I first discovered Doctor Who, late on a Saturday night in 1994. My local PBS station, Maryland Public Television showed episodes in movie format at 11pm, and while flipping channels, I by chance landed on it twenty minutes into Tom Baker’s premier in the episode “Robot.” It was like watching a train wreck; the amount of cheese and the hammy acting was like watching Mystery Science Theater 3000, without the commentary.
I tuned in the next week for “The Ark in Space” and laughed hysterically at the poor actors having to stumble across the sets in their Wyrrn costumes, but by the time it ended, as much fun as I had at the expense of the actors, I still wanted more. But my addiction to Doctor Who would be cemented two weeks later, when I got to watch one of the bes tstory arcs of the original series – “Genesis of the Daleks.” From that point on I was obsessed. Sure the show made me laugh, but behind the recycled sets, the cheesy monsters, and some of the questionable acting, there was some real, hardcore science fiction. I started videotaping every single episode, much to the chagrin of my sister whose dance recitals and chorus concerts were sacrificed for Doctor Who.
Thankfully, with the reemergence of the good Doctor in the 2000’s, the TARDIS materialized into the mainstream. The bullies in high school who picked on me for my love of the show were now eating their words – Doctor Who was popular. People on both sides of the pond can’t seem to get enough of the series, and the BBC has taken note and announced their next spin-off.
As I recently sat watching the Doctor and Clara run from eyeless ghosts undersea, the last thing going through my head was “I wonder what’s going at the Coal Hill School?” I guess that’s one reason why the BBC hasn’t picked me to executive produce Class, the forthcoming Doctor Who spin-off that will apparently have the children of the Coal Hill School solving extraterrestrial mysteries. Truth be told, there have been some worse ideas for Doctor Who spin-offs (Watch K-9 and Company if you dare), but there is little I find compelling about Class from its synopsis. Of course, I hope I’m completely mistaken; after a somewhat slow start, The Sarah Jane Adventures was a fantastic young adult series that captured the spirit of its source material, and while Torchwood: Miracle Day seems to have put the nail in the coffin of the series, the first two seasons and Children Of Earth were a fantastic look into the further adventures of Captain Jack Harkness and friends. Regardless of how it sounds, Class will have some very large shoes to fill, so I sat down and came up with eight other ideas that might just fill those shoes a little better.
If Torchwood was the Doctor Who spin on the X-Files, a series featuring the adventures of U.N.I.T. could be the paranormal version of the A-Team. The fact is, over the past few seasosn we’ve seen U.N.I.T. much more involved in the defense of Earth since Torchwood left the airwaves. It would be a massive departure from Doctor Who, given that the Doctor is prone to non-violence and U.N.I.T. is a military force. A spin-off featuring the group wouldn’t even be a first; between stage plays and independent films, U.N.I.T. has had more of a second life than any other aspect of Doctor Who.
Honestly, I’d be happy to see more of Kate Lethbridge-Stewart and the soon to be resurrected (presumably) Osgood on screen, but the chance to possibly see other U.N.I.T. members of the past and some unused baddies like the Yeti could be a real winner.
7. Jago and Litefoot
As the Fourth Doctor and Leela battled the mysterious 51st century war criminal Magnus Greel and his Peking Homunculus known as Mr Sin – the precursor to murderous dolls like Chucky and Slappy – they were assisted by Professor Litefoot and Henry Gordon Jago. This unlikely pair, a police pathologist and theater owner respectively, became quite the investigative duo. While they were still no match for the Doctor, these amateur gumshoes became instant fan favorites, and were considered for a spin-off series of their own in the seventies that would have dealt with the pair solving supernatural mysteries Sherlock-style.
If all of this sounds familiar, it’s because while the two were never seen on the small screen again, they were reunited for a series of Big Finish audio drama productions: Jago and Litefoot audio dramas just released their ninth season of stories in April 2015. While Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter are now both in their eighties, recasting roles is nothing new to Doctor Who, and with the long standing popularity of this mystery solving odd couple, it would certainly attract many to their televisions.
6. Time Lord Academy
While many of us have grown up with Doctor Who, there is certainly a young audience that has adopted the show as their own. Hell, my 3 year-old daughter has a tendency to run around the house with a fez on her head and a toy sonic screwdriver in her hands, so I understand the interest the BBC has in creating a series for younger viewers like Class. But instead of reinventing the wheel, why not just take a massive step back in time.
It’s pretty obvious that the Doctor has known the Master/Missy and the Rani since childhood; why not explore their time at the academy? Sure, everyone’s already doing this with mixed result – There’s Monster High, the upcoming DC Super Hero Girls, Equestria Girls and so on, but seeing the Doctor and frenemies struggling to get through Gallifreyan high school, in live action or animated form could be quite the trip.
The Doctor, or rather Theta Sigma as he was called in the Academy, could be our nerdy outcast. The Rani could take the role as the brains, genetically manipulating creatures for her science experiments. The Master would be the handsome cool guy everyone likes, always struggling to keep his dark side hidden. I can handle a moderate amount of teenage angst, just so long as the Master doesn’t keep constantly whining about the dubstep in his head.
5. Abslom Daak/Ace – Dalek Killer
If you’re looking for the antithesis to the Doctor, Abslom Daak might just be your cup of tea. A 26th century criminal, Daak is given the choice of being vaporized for his crimes, or being banished and forced to hunt Daleks for the rest of his life, and hunt Daleks he does.
The best way I would describe him is if Ashley J. Williams and Judge Dredd had a lovechild; he’s violent, mean-spirited, wears Dalek parts as clothing, and packs a wicked chainsaw. He’s popped up several times in comics, books, and short stories, and while he’s been referenced in the new series, he’s never actually shown up in the flesh.
Ace, on the other hand, spent two years aboard the TARDIS as the Seventh Doctor’s second and final companion. She also didn’t subscribe to the Doctor’s more pacifistic nature, gleefully beating the shit out of Daleks with black hole infused baseball bats and explosive whippets. The interesting fact about Ace is that she was one of the most manipulated companions the Doctor ever had, and while she ended the series arm in arm with the Doctor, her subsequent travels were not so pleasant.
In the New Adventures book series, Ace continued to be manipulated by the Doctor, which comes to a head when the Doctor sacrifices her boyfriend to stop an alien force in Paul Cornell’s Love and War. She leaves the TARDIS, spending three years fighting Daleks in the aptly-named SpaceForce, before running into the TARDIS again, this time older and a hell of a lot more jaded.
A series based on either one of these characters fighting the universe’s most pissed-off pepper pots is almost assured to be successful, if only for their enemy. Let’s face it, as overused as the Daleks have become, they are still ratings gold. Add in a brooding dark hero or a strong female badass, perhaps a visit from some of the lesser Dalek allies like the Ogrons or Robomen, and you could have a rather compelling action series.
A fan of video games and science fiction from the moment he discovered his father's Atari 2600 and Star Wars, Jason Helton has been contributing to The Robot's Voice since 2011. Prior, he wrote for the UK's Den of Geek and was the producer and host of Iron Otaku Radio on XM's UPOP 29 channel. A die-hard fan of Battlestar Galactica (both old and new), Doctor Who, and pinball, you can follow him on Twitter @Razgriz1138.