A couple of days ago Variety, one of the leading trade publications for those working in Hollywood, announced that a big budget Doctor Who movie is in the works in cooperation with BBC Worldwide. Though no script or actors have been announced, the film will be directed by four-time Harry Potter alumnus David Yates.
According to Yates, the film is planning to be a stand alone venture, separate from the current sixth series of the reboot starring Matt Smith as the eleventh incarnation of the time traveling Doctor. Furthermore, both American and British writers will be considered for the scripting duties; being a main stay of British culture, an American writer could upset fans. However, Yates points to the precision of American writer Steve Kloves in capturing the British element of the Harry Potter films expertly as reason for leaving stateside writers in contention for the film.
I find the news to be both exciting, yet also quite worrisome. In the past, two features starring Peter Cushing in the 1960s were made that are not considered part of the standard canon; in 1996, a telefilm starring Paul McGann was released in cooperation with the FOX Network, which is considered as part of the canon, counting McGann as Doctor number eight.
The excitement lies, of course, in the mere idea of Doctor Who getting royal treatment with a large budget and mass audience release. Yet, the worry also stems from the same reasons for excitement. Doctor Who has long been a cult program in some regards, with legions of fateful fans. As a television series, it is just now somewhat breaking into the mainstream with the popularity of the 2005 reboot and younger, exciting Doctors like David Tennant and Matt Smith. To fully commercialize on the series, I feel that a sacred aspect of this now nearly 50-year canon of two series and a telefilm might be dismantled.
To be fair, however, if there is one person that can pull this off, I think that the BBC made a wise decision in choosing director David Yates. Yates, a National Film and Television School graduate, had early success in television before directing his first Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. His adaptation was such a success, that he continued on as the director for the following three films. He seems to have a good knack for understanding the sacred nature of beloved cultural icons such as Harry Potter or the Doctor. In my opinion, his idea to split the seventh book into two movies to better serve the source material was an excellent choice.
Though it looks like the project may be three to four years away from release, it will be interesting to see how it is handled. Hopefully, the production will not stray too far from the 50-year history to upset long-time fans, but will be able to be commercialized enough to recruit more fans for the beloved Time Lord. After all, the more fans there are for a fictional character, the longer that character seems to stick around in popular culture. As a huge fan of the series, I know we would all hate to see another nearly 16 year gap with no Doctor on television or film.