you make the companion "Luke Skywalker" and the Doctor "Obi Wan Kenobi"

Film You will have heard and if you hadn't you're hearing it now, that Harry Potter director David Yates in conjunction with BBC Worldwide has it in mind to make a Doctor Who film.  This sort of thing used to happen a lot when the show was off air, Doctor Who Magazine's Gallifrey Guardian news section filled with monthly reports of this or that producer or this or that actor being involved (Denzel Washington?).  As you might expect the reaction, especially on Twitter has been mixed, the usual spectrum of opinion.  Let's irrationally and pick over Yates's quote from Variety helpfully truncated by the Doctor Who News page:

"We're looking at writers now."

Creative control of the franchise has always pivoted between producers and writers.  When Sydney Newman had the original idea for the slot, it was fleshed out by Verity Lambert, David Whitaker and Waris Hussein.  It's a shared concept and universe.  But when the show came back it's been very writer led.  It's interesting that this is going into reverse and I wonder if they realise that for it to work properly they'll need a fan, not just someone who has an appreciation of the material.  The non-fans who've worked on the recent tv series and turned in decent scripts have either been rewritten heavily or guided by the fans producing them.

"We're going to spend two to three years to get it right."

In context this quote looks like it means they're going to spend two or three years looking for a writer which is really quite bizarre.  Presumably they'll audition loads of them, bring them in, ask them for a pitch of how they want to make it and decide which one to go with.  It's the how they want to make it which is a concern.  Let's hope they've had a good long think about who this is for.  Fans might look on it politely but few will properly embrace it.  The British public in general, the no-we, might like it, but even some of them will wonder why "Doctor Who" is being played by some different bloke and a huge amount of the publicity will be about just explaining that.  The global audience?  Well, that's the real trick isn't it?  Which is why ...

"It needs quite a radical transformation to take it into the bigger arena."

... arguably if you have a character actor and a TARDIS the job's already done.  Time machine lands, the Doctor and a companion are deposited into the adventure and you're there.  Which makes you wonder what Yates means by "radical transformation".  The fear is of course he's decided that Doctor Who is about the mythology, Gallifrey and all that nonsense and that they need to tell an origin story.  The tv show didn't feel the need to do that in 1963.

Start talking about "radical transformation" and you're turning it into something which isn't Doctor Who.  When Spielberg was prepping the TV movie/pilot in 1996, he decided the show needed an origin story and that led to the mess that was the The Leekley Bible, the horror of which some soul at the wikipedia has managed to distil into a single sentence:
"The pilot was to feature the half-human Doctor seeking his father, Ulysses, through various time periods—contemporary Gallifrey (where Borusa dies and is merged with the TARDIS, and the Master becomes leader of the Time Lords), England during the Blitz, Ancient Egypt, and Skaro (where the Daleks are being created)."
Doctor Who is the antithesis of Douglas Campbell and the heroes journey and if he isn't, you make the companion "Luke Skywalker" and the Doctor "Obi Wan Kenobi", anything else and you've missed the point.  And looking again at that international audience, the more continuity you load on, the less transferable you make it.  There's a reason the man with no name has no name and it some of the very best Doctor Who is simply a fantasy genre version of A Fistful of Dollars.

"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."

Which is the only indication that Yates has a clue.  He even used the capital letters in the right places in Time Lord, something even I've been lacks with on occasion.  The problem is demonstrating that in a two hour feature film without it becoming just about time travel.  Much as a love the Moffat era, it's still the stories about the Doctor and his companions landing somewhere and saving the Earth from an alien invasion or on a base under siege which are the show's DNA.  The trick is not simply making Independence Day or Aliens with a Time Lord somewhere inside and that's why you need a fan.

"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."

Which seems the clearest indication that this isn't going to simply be A.N. other story, but an origin tale, because if it's A.N. other story, you don't need to start from scratch, you do just tell a really good tale with a character actor and a police box.  Plus if you do start from scratch you're also alienating a fair portion of the viewing public because it's not going to be part of the current continuity.  The beauty of Doctor Who is that it's one long story, that's why Davies then Moffat have just essentially continued where the TV Movie left off, give or take a time war.

The reason, presumably, is so that it doesn't step on the toes of the television series, but they're already doing that by making a feature film.  It's like trying to make a television version of Harry Potter now.  If and when the film is released, how's the current television actor going to feel watching someone else playing the part on the big screen.  About as happy as Hartnell was when Cushing turned up.  Though at this point, any film is going to be as much of a curio as the Cushing films.  And about as canonical.  Sorry, that had to be said.  The real tragedy is that we're finally going to get Doctor Who on a massive budget and it won't "matter".

