Russell T Davies has a plan for Doctor Who’s survival: New. Fans.
It’s the same plan he had in 2005 when the show was first revived, but this time, it comes with a much bigger piggy bank courtesy of Disney+, and an appendix titled something like ‘Marvel(lous) World Domination’. International streaming, spin-offs, famous guest stars who bring crossover fandoms with them… It’s all about welcoming new viewers to the massive world of Doctor Who and creating lifelong fans in the making. Again.
Things are off to a solid start after David Tennant’s return in the three anniversary specials and Ncuti Gatwa’s debut adventure in “The Church on Ruby Road”, but there’s more fanfare to come, says Davies. Speaking at a Cardiff press conference in November 2023, he described the international streaming launch so far as low-key. “Disney are going to launch it massively when Ncuti’s first season comes along. That’s going to be all bells and whistles.”
If your child/pupil/niece/nephew/young neighbour was swept up the first new wave of invitations to board the TARDIS in November 2023 and is now climbing the walls waiting for the next episodes to arrive in May 2024, as well as going right back to the start and working their way through 60 years of Doctor Who, here are some other shows to keep them entertained.
Important note: ‘Kids who like Doctor Who’ covers a huge range of young people from eight to 18, all with their own particular sensitivities, and parents will all have their own ideas of what is or is not suitable to watch at any particular age. We’ve deliberately chosen a wide range of shows, some of which are more suitable for older kids, some for younger, and used IMDb’s age certificates to provide an indication of the general age range the show is suitable for. IMDb’s Parents Guide will also flag up various potential issues, but if you are worried or your child is sensitive, always check the show out yourself before showing it to them.
Star Trek: Prodigy
IMDb rating: 9+ years old
Star Trek is the most obvious franchise to check out for anyone who likes Doctor Who, and it’s absolutely huge – you’ll have years worth of viewing for your kids if you can make them Trekkies. Nearly all Star Trek series are suitable for teens and above except for Discovery (there is some memorable gore in the first episode or two of Discovery! It would be fine for anyone over 15). For younger teens, we would recommend starting with Strange New Worlds, which is a good modern jumping-on point with up to date production values and fresh stories each week, that does not rely too much on nostalgia. If they are open to older shows with less impressive VFX, we would recommend The Next Generation or Voyager (Deep Space Nine is excellent but does lean on more mature storylines quite frequently).
For younger children, though, there’s a perfect ready-made jumping-on point in the form of Nickelodeon’s Star Trek: Prodigy. This animated series is aimed at middle-grade children and follows a group of young people who find themselves in charge of a Federation starship, helped by a hologram of Voyager’s Captain Janeway. It’s a light, fun, warm-hearted show with great animation and imaginative alien characters, and the perfect starting-place for your would-be Trekkie. If you’re a Trek fan yourself, you’ll spot a fair few Easter eggs in there as well.
Star Trek: Prodigy is available to stream on Netflix. All other Star Trek series are available to stream on Paramount Plus.
CBBC, so 6-12 years old
Doctor Who has three basic episode types: space opera, monsters invade Cardiff-dressed-to-look-like-London, and historical. The 60th anniversary specials did not include any full historical stories, but they did feature a trip to 1925 to see Stooky Bill, and historicals are a core part of Doctor Who’s make-up (the Second and Third Doctor’s tenures notwithstanding).
If your child is excited by the prospect of stories exploring aspects of history, they will almost certainly enjoy Dodger. This CBBC period drama is a prequel to the events of Oliver Twist and follows the adventures of a young Jack Dawkins, a.k.a. the Artful Dodger. It is set in London in the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign and is led by a starry adult cast including the Ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, as Fagin. The show is funny and creepy, and although it is not actually a fantasy show, it plays with lots of Victorian fantastical horror tropes like cursed Egyptian mummies and haunted theatres (though, like Scooby-Doo, the explanation is always mundane). Any child who loves history and adventure will lap it up.
Dodger is available to stream on BBC iPlayer in the UK.
IMDb rating: PG
This show, on the other hand, is most definitely fantastical! Merlin aired in the same slot as Doctor Who, at prime time on Saturday night on BBC One, and is squarely aimed at the same family audience – a show intended for older children, teens, and adults to watch together. There have been a few of these over the years, and Robin Hood and Atlantis have their fans too, but Merlin is the best of the bunch.
Merlin is inspired by Arthurian legend and follows the title character and his master Arthur in their youth. The series puts its own unique twist on the stories by having Arthur’s father, the king Uther Pendragon, outlaw magic, meaning Merlin must hide that fact he has magical abilities from everyone around him, while using his magic to save all their lives on a regular basis. The series stars Anthony Head as Uther (who also appeared on Doctor Who in season 2’s ‘School Reunion’), Richard Wilson as Merlin’s tutor Gaius, and the late, great John Hurt, a.k.a. the War Doctor, as the voice of Kilgharrah the Great Dragon. The show ran for five seasons and kick-started the career of Colin Morgan (guest star in season 4 of Who, ‘Midnight’), and features too many other Doctor Who alumni and one-time guest stars to list here, including Georgia Tennant, who is well known as the Fifth Doctor’s actual daughter, the Tenth Doctor’s on-screen daughter, and the Tenth and Fourteenth Doctors’ actual wife.
Merlin is available to stream on BBC iPlayer in the UK and on Prime Video in the US.
