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Let’s pick some clickbait apart

The thing that’s got Doctor Who fandom in a tizzy today is this article from The Mirror, ( link, if you’d rather not give them the traffic) a tabloid that, to be fair, does have a better track record than you’d typically ascribe to a tabloid. The article purports to claim that Paul McGann is set to reprise his incarnation of the show’s titular character in a spin-off — and I’m gonna pick the article apart line by line. Let’s just get into it. All blockquoted text from the Mirror article unless I indicate otherwise. Headline.

EXCLUSIVE: Paul McGann set to make comeback as the Eighth Doctor in new Doctor Who spin-off series.

Wow, exciting. That’d be cool, wouldn’t it. Don’t even need to read past the headline to get the gist — the claim is clear: The McGann incarnation will be back on your screen in multiple episodes. And it’s an exclusive, too! Nobody else has this information! Which makes sense, because there will in fact be: No information. Next, the lede.

The Doctor Who returns later this month with three specials celebrating the 60th anniversary with David Tennant back as the Doctor and Catherine Tate as Donna Noble and now Paul McCann is set to make his comeback too

First of all, the quality of the copyediting is fucking appalling here — “the Doctor Who,” “Paul McCann,” and have they run out of commas at The Mirror? But that aside, all we’ve got here is a basic restating of both information you already know — Doctor Who is indeed back later this month with three specials starring David Tennant and Catherine Tate — and then of the claim made by the headline. (Though I don’t know who Paul McCann is.) The same claim is restated once again by the opening line…

Paul McGann is set to make a comeback as the Eighth Doctor in a new Doctor Who spin-off series.

The 63-year-old actor had the keys to the TARDIS for the 1996 television film, a co-production between BBC Worldwide and Universal Studios, which was an attempt to revive the sci-fi show after it was cancelled in 1989.

His incarnation of the Time Lord built up a loyal fan base since due to the audio adventures he has voiced. He has had two just TV appearances in the 50th anniversary special and a cameo in Jodie Whittaker’s final outing The Power of the Doctor.

…and the next two paragraphs are broadly speaking accurate restatements of things you already know, too, though I’d argue he didn’t actually appear in the 50th anniversary special but in a webisode, but okay, close enough.

The show is about to enter a new era with Russell T Davies – the man who rebooted it in 2005 – at the helm and Disney co-producing with the BBC and spin-offs are being planned to increase the Whoniverse.

More established information. We know all this, and RTD was explicit about wanting to mirror the Star WarsMarvel model of a whole range of spinoffs even before he took back over, saying in 2021, in Doctor Who Magazine #579:

RUSSELL T DAVIES: There should be a Doctor Who channel now. You look at those Disney announcements, of all those new Star Wars and Marvel shows, you think, we should be sitting here announcing The Nyssa Adventures or The Return of Donna Noble, and you should have the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors together in a 10-part series. Genuinely.

After the announcement of his return he’s been more coy, but the sentiment is clearly still very much a driving force behind the new Whoniverse branding — if Tales from the TARDIS does anything, it’s signal that it’s all one big show, one big story. A McGann incarnation spinoff would not actually be that weird. But let’s get back to the article.

The spin offs will work in the same way that Disney created series for Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe that stream on Disney+.

Literally explicitly something he said in 2021, sure. Still, to be extremely clear: No new information at this point.

A source said: “Russell likes the idea of bringing back McGann with his own set of episodes in the TARDIS. Disney are on board as they want more original content and want to fully exploit the franchise as they know how big it could become.”

Alright, see, here’s what we’re clearly basing this entire article around, but, is this new information? “A source” could be anyone, that could be my grandfather, for all we know.1Both of them are dead.

“Russell likes the idea.” Sure, who wouldn’t? It’d be really cool to see Paul McGann get his real, proper due, right, the idea comes up in fandom all the time. But liking the idea isn’t six episodes on BBC One by winter next year.

“Disney are on board,” well, yes, they’re spending a lot of money, they generally seem to get along with the RTD2 team very well. I’m sure if RTD shows up with a spinoff premise that he’s excited about and thinks will work, Disney are on board.

Other possible spin-offs include a series on UNIT, the Earth based military wing that works with the Doctor to defend the planet and a villain anthology.

Oh, we’re already moving on from the McGann incarnation spinoff, huh? The UNIT spinoff has been widely rumoured for a long time now, and the modern incarnation of UNIT could probably sustain a spinoff, so, sure. And I hadn’t heard the “villain anthology” one before, but if you’re going as vague as “other possible spin-offs,” you could say just about anything. “Other possible spin-offs include a drama about Dr Who’s biscuit supplier, a Zygon police procedural with a psycho-sexual twist, and a film about Professor Prudeish from off The Time Warrior as he fights his care home in court.” Sure, Jan.

Doctor Who returns later this month with three specials celebrating the 60th anniversary with David Tennant back as the Doctor and Catherine Tate as Donna Noble. Ncuti Gatwa is then taking control of the TARDIS in 2024.

More restatement of known information, though, small correction, Gatwa actually takes over at Christmas this year.

Speaking in an interview recently, Paul said he would be interested, adding: “I finally got to be in an episode. The fans tell me that they hope there will be a chance of some more, that would be nice. I would be well up for it.”

Actor wouldn’t turn down followup to job they’re famous for. Some of them say they wouldn’t, some of them seem somewhat desperate for it, but it’s not an uncommon sentiment, is it. Certainly it doesn’t sound like a man who’s in active negotiations with the BBC.

A spokesman for Doctor Who declined to comment.

They would, wouldn’t they, the sneaky bastards.

So, in conclusion: The only actual new information in this entire article: An unnamed source claims “Russell [T Davies] likes the idea” of a McGann incarnation spinoff. …Yeah, man, I’m sure he does.

  • 1
    Both of them are dead.
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