Disney’s role in Doctor Who production clarified

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Doctor Who executive producers Russell T Davies, Phil Collinson, Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter participated in a Zoom interview with Doctor Who Magazine on a November evening in 2022.


On 25 October, 2022, the BBC announced that, for the 2023 Specials and the series beyond, they’d be joining forces with Disney Branded Television “to transform Doctor Who into a global franchise by bringing the series to Disney+. Under a shared creative vision” that will “deliver this quintessentially British show to future generations on an unprecedented scale”.

From November 2023, the BBC will provide new episodes of Doctor Who to the UK and Ireland. Elsewhere in the world, new episodes will premiere on Disney+.

“It’s glorious,” Showrunner Russell T Davies told DWM. “It’s worth saying that, to begin with, the entire impetus for that was from the BBC. It was their next future for Doctor Who. That was decided before any of us came on board.”

“It was always needed – how do you make a show like this, in 2022, without that co-producing partner?,” Julie Gardner added. “But it wasn’t a shoo-in, because the market is really complicated and cut-throat. You know, I felt frightened: ‘Are we going to find someone? How do we do this?’ There were a lot of things to work through.”

“And that’s where we had the support of the BBC, actually,” Davies continued. “The BBC backed Doctor Who before anyone, a streamer, had been signed up. That’s what drew us in – the BBC’s commitment to making this series come hell or high water.”

“Our task was to find a partner who understood both the particularity of Doctor Who, but also how that particularity could resonate across the world – and how to do that without ruining the particularity,” added Jane Tranter. “And Disney+, they were the best in class.”

Doctor Who - Ncuit Gatwa as The Fifteenth Doctor costume reveal

The producers explained how this collaboration between the BBC and Disney won’t cause Doctor Who to lose its individuality, Britishness, or magic.

“… Russell’s vision is very, very clear, and it’s very British, and it’s everything [DWM] readers will want it to be,” Gardner explained.

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

“Disney is marvellous,” Gardner added before leaving the interview for another commitment. “They care about the show, and they love Russell’s vision. It’s a proper working relationship, but their hearts and souls are true.”

“Bad Wolf is so internationally renowned now,” Phil Collinson added. “If any production company is going to embody the spirit of the expansion of this brand, and everything Russell wants to bring to it, it is Bad Wolf. The fearless way they’ve arrived in this industry and taken it by storm is amazing. So Doctor Who couldn’t be in a better place.”

Davies revealed in the same interview that a Disney+ executive who toured the 125,000 square feet of space at Wolf Studios was “properly gobsmacked” by it.

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

Some examples of notes from Disney were given in the interview.

“They sent us a note on Episode One [of Ncuti Gatwa’s first series] that said, “That opening isn’t as much fun as the other episodes,” Davies revealed. “It was a great note. So I’ve written a new opening –”

“An expensive new opening,” Collinson added.

“and it’s broken everyone’s backs,” Davies continued. “But it’s absolutely worth doing.”

“It’s brilliant,” Collinson added.

Collinson and Davies also described notes from Disney on the newest edit of Special Three.

“I can’t believe we missed that bit,” Collinson said of one particular shot.

“I know!” exclaimed Davies. “We never saw the third baddie being disposed of. And now we do.”

“Also,” added Collinson, “that S***** S** shot is so much better – of her leaping off the ground.” (DWM censored this for spoilers.) “How did we never realise that?”

“You see,” said Tranter, “that’s what network executives are there for. They lift up our edits.”

Ncuti Gatwa & Millie Gibson leaning on the TARDIS

The producers debunked a press story, first reported by Broadcast, which claimed the budget for each episode could triple to as much as £10 million.

“That has been exaggerated,” Daviess revealed. “If that was the budget, I’d be speaking to you from my base on the Moon. That is not the budget, and I worry that misinformation like that creates false expectation. Nonetheless, we have a lovely, handsome budget, and we’re very happy with how we’re proceeding with it.”

“It’s a really good budget for us,” added Tranter. “But we are not Game of Thrones. Or The Rings of Power.”

“I still spend 75 per cent of my day in meetings, trying to work out how many monsters we can afford and how we can make it look like we’ve got twice as many, how we can revamp that set and re-use it, how do we take these massive, ambitious, brilliant, gorgeous scripts and make them absolutely the best we possibly can for the money we’ve got,” Collinson continued. “Which is what Verity Lambert [Doctor Who’s original producer] was doing in 1963. It’s always been a show that reaches beyond its means and pushes every creative person.”

Doctor Who returns in November 2023 with three 60th anniversary specials starring David Tennant as the Fourteenth Doctor. In the following festive period, Ncuti Gatwa will star in his first full Doctor Who episode as the Fifteenth Doctor.

Doctor Who Magazine 586 is on sale Thursday 5 January from Panini, WH Smith and as a digital edition from PocketMags.