wait for the series to return, it’s always fun to speculate on what could be and what would work.
“It could be interesting to see Amy and Rory in 20th century New York.” — Fandom TARDIS community member, Elib876
Spin-off stories build on our enjoyment of the series we love and allow us back into the lives and worlds of characters we thought we’d never see again. When done well, they allow us to catch-up with old friends, move their stories on, and let us remember why we enjoyed being in their company in the first place.
It’s a big universe, with lots of stories still to be told. It can’t be long until another spin-off series appears based on the many worlds of Doctor Who.