Ms. Marvel & Loki
IMDb rating: 12 years old
Like Star Trek, most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be appealing to older kids and teens. The movies are specifically designed to appeal to teenagers, and all of them except for Deadpool have a PG-13 rating. There are also some TV series specifically aimed at very young children, and we would highly recommend Spidey and His Amazing Friends (on BBC iPlayer or Disney+) and I Am Groot (on Disney+) for very small children. But for children old enough to watch Doctor Who, just about anything from the MCU will likely appeal, and we would particularly recommend Loki (on Disney+) as a series that is both very good, and based around time travel.
If you’re looking for something a little bit more teen-oriented, though, we would also highly recommend Ms Marvel. Iman Vellani absolutely deserves all the praise that is coming her way for her portrayal of Kamala Khan, and she is by far the most relatable character for a teenage Whovian; she is a high school student who is obsessed with a Marvel character (Captain Marvel, in her case) and who disobeys her parents in order to attend a convention. The show is mostly light and funny, though it has a serious undertone as well. We won’t spoil it here, but the series includes a bit of time travel too, to an event also visited relatively recently by the Thirteenth Doctor.
Ms Marvel and Loki are available to stream on Disney+
Are You Afraid of the Dark?
IMDb rating: PG
Doctor Who is famous for prompting children across the decades to hide behind the sofa, whether from Daleks, Cybermen, or the Master, and it has often had quite a strong horror vibe to it. That gothic sensibility was on display in ‘The Giggle’ in the sequences set in the Toymaker’s nightmarish 1925 emporium full of terrifying puppets, and is sure to be a big part of the new series.
If your kids enjoyed the scarier, horror-themed aspects of the specials, they will likely enjoy Nickelodeon’s classic series Are You Afraid of the Dark? The 1990s original was an anthology show that opened each episode with the members of the Midnight Society gathering around a bonfire to tell scary stories, and the episode would then show the story itself. It’s basically The Twilight Zone for kids, and it’s just as much spooky fun as that implies. The biggest drawback to the 1990s series is that, inevitably, some kids will be put off by the outdated effects and small 1990s TV budget, but they will likely enjoy the 2019 limited revival series. This is not only more up-to-date in its practical effects, but it also features more arc-plotting, and may appeal a bit more to teens more used to 21st century television story-telling.
Both versions of Are You Afraid of the Dark are available to buy via Amazon Prime in the UK, and streaming on Paramount+ in the US.
Stargate SG-1 & Sliders
IMDb rating: 12
If your kids can get past 1990s production values and special effects, there are some gems of 1990s television that make great family viewing. Science fiction and fantasy television fashions at the time leaned towards episodic story-telling with some arc plotting, but not as much as 21st-century shows, making it easier to dip in and out of a series (and skip any truly awful episodes that crop up! Star Trek: The Next Generation’s ‘Code of Honor’, we’re looking at you). The tone of these shows was also lighter overall. They could deal with dark and serious subject matter when they wanted to, but the prevailing tone of many was more family friendly than the grimmer dramas that became fashionable in more recent years, with more humour and less gore.
The 1990s is a smorgasbord of these fun action-adventure series and any one of them is likely to appeal to older kids and teens who can put up with watching a slightly dated show – the likes of Xena: Warrior Princess, Lois & Clark: The Adventures of Superman or Quantum Leap would all be good choices (though Quantum Leap does occasionally deal with very serious and adult subject matter, which might need to be skipped for younger children).
But the two we would recommend the most for young fans of Doctor Who are Stargate SG-1 and Sliders. Both shows feature four likeable heroes travelling to vastly different worlds in each episode through a wormhole; in SG-1, we follow an American Air Force team travelling to other planets through the titular Stargate, while in Sliders, young Quinn Mallory has invented a device that allows travel between parallel universes, and he and his friends accidently lose track of their home universe’s co-ordinates and have to keep travelling to new universes, trying to find their way home. As well as general good humour and family-friendly tone, both shows share with Doctor Who a format in which our heroes travel to very different places each week, with an overall arc plot slowly developing in the background.
Stargate SG-1 is available to stream on MGM in the UK, and on Fubo & MGM+ in the US. Sliders is available to buy from Prime Video in the UK and stream on Peacock Premium in the US.
Doctor Who & The Sarah Jane Adventures
Doctor Who 2005-2022 IMDb rating: 12, The Sarah Jane Adventures IMDb rating: PG
And finally, of course, we also have to recommend showing new young fans the rest of Doctor Who! Almost the entire back catalogue of the 60-year-old show is available on the BBC iPlayer.
We recently offered a guide to all the various different places a new viewer could start watching Doctor Who, but for younger new viewers, we’d suggest either the first episode of the New Who era, ‘Rose’, or the first episode of Matt Smith’s run as The Doctor, ‘The Eleventh Hour’. Both of these are fun episodes whose pacing and tone will match what a 21st century child expects to see on television, and both introduce a new Companion, and explain who The Doctor is and what they are all about in the process. ‘The Eleventh Hour’ has the advantage of including a child character (young Amy), but ‘Rose’ sets them up to discover Ten and Donna not too far down the line.
Once they’ve watched the first set of Russell T Davies years, they can watch their way through CBBC spin-off show The Sarah Jane Adventures as well, which follows Classic and Revival era companion Sarah Jane Smith and K9 the robot dog. As a CBBC series, this will also provide a perfect jumping-on point for the Whoniverse in general if you have younger children in the house who are too young for the main series as yet. We may have to wait a while for new Doctor Who, but if your child has just discovered the show, it will be years before they run out of Classic and Revival era Who to watch.
Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures are available to stream on BBC iPlayer in the UK and on Tubi, BritBox, Max and Disney+ in the US.
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