After some significant changes to Doctor Who, especially in the form of new Time Lord lead Peter Capaldi, fans of the time travel series are still waiting out a lengthy drought until the season 9 premiere. Set to debut in fall 2015, the ninth season of the "modern" series will feature the return of Capaldi's "darker" and "more alien" Gallifreyan as well as companion Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman).
Still, even though the series is already in production, details on the upcoming season have been scarce - save for a few casting notes and minor spoilers for which classic Doctor Who villain will return. Specifics may be in short supply; yet, franchise faithfuls have a new reason to be excited. In a recent interview, showrunner Steven Moffat asserted that the modern series will run for at least five more seasons - ensuring that Doctor Who will remain on the air through 2020.
The news shouldn't come as much of a surprise, especially to fans that have seen the series expand from beloved BBC genre show to worldwide phenomenon, but it's encouraging to hear that the network isn't just taking it year-by-year with Doctor Who.
Speaking to Doctor Who Magazine, Moffat reflected on the show's tenth anniversary (comprised of eight seasons and a series of specials that ran between 2008–2010), indicating that while he has always been confident in program, he's been pleasantly surprised by how long the series is sure to run:
"I thought it would last 10 years It's going to do a minimum of 15 [...] Ten years on, our ratings are pretty much the same. It's extraordinary. You're meant to go down!"
As indicated, few Whovians would expect Doctor Who to be on BBC's chopping block any time soon but news of five more guaranteed years of the series is exciting - since a firm commitment from the network should allow current (and future) writers to plot out powerful and inventive longterm storytelling rather than isolated season arcs. Unlike many shows, which are reevaluated before, during, and after each season, a five year (minimum) contract for Doctor Who means that the production team can plan far into the future - without worrying about the weekly ups and downs of "normal" TV ratings.
Speaking to the announcement, BBC executive Ben Stephenson made it clear that if viewers want to see adventures in space and time, BBC will provide Doctor Who programming:
"As long as the people looking after it are passionate about it... there's absolutely no reason why it can't do another 50 years."
After all, some of the best modern Doctor Who storylines unfolded over multiple seasons - since the writers were afforded time to develop and payoff any twists, turns, and other revelations. That said, Doctor Who isn't immune to cancellation either - as the show went off the air for a 15 full years (not including the TV movie starring Paul McGann) following Sylvester McCoy's turn as the seventh Doctor.
Without question, the series is bigger than it has ever been around the world but even the best, and most popular, shows come to an end - at some point. Fortunately, Doctor Who is built on a very flexible foundation - where it can easily switch out settings and main characters, effortlessly incorporating fresh faces and new ideas without having to drastically alter the core format.
Nevertheless, given mixed reactions to the final season 8 episodes, there's may be room for further improvement and refinement - as well as reason to question whether Moffat is still the same brainy risk taker he was back in the days of "Blink." Either way, the promise of five more years of Doctor Who (minimum) should be a welcome one - now fans just have to hope that Moffat (as well as his team) don't rest on their laurels and can keep pushing the series with inspired - rather than safe - writing.
The show has amassed a strong following but will viewers stick with the series indefinitely?
Doctor Who season 9 will air in fall of 2015.
Source: Doctor Who Magazine [via BBC]