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‘Doctor Who’ in Hollywood???

Doctor Who, Doctor Who Movie, All Lights Film Magazine, ALFM, All Lights MagazineWith speculation of  David Yates, who directed several of the Harry Potter films, possibly bringing Doctor Who to the big screen and transforming a British cult science fiction show into a Hollywood Blockbuster, it raises the question of just how Americanized would it be and how much of the iconic ‘britishness’ would be taken away? This American style re-imagining has been attempted before, however on a much smaller scale. Practically unknown outside of the Doctor Who fan-world was the 1996 television-film simply titled ‘Doctor Who: The Movie’, the BBC had teamed up with American studio FOX to make a poorly marketed reboot. The film featured an all-american cast except for Paul McGann, who starred as the time-traveling Doctor. It was intended for an American audience but received disappointing ratings Stateside. If they attempted this again, but this time with a film meant for cinema release, would history repeat itself and if American writers and production companies were involved would they keep that British sensibility?

Doctor Who is an important part of British popular culture, but has gained success in the US, being shown on BBC America and part of legendary American science-fiction convention Comic-con. The show started in 1963 and is the longest running science fiction show in the world. There brings a fear of being ‘Americanized’ for a larger audience to dedicated fans of the show. With science fiction franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek it was only a matter of time before the idea of Doctor Who as a film-franchise, after all Star Trek started out as a TV show before the films were made. The continuity and mythology of Doctor Who was always meant for TV and the idea of having a completely fresh approach in a film format seems pointless, throwing in big-budget CGI effects isn’t what the TV show is about, although the revival in 2005 boasted better special effects for a modern market, deviating away from the ironic and laughably bad effects of the classic-series.

David Yates wants to give the show the Hollywood treatment, which could potentially jeopardize the reputation of the show. These Hollywood style changes could range from over-sexualized characters, Michael Bay esque huge explosions and guns, after all the Doctor doesn’t carry a weapon or have any superpowers. What would stay true to british sci-fi drama? Is this just the case of Hollywood running out of ideas so turning to transforming television shows, with examples being The A Team, 21 Jump Street and The X-files. With the success of the recent TV series both here and in the states it probably wouldn’t be a case of doing well at the box-office, more of how would it go down with the fans.

Rumours of Johnny Depp as the doctor have been denied, the reason why this wouldn’t work is The Doctor has to be British, although there are no rules to how the character can sound or look (he could be virtually anyone) his mannerisms have been known to be typically British, whether it’s Matt Smith’s doctor’s love of fezes and Jamie dodgers, Peter Davison’s cricket style costume or all of the doctor’s love of jelly babies. The Doctor is a quirky and eccentric character dressed in classic British attire from a Harris tweed jacket and bowtie to iconic long scarves.

With American Production Company Starz already getting hold of Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood and turning it all CSI, it’s only a matter of time before they try to get their hands on the British treasure. Once American writers start tampering with things and making radical changes, that doesn’t bode well, obviously there are fundamental things which have to stay the same, the doctor is a 909 year-old timelord, (although it is never precise to what his exact age is) who travels in a TARDIS (basically a time machine) disguised as a police box which is another iconic British thing.

The 1996 TV-film has not been the only Doctor Who film, Dr. Who and The Daleks (1965) was a stand alone re-imagining starring Peter Cushing as The Doctor however he was a human actually called Dr. Who rather than ‘The Doctor’ this was considered a radical change, removing the fact The Doctor is an alien from the planet Galifrey, which instantly removes all backstory and mythology revolving around the character. If Yates were to make any radical changes for a film adaptation, just how radical would they be? And is a re-imagining really what we need when the stories and characters are solid as they are, we all know and love terribly designed yet terrifying Daleks, but can you imagine one without it’s deadly whisk and plunger?

Fans in the UK feel very passionate and protective over this cult-gem, and the majority aren’t prepared to hand over such a loved BBC television series to the hands of American writers and production companies, unless it is done properly and stays true to what makes the show so iconic, as a proud nation we are too used to the US adapting our TV shows like The Office, Life on Mars, and Skins. It hasn’t affected our own shows however a Hollywood re-imagination of this cult-hit may have a huge impact on fans. Obviously due to the revival of the series back in 2005 marketing may not be an issue; one of the reasons why the 1996 TV-film was unsuccessful was due to the show being off the air for about seven years. Doctor Who pulls in huge viewing ratings when it airs on a Saturday night on BBC One, and with merchandising and everything else, a film certainly wouldn’t fail financially, it is the quality of the film that will affect those passionate about it. Is David Yates the right man for the job? He has expressed interest however this still remains as rumors and at the current time nothing has been confirmed, so the TARDIS won’t be materializing in Hollywood just yet.

Feature credited to Adam Sellick



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