When What If…? launched last summer, the internet went crazy for the show. Not necessarily because of its quality, as the Marvel Studios animated anthology show was widely agreed to be a little hit-and-miss, but for its central concept. People loved the idea of a series that dived into a different alternate universe every week, revealing how things could’ve played out differently thanks to just one — sometimes small, sometimes big — change.
It’s such an irresistible notion that the internet quickly became obsessed with the possibility of other franchises spawning similarly themed spinoffs. But which other IPs would be genuinely perfectly suited to getting a What If…? show of their own? Ahead of season two of the Marvel series arriving on streaming in early 2023, let’s do our best Jeffrey Wright impression and ponder this question.
In the wake of Marvel’s What If…?, Star Wars fans have frequently discussed the concept of a series set in the galaxy far, far away that reveals the roads not taken. Given that the Skywalker saga revolves around characters making the right and wrong choices — determining their path to either the light or dark side — it goes without saying that Star Wars is ripe for an AU-themed anthology show.
A commonly pitched idea is “What if Anakin hadn’t become Vader?”, which would allow us a glimpse at the perfect timeline where Luke and Leia grew up together, raised by their parents. Alternatively, there’s also “What if Rey joined Kylo Ren?” How would the universe have fared if the pair of them took over the First Order together? And how about “What if Jar Jar Binks really was a secret Sith Lord?”
Seeing as Marvel just had a hit with What If…?, you’ve got to imagine that Warner Bros. would love to launch its own version of the show for the DC multiverse instead. Honestly, it’s a surprise we haven’t already had an announcement for such a series, especially as the source material is sitting right there, waiting to be adapted: the Elseworlds imprint.
Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, DC released dozens of standalone arcs, which retold the stories of DC’s most iconic heroes and villains from new perspectives. Some of the best Elseworlds tales include Batman & Dracula: Red Rain, in which Bruce becomes a vampire; Superman: Red Son, about Superman’s pod landing in Stalinist Russia instead of Kansas; and Justice League: The Nail, detailing how one tiny accident spirals, Final Destination-style, into a cataclysmic disaster.
On the other hand, Star Trek has been exploring parallel universes since before Star Wars was even a glint in George Lucas’ eye. The franchise first introduced the concept of the Mirrorverse, a dystopian alternate reality, back in the 1960s and obviously the contemporary Chris Pine-fronted movies take place in a divergent timeline. So, it would only make sense for Star Trek to dive even deeper into its own multiverse in a What If..? show.
Spoilers for Strange New Worlds Season 1 incoming. The SNW finale even teased such an idea by offering up a timeline where Christopher Pike remains captain of the Enterprise and James T. Kirk never takes over. Other intriguing ideas include “What If Picard remained part of the Borg?”, “What if the Vulcans hadn’t been the species to make First Contact?”, and “What If Spock remained dead after Wrath of Khan?”
One of the finest episodes of David Tennant’s Doctor Who, “Turn Left”, reveals a terrible timeline — in which the Doctor dies and the Earth goes to hell several times over — that would’ve been caused by something as simple as the Doctor’s companion Donna taking a left turn instead of a right.
With that episode’s writer, Russell T. Davies, returning to helm the show from 2023 onward, what if he created a spinoff show based around the same concept, maybe even called Turn Left, in which a different timeline was explored each week? Old favorites could return to guest star and get to play alt-versions of their beloved characters.
Potential concepts include “What if Rose Tyler never met the Doctor?”, “What if the Doctor succeeded in averting the Daleks’ creation?”, and maybe even “What if the Doctor never left Gallifrey?”
Stranger Things is nowhere near as extensive a storytelling universe as those franchises previously mentioned, but there’s still surprisingly a lot of scope for it to spawn a What If…?-style spinoff, even after just four seasons of TV. Plus, the very existence of the Upside Down confirms that there’s a multiverse of Hawkinses out there, so the groundwork has arguably already been laid.
Plus, fans have already gotten into the game and suggested a bunch of possible AU scenarios that they’d love to see, with some of the most fascinating being “What if Eleven joined Henry/Vecna’s side?”, “What if Mike was taken instead of Will?”, and “What if Barb had lived?” The Duffers are working on a spinoff that we apparently would never guess. Maybe this is it?
Diehard Disney-heads may be familiar with the Twisted Tales book series, which imagine how your favorite Disney animated movies could’ve played out differently if a character made a different choice. The young-adult novels typically have a more mature, darker tone, offering an intriguing alternate look at these stories that we all know so well. And if you say you wouldn’t watch a Disney Plus series based on that, your nose would grow as big as Pinocchio’s.
With Disney forever trying to drum up more and more streaming content, we’re genuinely shocked this one’s not already on the way. The Twisted Tales books released to date encompass the likes of Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Hercules, Mulan, and others, so there’s plenty of source material to mine from. A lot of fans would probably prefer to get a show like this than endure more shot-by-shot, live-action remakes.