The 60-year-running British sci-fi drama Doctor Who is returning soon under the leadership of returning showrunner Davis, who led the show from its 2005 revival right through until David Tennant's 2010 departure.
Doctor Who is coming back with some major changes this time around, including a frustratingly shortened episode count and a record-breaking new budget as the show comes to Disney+ in all territories outside the U.K. and Ireland.
Doctor Who's Reduced Episode Count Explained by Showrunner
Speaking in the latest issue of SFX Magazine, Doctor Who showrunner Russell T. Davis addressed the long-running series' shift to just nine episodes a year ahead of its arrival on Disney+ with the upcoming episodes.
Starting in 2024 with Ncuti Gatwa playing the Fifteenth Doctor, Doctor Who will release nine new episodes, resulting in an eight-episode season and one festive special. For comparison, here are the episode counts for every previous season of Doctor Who's modern era:
- Series 1-7: 13 episodes
- Series 8-10: 12 episodes
- Series 11-12: 10 episodes
- Series 13 (special series): 6 episodes
Davis explained the reduction in episode counts over the years comes, in part, due to it being "expensive" to produce:
“The numbers have gone down over the years, partly because it’s so expensive. I don’t think we could make more episodes a year."
He added how, down the line, Whoniverse spin-off installments will "allow more episodes per year," but there are obstacles to reaching that point as the "studios are full" with Doctor Who production:
"But equally, I think spin-offs will allow more episodes per year, but it’s early days. We need to work out production-wise how and when – plus our studios are full, we filled it with 'Doctor Who.'"
Davis continued to explain how they have some "standing sets" beyond the TARDIS that are regularly revisited, which occupy a sizeable amount of space within their studio space:
"Some of our sets are standing sets, not just the TARDIS. There’s some sets we’re always going to keep coming back to, which I love. So we’re gonna work out how to make it, which we are doing. That’s on its way, genuinely on its way.”
This isn't the first time Davis has spoken on the reduced episode count, as, in an interview with Doctor Who Magazine, he called on audiences to "give [them] time" as they "have plans:"
"Okay, that's fewer episodes than the last full season. But give us time. We have plans, and that's a promise!"
Expanding on the matter, the showrunner noted how it "takes a while to get the empire in shape," but they are committed to going forward with "no gaps years" and plenty of content for fans to enjoy:
"It takes a while to get the empire in shape, but that's a serious plan: annual 'Doctor Who,' no gap years, lots of content, on and on."
Why Fans Shouldn't Worry About Doctor Who's New Episode Count
Doctor Who has been gradually reducing its annual episode counts every few seasons for several years now, with last season taking on the lowest length with just six chapters due to the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on production.
Looking at the footage released so far from the 60th-anniversary specials, the production value behind Doctor Who has seen a massive increase from past seasons, which will undoubtedly require more time and money to pull off.
As such, it makes sense for the show to have a lower episode count going forward to maintain improved production value. This will also bring Doctor Who in line with other major Disney+ originals such as The Mandalorian which usually have eight-episode seasons, although it will be bumped up to nine by an annual special.
Down the line, it appears Doctor Who fans may have far more annual content to look forward to once the arrangements can be made to get various spin-off series into production. This will ensure audiences are not just treated to nine annual episodes of the sci-fi, but also further seasons of other Whoniverse tales.
Doctor Who will return with the first of its 60th-anniversary specials, "The Star Beast," on Saturday, November 25, airing on BBC One and iPlayer in the UK and Ireland while streaming on Disney+ internationally.