After sheparding the final installments of the Harry Potter franchise, director David Yates is taking on an even older, more venerated British fantasy institution – Doctor Who. Yates will be directing a big screen adaption of the iconic BBC series it was announced today.
Yates will be working at developing the big screen adaption with Jane Tranter, BBC Worldwide’s Los Angeles.-based exec VP of programming and production.
We’re looking at writers now… We’re going to spend two to three years to get it right. … It needs quite a radical transformation to take it into the bigger arena.
Premiering in 1963, the series showcased the adventures of a mysterious humanoid alien known only as The Doctor who could travel through time and space fighting injustices with a rotating crew of human companions. Thanks to the inventive idea that those of the Doctor’s race, known as the Time Lords, can regenerate their body into a different form whenever they are gravely injured, seven actors played the lead role through the show’s initial run which ended in 1989.
The show was revived in 2005 and was an immediate hit both in England and around the world. Tranter was the BBC exec who spearheaded the revival and her current position in Los Angeles is the direct result of that success.
Currently Matt Smith stars as in the BBC series, following David Tennet and Christopher Eccleston. It was writer/producer Russell T. Davies who headed up the creative end of the revival who then passed the reigns of the show onto Steven Moffat in 2010.
But don’t expect Smith to be the star of this big screen adventure. Yates stated that the new film will be a separate entity from the series.
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. We want a British sensibility [in a screenwriter], but having said that, Steve Kloves wrote the Potter films and captured that British sensibility perfectly, so we are looking at American writers too.
I suppose for that matter we probably shouldn’t be holding our breaths to see things mentioned on the television series like The Time War.
This would not be the first time that Doctor Who has traveled from the small to the big screen. In the wake of the show’s initial success, two spin-off films were made in England featuring Peter Cushing in the lead role squaring off against one of the series’ most famous alien threats, the robotic Daleks – Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965) and Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966).
There have also been several other attempts to make film adaptations of the show. In the late 1970s, popular series star Tom Baker co-wrote a big screen adventure entitled Dr. Who Meets Scratchman, with Scratchman being another name for Satan. That attempt fell through due to lack of financing. Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy author Douglas Adams, who served as the series’s story editor for a season, also turned a screenplay idea entitled Doctor Who And The Krikkitmen that unfortunately never went anywhere. Johnny Byrne, who wrote a handful of episodes for the show in the early 1980s when Peter Davison was the star, wrote a script for a film attempt in 1990.
Personally, I’m not too concerned as to whether this film version can be considered canonical with the television series or not. Heck, the show itself, frequently violates its own continuity, but you’ll have this on a show that has been around for nearly five decades. All that matters to be is that they capture the same spirit that has made the show enjoyable in all its many different eras.