Will A Doctor Who Movie Work?

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If you’re a Doctor Who fan then you must have heard that veteran Harry Potter director David Yates Is planning to make a Doctor Who movie. 

Now, Hollywood attempted to capitalise on the good Doctor’s popularity in the past with some predictably disastrous results (the 1996 TV version was aimed at a US audience and completely elimated any charm of the British series).

Transferring a much loved TV series to the big screen is a hard enough task as it is but when you consider the fact that it’ll be a complete reworking and nothing to do with the present series, you encounter added difficulties.

Russell T Davis won’t be writing the film and considering the wonderful job he’s done in modernising the series (let’s not forget how controversial the decision was to tamper with a cult classic in the first place), this at first seems like a huge mistake.

A major problem will be the fan base. Ideally a TV series should build towards a movie – the movie being the climax, the culmination, and a nice big-budget send off for our favourite characters (see Serenity, a movie continuation of Firefly which was unapologetically loyal to its core audience).  In rebooting the Doctor for a movie incarnation, there’s a real danger that the momentum built up over the last few series will be completely negated.

Furthermore, there’ll be a necessary 30 minutes of exposition for those that haven’t seen the series – wasted screen time in which the Doctor could be doing more interesting things.  It’s a problem familiar to many comic book adaptations – the need to get a 50 year back-story into half an hour and then give the hero something to do.

Another problem is the long lead time required for movies.  Yates will reportedly spend “two to three years to get it right” which is reassuring but who knows where the series will be at that point?  If Yates is serious about making this a big-budget spectacular, then he can’t afford to simply make a feature length episode.

Yates seems like the right man for the job. He’s done some good work with the Harry Potter series (helming the last four films in the franchise) and knows his way around a special effects budget or two.  It’s also quite likely that he’ll keep the cast British (unlike Torchwood, the Doctor Who spinoff whose Americanisms made fans hurl their remotes at the telly), and if anything a large part of Doctor Who’s charm is a very British sensibility.

So how could these problems be avoided?  How can you make a standalone movie from a beloved TV series?  Step forward JJ Abrams to show everyone how it’s done.  The new version of Star Trek released in 2009 was one of the year’s best blockbusters and circumvented a lot of the whinging of fans by a) setting it in a parallel universe which allowed the characters free will and b) actually being very good.  If Yates has any sense then this seems like the way to go.  That and not hiring Steve Kloves to write the screenplay.

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