Doctor Who: Russell T Davies responds to long-standing fan theory

Returning writer Davies recently shared that the Daleks were ‘on pause’ after featuring heavily with Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor

Isobel Lewis
Tuesday 14 November 2023 12:34 GMT
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Doctor Who 60th Anniversary specials trailer

Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies has responded to a long-held fan rumour about the Daleks after revealing that the franchise’s most notorious villains are “on pause” for the foreseeable.

The long-running BBC series returns later this month with Davies back at the helm, 18 years after he brought the classic sci-fi show back in 2005. The It’s a Sin creator takes over Doctor Who for three episodes with David Tennant returning as the Time Lord before Sex Education star Ncuti Gatwa takes over the Tardis.

On Monday (13 November), it was announced that fans will be given a first glimpse at Tennant’s 14th Doctor on Friday (17 November), in a short scene airing as part of Children in Need where he will face off against the Daleks. However, just days before, Davies shared that the Daleks would not appear in the new series of Doctor Who after featuring heavily during Jodie Whittaker’s reign as the Doctor.

In response to news of the Daleks’ brief return, one viewer put a “random question” to Davies on Instagram about a much-discussed fan theory. It’s long been rumoured that, due to a deal with the estate of Dalek “creator” Terry Nation, the BBC is contractually obliged to feature the monster every year Doctor Who airs, or else lose the rights.

“The whole thing about the Nation estate saying Daleks have to appear once a year/series to keep the licence, that’s not true is it?” the fan asked Davies, with another echoing that it felt like a “weird coincidence” that the Daleks often popped up in short episodes, audio stories or web series when they weren’t in the main show.

In response, Davies wrote: “They’re the Daleks. It’s Doctor Who. Nothing weird about using them at all.”

Screenwriter Nation first created the Daleks, a race of cyborg aliens, for a 1963 episode starring William Hartnell’s First Doctor. The writer died in 1997, at the age of 66.

Friday’s Children in Need special will see Tennant return to the Tardis ahead of the 60th anniverasary specials. He will be joined by actor and comedian Mawaan Rizwan.

Sharing the news on social media, Davies teased that the scene would see the Doctor encounter the Daleks and visit their origin planet of Skaro. However, he stressed that the Children in Need special was “NOT a comedy skit”, but a “fully scored and FX’d five-minute scene”. He wrote: “The new Whoniverse arrives on Friday 17 November!”

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This new era of Doctor Who begins with three episodes, starring returning Doctor Tennant and Catherine Tate as companion Donna Doble. Gatwa will then take over as the 15th Doctor in a special episode airing over the festive period, with his first full series airing next year.

Discussing Gatwa’s forthcoming tenure as the Doctor – who will be joined by Coronation Street star Millie Gibson as his companion Ruby Sunday – Davies explained that these episodes were going to be all about the “new” with only “one or two little hark backs”.

“So there are no Daleks, there are no Cybermen,” he said. “I didn’t want to look back too much.”

Davies explained that, while he did “love” the Daleks, he felt they had featured too heavily in recent series of the show.

“I do think we’ve had a lot of Daleks lately, because [former showrunner Chris] Chibnall’s Christmas specials have all been Daleks, so I think they’ve been done a lot. So I think people expect them every year now. I think they need a good pause.”

Doctor Who returns Saturday 25 November on BBC One.

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