When news broke yesterday that Harry Potter director David Yates is seriously considering a big screen version of Doctor Who, my heart sank. These feelings of woe and dread are not down to the choice of director, Yates is a skilled filmmaker and I respect his craft. His work on four Potter films makes him more than up to the task, but he also directed two BBC gems, The Girl in The Cafe and the outstanding State of Play TV series.
What’s the Girl in the Cafe I hear you ask? It’s a TV movie from 2005 set around the G8 summit in Reykjavik, with a script by Richard Curtis and stars the impossible to
dislike Bill Nighy and Kelly Macdonald. Nighy plays Lawrence a shy and lonely civil servant, through a chance encounter at a cafe he meets Gina (Macdonald) and an unlikely but heartwarming romance blossoms.
The main reason for my sorrow was that instead of continuing the heritage and established who-niverse, it’s likely to be a standalone story with a different Doctor. Instantly thoughts of the ill-fated 1996 previous attempt fill me with doubt. Peter Cushing played The Doctor in two standalone movies, both Dr Who and The
Daleks (1965) and Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2050 A.D (1966) were a bit daft but quite enjoyable. Over 40 years before he played Wilfred Mott actor Bernard Cribbins made his first Doctor Who appearance as Tom Campbell in the film Invasion Earth.
Since Steven Moffat took over as show runner of Doctor Who the episodes have felt and looked more cinematic. Surely including the creative teams that made the show a success are worth including in the development? Whilst the BBC will be involved in the forthcoming film, is it wise to take a gamble on one of their most popular TV shows?
Thankfully Yates is in no rush to get started, in an interview with Variety he said: ‘We’re looking at writers now. We’re going to spend two to three years to get it right,’ he said. ‘It needs quite a radical transformation to take it into the bigger arena.”
It’s at least some comfort that the British heritage of Doctor Who isn’t being thrown out the window, Yates said: ’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”.
The internet is already fueling the gossip fire as to who will be the new Who, as Matt Smith appears to be have been ruled out already. There are many ways a standalone Doctor Who big screen film could work, but just because it could work doesn’t mean it should.
Due to BBC budget cuts we get fewer episodes or the next two years, the special something planned for its 50th Anniversary in 2013 has been cited as the reason for reduced run. The ‘special something’ has been speculated from a Two Doctors story that would see David Tennant reprise his role, to the return of Captain Jack and the Master. Most of the speculation is just fanboy hopes (some my own) as Moffat is a master of secrecy and utterly unpredictable.
I had hoped that the reduced run would translate to longer episodes, I fear this won’t be so as companion show Doctor Who Confidential is no more. If the BBC can’t afford 13 inexpensive behind the scenes, it’s doubtful they will have the money for longer episodes.
Matt Smith is currently signed up for 14 episodes, so that’s this years special and the remaining 13 over 2012-2013. This brings the movie version within a year of release, so are the BBC planning on ending the TV series in favour of a big screen franchise? I could get behind a big screen movie that had Matt Smith or whoever his successor turns out to be on the TV show. That said, I would be much more in favour of a series of specials than a movie.
What does seem certain is that now that Harry Potter is no more, the hunt is on for the next long running blockbuster British franchise. I’m sure that Doctor Who would fit the mould and like the Bond films, a new actor can be brought in every few years to refresh the series.
Even writing those words makes me feel cheap, and not in a wobbly cardboard set/that’s a dustbin not a Dalek! kind of way. Please BBC don’t ruin our beloved TV series, we don’t have much Sci-Fi that’s actually any good.