What if I was the showrunner of Doctor Who? That's the question our TV editor Ray Flook dared us to toy with. This is a thought exercise. We all watch our favorite shows and play fantasy football with the casting, the storylines, the plots, the ideas. That's what fandom entails. Everyone has their perfect, Platonic idea for their favorite show, and Doctor Who fuels even more fervent and heated debate than most. Always did.
The Doctor Stays A Woman
We've already had over 53 years of a male Doctor. The Doctor can be a woman for the foreseeable future because the future is female. Suck it, sexists! I would have Jo Martin return as the regular Doctor once Jodie Whittaker ends her run on the show. I had thought the next Doctor should also be a woman of color, and Chris Chibnall got ahead of that game by introducing Jo Martin as a "lost" Doctor. I love the Ruth Doctor. She was tough as nails and had no patience for other people's crap. She also had a ruthless streak a mile wide and the gravitas to reduce people to a quivering puddle with her rage and sheer contempt. Who wouldn't want to write for a Doctor like that?
For an alternative or her replacement, I would gladly cast Hannah John-Kamen. If you haven't heard of her, she was the star of the Canadian Science Fiction series Killjoys where she played a space bounty hunter with a complicated past. She has also appeared on Black Mirror, Ready Player One, Ant-Man and The Wasp and Brave New World. She has form in Science Fiction and action roles and is on the verge of stardom. She could have a costume that makes her look like even more of a Space Pirate Timelord than ever.
Oh, and the Timelords and Gallifrey stay dead. I never found them that interesting, and they really work better as part of The Doctor's backstory.
Bring Back Captain Jack Harkness As The Doctor's Companion
The fans want this. John Barrowman wants this. Why not have him back as a companion traveling in the TARDIS with The Doctor. They would of course pick up at least one more companion from a depraved part of England who has their world blown open by adventures in Space and Time. I would have my first season arc be about a mystery that Captain Jack has brought to The Doctor that they have to solve, something involving Jack's immortality and a crisis that threatens the stability of Time itself. I would also bring back Torchwood and fold it into the fabric of the show.
Hire Diverse Writers
Like Chris Chibnall, I would hire black, Asian, LGBTQ, and female writers to pitch stories for the show. Diverse perspectives keep the show fresh, especially with the historical stories. They don't have to be about just British or American history. The Doctor and her companions can have stories in the rich, complex histories of countries in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean. I wouldn't hire American writers, though. The Doctor is a British creation, and the satirical humor and tone of the show have always been British.
The storylines would continue to celebrate the anti-authoritarian, anti-fascist politics that always informed the show. Doctor Who has always been political. I would also choose historical figures that were a bit obscure but deserve to be celebrated just like Chibnall celebrated Nikola Tesla over Thomas Edison and told the story of the heroine Indian-British female spy Noor Inayat Khan, who worked with the French Resistance. I would love to have a story where The Doctor went to Imperial China and met the Empress Dowager in a tale of court intrigue involving warring kingdoms and alien assassins, trying to take over China and use it as a stronghold to conquer the rest of the Earth.
Bring Back Andrew Cartmel and Ben Aaronovitch
Andrew Cartmel was the story editor of the last three seasons of Doctor Who before it was unceremoniously canceled in the late 1980s. He was the architect of the "Cartmel Masterplan" that intended to bring back a sense of mystery to The Doctor. He hired Ben Aaronovitch, a savvy, hip, smart writer who wrote some of the smartest scripts during the Cartmel's era featuring Sylvester McCoy as the 7th Doctor. Between them, Cartmel and Aaronovitch created the template that the current show is based on. Aaronovitch is currently the author of the popular Rivers of London novels featuring a black London cop who works for the secret magical division of the Metropolitan Police. Cartmel and Aaronovitch always embedded smart, witty politics in their stories and would just be back doing that tradition on the show.
Of course, this will never happen. This is another harmless bit of "What If?" Everyone should try this as an exercise just to get it off their chest. It's a fun way to pass a holiday afternoon.