Fans of Doctor Who are patient. (Not as patient as Sherlock fans, but they’re up there.) For the first time since the show’s reappearance in 2005, there was no new season of Doctor Who this past year. Instead, fans were given the standalone Christmas special which was met with mixed reviews. It’s been a long wait, with very little news and only one trailer. And we still don’t have an exact date to expect the return of the beloved British show about a madman and his time-traveling police box except that it may be coming out around April.
Since April is a few months away, we have compiled a list to hold Whovians over until spring. These are the books, comics, movies, and other TV shows that share some of the core elements that make Doctor Who the wonderful and wonky show it is. Here are 15 Similar Shows, Movies, And Comics You Should Check Out.
Honorable Mention: Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures, & Class
There are a number of Doctor Who spinoff shows featuring characters from the original series, all geared for different audiences so there is something for everyone to enjoy.
For more mature viewers there is Torchwood, a show about the organization that operates outside the government investigating extraterrestrial events on earth. It stars Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) as the leader of the team. The show not only takes on aliens, but also sexuality, corruption, the concept of the afterlife (or lack thereof), and immortality.
The Sarah Jane Adventures follows Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen), the companion of the third and fourth Doctors, investigating alien activity on earth. SJA is lighter in tone and was created with a younger audience in mind. It’s a great way to introduce new Whovians to the world of the Doctor before season 10 comes out.
Class is the newest of the Doctor Who shows. It takes place at Coal Hill Academy, a school that has played a prominent role throughout Doctor Who. (Most recently it was where Clara taught English). The show revolves around six students dealing with everyday problems as well as protecting their school from aliens. The show has already aired in the UK, but has not made it to the US yet. It is set for a spring 2017 release.
15. War of the Worlds
War of the Worlds is classic science fiction. The book, written by H.G. Wells in 1898, about martians attacking England, has been made into a TV show, numerous plays, a famous radio broadcast, and several films. Each adaptation uses the alien invasion to draw parallels to the time period in which it was made. It is a great place to start for any general fan of sci-fi looking to expand their knowledge during Doctor Who‘s hiatus.
If the darker and more action-packed episodes of Doctor Who like “A Good Man Goes to War” are your favorite, look no further than Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of War of the Worlds. In the 2005 film, Tom Cruise plays Ray Ferrier, a father who will do anything to keep his family together during an alien invasion– not unlike Rory (Arthur Darvill) trying to get Amy (Karen Gillan) and his newborn daughter Melody back from Madame Kovarian (Frances Barber). The film has everything Who fans will enjoy: evil aliens and one guy who is brave enough to try and stop them.
14. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is the 2014 documentary series hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. It is a follow up to the original 1980s show hosted by astronomer and astrophysicist Carl Sagan. Cosmos uses a combination of science and storytelling to bring the universe to life and explain “how we found our coordinates in space and time.”
What better way to appreciate the Doctor and everything he stands for than by earning more about the universe he tries so desperately to protect? Cosmos takes a fascinating look at how our understanding of science has shaped our view of history and the world around us over time. While Doctor Who is more fiction than science most of the time, having some background information on how the universe actually works might help deepen your appreciation for all of the places the Doctor and his companions visit.
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is available to stream on Netflix.
13. Legends of Tomorrow
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is the perfect show for any fan looking for something as light and fun as Doctor Who. The show features a motley group of superheroes as they travel throughout time trying to stop bad guys from changing events in history. There are cool costumes, a spaceship that can travel throughout time, and repercussions for changing events even slightly. Plus Doctor Who alum Arthur Darvill plays Rip Hunter, the tough but loving leader of the Legends.
If you watch Doctor Who for the hijinks of the Doctor meeting Queen Victoria or Richard Nixon then you will enjoy Legends of Tomorrow. Both shows don’t take themselves (or history) too seriously. However, they also both deal with more serious subject matters of the past like slavery (“Abominations” on LoT) or the destruction of the city of Pompeii (“Fires of Pompeii” on DW) with surprising poignancy. You may even learn a little something along the way.
Season 1 of Legends of Tomorrow is available to watch on Netflix. Season 2 will resume at its new time on January 24th at 9PM on the CW.
12. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a science fiction cornerstone. Originally a radio program created by Douglas Adams, it was adapted into a book series, a 1980s TV show, a number of stage plays, and a film in 2005 directed by Garth Jennings and starring Martin Freeman. Hitchhiker’s Guide is about the adventures of Arthur Dent, the last surviving man on earth, as he travels throughout the galaxy interacting with different species along the way.
Adams is classic science fiction, but not in the way you would think. His take is more humorous than science-based. He uses the genre to point out the absurdity and problems that can come about due to time travel and asking the big questions of the universe.
