A ‘Doctor Who’ movie: To be or not to be?

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While coverage of the upcoming ninth series of BBC sci-fi phenom Doctor Who has been keeping news writers busy, the topic of a feature film has been recently appearing alongside its show coverage. But with its showrunner Steven Moffat saying one thing and leaked Sony emails saying another, the ultimate question currently is: Will there be a Doctor Who movie or not?

Not counting the two 1960s films starring Peter Cushing and the 1996 TV movie that serves as the only televised adventure of Paul McCann’s Eighth Doctor, Doctor Who has graced only television sets since its debut on BBC’s airwaves in 1963 (save its occasional cameo appearances in theatres for landmark anniversaries and popular premieres). While tales of the eponymous character extend to countless forms of media, including novels and video games, a full-length motion picture has never come to fruition, primarily because of the series’ unique structure that allows different actors to assume the lead role through “regeneration”. Moffat spoke to Entertainment Weekly recently on this issue, saying, “If it’s going to be a different Doctor, are we going to try and sell two Doctors at the same time? I know there’s been loads of Doctors, but there’s only been one at a time. You don’t have a James Bond on television and one in the cinema.” Because of this and a number of other obstacles, Moffat stated, “I don’t think there is [a movie]…I’ve sat with people, saying…’Okay, explain to me how it’s going to work.’ And nobody has an answer.” Fifth Doctor Peter Davison echoes Moffat’s confusion on a movie’s approach. “It seems to me that the movie has got to be made with the current Doctor in it, but the difficulty is the movie process is so long,” he told the Radio Times. “If they were to plan a movie now, then [Peter Capaldi] would have to commit to being in it in two years’ time when it finally came out. A movie with a previous Doctor in it would be just a bit odd, I think.”

But emails from the recent WikiLeaks hack of Sony are speaking a slightly different tune, revealing a “tremendous interest” in a film by BBC’s director of television Danny Cohen. The unveiled email exchanges detail the formulation of an eight-year outline for Doctor Who and its many components, and that while “a film won’t happen in the next year to 18 months…it is expected that it will happen after that within the 8 year horizon,” according to Sony’s president of international production Andrea Wong.

Moffat has stood by his initial remarks on the subject, telling Radio Times, “I’ve got nothing against [a movie], but no one’s ever been very clear about how it actually works…We haven’t really, to be honest, got an answer to it. All this story is nothing — there’s not been a story for years.” Should a movie ever be in the cards, Moffat’s top priority is the security of the show, saying, “You can’t make a movie that damages the TV series…I’m very happy for there to be a movie, very happy [for there]to be a theatre show — anything you like — but the TV show is incredibly important and must not be hurt.” 

So the topic raises several questions: If a Doctor Who movie were to proceed with Peter Capaldi at the TARDIS’s helm, how could writers and producers make a movie that would fit well with the show’s canon, or at least not affect it? Or could a movie be successful if another, future Doctor were instead in play, echoing the same single-adventure pattern they previously had with the Eighth Doctor, then following the movie with the next regeneration of the Doctor on the show? Or would the movie even need to sync up with the show’s canon? With the Doctor Who brand employing many forms of media to expand the histories of every incarnation thus far of the Doctor with audio books, comics, and novels, could fans accept a Doctor Who movie as a separate medium, different from and possibly unaffected by the TV show?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!

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