Will A Doctor Who Movie Work?

November 15, 2011 by  
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If you’re a Doctor Who fan then you must have heard that veteran Harry Potter director David Yates Is planning to make a Doctor Who movie. 

Now, Hollywood attempted to capitalise on the good Doctor’s popularity in the past with some predictably disastrous results (the 1996 TV version was aimed at a US audience and completely elimated any charm of the British series).

Transferring a much loved TV series to the big screen is a hard enough task as it is but when you consider the fact that it’ll be a complete reworking and nothing to do with the present series, you encounter added difficulties.

Russell T Davis won’t be writing the film and considering the wonderful job he’s done in modernising the series (let’s not forget how controversial the decision was to tamper with a cult classic in the first place), this at first seems like a huge mistake.

A major problem will be the fan base. Ideally a TV series should build towards a movie – the movie being the climax, the culmination, and a nice big-budget send off for our favourite characters (see Serenity, a movie continuation of Firefly which was unapologetically loyal to its core audience).  In rebooting the Doctor for a movie incarnation, there’s a real danger that the momentum built up over the last few series will be completely negated.

Furthermore, there’ll be a necessary 30 minutes of exposition for those that haven’t seen the series – wasted screen time in which the Doctor could be doing more interesting things.  It’s a problem familiar to many comic book adaptations – the need to get a 50 year back-story into half an hour and then give the hero something to do.

Another problem is the long lead time required for movies.  Yates will reportedly spend “two to three years to get it right” which is reassuring but who knows where the series will be at that point?  If Yates is serious about making this a big-budget spectacular, then he can’t afford to simply make a feature length episode.

Yates seems like the right man for the job. He’s done some good work with the Harry Potter series (helming the last four films in the franchise) and knows his way around a special effects budget or two.  It’s also quite likely that he’ll keep the cast British (unlike Torchwood, the Doctor Who spinoff whose Americanisms made fans hurl their remotes at the telly), and if anything a large part of Doctor Who’s charm is a very British sensibility.

So how could these problems be avoided?  How can you make a standalone movie from a beloved TV series?  Step forward JJ Abrams to show everyone how it’s done.  The new version of Star Trek released in 2009 was one of the year’s best blockbusters and circumvented a lot of the whinging of fans by a) setting it in a parallel universe which allowed the characters free will and b) actually being very good.  If Yates has any sense then this seems like the way to go.  That and not hiring Steve Kloves to write the screenplay.

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  1. Ben S. says:

    The only exposition you need for Doctor Who is as Neil Gaiman said “No, look, there’s a blue box. It’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. It can go anywhere in time and space and sometimes even where it’s meant to go. And when it turns up, there’s a bloke in it called The Doctor and there will be stuff wrong and he will do his best to sort it out and he will probably succeed cos he’s awesome. Now sit down, shut up, and watch ‘Blink’.”

  2. Etta says:

    I think Ben S. has a good point. And if it’s Americanised it’ll be terrible. If most of the movie is taken up by exposition it’ll be terrible. There are so many ways this will end up terrible and few to make it go right. But what I hope more than anything is that Matt Smith is NOT The Doctor in the movie. I truly can’t understand how Smith has kept the job beyond one season! 🙁 Nearly all my friends are Doctor Who fans (some really hardcore fans) and I’ve seen dozens upon dozens upon dozens of posts online of people complaining how rubbish Matt is as the Doctor. And they’re right. I’ve not seen even one single post that says Matt is even slightly good as the Doctor – so how in the multiverse has he kept the job?? If every fan of Doctor Who hates Matt then why can’t we get rid of him? We’re paying him for the job and we don’t like him (putting it mildly) after all. Even the people who origianlly said “give Matt a chance” and “don’t be biased because he’s ugly, annoying and a HUGE arrogant ***** in real life as well” have changed their minds back to “Matt sucks”.
    I’ll keep an open mind about the movie despite my low expectations – but if Matt’s the Doctor in the movie as well as somehow hanging on in the TV Series then I might hand in my “hard-core fan” badge and admit I’m not a Doctor Who fan anymore like most other fans over the age of 10 have done. I’m sick enough of the new Doctor Who being a kid’s show instead of an adult show as it used to be. If Amy, and even more so Rory, weren’t in the series with Matt’s Doctor I would already have given up watching. It’s really “The Amy & Rory Go Time Travelling Show” right now. Martha was a terrible companion, but I can live with bad companions. Matt, however, is the first Doctor out of ALL of them I actually hate. So congratulations on being the most hated Doctor of all time Matt. You’ve actually stopped die-hard fans from watching. That’s a pretty amazing thing to have done. I’m only one of many who think this – but I’m still watching… for now. I’m sure he’ll be in the next series but, if he is, I may give up watching too.
    Someone, please fire Matt. For the good of the show please get rid of him and get someone with some personality on-screen as well as off. And if the next person you hire doesn’t have a face that looks like an angry, disturbed, 7-fingered, fumble-handed child’s made it out of putty that would be a bonus. 🙂

