What if Supernatural was the American Dr. Who?
That's not just idle speculation, that was the quote from one of the show runners back in 2014:
I joke, “Why not become the Doctor Who of America?” Let’s turn around, take the boys as long as they can and eventually find two other hunters. I don’t know if anybody likes that idea outside of me, but I think it’s the kind of show that speaks to people and can keep going for quite a long time.
Now I'm not actually that opposed to the idea completely. I think there's something very Americanish about Supernatural and the foundational world it established is pretty solid with a lot of possibilities for expansion.
But Dr. Who has survived for 50ish years because the creators of it invented a brilliant in-story reason and tradition for replacing the actors. While J&J have been at this too long, making the SPN brand pretty much undeniably synonymous with their characters, there was an opportunity there once to do what Dr. Who did. What if, when a new show runner took over, they brought in new protagonists?
Heck, since this season involves Jack and alternate worlds in Supernatural itself, let's just imagine what that other world might look like, starting with the Sera Gamble years...
When the show was turned over to Sera she had the bold idea of changing out the protagonists themselves and growing the possibilities from the roots Kripke laid down. They took very little time off in order to best find and get the new characters. Behind the scenes documents detailed how they didn't want to make the new protagonists too different (i.e. a half dozen lesbians) because then the audience wouldn't accept the season as part of the brand and ask why they didn't bother with a whole new show. On the other hand, Sera was concerned that making the changeover too identical (i.e. two good-looking straight brothers) would also be rejected by the audience as they ask why bother with the change at all. In the end they went with a straight, married couple. It was a little different, and a little same. It also had the advantage of married hunting couples having being established previously in the show. In fact given the ending of S5 is Dean settling down with Lisa (in this world there is no closing shot of Sam) one could argue that the audience is already expecting a married hunting couple so it wouldn't be too much of a shock. They also went with the obvious back-story of being put on the hunting path by having a child that monsters killed.
Episode 6.01 and 6.02 started the season as a two-part hand-off episode involving Dean and our new protagonists. The monster itself was still a d'jinn and they used it's abilities to tell a drug metaphor in the suburban neighborhood. By the end the couple is pretty well established but their vehicle (an old van) is destroyed. Dean decides he's definitely through with the life and hands them the keys to Baby, making her SPN's TARDIS.
From there we had episodes connecting the couple to the secondary cast. Castiel and Crowley both got their own episodes where they too "meet" the new protagonist and establish that they'd be cleaning up the aftermath in Heaven & Hell and won't be around much. 6.04 is pretty similar to our version with the couple meeting Bobby and helping him out with his deal with Crowley. After that are some episodes that appear to be MotW but are later revealed to be a part of the arc. The Twilight spoof episode happens later on where the couple agree to have the husband become a vampire as an undercover effort to learn what's going on. The French Mistake is still the 15th episode, but this time it's about the couple learning about the Winchester Gospels. Jared & Jensen return to do guest spots in segments representing the couple reading a "lost book" (a book that Chuck published but we never saw on the show) which relates to a case the couple is working. It had a real touching finale where Dean (in reality this time) finds a gift basket of alcohol at his door with a picture of Baby and a note assuring him she's well taken care of and "thank you" for all him and his brother did.
So what's the arc for the season? Well it seems that with the apocalypse done last season, the monsters decide it is their turn to have an apocalypse - only they don't all agree on which one. The largest faction of monsters seek to bring forth the Mother, Echidna (not Eve like we're sued to). While she is mother to a LOT of monsters, she's not responsible for all of them. In the middle of all this arc Echidna does arrive but the twist is that she's not really interested in ending the world, she's just annoyed at the number of her children that were killed by demon/angel crossfire in the previous season. She also reveals that Purgatory is divided into territories and there is something much worse and much older in there: Leviathan. The couple kill her anyway which turns out to be what another monster faction needed to release the Leviathan...
This season is the most like ours save there's nothing in it about Sam's mental illness. Leviathan come and begin a different plot to "end" the world. The biggest twist is that it wasn't exactly their idea. Several monsters volunteer to be their "cultists" and in one episode the couple come to terms with their child's death and that not all monsters are evil when they help free a vampire named Benny from the Leviathan he was serving (the alternate episode of 7.16). Later on in the season, we discover some humans are also serving the Leviathan (after all, they're offering free healthcare). In fact a human named William Kane (this world's version of Dick Roman) is the one who gave the leviathans the idea of conquering the world by domestication, the head Leviathan is really his manservant.
There's twists and turns through the season as we expect. This time the wedding episode (#7.08) is really the couple's efforts to renew their vows in Las Vegas only for everything to go comically wrong. Frank is introduced when Bobby has to "retire" for a little while. Repo Man (#7.15) is the annual reunion with Dean coming back to the show to help the couple deal with a demon returned and his possession victim. The sweetest moment of all this season is when they meet Charlie. Since they lost a child and she lost her parents the three of them have a really cute moment and both find some closure finally in their lives. Kevin is also introduced and Castiel & Crowley both return to help the couple finish off the leviathan. Working together they barely all make it through but in the end the husband stabs the leader and gets sucked into Purgatory, ending the season.
