I read today that there’s plans to make a movie of my favourite TV show Doctor Who. Now you’d think I’d be loving this news but I’m not. In fact, I think it’s a terrible idea. I would’ve just posted why on Facebook or something similar, but no, I have more to say on it, than I could fit in one status. But before I explain why I think this particular film shouldn’t be made, let’s have a quick look back at the other Doctor Who movies there’s been and see how well they worked.
There have been three of them to this date; the first two were made in 1965/1966. These starred Peter Cushing as ‘Dr Who’ a human inventor who builds a time machine out of a police box and then he and his family and friends travel in time and encounter the Daleks. The two films take their plots note for note from the first two Dalek stories of the television series. They are basically just big screen versions of the stories. They’re bigger budget; they have huge sets, famous faces and are bright and colourful. There are a few differences, due to time constraints some parts of the stories are left out, and because they were made two years after Doctor Who debuted on television, the characters are simplified so audiences who hadn’t heard of the show to understand, the Doctor changing from a mysterious grumpy old man who seems a bit alien, to a kindly human grandfather for instance. These films couldn’t be made now, as the concepts of the show are too well know and have proper rules, but at the time they were made, the show hadn’t even explicitly stated that the Doctor wasn’t from Earth, so for all audiences knew, the origins shown in the films could’ve been the real ones. This doesn’t completely excuse the films; they are pretty ridiculous, haven’t really aged very well and are definitely directed towards kids who at the time were in the middle of Dalekmania (yes that was a real thing. Look it up.) and just wanted to see more of their favourite villains in colour and on the big screen. They’re all spectacle, not substance, but they’re fun and have Peter Cushing, who’s brilliant. It was the 60s; lots of weird things happen then, just accept the films as part of the era they were from and move on.
A proper big screen return has never really happened. There were plans for one during the Tom Baker era and after the cancellation of the series in 1989, but these never really arrived. The closest we have is a television movie made in 1996. Made by a partnership of Fox and BBC, this is a very odd film. Unlike the previous films it is in continuity with the TV series and although it introduces a new Doctor, Paul McGann, for most of the action, the start does contain the regeneration of the last televised Doctor, Sylvester McCoy into our new hero. Now I won’t say too much, because I might do a review of this film one day, but it didn’t really work. The influence of Fox is obvious, as it’s too americanized, it’s set in San Francisco, as the characters except the Doctor are American and it just misses the British charm of the original series. To counter-act how obvious it is that the makers of film didn’t get what made the show great, it’s also filled with continuity references to make them look like they do, but it doesn’t work, and just makes it confusing for new viewers. It also has many other flaws, like the claim the Doctor is half-human, the casting of Eric Roberts as the Master, the plot doesn’t make any sense, etc. However, there are a couple of good moments and Paul McGann is amazing as the Eighth Doctor, so it’s not a complete failure. It probably shouldn’t have been made, and if it had been made at a time the series had been running regularly it would have been despised, because it is pretty awful in comparison, but there hadn’t been any new Doctor Who in 7 years and there wouldn’t be again for another 9 years, so at least they did something, even if it didn’t work.
Now how can I defend an awful TV movie and then complain about one coming out now? The reason is timing. The TV movie was made when people were asking for more Doctor Who. Some had to be made, and even though it didn’t work, the 1996 movie did fill a gap. The thing is though now, is that we have a series on TV. And it’s good. So, we can just watch that, was anyone really saying, no I can’t handle just a TV show that’s been running for 48 years, I really need a film as well. So that’s the first reason it’s a bad idea, there isn’t a demand for it. But hey, that alone doesn’t mean it won’t work, so let’s look at the other things. The man who’s planning this is David Yates, director the last few Harry Potter films and he’s expressed interest in making it into a franchise. A franchise? Well that brings up a problem. The films will obviously have a bigger budget, so they can do things the TV show can’t. Great you say? Well… no. If this was just one film, then yeh maybe, but if it was a franchise this would overshadow anything the show tried to do. If they did an episode with 100 Daleks then, people would say, who cares we’ve seen a film with a million of them. Although I might not agree with the need to have a big world ending finale every series, it would mean that if they did try and do one, it wouldn’t be a big deal, because we would have seen better in the films. It means that although the films might be good and spectacular, it would cheapen the TV series, which is what Doctor Who is all about.
Also if it was a franchise then you would have the sequel problem. I doubt they would have a big storyline planned out over a series of films, in case the films didn’t do well. So each sequel would a separate story. However, as we all know, sequels don’t really work. Maybe the first film would be good. Maybe even the second. But it would just be a matter of time for the films to deteriorate. They’d get shit. And that’s not something that happens with the show now, but if people had just come out of the cinema after seeing an awful Doctor Who movie, would they really want to watch the TV show? In fact, even if it was good, some people would stop caring about the show if it was overshadowed by a movie franchise. And maybe it’s just me but, is David Yates just looking for a new franchise to do now he’s run out of Harry Potters. That’s just speculation, and I hope it’s not true, because if it was his heart wouldn’t be in it, and if it wasn’t we would end up with a very lacklustre set of films.
And finally the biggest problem. The films if made wouldn’t be in the continuity of the series. They wouldn’t have the TV Doctor and they wouldn’t have any connection to the BBC show except for the concept. It would be like a reboot. Now you might say, why does it bother you then? Three things.
1. If I was a fan, why would I want to see a film with no connection to the show I love. It’s not like a comic book, when although it’s not linked to the comics, it’s a big deal to see, say your favourite superhero, in live action. We’ve seen the Doctor in live action, ever week. Just seeing it on a bigger screen with better effects doesn’t make up for it having no connection to the show. So why would I want to see it?
2. There might be too much Who. Let me explain. If there was a movie franchise and a TV show, general audiences might go for the movies as they would be bigger budget, require less time and less explanation. Now, you might say what if it brings new fans to the show? Well they’ll be confused as to who this other man playing the Doctor is and what’s going on with all this background continuity and might well give up and only care about the films. It wouldn’t be like they would understand regeneration or anything, because that wouldn’t happen in the films, or if it did, it would really cheapen the whole thing. Say a different man was the Doctor after two films, why would we care about regeneration? It wouldn’t be a big deal. But it should be. The films may just ruin the mythology of the show by dumbing it down, or overusing it.
3. It would a big budget movie. Why’s that a problem? Well, maybe they’ll market it to Americans and have say, Justin Timberlake as the Doctor. Or maybe they’ll not be idiots and actually have a Brit as the main character, but it would probably make him more of an action hero. But really can you see Gerard Butler as the Timelord? Or maybe they’d do the casting right, and even have a good companion. But I would put money down on the companion being a love interest, which is just not how the show should work. There are just so many things that if it was made into a film, would be changed and it would just not be Doctor Who any more.
So hopefully you now see my problems with the idea and I really hope they don’t make the film, because I just can’t see any way this would work. Maybe you disagree and maybe I’ll be proved wrong, but right now, just no. Unless, maybe David Mitchell as the Doctor and Michael Caine as Davros, but that’s just in my head, and will never be made. Unfortunately.
Story this article is based on can be found: http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118046098