Torchwood writer Phil Ford hinted last month that popular Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood could see a revival under returning Who showrunner Russell T Davies. Ford told RadioTimes that he wanted to see more involvement between Torchwood and another secretive agency from the Doctor Who universe, UNIT.
Davies was showrunner on New Who (the revived Doctor Who series as opposed to the original show which ran from 1963–1989) since it first aired on the BBC in 2005. He was also heavily involved in production of the spin-offs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures.
Following Davies’ departure from Who in 2010 he worked on comedy drama series Cucumber and the Bafta award-winning limited series It’s a Sin. Davies’ return to Doctor Who spurred hope among fans that earlier spin-offs including Torchwood could be revived. These are the five of the best official (and unofficial) Doctor Who spin-offs, ranked:
The best-known of the Who spin-offs, Torchwood, which debuted just one year after New Who launched, followed Captain Jack Harkness and his band of secret agents who worked to protect Earth from supernatural forces.
The series was much more adult than Doctor Who, featuring plenty of sex, swearing, and more visceral violence. John Barrowman, who plays Captain Jack, made several returns to Doctor Who during and after his Torchwood appearances, last featuring in Who in season 12.
With rumours of a possible Torchwood reprisal more than a decade after the spin-off ended, it’s not clear who will appear in the series cast if it does get the greenlight. After allegations of sexual misconduct, including Barrowman exposing himself on the Doctor Who set, were made public in 2021, his involvement in a continuation of the show is now in doubt. Torchwood is available to watch on BBC iPlayer now.
The Sarah Jane Adventures
The Sarah Jane Adventures ran for five seasons from 2007 to 2011, with Elisabeth Sladen reprising her role from the original Doctor Who series - Sarah Jane Smith was a companion of the third and fourth Doctors, leaving the series in 1976.
Sladen returned as Sarah Jane in New Who in season two before fronting her own spin-off. In Sarah Jane Adventures, Smith is an investigative journalist who, along with her adopted son, Luke, his school friends and her robot dog K9, continues to fight evil alien forces on Earth.
The series was far more child-friendly than Torchwood but didn’t really break any new ground, the result being a watered down version of Doctor Who with a few too many companions and few interesting or original villains. You can watch The Sarah Jane Adventures on iPlayer now.
The Infinite Quest
The 45-minute animated special Infinite Quest, which aired in 2007, saw David Tennant and Freema Agyeman return as voice actors to play the Doctor and companion Martha Jones.
The pair travel through space and time searching for a legendary lost spaceship, the Infinite, which they believe can grant its discoverer their greatest wish. But they’re not the only ones on the hunt for Infinite - the galactic despot Baltazar is also after the ship, and he’s planning to use it for his own evil purpose. The Infinite Quest is not currently available to watch in the UK.
K9 & Company
The one-off 50-minute TV movie K9 & Company aired in 1981, five years after Sladen left Doctor Who. The special saw Sarah Jane rebuilding her journalistic career following her many off-world adventures with the Doctor.
When her aunt goes missing, Sarah Jane becomes involved in a new mystery involving witch covens, pagan worshippers, and human sacrifice. Smith is helped on her quest with a gift from her friend the Doctor - a robot dog named K9. Though intended to be the pilot for a new series, K9 & Company didn’t progress beyond its first episode - though both K9 and Sarah Jane would appear in their own spin-offs decades later. K9 & Company is available to watch on BritBox now.
This children’s spin-off ran for one season of 26 episodes in 2010 - the show featured a mix of computer animation and live action and follows the robot dog on a perilous new mission. The series is set in London around the year 2050 and sees K9 and his human friends and a secret government agency known only as The Department. The series is episodic, with new alien menaces being dispatched in each instalment.
K9 is not an official Doctor Who spin-off as the series was produced by Screen Australia, so the K9 design is different from the original series, and reference to Doctor Who was not legally allowed. K9 is not currently available to watch in the UK.