'Doctor Who' Moving House to Disney+ Starting in 2023

Picture shows: Doctor Who and Disney+ Logos

The Doctor Who and Disney+ logos

BBC/Disney+

For those who grew up with Classic Doctor Who, the 2005 reboot was a huge deal. In those pre-streaming days, franchises weren't revived left and right the way they have been this decade. In many ways, the man behind the reboot, Russell T. Davies, was ahead of his time. He imagined an entire Franchise Whoniverse, with spinoff series starring old favorites like Sarah Jane Smith and new hotness characters like Captain Jack Harkness. The BBC went along with it, but Torchwood never reached its potential, while The Sarah Jane Adventures was tragically cut short by the death of lead actor Elisabeth Sladen.

Nowadays, Davies' idea seems modest compared to the multiple Star Trek spinoffs on Paramount+ or the Marvel-verse, which (no joke) released ten high-profile titles in 2021. Moreover, the series is not set up for spinoff success. The last one attempted by Steve Moffat, Class, was barely noticed. Despite the series being marketed heavily on BBC One and iPlayer, in America, where the actual numbers are, it's lost in the cable wilderness on BBC America, a channel with no direct streamer other than the parent company's AMC+, whose subscriber numbers are so small it only publically releases the cumulative figures of all its services and its second run rights undermarketed on HBO Max.

With that stark reality facing Sony and Bad Wolf, who now owns the majority share of the Doctor Who brand, moving house was the obvious choice. Perhaps had this happened a decade ago, when BBC America was still partly under the Discovery umbrella, the relationship with HBO Max would have been solidified, as Warner Bros. and Discovery recently merged, and their streamers are expected to combine by next summer. (The BBC also has a longstanding relationship with HBO, and HBO Max has quite a few fantastic British series it never remembers to tell anyone exists.) However, that ship sailed long ago, and the House of Mouse monopoly has scooped up the franchise instead.

This does not mean that Disney "owns" Doctor Who or anything like that. (The 14 Doctors will not suddenly turn up at Walt Disney World, nor will there be TARDIS cruises.) The relationship is more akin to that of Channel 4 and Netflix with The Great British Baking Show, where the series is a Channel 4 production, but everywhere outside the U.K., the streamer gets to claim it as a "Netflix Original" with exclusive rights to episodes.

This is a significant opportunity for Disney to grab hold of a franchise that is about to go full Star Trek, populating Disney+ with multiple shows a year that comes with a built-in dedicated fanbase, like Marvel and Star Wars. (It is highly noticeable to those who cover streaming that Disney+ series outside the Marvel and Star Wars brands simply do not have the same audience impact, and Disney needs more shows that do.) Doctor Who is also already Disney-friendly, with its family-oriented appeal and no-violence ethos, making it a good fit for the streaming service. And it's long history makes it a stable property in which to invest for the long term. 

For Doctor Who, it's yet another chance to make a first impression. Every new Doctor that steps through the door of the TARDIS is a new star to bring in a new cadre of viewers and a soft reboot for a franchise that is one of the longest-running in history. Davies' decision to cast Black actor Ncuti Gatwa (Sex Education) as a young, handsome LGBTQ+ take on the character is bound to bring in a whole new audience to the show. It also has the potential to genuinely shake off the original "white man's burden writ large" theme that still lingers across the series.

Doctor Who will skip the holidays this year, the first time since the show's return. The series will return with its 60th Anniversary, which thus far is only listed as "late 2023" (which most assume means the actual date of the series' Anniversary, Nov. 23, 2023), followed by Season 14, which is rumored to follow during the "2023 festive season."


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Ani Bundel has been blogging professionally since 2010. A DC native, Hufflepuff and Keyboard Khaleesi, she spends all her non-writing time taking pictures of her cats. Regular bylines also found at Elite Daily, NBC News' THINK, and others. A Woman's Place Is In Your Face. Cat Approved. Find her on Twitter: @anibundel