  3. Stephen says:

    First of all, Etta, you’re a moron. Look, us real Doctor Who fans have to apologise to you David Tennant fangirls that he didn’t regenerate into back into the gurning, two-expressioned, catchphrase-spouting child that was David Tennant and we instead got someone who can actually act but we’ve moved on. If you can’t deal with that, then I’m sure your nanny will come along to put you down in front of some cartoons for the 2-4 year olds, giving you the full RTD/Tennant experience without needing to watch their awful Doctor Who episodes. Calling yourself a “die-hard fan” who stops watching because Matt Smith is UGLY is a joke. But that Colin Baker, he was a sexy piece of arse, wasn’t he? I’m still debating whether to get the William Hartnell or Sylvester McCoy swimwear calendar this year, any opinions?

    Second of all, Jez Sands, writer of this article, way to ignore Steven Moffat in favour of Russell T Davies. Just about as bad as the BBC when it comes to the treatment of the new series, eh? Moffat might be the one who wins the awards for the best episodes and the man the fans love while RTD is a pop culture-driven hack who is ashamed of sci-fi but his work goes unappreciated by the people writing blogs about Doctor Who movies?

  4. admin says:

    My point about the movie was more that starting from scratch seems like a huge waste when such good work’s been done on the TV versions. It’s only going to invite comparisons. You’re right though, I should have mentioned Moffat as well.

    I sort of feel the same way about Superman (although I’m hardly his biggest fan – I’ve always found him quite a dull superhero). Smallville did a great job and gave him the room to breathe that a lot of comic book characters need. Making a film which ignores a well-received TV series only seems like a mistake. I could just be bitter about Superman Returns though which I hate with a burning passion that rivals the heat of the sun. We’ll see.