Gamble's years were still a bit rough and she left after 2, turning the show over to Carver. At the time rumors began to swell that Jared & Jensen would be returning but it turned out they were coming back in a behind-the-scenes manner (Jensen directing and Jared took up writing). Instead Carver decided to push the numbers and went with a set of three siblings (1 older and a pair of twins).
This seems to have focused Carver as S8 was a lot tighter in this world. The handoff episode a the beginning had our new protagonists finding the wife left behind last season. She taught them how to hunt Leviathans and gave them some pointers on how to clean up the mess before tossing the keys to Baby and walking off to try and find some way to save her husband from Purgatory.
Following that we had a hunt for Kevin and him joining the group then an arc involving finding, then translating the demon tablet over 5 episodes. Then the reveal of the trials. Turns out one of the siblings made a deal awhile back and the payment is coming due. (I won't spoil which one.)
The second quarter of the season is when Castiel and Crowley return full force to the show and begin playing roles as chess masters with the siblings as key. Another five episodes of this (except for two MotW in there for character establishment) with the midseason break being the first trial. One of the twins passes it but the other is still killed off by other hellhounds, leaving the group reduced.
The third quarter of the season is the build up to the second trial: going to hell and back. 3 episodes are used to establish the trial, it's rules, and prepare for Hell (Cas offers some advice since he's visited before) and among these is the annual reunion episode with Dean and Gamble's survivor coming back to help. Dean actually has a dramatic moment where he almost sabotages the plan because he wants Sam to be the soul rescued but he eventually agrees with the original plan in a moment that is one of the highlights of Jensen's acting career and even made me tear up. The actual journey into Hell is an awesome and epic two-parter. Part 1 is getting into Hell and finding the lost sibling and ends on a cliffhanger with them unable to escape (right before a small hiatus, fans were livid). Part 2 brings back Bobby & Benny who hatch a hair-brained scheme to help the protagonists escape. Even Tessa shows up in a really clever, unexpected role. Unfortunately this kills them but the execution of the plan and subsequent rescue were just so badass you couldn't imagine those two dying any other way. The Gamble's husband protagonist does show up again in Purgatory but is unable to escape with the siblings. Eventually they do get back and try to have the twin returned to life but it's revealed it can't be done if the trial is to be completed. At the end, Castiel promises to take the twin to heaven and gives the siblings one moment to say goodbye in a perfect ending to the whole 5-episode arc. Yes this was all still on a tv budget but you can tell they had been saving up for this episode and everybody involved really worked hard to stretch out every cent and put it up on screen. Several times they even utilized their limitations to work for them. Plus the plot and characters were so well executed I found myself invested regardless. There were still one or two canon hiccups in this but it was all just so well done and you could tell they tried so hard to get everything right that those missteps were easy to forgive.
The final quarter of the season was a bit of a letdown but nothing really could have followed that epic arc. It still was pretty strong as the surviving siblings work to solve the final trial. Their efforts to even figure out how to "cure a demon" lead them to Metatron and to discover the Men of Letters' bunker. In a clever bit, with the 2nd trial eating up most of the script, the set department had the bunker be half finished to really give it a look of being abandoned for ages. The characters even establish they're going to have to work on fixing it up (to explain why the set designers slowly improve the location). The chess match between Cas & Crow also heats up in these five episodes as we see Crowley manage to get the ear of Metatron and convince him that Heaven needs to be sealed up like Hell. Them working together is very unsettling in the ways it should be. Anyway at the end of the "game," things take an unexpected turn when Crowley gets caught to complete the trials and Castiel is used by Metatron to finish his efforts. The final episode of the season, "Sacrifice" proceeds in much the same way (similar, heatfelt speech) but the twin who had been doing the trials goes through with it anyway, sealing up Hell even as the angels fall out of Heaven.
Of course in our world S9 was a horrible mess so almost anything would be an improvement. In this world, things seemed to have focused for Carver.
With 2 of the 3 protagonists he started with dead by this point, he shocks everybody by revealing that Castial and Crowley both are now mortal and they join the surviving elder sibling to become the protagonists for this season. First few episodes are Crowley and sibling going to find Castiel, then there's a bit of entertaining MotW romp where the two of them have to readjust to mortality and getting along with each other.
The status quo has been upset with angels and any demons left trapped on earth. Now exorcism carries more weight as any demons hit with it will be stuck in Hell forever. They try the spell to cast out angels on a few folks but find it doesn't quit work right with whatever Metatron did. The resulting main arc is that apparently among the angels expelled, were some jailers. Among those is the first demon created by Lilith: Cain (less a literal biblical Cain). Turns out him and the other firsts were the Knights of Hell. He wants to reopen Hell while Metatron has his own plan to try and make things better. It seems kind of weak at first but then it all comes together when it's Crowley who figures out how to stop Metatron and Castiel who halts Cain.
