Starting from scratch, and brand confidence: two reasons why Doctor Who fans… well, this Doctor Who fan at any rate… might be perturbed by this evening’s announcement concerning the development of a new big screen adaptation to be directed by the excellent David Yates.
I love the fact that Doctor Who is one big story that has run for 48 years, regenerating through genres, eras and styles with an unearthly youthfulness. It’s a shame that David Yates, who directed Paul Abbott’s superb political thriller State of Play and did wonderful things with the latter half of the Harry Potter franchise, feels that “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.” This isn’t the first time this has happened: when the show found its first success it was just 2 years before a cinema version was released rebooting the TV continuity by making the Doctor human and recasting companions Ian, Barbara and Susan. Following the 2005 revival it’s taken 6 years to announce a movie, and it’ll apparently be a further 2 to 3 years in the planning. The first movie was successful enough to spawn a single sequel, presumably BBC Worldwide are banking on this one doing better than that. But even though this isn’t the first time a “fresh start” has been made with the Doctor Who concept, I find it difficult to get invested in. Compare this, to, say, the 1996 made for TV movie which despite being essentially a pilot for Fox in the US was so dedicated to the continuation of the original show it began with the regeneration of Sylvester McCoy (very probably to its detriment in terms of attracting new audiences). Despite the poor regard it seems to be held in, I still enjoy that far more than the Peter Cushing movies of the ’60s. I’d watch anything David Yates directed, but now the Doctor is back on TV there’s no additional appeal in it being a Doctor Who movie (perhaps the opposite, even). There’s something about the continuity of the show that means it will be judged on more than just how good a film it is.
The other reason to be fearful is what it says about the BBC’s confidence in Doctor Who that they’re willing to dilute the brand in this way. Since the early summer, Private Eye have been running stories filled with innuendo about the BBC’s slicing away at its commitment to the show, with the next 14 episodes commissioned to be spread far more thinly beyond 2012. Eminent Doctor-Who-ologist Matt Hills fears it might even mean suspending the TV series.
@MrSimonWood Now *that* I might get excited about. Though I'm with those speculating that a film & TV series couldn't run concurrently.
The concern is rooted in the fact that a large part of Doctor Who‘s current success is in its revenue raising merchandising and branded spin-offs, and to have two different versions of the show trying to cash in on the same market would be very… weird. So whether or not the TV series continues, to be contemplating a movie suggests that the BBC are willing to risk the TV series and everything it earns for them to take a punt on trying to break into blockbuster cinema. It seems an awfully long-shot to me, and I can’t escape the conclusion that the BBC no longer value the Doctor Who brand as highly as they did a couple of years ago.
I sincerely hope I’m wrong. We don’t want another charity single.
Photo: Doctor Who and a Dalek with the TARDIS by Camera Wences CC BY-NC-ND 2.0