What Would Be The Ultimate Doctor Who Crossover?

Recently a Film & TV student posted their ideas for a Doctor Who crossover with Harry Potter. Freeing himself from the constraints of brand management, budget and -um- plot, he waxed lyrical on the MA-HOOSIVE fangasm something like this would cause.

And in fairness to him, Russell T Davies did consider something vaguely along these lines back in the early years of the NuWho revival – he went as far as asking J. K. Rowling whether she’d like to pen an episode and wanted to have her star in it as herself… He said himself, “that’s either brilliant or more like a Blue Peter crossover…”

While this scheme to team-up Missy and Voldemort against any number of Doctors may lack some of the substance that the license holders would be looking for, it does raise the question of how and when a crossover could work…

The two most speculated crossovers into the Whoniverse seem to be Moffat’s Sherlock and America’s archetypal sci-fi show, Star Trek. The reason for Sherlock seems partly to do with the fact that the same people make both shows which might remove some of the hurdles along the way. Beyond that they’re both shows with a quirky clever lead, fighting bad guys with a companion in tow. And there seems to be a curiosity about how solitary, powerful personalities like the Doctor and Sherlock Holmes would react to eachother should their paths meet.

There’s a precedent for this in the superhero/ caped-crusader comic world where DC’s Batman/ Superman and Marvel’s Avengers characters can share adventures and interact outside of their own individual franchises. And now both are being realised on the big screen… It almost feels like that “who would win out of a werewolf and a vampire” mentality from high-school conversations across the world. Oh, and the Underworld franchise [ahem].

Personally I think this is a risky business. Studios might be keen because, as our Film & TV student notes, LOTS of fans would be interested. And as you and I know (our bank accounts bear the scars) fans will part with MONEY. Lots of it. But every series is set up the way it is, with the characters, rules and world it uses for a reason…

Take an example: If Sherlock and the Doctor were to meet it would (usually) imply that their narrative *worlds* had also met and the kinds of things we expect to happen, the kinds of explanations that are used in each world are very different. If an hospital turned up on the moon in Sherlock, the narrative world would require it to be something vaguely plausible without resulting to the science-fantasy plot devices of Doctor Who. As with the apparently super-natural events in The Hound of the Baskervilles episode, it would usually be some kind of deception, hallucination or other non space opera event… You couldn’t have intergalactic Rhinos behind it.

The second problem is the bringing together of lead protagonists. I’m not saying this would necessarily get in the way but the Doctor and his interaction with the companion is at the heart of the show, as is the Sherlock/Watson relationship. When you bring multiple lead characters together you have to find a way for them both to be the hero and the “most interesting thing on the screen” without stepping on each other’s toes. Not impossible – as multi-doctor stories and the Avengers Assemble demonstrate. But tricky. You certainly need to find a way where neither of the heroes loses face to the other, unless it’s to bring out their individual character traits and foibles.

That said Doctor Who arguably has a rich history of cross-overs. Every multi-Doctor story, while using what are notionally the *same* characters and taking place in the same narrative world, they do involve bringing two different versions of that world together. And I think that’s what makes The Day of the Doctor, The Five, Two and Three Doctors exciting, is that characters (or different versions of the characters) get to interact. Seeing what the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors make of each other does for Who-fans what Superman and Batman meeting does for DC fans.

And then we’ve had the re-uniting of Who spin-offs like Torchwood and the Sarah Jane Adventures with the parent show. Both series crossed over back into Doctor Who in Series 4’s Journey’s End and Martha Jones popped up in both Doctor Who and Torchwood, spanning the watershed…

But could a crossover with an unrelated franchise work? Are there narrative worlds out there where it would tell an interesting story to have them come together with the Whoniverse? Could we see the TARDIS materialise on the Bridge of the Enterprise (not just in comic book form) or a fugitive named Blake turn up in Who? Or is this a disaster waiting to happen? Tell us your thoughts below…

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  1. bar says:

