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Doctor Who's New Era Might Cost the BBC a Pretty Penny

Doctor Who has always been an expensive show to produce, but the new change of hands will see that money go out of the BBC. Let us explain.

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David Tennant, Russell T. Davies, and John Simms on the set of Doctor Who's "The End of Time" 2010 special, for the cover of Doctor Who: The Writers Tale.
Bohemian Rhapsody’s looking a bit different these days.
Image: BBC

A lot of things are about to change on Doctor Who, and not just in front of the camera, as Jodie Whittaker’s incarnation of the Time Lord prepares to end her run in explosive style as Flux begins. Behind the camera, the impending return of former showrunner Russell T. Davies is going to bring about an interesting change in how Doctor Who has been made for sixteen years.

Why Is Doctor Who Not Being Made By BBC Anymore?

The Times reports that as part of a new production deal in Davies’ return to the series, the BBC could potentially lose up to £40 million (roughly $54.5 million) per ten-episode season of Doctor Who. This isn’t because of increases in production cost or anything but because, technically, the BBC won’t solely be making Doctor Who in-house anymore. Since it returned in 2005, the actual making of Doctor Who has been done by the BBC itself and BBC Studios. But when Davies’ tenure begins in 2023, he will instead work with Bad Wolf Studios to make the show. That’s the external production firm run by former Doctor Who producers Julie Gardner and former BBC Controller of Fiction Jane Tranter—which is now owned by Sony Pictures Television, after the studio took a majority stake in Bad Wolf in December 2021.


How Is the BBC Going to Lose Money on Doctor Who?

Well, because instead of the typical production cost of the series remaining within the BBC itself, it will now go to a third party. That doesn’t necessarily mean the show will be made at a loss now that this production budget is going outside of the corporation, however. While Bad Wolf and Davies would be responsible for the creative direction and production of Doctor Who, BBC Worldwide—the latest iteration of the company’s commercial arm—will still generate money from the series by sales to international broadcasters and streaming platforms, merchandising deals, and other associated revenue streams. “BBC Studios is ultimately responsible for delivering the show,” a BBC representative told the Times, “and this production partnership is about long-term investment that will radically build on the already huge success of the show.”


Considering that investment could build on ideas Davies has been yearning to develop for Doctor Who ever since he last ran the show—to branch it out into spinoffs and other series as its own shared universe of shows beyond Doctor Who itself—production costs going outside of the BBC may end up being a small price to pay to bring the sci-fi classic back to the kind of cultural prominence Davies wishes it had.

Update 12/1/2021, 1.00PM EST: This piece has been updated to reflect the news that Sony Pictures Television has acquired Bad Wolf. Deadline reports that the deal includes the production house as well as its studio space in Cardiff, Wales, where Doctor Who will be shot, as well as Bad Wolf’s 30% stake in its American sibling company, Bad Wolf America.

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