Adams also has a connection to Doctor Who. He was a writer and editor for the original series, co-writing “City of Death” featuring the fourth Doctor. The episode remains a fan favorite. Watching or reading Hitchhiker’s Guide is a good way to learn about the sort of writing that inspired classic Who and remain prevalent to this day.
Primeval is a British TV show that aired from 2007-2011. It starred Douglas Henshall as Professor Nick Cutter, an evolutionary zoologist and leader of a research team that tracks down prehistoric and futuristic creatures who have come to earth. The beasts have come here through “Anomalies”, or doors in time, and the team must track down these doors as well as work to return the beings to their own time.
The Doctor spends much of his time as the protector of the universe. He often acts as the bridge between species who can’t seem to understand each other or get along. Primeval shares similar traits. The characters are both scientists who are curious about the creatures that have come to earth and also fearful for the damage they could cause. There is a good mix of the grim and also the childlike wonder that comes from seeing a dinosaur up close. If you’re a fan of the many alien species of Doctor Who, Primeval may be the show for you.
Primeval is available on Amazon Prime.
10. About Time
About Time is a 2013 film directed by Richard Curtis. It is the story of a young man named Tim, played by Domhnall Gleeson, who discovers that the men in his family can time travel. He uses this newfound ability to change the events of his life and to find love with Mary (Rachel McAdams). However, Tim soon discovers that anything he changes in the past creates consequences for the future. He has to decide how (or if) he should use his gift.
If “Doomsday” is your favorite Doctor Who episode and you like your time travel with a side of romance and British accents then this is the film for you. About Time takes the idea of time travel repercussions and makes them personal. Like the Doctor, every decision Tim makes has an effect on a person he cares about. Throughout the film he has to make tough and sometimes selfish choices.
9. The Magicians
The Magicians is a TV show based on the book series by Lev Grossman. It is about Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph), a graduate student who learns that the magical world from his favorite books is actually real. He’s recruited into Brakebills college to train as a magician, but things at the school may not be what they seem, with questions raised about who to trust and who the real heroes and villains are.
If you are looking for something that captures the more magical elements of Doctor Who, but is also a little darker than the fantasy show, this is what you should be watching. The Magicians is for a more mature audiences; it deals with young adults and therefore has themes that may not be appropriate for younger viewers. However, with its complex characters and romantic subplots, older viewers should find an enjoyable show that takes cues from Chronicle of Narnia and Harry Potter.
Season 1 of The Magicians is currently on Netflix. Season 2 premieres January 25th at 9PM on Syfy.
Low is a comic written by Rick Remender with art by Greg Tocchini. The series takes place millions of years in the future where humanity has retreated under the ocean because the sun’s expansion into a red dwarf has made the surface uninhabitable. People live in radiation-shielded cities, except resources are running out, causing society to become increasingly corrupt as they accept their demise. The comic revolves around Stel Caine, who Remender describes in the intro to the first volume as, “The eternal optimist who holds out hope against all odds.”
Both Low and Doctor Who manage to show characters who maintain their faith in humanity, even when confronted with tremendous odds. Stel refuses to give into despair like the other characters. She remains hopeful that one day a probe will return with news about a planet that is safe for humans to live on. Like the Doctor, she inspires everyone around her to think more positively and to not give up.; something that’s no easy feat in the face of the end of the world.
Low is an ongoing series published by Image Comics.
Fringe is a sci-fi TV show created by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci. It stars Anna Torv as Olivia Dunham, an agent working for the Fringe Division of the FBI. Olivia works alongside (mad) scientist Walter (John Noble) and his son Peter (Joshua Jackson) to investigate unexplained mysteries connected to fringe science.
In its first season Fringe adheres to the “monster of the week” pattern, perfect for any fan of the many fantastic beasts the Doctor encounters on his journeys. But similarly to Doctor Who, Fringe also builds over time, developing a complex mythology complete with alternate timelines and parallel realities. There’s a little bit more science in this fiction. Plus if you like the Doctor, you’ll love Walter– a kind man with a brilliant mind who has a fondness for pudding and who can also be downright scary at times.
6. Big Fish
Big Fish is the 2003 adaptation of Daniel Wallace’s novel. Directed by Tim Burton, the film is about Edward Bloom (played by both Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney at different ages), a man with a penchant for telling fantastical stories. This has left him estranged from his son Will (Billy Crudup), who just wants to know the truth about his father’s past and his own life. The father and son must try to reconcile when Edward is diagnosed with cancer.
