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Doctor No: Why I’m Scared About the Doctor Who Movie News

Despite what seemed like an announcement yesterday, it’s still unclear whether the BBC is really working on a big-screen version of Doctor Who, with mooted-director David Yates’ comments on the subject seemingly contradicted by those working on the show within 24 hours. But if it is true, there are certain things that should be borne in mind by Yates and everyone else involved.

I’ll admit it: I’m worried about the Who movie that was seemingly teased by Yates in his Variety quotes. I like Yates as a director — more so, I admit for the original State of Play, which is one of my favorite thrillers of all time, than his Harry Potter turns, but he really made the last couple of movies work in a way that I wouldn’t have expected — but there seems something slightly off about the way he says things like, “Russell T. Davies and then Steven Moffat have done their own transformations, which were fantastic, but we have to put that aside and start from scratch” and “We want a British sensibility, but having said that, Steve Kloves wrote the Potter films and captured that British sensibility perfectly, so we are looking at American writers too,” in a way that I can’t put my finger on.

Part of it, I guess, is the idea of rebooting Who at all. It’s not just that I don’t see the point — the Doctor regenerates, which could explain away any actor discrepancy, and Who is a show that thrives on its multiple mythologies and histories, especially in its current, successful, television incarnation. I’m not sure what, necessarily, is gained in starting from scratch for a movie, aside from the chance to pick and choose from existing stories to retell instead of going with something new.

(Also, if the movie really is headed towards a potential 2013 release, it seems odd to reboot the franchise on its 50th anniversary; it feels like it confuses the brand, to be annoyingly business minded for a second, with multiple continuities needlessly, instead of offering a big-screen blowout that will then push audiences back toward the television series instead of contradicting it.)

My real worry about starting over, though, is the potential to throw out all the things that make Who special. More than any other sci-fi series, I’d argue, Who is about execution so much more than its central concept. Look at the way it’s described in the Variety piece: “the adventures across space and time of a super-intelligent alien in human form, who battles a variety of cosmic bad guys aided by plucky human companions.” There’s nothing wrong there, factually, but it doesn’t come close to explaining the appeal or the tone of the show at all. Yes, part of it is, I guess, “a British sensibility,” but it’s more than just a national thing: There is, in the best Who, a mix of fragility and protectiveness aimed directly at the kids in the audience, even the grown up ones (“We’ll scare you, but not too much,” to be reductive) that feels like it is so particular that an attempt to replicate it from a year zero approach could be disastrous.

Who isn’t Potter; there’s more wonder, more thinking and less … I don’t know how to put it … angst, perhaps (Which isn’t meant to put down Potter, which is great for what it is, just different from Who). Maybe it’s the odd implication both in Yates’ selection and the mention of Potter screenwriter Kloves that the two are analogous, but I’ve already got the feeling that the future Who movie that would result from this union would be a well-meaning misfire. Is it wrong to be so nervous before a project is even real?


  • knivesinwest11

    it’s a terrible idea.

  • the saber

    i agree with you i too am very worried about this film, my old sang is if it is not broke dont fix it. the only way i could see it working as a new “Doctor who” (without pissing off the fans) would be to tell a origins story with a actor playing a young william hartnells doctor, my pick for this actor jason issacs 

  • Ryan

    Doctor Who is great because it mixes light-hearted stuff and more serious sci-fi things, a little like Matt Smith’s Doctor. He’s kiddish and funny, and at the same time serious and courageous at times.

  • Customart081

    No. I feel the same way. Why take something that’s working and throw it out the window? I mean, ok, change can be really fun, but it can also be Paul Mcgann and Eric Roberts. You all see what I’m saying. 

  • Jason Hopkins

    This whole thing has me worried. I just don’t think this is a series that can make the transition to the big screen and stay true to what people love about the series.

  • Matthew D

    There’s no need at all to reboot this. Moffat created a wonderful introduction in “The Eleventh Hour” while adhering to all the established continuity. This is worrisome. A comic on the subject: 

  • Anyone

    Why worry? You can’t control what the companies are going to do. Just let it go. Doctor Who in the end is just a media franchise.

  • Coryjameson

    I despise the Doctor Who series so I’m all for a film version that destroys Graeme’s faith in humanity.

  • Andy E. Nystrom

    Wasn’t there already a non-canonical film back in the 1970s?  People will still treat the tv show as the real continuity anyway

  • Jayz

    The fans can have the TV series and the rest of the world can have Yates’s movie. If you don’t like the idea, don’t go and see it.

  • Anonymous

    There were two non-canonical films in the 60s starring Peter Cushing as the human scientist Dr. Who, but those films to my perception were more about cashing in on Dalekmania (which was at a Tickle Me Elmo level back then) in the UK than trying to make Doctor Who a different way. They were just mild rewrites of the first two Dalek serials from the TV series using brightly colored Dalek props and somewhat better sets.

    Films like them today would be a very difficult sell as a huge amount of the potential ticket buyers already have a perceived notion of what they think Doctor Who is.  Back then, there were no VHS tapes of the episodes (and rarely even any repeat broadcasts on TV) and the series itself was only a few years old.  Rewatching an old story in a more colorful way (even if the core characters are very different) had some appeal.

  • lari

    No no no no no.. If the HP movies don’t follow the books (except for what’s absolutely necessary,  leaving out or changing most of the stuff that made the books so popular in the first place) what makes anyone think that this movie will be anything like the REAL Doctor Who? HORRIBLE idea!

  • Lastnamecumbie

    Well Matt smith said he wants to stay with doctor who until the 50th anniversary than he wants to hit Hollywood so instead of a reboot keep smith by giving him the big screen role and that way the story can continue 

  • Zor-El of Argo

    It’s been established on the show that the Doctor occasionally spends a couple of centuries having adventures that are not turned into TV episodes. These long stretches may take place between seasons or mid-season breaks. This leaves A LOT of room to tell stories in the movies that don’t necessarily fit neatly between any two particular episodes, and could be the “untold stories” of ANY of the Doctors, past or present. Granted, for the early Doctors new actors would have to be used, but in my opinion the only Doctors well suited to the modern day silver screen is Christopher Eccelson and David Tenet. Even a completely new Doctor could be used, one who is 2,000 years old and likely several regenerations past Matt Smith. He’s a Time Lord, therefore he can pop up in modern day London between Matt’s visits without upsetting anything. Hell, Doctor Who is the one TV series that absolutely can have something different happening in theaters while the show marches on. The very nature of the show allows for it!