    Acknowledging the briliance of that WHOLOCK YouTube where Sherlock and Eleven interact I nevertheless hate the idea of crossovers, or anything that lumps the Doctor in with superheroes: he’s not one, and has no magic powers. If anything he’s a more empowering role model precisely because he doesn’t leave it all to a person with powers we don’t have. But it does believe there’s more to the universe than meets the eye or that science has yet caught up with.
    It often seems the different sf/fantasy worldviews are incomaptible. e.g.start Trek so often resorts to guns, the Doctor tries always to work without them; Who tends to start (Marxish) revolutions, Star Trek is more often echoing the American dream, pioneering and colonial; wheras in ST there is a belief in a scientific and social answer to stuff, the Doctor explores where the rules and any pat answers don’t work: the underlying principles are so different. Except for Doug Adams perhaps, but sadly he’s no longer around to co-write. Maybe Paul Magrs could help out.
    However I’d love to hear people arguing the opposite – kids have always landed the TARDIS amongst their collection of other toys, so maybe writers want to try the same.

    • Cryer says:

      “has no magic powers”…. apart from being able to regenerate, to heal himself and others with regeneration energy, to read people’s minds, to hold his breath for long periods of time and to be highly resistant to electricity, radiation and extremes of temperature.
      Also, Batman has no magic powers. Just gadgets. And if we get into listing all the Doctor’s gadgets then we’ll be here all day.

      • bar says:

        Yes, I see your point: I guess I was thinking of Hogwarts/sword&sorcery/magic-of-the-elves stuff. At the opposite end is the Arthur C Clarke thing the Doctor has been known to quote; ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.’ Where those things you mention come on the spectrum in between is debatable!

  2. James Walker says:

    it would be perfectly fine for Doctor Who, but this sort of thing would ruin Sherlock. why not, instead, do an episode where the doctor meets Arthur Conan Doyle? there’s certainly precedent (Agatha Christie, HG Wells, Dickens)… and in a fun twist have Martin Freeman play Doyle and Cumberbatch play Joseph Bell.

    there. that’s that sorted.

    Now, were the Doctor to travel to the town of Hill Valley California to get to the bottom of all the strange time disturbances there… we would have something. The Doctor and The Doc?!? Marty and Clara? Einstein and K-9?!? “Doctor to the Future” would be super rad.

    or, lets say, the doctor lands on an alien planet ruled by intelligent apes but, waitaminute, its in the same coordinates as earth! how can that be?

    I also wouldn’t say no to a Doctor/Firefly adventure.

    • bar says:

      Oooo – I take it all back – Firefly YES! You can just see the sparks between 12 and Mal… And Kaylee would be a great one-story companion. or Inara – Oh wait a minute – none of that on the TARDIS, it’s the rules. And they could go back in time before Wash died.
      Yep, I’m in.

    • Calli Arcale says:

      If you want something like that, check out “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”, an incredible six-part serial from Tom Baker’s tenure that remains one of the most popular Dr Who stories of all time. It’s also surprisingly influential — it was reportedly Christopher Eccleston’s main study material, and it definitely heavily influenced Stephen Moffatt, because its continuity underlies Captain Jack Harkness, the time agents, the clockwork droids of “The Girl in the Fireplace”, and of course the Half-Face Man of “Deep Breath”. (The villain is a 51st-Century warmonger fleeing war crimes tribunals, who at first suspects the Doctor and Leela of being time agents. He also has a homicidal cybernetic creation called Mr Sin — the Peking Homunculus — who could easily be the technological cousin of the clockwork droids.)

      It’s set in late Victorian England, around the time of the Ripper murders, and the Doctor plays at being Sherlock Holmes. Not overtly, but he wears a deerstalker hat and allows others to infer (wrongly) that he’s an amateur detective helping Scotland Yard with their investigations. Tom Baker is clearly having enormous fun; turns out, he’s a die-hard Holmsian. It’s kind of a soft crossover.

      • James Walker says:

        of course I’m familiar with Talons. i’ve seen it dozens of times. and Baker even played Sherlock in a BBC adaptation of Hound of Baskervilles in 1982 (its not bad).

        but thats not what i was suggesting. i was suggesting a meeting between the Doctor and Doyle and Bell. perhaps the doctor keeps trying to find alien influence and Bell just keeps pointing out that its simpler than that while Doyle takes notes…

  3. Namnoot says:

    Trek’s already been done, even in comic book form. And the problem with Wholock is that Moffat himself has established that Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character in the Whoniverse created by Doyle based on the exploits of Madame Vastra and Jenny. The Crimson Horror was even inspired by an “unchronicled” Holmes adventure referenced in the Doyle canon. (TV takes precedence over other media so that supercedes the fact that the Virgin New Adventures novels had the Doctor encounter Holmes.) I wouldn’t mind seeing a crossover with Once Upon a Time, and maybe Game of Thrones. The problem with the latter is the circumstances would have to be such that the Doctor does not resolve the arc – maybe some tangent like Missy trying to kill Dany or something.

