Whether you like or inexplicably loathe Russell T. Davies, you have to admit that the man expanded the world of Doctor Who, working to fill it with a roster of unforgettable side characters like Rose, Jackie Tyler, River Song, The Doctor Donna, Wilfred Mott, Mickey, Martha Jones, and Captain Jack. Davies didn’t just let these characters roam though, he serviced them and made us care and even long for their return appearances.
Doctor Who, in the time of Steven Moffat, has not similarly excelled in this area. Oh sure, the love story of Rory and Amy will be written in the stars and spoken about for the whole of time (or something), and Moffat has more fully realized (for better or worse) River Song, his creation, but they don’t seem right for a spin-off and for the most part we only get snippets of other, smaller characters who we would love to get to know more.
That’s why news that Moffat is “not against” a spin-off strikes me as a little odd. Simply put, who on Earth (or otherwise) would such a show highlight? Are we going to be treated to a weekly hour of whiny Craig, his wife Sophie, their baby, and their re-purposed Cyberman nanny? Probably not, but that’s more likely than a Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, or Donna Noble themed show since Moffat could never be accused of over-mining the Davies’ years, again — for better, or worse.
With Davies, it was simpler — audiences longed for more of the returned Elisabeth Sladen and the brand new Captain Jack, a ball of confidence and swagger that could actually pull off the rare feat of out-charming the Doctor (less of a challenge during the gruff days of Christopher Eccleston). Through that, The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood were born, respectively occupying a more PG and more adult section of the Whoniverse alongside with the decidedly PG-13 seeming Doctor Who.
Sadly, both of those shows seem to be no more, with Sarah Jane fading away after the death of Ms. Sladen and Torchwood stuck in some sort of long hibernation that may never end following the ambitious yet uneven Miracle Day. Even if Torchwood were to return, it really has shed much of the connection that it once had with the mothership since Moffat took over the TARDIS from Davies (who continued to produce Sarah Jane and Torchwood), so much so that calling it a “spin-off” relates more to its past than the present or the future.
No, if Who is to have a more proper spin-off in the future, it will be one that should be (and likely would be) tied to the present Doctor and overseen (in some way) by the current showrunner, and that poses more of a problem for the prospects of another Who-influenced show than an empty reservoir of worthy side-characters.
Why? Well, in his own words, Moffat is “relatively busy” producing Doctor Who and also Sherlock. So busy that all this talk of spin-offs may wind up being for naught, though as Who producer Caroline Skinner says, “You never know.” In the meantime, though, it would be just wizard if Moffat could draw up some side characters like last season’s Rita (“The God Complex”) and Mels (“Let’s Kill Hitler”), characters that make it past the third act of their only episode.