On the Oft-Rumored Idea of a New Doctor Who Film


So the Doctor Who world was abuzz yesterday with the news (rumor?) that David Yates will be directing a big screen feature film of our beloved series. If true, it's not an enormous surprise. The show's about to hit it's 50th anniversary, and the showrunners have long been hinting that something special will happen.

Before we descend into paroxysms of "why, Yates, why?!," let's look at what this might actually mean.

Based on past "film" versions of Doctor Who, there are two ways the new film can go: remaking an existing story and transforming it for the big screen (as with the Peter Cushing films), or as David Yates said, giving it a "radical transformation" (as with the 1996 film).

Well, the show's been back for almost a decade now, and if there's one thing we've learned, both the fans and the showrunners are adapting very well to radical transformations. In fact, constant mutation seems built into the core of the reboot, particularly under Moffat's reign.

So it's fair to expect that if Yates directs a new film, it won't be a familiar plotline, but a shock to the system, like the 1996 film. For those who are unfamiliar, that attempt to revive the show probably put it on the bench for another decade, despite an excellent performance by Paul McGann.

But it suffered from two key problems in my opinion:

  • Overly American in the worst ways possible (and I say this as an American). There was tons of flash and action set pieces, but it wasn't terribly cohesive. (and Eric Roberts as the Master? Not the wisest decision).
  • A strange fidelity to the mythology of the original series, despite the apparent intent to create a new show for a new audience.

However, it set the tone for series to come. It incepted the idea of the Doctor as an attractive, romantic hero, and created a template for new series. It grounded the companion relationship in a way that continued directly from the McCoy era closeness with Ace.

I question whether the show would be what it is today without that movie opening those doors. So who's to say that a new "radical transformation" won't lead to more wonderful inventions down the line?

Also, there's a key difference between now and past attempts: Doctor Who is no longer the last refuge of the anoraks and the ming-mongs. It's a multi-million dollar property with an international audience that will receive a multi-million dollar budget.

Basically, I'm excited about this news. Doctor Who needs constant invigoration to stay alive, and this could be a great move for the series.

And once the project becomes real, we can have a whole bunch of fun debating dream casting and storylines :)

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