Doctor Who’s New Spinoff Could Bring Back a Controversial Plotline
The legend returns (again).
The Whoniverse is about to get a whole lot bigger.
After the 60th anniversary specials reintroduced David Tennant back into the (increasingly tangled) regeneration lineup, it opened the doors to the opportunity for many, many Doctor Who spinoffs. With the bi-generation of the 14th Doctor (Tennant) and the 15th Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa), Doctor Who basically soft-launched its own expanded TV universe — an idea that newly returned showrunner Russell T. Davies has been dreaming of for a while. No official spinoffs had actually been announced, so fans were left to speculate: would it be a UNIT spinoff? A deep dive into the mysterious Division? Another Torchwood miniseries? Or maybe the 8th Doctor would finally get his long-deserved spotlight?
Turns out the first spinoff in this new era of Doctor Who, per a recently unearthed production listing, would be none of these things. Instead, it will reportedly be a “fantasy-action saga” featuring the Sea Devils.
Who are the Sea Devils?
First introduced in the 1972 3rd Doctor serial “The Sea Devils,” these Doctor Who monsters are an ancient marine race that ruled the Earth long before humanity, and are quite irked that humans have done so much damage to the planet. Like their cave-dwelling cousins, the Silurians, they emerge to reconquer the Earth from the humans — a scheme that the Doctor stops.
The serial, like many adventures featuring Jon Pertwee’s 3rd Doctor, embodied the show’s turn towards overtly progressive sci-fi storytelling, especially with its themes of environmentalism and nuclear warfare. “The Sea Devils,” and its titular monsters, allowed the show to explore a kind of sharp sociopolitical commentary that it had never really (pardon the pun) dipped its toes in before. This makes the Sea Devils a surprisingly good fit for Russell T. Davies’ unapologetically progressive new era of the show.
A Strange Choice for a Spinoff
But even with those shared progressive themes, the Sea Devils make for an unusual first choice to be the subject of the first spinoff of the new era. They’re not what you’d call a popular monster, being decidedly less recognizable than their cousins the Silurians with only made a handful of appearances in the show since their debut. The Sea Devils’ second appearance was in the notoriously hated 5th Doctor serial “Warriors of the Deep” from 1984, and they wouldn’t return to the show until 2022’s “Legend of the Sea Devils,” in which they face off against the 13th Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) in 19th century China. Unlike the Silurians, the Sea Devils didn’t receive a sleek sci-fi makeover and remained goofy goobers in silicone costumes. Coupled with two forgettable appearances, it begs the question of why Davies would choose the Sea Devils to launch his Whoniverse spinoffs.
But maybe by going against expectations, Davies is setting up the Whoniverse to be much more creatively ambitious than what fans expect. A UNIT or Division spinoff would inevitably end up feeling like a redux of Davies’ Torchwood series, and any miniseries featuring past or present Doctors would only take the attention away from Ncuti Gatwa’s 15th Doctor. Perhaps by structuring a spinoff around a little-known monster, Davies could finally allow Doctor Who to branch out creatively beyond the “monster of the week” procedural formulas of its past spinoffs. Why not actually fulfill the potential of the “Legend of the Sea Devils” special and turn this spinoff into a swashbuckling pirate show set in ancient China? With a vague logline like “A spin-off of the fantasy-action saga Doctor Who, that will feature the Sea Devils,” there’s no limit to what Davies and co. could do.