When a story appeared online in VARIETY recently, announcing that David Yates (director of the last four HARRY POTTER movies), was working with the BBC to turn DOCTOR WHO into a movie franchise, there was chaos in the WHO community. With such anxiety-inducing quotes as “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…,” fans were immediately predicting doom and gloom.
Well, most fans were. Some clearer heads prevailed. Some people pointed out that talk of a WHO movie had been circulating for years and there was nothing to indicate this would finally be what brings the project to life. Sure, the presence of a director with four megahit films on his hands was a good sign, but there’s tons of stuff that the likes of Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott have started developing that didn’t get off the ground. There’s no script, no star, no schedule and until those things materialize, no need to worry.
But, you know, even then, I won’t worry. It’s troubling that the decision has apparently been made to more or less “forsake” the TV show and re-imagine the franchise when the movie version comes out. I would have much preferred something like what they did with the X-FILES, when they released a feature film while the TV show was still at its peak. The movie became an extension of what already existed, taking into account the established mythology, using the established actors, and supplementing what is already known, but not making attendance of the movie crucial to continued viewing of the TV show.
When Russell Davies went to reboot the show in 2005, it was shrouded in secrecy. The number one fear among fans was that it would be a re-imagining, jettisoning the show’s forty-year history and continuity in favor of “starting from scratch.” As the reboot with Christopher Eccelston unraveled, we slowly learned that, yes, the continuity was (more or less) being maintained. We didn’t learn this all at once. Davies teased us, revealing small but vital links to the show’s rich history. (He waited two years just to use the word ‘Gallifrey.’) Eventually, fans were put at ease.
But now Yates, who already has a reputation for rewriting the Harry Potter mythos to suit his very particular filmmaking needs, is eyeing the franchise and making no bones about wanting to start fresh. And, again, there’s uproar. But I’m not sure it’s needed.
What many of the more recent WHO fans (those who came onboard with the 2005 reboot) may not realize is that this wouldn’t be the first time DOCTOR WHO was made for the big screen. During the ‘60s, while the Daleks were at the very nadir of their fear-inducing popularity, two films were made that featured the misfits of Skaro and Peter Cushing as ‘The Doctor.’ Those fans interested in canon generally disregard them. There’s nothing that links them to the show’s “official” history as established on TV.
This, if nothing else, shows that a movie franchise can exist separately from the TV show and still allow the TV version to flourish. Personally? While I’m a diehard fan, I’m not convinced the franchise as a whole has the chutzpah to hit in a mainstream way that will be lucrative for Hollywood. ESPECIALLY if you’re forsaking the established history. WHO has always been somewhat of an underground hit. It’s only in recent years that it’s gotten some mainstream cred. I just don’t know it’s enough—with or without a noted director behind it—to take off in Hollywood.
And if it does… so what? Right now, fans of the Sci-Fi channel’s recent reboot of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA are up in arms that a proposed movie from Bryan Singer will completely ignore the popular TV show (which, in many respects, ignored the ‘70s TV show). I lost count of how many Incredible Hulk films they did back to back, re-imagining the character each time (in a short amount of time). The problem with hot properties is that they’re often available to the highest bidder and therefore susceptible to re-imagining with every iteration. It’s just not worth it to get worked up anymore. And I don’t see how a movie could hurt the TV show. If it’s bad, true fans will disavow it and cling to the TV version. What most people are protesting is the threat to continuity. How does it fit in with the show’s canon? The problem is–and only a true fan will admit this–the show has played fast and loose with its own canonicity for a long time anyway. Wondering where a movie fits into the canon isn’t exactly a crisis of epic proportion. “The continuity of DOCTOR WHO is wonky? It must be Saturday.”
This is, of course, an older and wiser Brian speaking. Ten years ago, I might have suited up and gone to war over this. Nowadays…? Meh. What are ya gonna do?