Russell T. Davies’ much-anticipated return to Doctor Who is certainly making the future look bright for the series, but he needs to avoid one major mistake from his previous era of the show. Davies revived Doctor Who in 2005 following a nine-year hiatus after the 1996 TV movie starring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor, revitalizing the series and bringing the long-running BBC show to new audiences. After stepping down in 2009, Davies was succeeded by Stephen Moffat, and then Chris Chibnall, but was recently confirmed to be returning as Doctor Who showrunner as of 2023’s 60th-anniversary special episodes, which will also introduce Ncuti Gatwa as the Fifteenth Doctor.
Davies’ previous run on the show is widely regarded as the best era of Doctor Who since the 2005 revival, with both Moffat’s and Chibnall’s eras coming under a variety of criticisms. Many are excited to see Doctor Who return to its former glory after a tumultuous few years under the guidance of Chris Chibnall, who has led some of the most divisive storylines in Doctor Who history. Even so, there’s one major missing element from Davies’ previous era that he needs to employ now he’s returning to the series.
Doctor Who’s trademark is the titular Time Lord’s ability to travel through time and space using his remarkable TARDIS, but Davies never really used this as a plot device beyond landing the Doctor in different periods throughout history. Time travel is at the heart of Doctor Who, and is the basis of all of the Doctor’s stories, whether the TARDIS lands in Elizabethan England, or five billion years in the future, so it’s a shame that Russell T. Davies seemed to forget this. This became even more evident after Steven Moffat’s era of the series, since Moffat used time travel as a key plot point through many of his stories.
Steven Moffat’s era on Doctor Who used time travel not only as a means to get the Doctor to his next adventure but was also used cleverly as a plot device in several episodes, helping to progress the story while also being subtle enough to avoid being predictable. This is perhaps best shown in the Doctor’s relationship with River Song, who he never meets in the right order because of their shared time travel abilities. Not only this, but episodes such as “The Eleventh Hour,” “The Pandorica Opens,” “The Girl Who Waited,” and “Before the Flood,” are perfect examples of where Moffat used time travel to the story’s advantage.
Funnily enough, the only stories to use time travel as a plot device during Davies’ run were written by Steven Moffat. “Blink” saw the Doctor trapped in the 1960s but able to communicate with Sally Sparrow in the present day through a transcript he hadn’t been given yet, and the “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead” two-parter saw the first introduction of River Song at the end of her life, even though the Doctor hadn’t met her yet. Russell T. Davies should utilize time travel more as a story point in his upcoming era of Doctor Who, learning from previous showrunners to make his brilliant formula even better.
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