There isn’t anything quite like Doctor Who. Dozens of different brilliant concepts are thrown into a big sci-fi extravaganza, so many that other properties would be lucky to think up just one. It’s such a broad idea that it’s covered television, radio, books, comics and video games, but one realm which it hasn’t been too fond of conquering is that of film. Two movies were made back in the 1960’s – adaptations of some of the more famous stories – but they featured a human Doctor and weren’t canon. In 1996 an American TV movie was produced starring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor in the hope of inspiring a new series, but that didn’t really pan out. In the past few years the BBC have decided to show some episodes on the big screen; The Day of the Doctor (the 50th Anniversary Special) was the first and was followed by the Series 8 premiere, Deep Breath. But we are yet to see a complete movie featuring these characters.
The reasoning behind this is fair. This is one of the BBC’s biggest franchises and brings in millions every year from a show being on the air – so why would they put that in jeopardy by putting a big-budget movie into production? There’s also the question of whether it would feature an entirely new cast or retain Peter Capaldi (or whomever the actor would be at the time) as the Doctor and Jenna Coleman as Clara; if it’s a new cast then does the show keep running while the movie is filming? Do they get a year off? And where would the money come from? The BBC is public-funded but if a movie were to be made it would likely be in partnership with a bigger film studio, so are the public paying for that as well or would it be privately funded?
As it turns out, showrunner Steven Moffat has these concerns as well and isn’t particularly interested in a Doctor Who movie. Speaking at the Television Critics Association (via Christian Post), Moffat said,
The thing about the film, it’s not actually up to me,. That’s up to the BBC. To say the least I don’t own Doctor Who … What are we going to do — shut down for a year and make a movie? Does everyone really want that? One movie instead of a whole series?
Or the idea that I’ve always been incredibly resistant to, and you’ll be glad to know, Pete [Capaldi], is the idea that you would have a different Doctor in the movie because I think that would just be incredibly damaging to the franchise. You can’t have two James Bonds at the same time.
Nonetheless, that hasn’t stopped people from trying. A few years ago Harry Potter director David Yates announced that he is making a new adaptation, but then it turned out neither Moffat or the BBC really knew anything about it. Last year it was revealed in the Sony hack that the studio had tried to make a deal with the corporation to shove a film into production but that evidently didn’t work out.
It’s not as if the demand isn’t there, but it’s certainly a tricky situation. What story could there be that can only be told on film rather than on TV? Doctor Who has gone as big as big can go (impending destruction of reality and time) so there’s really nothing which has to be told on the big screen. Plenty of fans would beg to differ, insisting that the general public would fall in love with a big-budget Paul McGann-led feature, or a movie about the Time War starring John Hurt as the War Doctor – yeah, no.
We aren’t getting a Doctor Who movie for a while. Look at it like Star Trek, another sci-fi franchise that started out on TV but has since transitioned to film. The first movie didn’t come out until ten years after the show had been cancelled; after that there is a little bit of criss-cross between the different shows and movies in theaters, but the characters were not the same on both formats so it was easier for audiences to differentiate. I don’t think a proper film will be made until the show is cancelled and dead in the dirt. It’ll be a revival like 2009’s Trek reboot; big-budget and appealing to a global audience. And it will also probably be a reboot (although with the nature of time travel they can really do anything). By then it can be introduced to millions of new fans and tell new stories whilst staying fresh. The lead can be changed every few years and the supporting cast can be switched out or brought back when the writers please – and stories can be told in every genre. Westerns become hot again? Throw the Doctor back to the Old West. Sci-fi goes out of date? Make a psychological thriller set on Earth. It’s basically a producer’s wet dream.
Sadly that’s just my silly old ramblings. We may never get a Doctor Who movie, but I sincerely hope that one day we do.