  5. Etta says:

    Stephen – the first sign of a total moron is someone who posts up an insult to a complete stranger on a forum as you did. The second is that that person makes a ton of assumptions – usually personal and usually all of which are incorrect. Again: as you did.
    First you assume I’m a girl. Then you assume I’m crying about missing David Tennant. You assume you know my sexual orientation (which is the only reason I can see you would think I ‘miss’ a ‘sexy’ Doctor or whatever you were on about. You dissed some of the Doctor’s that I did, in fact, love. (But their faces don’t look like they’re made of putty; regardless of what else you may think about their looks.) I’m not sure what your point was there. Was it that you think it’s because me and a lot of other people think Matt is ugly? Well that wasn’t really my point but ok I’ll agree with you there – he’s ugly. I wasn’t saying he’s ugly – but that is your word and your assumption, so – ok. We’ll agree he’s ugly AS WELL AS what I meant.
    I disagree that Tennant can’t act. I disagree that Matt acts well. I’ve seen no-one agree so far that Matt is a good Doctor. I’ve only seen people say he’s awful. You didn’t actually say he was “good” either. *shrug* Apart from the producers you are the first person I’ve seen claim Matt acts well. Do you work for them? Or are you a friend of his that’s got his knickers in a twist about it?
    It doesn’t matter to be honest.
    I noticed the missing information about the writers of the series too and I considered saying something about that too – but there’s been plenty of moaning posts about the changes there so I could say nothing new (good or bad). I “gave Matt a chance” because of the change of style – but it’s Matt and everything about him I don’t like. I find him INCREDIBLY boring to say the least. I still like Doctor Who – I just don’t like this particular actor as the Doctor. And when I said “out of all of them” you thought I meant out of all… what?… 4??
    I “assume” you thought 4 because you jumped to the last Doctor as your assumption of my preference. You stuck to the ‘new’ Doctors for your assumption. (And maybe we can assume we know which one you fancy.)
    This could/would and easily leads me to the assumption that you are under 10. It’s possibly not accurate – but then you don’t sound like a person that cares about accuracy.
    And you actually moaned about yourself with your comments on people who write posts about Doctor Who. Well done.
    Matt being ugly is no reason to stop watching Doctor Who (which is why I have not stopped watching yet). The rest of what he is though – that’s a good reason to stop watching. As is the rest of the mix going wrong (which is what a lot of fans are complaining about and why they’re no longer watching – but not what I wrote about or necessarily think).
    I could go on – but to be honest I don’t think you’ll understand my meaning. You’re a bit quick on the draw with your keyboard. I’m happy to debate things with someone who knows the meaning of the word debate – but I’m not someone who loves flinging insults to strangers when they have done nothing to me. Nor would I make it personal as you have done. I hope you enjoy laughing about my Grandmother – she’s dying of cancer. My other Grandmother died of a brain tumour. I’m sure this will make someone like you happy seeing as you like to attack people. Personally I don’t think it’s a good joke in any form – but opinions about films are ALL about “personal opinions”. Posts are about personal opinions – not about making opinions and insults personal.
    Next time stay on subject and don’t attack strangers you know nothing about personally or you show your true value. Even more so if you don’t understand their *meaning*.
    Lastly – back to the putty comment. Going that it was about Matt – can’t you understand that facial expressions and personality might have had something to do with what ‘putty’ was a metaphor for? No, obviously not. You jumped straight to ‘ugly’. There’s something about the way he looks that’s ‘wrong’ and that’s got nothing to do with being ugly.
    Some people will no doubt be attracted to him and his type and I don’t care one way or the other if they are. Beauty has always been in the eye of the beholder so it doesn’t matter. What a face can portray on screen, when it’s the face of an actor, does matter. You brought up looks, Stephen, and insulted more people than you believe I did.
    So there’s your reply and I’m sure you won’t be able to resist answering it…. seeing as you think you speak for “us true fans”. Your definition of ‘true fan’ will not be the same as everyone else’s.
    But enough of you.
    I’d like to hear more from Jez on his opinions regarding the authors and main writers and producers of the show and how that would compare to the team most likely to make the movie (if he’s able to do an addition or new article about this). It’s certainly being debated a lot elsewhere. I’ve not posted anything about Doctor Who myself until now but I’ve read a fair few. (And I haven’t even gone looking for them which is strange.) What IS the media’s opinion of the change in writers and the newest show-format? What are the chances Smith will be the movie-Doctor? What number Doctor are we even on? (If you count TV, Radio and Movie we’re past the Doctor’s last regeneration.) Or does any of that matter?
    We’ll see.

  6. Wez says:

    Etta, what are you talking about? How could you possibly know what an entire fan base thinks? at best you might have 40 or 50 posts on a forum of people moaning but you have to remember the people who like things don’t go searching for places to express their love of it, only unhappy people do; therefore any statistical data you gain from forums etc will be, by its nature bias.

    I personally think he is a really good Doctor, I liked David Tennant more but they both have their merits.

    As for Stephen, you are just a hypocrite. How can you call someone opinion into question for using words you disagree with then retort in exactly the same manner while only swapping the names of the actors out. Secondly is Russell T. Davis was such a bad writer as you (and apparently the entire Doctor Who fan base) say then why did the revived series get renewed for 4 series before he stepped down? – and just as a side note that is not to say I am a fan of his writing, I am just pointing your blatant inability to give a fair and well reasoned argument.

