Doctor Who is nothing short of legendary in terms of its worldwide popularity. As one of the longest running TV shows of all time, it’s single-handedly helped revolutionize the world of science fiction across a flurry of showrunners and actors. Comparing anything to it is tall praise, typically reserved for only truly great sci-fi. The CW though has one show coming up next year that could at least match up with Who on a thematic level.
Legends of Tomorrow has been in the works for a while inside the Greg Berlanti CW superhero empire. With the preponderance of characters building up on both Arrow and The Flash, it only seemed natural that it would spill out into a separate team-up show. So birthed Legends of Tomorrow, starring a smattering of heroes and villains composed of Captain Cold, Heat Wave, White Canary, Atom, Hawk Girl, Firestorm, and the mysterious time-traveling Rip Hunter. Its diverse team of heroes is pretty much The CW indulging completely in its expansive superhero universe, acting as a major test of its audience’s patience with comic book characters.
It’s certainly too early to straight-up say this show is Doctor Who incarnate, but the beautifully insane pieces are all there: a plot centered around time-traveling to vanquish an nigh omniscient villain, a lean toward quantum physics, and smart-talking heroes. It even features an alum of Who (Arthur Darvill who plays Rip Hunter). Based on early returns from the initial trailer, it’s trying at some sort of combination of “misfits uniting under a common cause” that The Avengers has, with the nuttier, more cartoonish aspects of Doctor Who. So far, it has the potential to be a complete overindulgence, or a goddamn television masterwork, with very little room for anything that resembles a middle ground.
In the end, the show will be made or broken off the way it decides to commit tonally. Arrow has gotten as far as it has on the back of a Dark Knight-esque gritty appeal. Conversely, The Flash has acted as the light-hearted yin to that yang. Legends of Tomorrow seems to exist somewhere around Mars in its tone, as a team-up show with the limited funds of a network like The CW. Over on CBS, we see Supergirl dropping millions on its pilot alone, while Agents of SHIELD on ABC does the same. With this lack of effects money, Legends will have to prove it can carry its own unique thematic voice in lieu of pricey explosions.
Berlanti has shown great promise in his ability to build out his TV universe, with his Flash/Arrow crossover episodes making for some of the most entertaining episodes of either series. Delving into time travel will further test his skills. Already The Flash is having its hero travel back into the past to undo the death of his mother. Legends of Tomorrow will double down on this device, as the team follows the immortal villain Vandal Savage through time to save our world from complete annihilation. With the moving parts of a brand new team of heroes, using Doctor Who as a guidebook for how to handle the more complicated aspects would serve Berlanti well.
Legends hits the airwaves early 2016, marking the first major test for the over-saturation of comic book adaptations. If it can revel in the sheer insanity of its premise in the same way both Doctor Who and The Flash do, it has the chance to be The CW’s next hit show. Now it’s up to the show’s writers to show they understand their past and present enough to master time-traveling superheroes.
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