Fans of Doctor Who will love Big Fish for its larger than life characters and creative narrative. You can’t be sure if what Edward is saying is true, but that’s what makes him so fun to watch. You never know what he is going to do next, just like the time-traveling Gallifreyan. Edward has made his own life into the ultimate adventure. At its heart, Big Fish is a story about storytelling. It’s something the Doctor knows from experience. After enough time aren’t we just stories in the end? Might as well write ourselves a good one.
Big Fish is available to rent via Amazon.
Eureka is a TV show set in the fictional town of Eureka, Oregon, home to the Global Dynamic research facility. This is no ordinary town or laboratory. Eureka is full of scientific geniuses who work to create new technologies. The men and women of this town are the people to thank for all of humanity’s significant scientific advancements. The only “regular” guy is Jack Carter (Colin Ferguson), the sheriff. But putting a bunch of super intelligent people in one place means lots of crazy experiments– and the ensuing fallout.
Jack serves as the audience’s window into what it is like to live in Eureka. Like (most of) the Doctor’s companions, he is an average guy surrounded by very extraordinary circumstances. It is through this unique perspective that we too enter this world. Jack’s reluctance to accept the weird things that happen in Eureka and his lack of scientific knowledge lead to some funny moments that are not too far off of any companion coming aboard the TARDIS for the first time.
Saga is a comic series written by Brian K. Vaughan with art by Fiona Staples. It is the tale of Marko and Alana, two star-crossed lovers just trying to protect their daughter Hazel from a galactic war. Because they come from different worlds, their love is forbidden and their child considered a danger. With both sides trying to kill Hazel, Marko and Alana travel the galaxy looking for safety. Along the way they are hunted by mercenaries, robot princes, and Marko’s ex-fiancée.
Whovians will enjoy Saga for its unique take on both science fiction and fantasy. Vaughan and Staples have created an entirely new world and populated it with fascinating characters and stunning visuals. It’s an epic story spanning planets and years, but with a core group of characters at its heart. Like Doctor Who, there are enemies and adventures, but mostly the story is about the people you travel with and the lengths you will go to protect them.
Saga is an ongoing series published by Image Comics.
3. Lost in Space
The original Lost in Space was a 1960s television show about the Robinson family: Doctor John Robinson, his wife Dr. Maureen Robinson, and their three children. The family is on a mission to colonize deep space when their ship is sabotaged by the nefarious Dr. Smith and thrown off course. Now the family is literally lost in space (as the title suggests), with only each other and Smith for company.
There are a number of similarities between Lost in Space and Doctor Who. Both were created in the 1960s and feature a level of campiness that Who maintains to this day. Both shows have gone through several iterations including a film version (or in in the case of Doctor Who, a film made for TV) that were not well received. And both shows have featured revivals, with Netflix currently rebooting Lost in Space with a 2018 release date. Looks like there is no better time than the present to catch up on another cult classic sci-fi show.
Lost in Space is available to stream on Hulu.
2. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is a science fiction space opera written by Becky Chambers. It follows the alien and human crew members of an interstellar drilling ship, the Wayfarer, on their missions in deep space. The crew’s job is to create hyperspace tunnels that connect various part of the galaxy. Their newest undertaking brings them to a distant planet facing civil war– a dangerous mission, but one that could reap big rewards.
This book captures many of the main values of Doctor Who. It is the story of a ragtag family brought together by their love of adventure, not unlike the Doctor and his companions. These people understand and protect one another despite their vast differences. The Wayfarer, like the TARDIS, is where each crew member is able to find a sense of belonging. Both imagine space as a place of endless opportunity and discovery. It’s enough to make you wish space travel was available for everyone.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet can be found on Amazon or your local book store.
Arrival, the 2016 science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve, took film world by storm with rave reviews and award nominations. The film stars Amy Adams as Louise Banks, a linguist who is hired by the government to help decipher the language of the aliens (Heptapods) who have landed on earth. It is Louise’s job to figure out just what these aliens want and why they have come. She is faced with an increasingly fearful public and international community who believe the beings have come with malevolent purposes.
Doctor Who is science fiction that dares to imagine the world, and the future, as a better place. The Doctor is the ultimate optimist, “the hoper of far-flung hopes, the dreamer of improbable dreams” (“The Almost People”). In Arrival, Louise is one of the few people who has made the choice to believe in the goodness of Heptapods. She wants to understand them, not kill them. Her work to understand and communicate with this alien lifeform is exactly what the Doctor would do in the same situation (although he would have the help of the TARDIS’ translation circuit).
If you want a film that is going to make you think as well as give you faith in humanity, this is what you should be watching while you wait for season 10.
Check your local theater to find out if Arrival is still playing near you.
What stories do you use to fill the Doctor Who-shaped whole in your heart? Tell us in the comments!