November 14th, 2011

Tom Baker - what

and if there's a record scratch sound effect in the trailer so help me

Variety is reporting that David Yates, director of the last few Harry Potter films (honestly, was I the only one who really thought Alfonso Cuaron did a great job?) is "teaming up" with the BBC to make Doctor Who a movie.

Yippee! Zowie! The Doctor who is not Peter Cushing and his companions on the big screen! Let's read the article together, you and I, and thrill to the exciting developments to come!
Yates, who directed the last four Potter films, told Daily Variety that he is about to start work on developing a "Doctor Who" movie with Jane Tranter, head of L.A.-based BBC Worldwide Prods.
Okay, Jane Tranter worked with Russell T. Davies on the New Who. I took a liking to her after reading Davies' production diaries, if only because she had the common sense to turn down some of Russell's more embarrassingly bad ideas. Onward and let's get to the good parts like MAYBE IF K-9 WILL BE IN IT! I LIKE K-9!
"We're looking at writers now. We're going to spend two to three years to get it right," he said. "It needs quite a radical transformation to take it into the bigger arena."
Well that's a bit of a comedown. I never like hearing that an established series needs a "radical" kind of anything. And Doctor Who doesn't. Want to make an exciting and fun Doctor Who movie? Get Moffat to write, get Matt Smith and anybody who's around after the Christmas special. (I have yet to watch the second half of this season, by the way, and I've studiously avoided spoilers so I don't know anything that's happened since Spring) Have them run around for two hours thwarting alien menaces in a solidly-crafted story, and you'll have some damn good sci-fi. People are going to want to see the characters they know and love.

Maybe I'm overreacting just a little bit. Maybe I'm taking "radical transformation" out of proportion. Maybe all Yates really wants to do is change the theme tune, you know, put some heavy bass under it or something. Or maybe he'll make the Cybermen glow orange. Let's see.
Yates made clear that his movie adaptation would not follow on from the current TV series, but would take a completely fresh approach to the material.

"Russell T. Davies and then Steven Moffat have done their own transformations, which were fantastic, but we have to put that aside and start from scratch," he said.



Now that's a pretty spectacular disappointment and specific to boot! Time was all someone had to do to irk the masses was say "Hey I'm making a movie of a favorite sci-fi/fantasy property" and we'd descend like howler monkeys (we are legion; we are hyperbolic) to cry "It won't be the same! It will suck!" More often than not we were vindicated. Hello, I, Robot. Other times really everyone was pleasantly surprised with how well it came out. Hello, Lord of the Rings. But David Yates here doesn't even set a "might not suck" bar. He simply kicks it to the ground with a Reboot implication. Yeah, don't think like he won't. Phrases like "completely fresh" and "start from scratch" are pretty damning.

Doctor Who is a British institution and beloved television show for decades, and there's one good reason why: It's constant even in the face of changes that would faze other television programs. Actors and actresses (including leads) come and go, show runners switch off, the TARDIS keeps looking different inside. It's a show all about change, but it's been constant in that change. It has built a robust universe with strong characters, recurring villains, and species who have been allowed to develop on their own as characters.

Doctor Who has become one grand epic story, and while some chapters have been better than others and okay, there might have been some slight fiddling with the canon, it's still an amazing work all around. A lot of really clever and talented people have worked hard on this story over the years and starting from scratch, doing away with their universe entirely, is an insult to their endeavors.

It seems to me that while Yates can cloak his intentions with "It's an artistic necessity! Honest!" what he really wants here is Michael Bay blockbuster grosses. Take a franchise that people have heard of, turn it into blow-up-real-good entertainment for the PG-13 demographic, then go swim in your Scrooge McDuck money bin. And there's nothing wrong with blow-up-real-good entertainment, but you don't have to ruin Doctor Who to do it.