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    Friday, May 24, 2024

    'Doctor Who' is primed to be bigger than ever. How Bad Wolf is helping lead the charge

    Bad Wolf, the name of the production company founded by Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner, is a "Doctor Who" reference.

    Before teaming up for this joint venture in 2015, the industry veterans had worked together for years in various roles at the BBC and BBC Worldwide. One of their earliest projects was the 2005 "Doctor Who" revival from showrunner Russell T Davies.

    Those who've watched that first season will pick up on the reference — a message scattered throughout time and space to lead the show's time-hopping heroes to a specific moment. For Tranter and Gardner, calling their company Bad Wolf was an acknowledgment that their professional journeys had always been leading up to its founding.

    What the name wasn't, however, was "an indication that we had set up Bad Wolf with the idea that we would ever be making 'Doctor Who,'" says Tranter during a joint video call with Gardner. But "'Doctor Who' came along and it was unexpected (but) it's a very welcome experience."

    "I'm still in shock years later," added Gardner. "I had quite an emotional response because that had been a very special time."

    The new season of "Doctor Who," which launched Friday, continues the show's transition into a new era with new lead actors and new ambitions marked by a streaming partnership with Disney+, where it streams exclusively to a global audience. The series airs in the U.K. on BBC and is produced by Bad Wolf and BBC Studios Productions.

    After an introductory adventure in last year's Christmas special, Ncuti Gatwa and Millie Gibson's chapter as the Fifteenth Doctor and his companion Ruby Sunday, respectively, properly gets underway.

    Despite their previous roles in bringing the long-dormant "Doctor Who" back to television screens with the revival, executive producers Tranter and Gardner as well as Davies, whose first stint as showrunner on the series ran from 2005 to 2010, don't consider this homecoming as doing things "again."

    "I don't talk about coming back because it's a new show," says Davies, a lifelong "Doctor Who" fan whose "first memory of life" is of the series. "I wanted the show to be bigger. I wanted to take the show forward. I wanted to be with a big streamer. I honestly believe in the show."

    Similarly, the "Doctor Who" team refers to this new season with Gatwa and Gibson as Season 1, despite it being the 14th season of the revival (the original ran from 1963 to 1989).

    The British sci-fi series follows the Doctor, an alien Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey who explores time and space using a time machine known as the TARDIS, which from the outside looks like a blue police box. Joining the Doctor on their adventures is usually a companion (sometimes more than one). The Doctor is known for the ability to regenerate and take on a new humanoid form in near-death situations.

    "It's just got an inexplicable charm and magic to it," says Gatwa of the long-running show. "It satisfies our curiosity as humans as to what on earth could be out there. And because it's a TV show, we get that adventure once a week (and) the show evolves with us."

    A staple of British pop culture, the family-friendly series is often passed down generationally as kids are introduced to it by the adults in their lives. Although a show with decades of backstory and lore could be intimidating for new viewers, regeneration helps keep "Doctor Who" accessible.

    "Often with the regeneration of the Doctor comes a new era," says Tranter. "What it means is that the show, by necessity, gets a kind of injection of freshness because the Doctor changes, the writers change, the showrunner changes, the producers change. I think that is a critical part of why the show has lasted for so long."

    That the Fifteenth Doctor emerged through a new mythical type of regeneration called bigeneration — which saw the Fourteenth Doctor split into two beings instead of transforming into a new form — is a clear signal that "Doctor Who" has entered into a new era.

    For Tranter and Gardner, any chance to work with Davies was an opportunity they wouldn't pass up. And working with him on a series they all love and shepherding it to this new phase "just felt right," says Tranter. It was "everything Bad Wolf has been leading to."

    With a studio in Cardiff, Wales, Bad Wolf is known for its fantasy adaptations like HBO's "His Dark Materials," based on Philip Pullman's trilogy of novels, and AMC's "A Discovery of Witches," based on a book trilogy by Deborah Harkness. Bad Wolf's resume also includes acclaimed limited drama series "The Night of," dark comedy "I Hate Suzie" and workplace drama "Industry."

    "We have very eclectic tastes," says Tranter. "We both like working on a small scale and we like working on a big scale."

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