Some press this week (eg here on the Radio Times site) where Anthony Head talks about many things, including the influence of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Doctor Who. As we all know, Anthony appeared as a headmaster in the Tenth Doctor story School Reunion, and was beaten to the role of the Eighth Doctor by Paul McGann (as was Peter Capaldi). He is more known for the role of Giles in Buffy so knows something of what he speaks.
I naturally wondered if this was just fortuitous publicity, or if there was more to it…
The Buffy Factor
If you read around, you soon come to a whole host of mentions by people at the time confirming the interest Russell T Davies had in Buffy before bring Doctor Who back to our screens. There are various interviews, such as one I found on A.V. Club (an interview with Chrisopher Bahn) in which he [Russell] his this to say:
loved what Joss Whedon did with Buffy The Vampire Slayer, obviously
What he doesn’t do is say this is the sole, or even dominant factor.
I found a more academic take on the idea from a Nicholas Dobson: The Regeneration of Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor and the Influence of the Slayer. This is well worth a read for the thoughts on the Rose character. I also agree with the sentiment of the way American TV as a whole had evolved to that point (and continues) and obviously it would be naïve to pretend Buffy is an isolated success (phenomenal though it was at time). I also don’t want to suggest anything other than admiration for Joss Whedon.
In a nutshell then my view is Buffy is a useful shorthand for much that is admirable about American TV making, Russell T Davies is an innovator in the field and yes, there are formative links. These are structural more than thematic but definitely there.