There's actually no reunion episode this season.
Similar to our S10 this one is more MotW than a large arc. Even the reunion episode with Gamble's survivor is just a leviathan callback. What few episodes related to an arc there are deals with the crew trying to stop Metatron's self-described "insurance" when he was defeated.
Turns out while he was running Heaven, Metatron figured out how to let out the DarknessTM. He says the only way to stop it is to let him be put back in charge. What few angels remain empowered (last season many of them chose to become mortal like Castiel) can't agree on who should be in charge so the sibling is chosen as their family has proven themselves worthy. In Heaven the previously dead twin also makes a comeback to help. Too late they realize Metatron's trap requires a living mortal in Heaven and his death. At first you think Crowley will be the one to kill him but it turns out Castiel does, so DarknessTM is unleashed.
This season is a long, slow example of failure as everybody tries to stop the DarknessTM. (Who, yes, is still God's "sister.") They summon Death to stop her but it turns out he's her servant. Things get bad enough they actually let Michael and Lucifer BOTH out of the cage, letting Jared and Jake return the show finally. Dean and Gamble's survivor also return for a multi-part reunion late in the season when Chuck arrives. It's all pretty entertaining in a way. At the end, Carver's survivor does have a talk with the DarknessTM and draws upon their experience from the previous 3 years, talking about loss and what the twins meant to them. This convinces the DarknessTM to - if not forgive her brother right away - at least give him a chance to improve things. As a thank you, they give a gift to everybody who remains. Sam & Adam are freed, allowing them to rejoin Dean in a normal life and even Gamble's married couple is reunited. It's all a very touching capstone to a long run. But Dabb wasn't finished with the show...
There was a lot of real concern whether the SPN experiment would continue on after what seemed like a perfect capstone to everyone's work closed out S11, but CW renewed it again and this time Dabb stepped in.
The very beginning was very unusual as we followed two people, one investigating the Bunker left empty at the end of last season while another traveled the country, finding and talking with the protagonists of earlier seasons. We got to see a touching, yet funny moment where Dean & Lisa are sending Ben off to college, and Sam is going to drive Ben there since he's the only one qualified to give advice. We see Gamble's protagonists living happily with their second child and the tombstones of Carver's. When the storylines converge at the Bunker, we find out the one traveling about was actually Claire. And what we thought was one person in the Bunker was actually 2: Charlie and her friend.
There's some tension but things eventually settle down, especially when Castiel and Crowley come back. There's a very touching reunion scene between father and daughter. Charlie eventually leaves but not before dropping the bombshell that the Men of Letters had branches all over the world, and the British branch seems to have sent someone to the States.
There the standard MotW/protagonists-exploring episodes, then the show reveals that after dealing with the DarknessTM, Lucifer has taken over the body of a rock-star while Michael has taken as a vessel the Prime Minister of Britain (neither seems much interested in their fight any more). With Castiel's & Crowley's knowledge, they try to cram Lucifer back into the cage, but it seems Hell is locked up tighter than they thought. They improvise a kind of cage of their own and stick Lucifer in there then store it deep in the bunker.
They team up with the BMoL and - after giving him a chance to go back home and him taunting them about his own plan - toss Michael into an improvised container as well. The BMoL make overtures about establishing connections but Claire is the most vocal against it.
Back in the USA there's more conflict as the agent sent over there starts stirring things up, bringing the Princes of Hell out of retirement and getting some alpha monsters involved. There's back and forth, philosophical discussions about the way hunting should or shouldn't be. Eventually the other shoe drops: Claire is actually the BMoL agent with the free roaming one her "partner." (Though the show had provided red herrings that the other girl was the secret agent.) Turns out at the end of S4, the Novaks moved to England where Claire was recruited and trained for the previous 7-8 years. BUT then it turns out she's a double agent and turns on the BMoL and sabotages their efforts to consolidate power.
During this season we also learn that Michael's "back up" was that he had impregnated one of the Prime Minister's staffers and sent her over to America before the BMoL could do anything about the child. One of the Princes of Hell is after her because it wants to try and use the child to reopen Hell, while everyone else is wanting to get into the bunker and let out the archangels. Lots of stuff goes on, Cas and Crow argue over what should be done about the kid, Claire and friend only half-heartedly pick sides.
Things come to a head, shit hits the fan, Castiel and Crowley both die to save the day, and Jack is born.
Of course we can't go into too much detail here since that would inadvertently spoil our own S13. There is some tension between Jack and Claire as she had been warming up to Cas and feels like she lost her father all over again. The other protagonist does what they can to help Jack fit into the new world. Eventually he brings Cas back, first as a mortal, then restores the guy to a kind of new angel form that they spend a lot of episodes exploring. This allows the writers to give Castiel some abilities to help in plots without breaking them. There's also the further adventures of PoHs trying to reopen the place and uncovering what Michael had planned for Jack.
As for season 14? Well that would be telling.
But then again... this is all just hypothetical. ;)