Here's Why Doctor Who Is Now On Disney Plus (And Not Just BBC)

By Sam Hargrave Posted:
Doctor Who Ncuti Gatwa, Disney Plus logo

Doctor Who has made its way to Disney+ in most territories with the premiere of the latest season.

The British sci-fi mainstay has run since 1963, with over 800 episodes aired through the decades and more than a dozen actors taking pilot of the time-and-space traveling TARDIS as the Doctor.

The show has been developed since the '60s to air live on BBC One in the UK & Ireland while coming to United States audiences on BBC America. But thanks to a historic new deal, Doctor Who now debuts as a Disney+ original everywhere outside the UK & Ireland.

Why Is Doctor Who on Disney+ Now?

Doctor Who Disney Plus
Doctor Who

Going back to October 2022, the BBC and Disney+ announced a deal to make the House of Mouse's streaming service the "global home" for Doctor Who. The reveal explained how the sci-fi series will be developed under a "shared creative vision" with an "unprecedented scale:"

"Under a shared creative vision, they will deliver this quintessentially British show to future generations on an unprecedented scale with Disney+ as the exclusive home for new seasons of 'Doctor Who' outside the UK and Ireland."

Showrunner Russell T. Davies called the collaboration the "best of both worlds" which will help Doctor Who to "[reach] a new generation of fans:"

"I love this show, and this is the best of both worlds – with the vision and joy of the BBC and Disney+ together we can launch the TARDIS all around the planet, reaching a new generation of fans while keeping our traditional home firmly on the BBC in the UK."

Speaking to the They Like to Watch podcast (via Deadline), Davies explained how the Disney+ deal was necessary to ensure Doctor Who's future as one must "look in the long term at the end of the BBC:"

“I had already said in interviews that I think 'Doctor Who' will have to become a co-pro, there’s no way the BBC is going to fund that. You’ve also got to look in the long term at the end of the BBC, which is somehow, surely, undoubtedly on its way in some shape or form. What is 'Doctor Who' going to do then? You have to prepare for that.”

The streaming service now sports a special collection outside the UK & Ireland that includes the three 60th anniversary specials, the 2023 festive special, and the current season of Doctor Who, which is now releasing weekly.

[ Doctor Who's 2024 Release Date Schedule of Episodes on Disney+ (Confirmed) ]

Currently, past seasons of Doctor Who from the last 60 years along with spin-offs such as Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures are not available on Disney+, nor are they expected to join the new adventures there anytime soon.

How Disney+ Has Changed Doctor Who

As part of the Disney+ deal, the Doctor Who team worked to bill the latest era as a new show. Not only has it come with an overhaul to the creative team and a fresh set of leads, but the current season has been marked as Season 1 to push the coming episodes as a jumping-on point for new fans worldwide.

The deal between the BBC and Disney+ forms not just an international distribution agreement but a co-production arrangement. The House of Mouse will now have some creative say over the direction of the series, although Russell T. Davies and his team will largely have ahold of the wheel when it comes to Doctor Who.

One example of this was revealed by Davies in the Doctor Who: Video Commentaries for "The Church on Ruby Road," who explained how Disney test screenings of the festive special sparked a new scene as "people wanted to see the Doctor earlier" in the episode:

"This was the very last scene to be added. I’ll tell you why – because Disney always test a first episode, and they tested this and people wanted to see the Doctor earlier, as simple as that. They came back with that note, and I was like, 'Well, actually, okay. Who doesn’t want to see Ncuti earlier?'"

Doctor Who now be able to reach a greater audience outside the UK & Ireland as it can be found front-and-center across the Disney+ homepage. Due to the increased interest the sci-fi classic will now be able to generate, Disney has brought a major and reportedly record-breaking budget increase to Doctor Who.

Just ahead of the 2023 specials, the Doctor Who franchise was rebranded as the Whoniverse, which encompasses all three eras of the sci-fi series and the various spin-offs from over the decades.

As the universe looks to expand once again with new spin-offs, seasons, and multimedia content, the influence of Disney is bound to be a useful one due to its experience building out larger franchises thanks to Marvel and Star Wars.

Doctor Who is streaming now on Disney+ with new episodes coming to the streaming service every Friday until June 21.

- In This Article: Doctor Who (Series 14)
Release Date
May 10, 2024
Ncuti Gatwa
- About The Author: Sam Hargrave
Sam Hargrave is the Associate Editor at The Direct. He joined the team as a gaming writer in 2020 before later expanding into writing for all areas of The Direct and taking on further responsibilities such as editorial tasks and image creation.