  7. St says:

    Mats a great doctor your talking shite

  8. Dantè says:

    I’m not overly enamoured with Matt Smith’s Doctor myself, rather making you feel the character’s age & cunning through skilled acting … he just has a “Doctor Voice” which is a childish mix of misplaced pauses and tones. Those who perpetually attack Tenant”s gurning ham-acting also overlook some amazing scenes during his latter series. Or even “School Reunion”… I could feel the Doctor’s full 902 years as he faced off against Anthony Head.

    For a Movie Doctor, I think it would be a brilliant & brave move to recast Paul McGann as the Doctor and send him off into the time war. His turn in the excellent BBC radio plays solidifies him in my mind as one of the top 5 Doctors.

  9. katie says:

    like wez said. how can you know what the whole fan base is thinking and if the forum post is about disliking matt smith. it will draw people who dislike him and not love him. Personally i really like him. I watched a couple of episodes before him and didn’t see the appeal of doctor who. I watched matt smith’s first episode and have watched everyone since. so matt smith is bringing more fans to the show, surely that a good thing x

  10. Stephen says:

    Wez, first of all thank you for pointing out a flaw in Etta’s argument. I would respond to her myself but I stopped reading after “Grandmother – she’s dying of cancer”. Trolls bore me.

    If you’d like a well-reasoned argument, I found Russell T Davies’ writing to often be immature and, if this makes sense, it often felt like he was ashamed to be writing a sci-fi show. We had soap opera elements, cartoonish elements and would-be comedy moments of the Doctor appearing on Big Brother in the hope that the audience would say “OMG, the Doctor’s on Big Brother, that’s sooooo funny!” but just made me roll my eyes. I find that he also talks down to the preteen viewers (the Scooby-Doo chase in Love & Monsters, for example) in a way that Moffat doesn’t with his episodes and referring to Doctor Who fans as “mosquitos” hardly helped matters. Specific little details also grate on my last nerve, such as how high the pedestal was that Rose was placed on and the Doctor being able to siphon his regeneration energy into his hand in Journey’s End (in which case, presumably, the Doctor could stand on his toenail clippings while regenerating and get ten clones of himself). He also comes across as ridiculously arrogant in The Writer’s Tale, trying to take credit for Paul Cornell’s fantastic Human Nature/Family Of Blood episodes. As for why the series got renewed so many times, come on … I’m sorry to sound elitest but you know as well as I do that if you’re going to write lowest common denominator episodes in a series with an already built-in fanbase AND such a wide demographic.

    I don’t hold as much animosity towards Tennant as I do RTD but I think Smith is far and away the superior actor. Watching Tennant’s Doctor grit his teeth and shout every time he got angry was a lot less nuanced than Smith’s often quiet rage and subtle intimidation. Smith’s nostalgic moments, such as talking to sleeping Amelia in The Big Bang, are ones I find easier to believe could come from a 900 year old Time Lord than I do with Tennant’s. In short though, I just felt like the entire RTD era was mediocre with a few hidden gems. And, although I wasn’t a big fan of series six, I wouldn’t trade it for series 1-4 or the specials. Plus, there wasn’t a single episode of series five that I disliked. I have Moffat to thank for that.

  11. Mike says:

    Speaking as a long-time American fan of DW, I’ll agree with those who say that any movie made should keep the ‘British Charm’ of the programme. Continuity in cannon should be the aim of this project.

    Injecting myself into the emotionally charged debate dealing with DT v MS v CE, I go back to the Tom Baker era and count him as my favourite. But I also enjoy what the three current actors have brought to the role, particularly Tennant. Eccleston could have been brilliant in the role had he not decided to leave. Matt Smith has grown on me, as much as I liked Tennant (my second favourite) and hated to see him leave.

    To say that JJ Abrams did a great (or even good) job with Star Trek, what have you been drinking or smoking??? As SF, that was a decent movie; as Trek, it was an abysmal failure. In fact the only thing worse that I can think of is the rape of Battlestar Galactica that was called a ‘reimagining’. Is this what ‘Who’ is to become? Based on the statements I’ve read, it seems most likely. Either make it good or don’t make it at all!