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What Will Hollywood Do To Our Doctor?

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As Producers Announce Plans To Bring Doctor Who To The Big Screen, Thomas Pascoe Looks At The Mixed History Of Much-Loved Tv Institutions Getting The Full Hollywood Treatment

BYLINE: Thomas Pascoe


TAKE a British telly institution, add a huge budget and American razzamatazz and what could possibly go wrong? After all, it's worked for the X Factor.

Doctor Who fans may need slightly more convincing than that, though.

The series, which has clocked up 783 episodes since its debut in 1963, is all set for a new big-screen incarnation according to word from the US. And not everybody's happy.

Harry Potter director David Yates' announcement that he would be taking Dr Who to the big screen has been met with rumblings of discontent, not least from the BBC which has made it clear that the film idea is only "in development" and not yet confirmed as a definite release.

Nevertheless, Yates said: "The notion of the time-travelling Time Lord is such a strong one, because you can express story and drama in any dimension or time.

"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." Other fans of the BBC Wales hit, which has been shot around South Wales since being resurrected by Russell T Davies in 2005, are less convinced.

Caleb Goellner of the Comics Alliance said: "David Yates handled the self-contained Harry Potter franchise well, but it doesn't sound like his take on Doctor Who would gel with the serialised multimedia format that BBC fans have come to cherish.

"Fans want a single canon, even if it's sprawling, because The Doctor's mythology is built for that. Rebooting the mythos for the sake of a film franchise would be like taking a sonic screwdriver to all that."

But Anthony Wainer of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society was delighted.

"Everybody is quite excited, it isn't every day that your favourite television programme is made into a film. eeI "The Harry Potter films were phenomenally successful. I can't think of any reason why y we should be worrying about the furniture of the series, the Tardis and the Daleks etc, being moved.

"Every time there is a new series or a new doctor people put their own take on it and we end up with something new and different. The epic manoeuvrability of the series is one of its strengths."

The much-loved sci-fi show teweew -e w does have form when it comes to transferring to the silver screen - Doctor Who And The Daleks (1965) and Doctor Who: Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150AD (1966), both of which starred Peter Cushing.

"The Dalek films of the 1960s were really successful and it was probably quite an exciting time to be a fan because having watched the series in black and white you were now able to see it all in colour," said Wainer.

As the new film may take another three years to write, it is likely producers will cast a different Doctor to current incumbent Matt Smith. Some fans have claimed that this risks the casting of a big name dud over a British talent with an intuitive understanding of the doctor."

Wainer, however, remains undaunted: "Tom Baker said that the role of the Doctor was 'actor proof' because the character was bigger than the actor who played him.

"I wouldn't like to be drawn on who would be best placed to take the role, but I don't think they will have a hard time casting somebody."

Fans, meanwhile, could be forgiven for their scepticism. Hollywood's record of adapting small screen treasures to big screen blockbusters is patchy.

The Dukes Of Hazard started life as a TV sitcom detailing the adventures of two Good Ol' Boys from the Southern US battling the corrupt local politician Boss Hogg.

Re-made as a film in 2005, the production staff clearly decided that any subtle merits the original story might have offered were outshone by the not-so-subtle but equally distinguished prospect of lots of shots of Jessica Simpson's.

British television shows have fared no better. The Avengers, a sophisticated and stylish 1960s blend of espionage and science fiction on TV, was treated to a full-blooded Hollywood re-make starring Val Kilmer, hailed as "a successful blend of terrible acting, a flat-out incomprehensible plot, groan-inducing dialogue, ridiculous action sequences, and artistic failures on every level".

Despite such pannings, Hollywood went on to achieve the impossible when remaking Sex And The City into a pair of movies considered vacuous even by the standards of their small screen forebears.

Still, it isn't only Hollywood which has the ability to butcher successful television shows, as proved by the 1977 adaptation of Are You Being Served? Ingeniously sensing the comic possibilities inherent in armed revolution and prostitution rings, the film, whose primary plot device involves characters unsuccessfully passing one another notes, sets off on 95 minutes of capers. One reviewer declared such was its effect that it would make "an effective interrogation tool for political prisoners".

But for every dud Yogi Bear, The Flinstones and Rocky and Bullwinkle remake (Bob DeNiro in bizarre US cartoon remake, anyone?) there's always a well-received project such as The Fugitive, The Untouchables and The Addams Family.

And it's worth remembering science-fiction films have fared better than most. Star Trek has spawned 11 films, the last of which was both a critical and box office success with a further two sequels planned, the first of which will be released in 2013.

The Doctor might well be able to travel through time, but can he travel across the Atlantic? Watch this space.

Caption: Matt Smith as the current Dr Who Tom Baker as Dr Who

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  • APA 6th ed.: Pascoe, Thomas (2011-11-20). What Will Hollywood Do To Our Doctor?. Wales on Sunday p. 30.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Pascoe, Thomas. "What Will Hollywood Do To Our Doctor?." Wales on Sunday [add city] 2011-11-20, 30. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Pascoe, Thomas. "What Will Hollywood Do To Our Doctor?." Wales on Sunday, edition, sec., 2011-11-20
  • Turabian: Pascoe, Thomas. "What Will Hollywood Do To Our Doctor?." Wales on Sunday, 2011-11-20, section, 30 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=What Will Hollywood Do To Our Doctor? | url= | work=Wales on Sunday | pages=30 | date=2011-11-20 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=7 December 2023 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=What Will Hollywood Do To Our Doctor? | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=7 December 2023}}</ref>