    A crossover with the Marvel Cinematic Universe would be great. Considering that one corner of the Who franchise is already considered part of the Marvel Universe anyway, it would be an easy fit.

  4. Noodleboy says:

    Bill and Ted.Can swap phone boxes.

  5. Ruud Th says:

    Yes do it. Season 8 was worse, so how bad can it be ? it can only go better.

  6. John says:

    I tried posting this comment earlier, but somehow something got lost, so here it is again: I would like to see the TARDIS next to the Stargate. Of course, I’d want the Doctor to meet O’Neal’s team because RDA is too cool and needs to be on an episode of Dr. Who!

  7. Calli Arcale says:

    Crossovers are my favorite form of fanfiction. 😉 But as much as I enjoyed Assimilation2, I think it’s best if they stay as fanfiction. Crossing over with stuff like Arthurian legend (“Battlefield”), Shakespeare (“The Shakespeare Code”), or Robin Hood (“Robot of Sherwood”) is fun, but once you get up to big, active properties it gets dangerous for both of them. There was one other semi-official crossover: “Dimensions in Time”, which crossed over with “Eastenders” and is universally considered to have been dreadful. (In all fairness, it was done for free to raise money for charity. But it’s a real shame that’s the last time we’ve seen the Rani.)

    A successful crossover is tricky. You have to be very, very careful of it being basically an exploitation piece — it has to be more than just “wouldn’t it be awesome to see how Daniel Jackson would react to the TARDIS?” It has to be a story that puts neither property first and respects the needs of both properties, and that’s very tricky.

    “Doctor Who” has a natural advantage when it comes to crossovers, because it has an infinitely flexible format. But it also carries fifty years of continuity baggage, which presents a problem for any other property with similarly vast canon. One of the most popular targets is “Star Trek”, but it’s hard to reconcile them — if the Daleks invade Earth in 2160, why isn’t that reflected in Federation history? “Doctor Who” does present a useful mechanism, at least, and one that’s exploited in Assimilation2: the alternate universe. “Doctor Who” has gone into alternate universes often enough in canon (notably “Inferno” and “Age of Steel”) that it’s completely conceivable for “Star Trek” to just be in another universe. Or “Stargate”. Or “Babylon 5”. Or even “Star Wars”, though I find that one a much harder sell personally. The problem is that the alternate universe idea gets old. You can’t have *all* your crossovers starting with the TARDIS getting caught in a spacetime disturbance.

    Some properties are fairly easy. I did a series of Doctor Who/Highlander crossovers that exploited the fact that (ignoring the films and exclusively taking the TV series canon), there is no future continuity to worry about; it ends at the present day, with no awareness of life on other worlds (ignoring “Highlander II”, which frankly even the “Highlander” franchise does). I’ve also read a couple of “Batman” crossovers that worked very well. The best one I ever read featured only one “Batman” character — the Joker. Parsimony is a good strategy when writing a crossover; resist the temptation to just showcase your favorite franchises. It was magnificent, and provided a frightening insight into the Joker’s psychosis. And I read an excellent “Quantum Leap” crossover once too, where Sam jumped into the Doctor. I’ve also read another in that ilk that was terrible — it’s a tough thing to pull off.

    Short crossovers, that avoid addressing the problem of contradictory canon, can work for some of the futuristic properties. There’s a “Babylon 5” crossover that I adore; it’s short, mainly a character piece, using the Doctor to explore the character of Morden. I’m not sure how well it would sustain through a full-length adventure.

    But there will nearly always be some compromise. So I do not think we should have official, in-canon crossovers. Fanfiction is wonderful, though, and I’m fine with comic-book crossovers too.

  8. Dr Moo says:

    Sherlock is fictional in the whoniverse as we saw 11 pretend to be him (failing massively) in 2012’s The Snowmen. That’s a Sherlock crossover out then.

  1. December 16, 2014

    […] …who have also had some thoughts about Doctor Who crossovers and how they may (and may not) […]

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