"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."

If you like.  Of course, the argument for could be that superheroes and other mytho-literary characters have had multiple versions.  Both Spiderman and Superman are currently being rebooted only a few years after their last iteration and that it's just about the story.  Superman Returns was at the cinema at the same time as Smallville was on television.  The Doctor himself is arguably an iteration of Merlin or a "big space Gandalf".  The Camelot myth survived First Knight and indeed Chris Chibnell's Camelot.

Well. yes, I know all of that.  And David Yates is a very good director even if he wasn't the best director to work on the Harry Potter franchise.  And I did at some point suggest it wouldn't be so bad if there was a US version of Doctor Who which did start from scratch and had an alternative continuity and this wouldn't be that much different.  And it's not like Doctor Who's ever had a single creator, so it's not like trying to make Buffy without Joss Whedon.  With Paul Bettany or Bill Nighy as the Doctor and Emma Stone or Rosario Dawson as the companion with a script by Peter Morgan or Charlie Kauffman, you might have something.

It's just that this is Doctor Who.  Someone else has already ruined the Transformers films for me.

Updated! 23:25  Or as a commenter at Tpless Robot puts it:
"It can be popular enough to attract a new fandom unaware of what makes DW great in the first place, re appropriating your fandom and filling message boards with crap.

I'm not saying this will happen, but I'm sure G1 Transformers fans said "What's the worst that could happen?" Sure they can ignore Bay's films, but now they see Autobot stickers on redneck pickup trucks. Now the word Transformers is associated with the most mindless, hedonistic, misogynistic part of society.

"I give Yates infinitely more credit than Bay, but if his version is popular, it won't exist in a vacuum. It will affect your fandom."
Arguably the show coming back effected our fandom and there are classic Whovians who hate the way they see the show having been taken away from them. But you can't imagine how irritating it's going to be once this has come out for every conversation to begin with "What did you think of the film?"

Updated! 23:30 Bleeding Cool gathers together some denials from Twitter. Edward Russell who's in charge of licensing in Cardiff (and would know) says "Perhaps? Maybe one day. But not right now!" and Doctor Who Magazine says it's the same material which has been knocking around for a few years.  The difference in this case is that it's a director who no one had heard was previously attached to the project making noises and the feature film in development at BBC Worldwide will be the same one which was announced at Cannes.  So either it is a nothing or Cardiff is out of the picture.  Hmm...

Updated! 15/11/2011   An hour ago, Steven Moffat tweeted:
"Announcing my personal moonshot, starting from scratch. No money, no plan, no help from NASA. But I know where the moon is - I've seen it."
Which really rather explains what he thinks (and how much he's been consulted about it presumably).  In other words this all probably has about as much veracity as that bloke who wanted to reboot Star Trek.  No The other one [tweet noticed by Gamma Squad, Gamma Squad post noticed by @scottm].

Updated! 2/12/2011 From Doctor Who News, from MTV, a new quote from David Yates on the topic of the film, speaking from the red carpet event for the BAFTA Los Angeles 2011 Britannia Awards:
"I can't really talk about that because its such a long way away. We're principally looking for a writer, and we'll start with that. Everything has to start with a great script, so that's more important than casting.

"I've lived with (fan) pressure for so long. What's pressure? I don't know anymore! It's fine, it's good. It's such a wonderful character and such a wonderful world. It's exciting.

"It's a long journey and we're going to take our time with it. Right now I'm looking forward to a vacation, frankly!"
The fan pressure he's talking about is presumably from Potter fans. He doesn't know what's about to hit him does he? Cue dozens of tweets in Steven Moffat's direction and the following responses from him:

Movie thing: David Yates, great director, was speaking off the cuff, on a red carpet. You've seen the rubbish I talk when I'm cornered.

To clarify: any Doctor Who movie would be made by the BBC team, star the current TV Doctor and certainly NOT be a Hollywood reboot.

Which is amazing simply because this isn't anything like what David Yates said in the initial interview (above) or indeed on the red carpet.

So either Steven's got the wrong end of the stick, David Yates is going to be directing what amounts a Cardiff product or this really is a reboot and he's trying to wrestle some kind of control over it.  Or he's joking.

Either way, some people need to get into a room (at the very least Moffat and Yates's people if not the actual persons) to thrash out a coherent message on the project and a press release clarifying everything, because this just keeps getting stranger...

 Updated! 2/12/2011 again!  And stranger.  Steven's emailed The Register to "clarify" things.  He says that Yates "was talking off the cuff and a little prematurely", there's no plans for a Doctor Who movie at the moment and anything would have to be a joint venture between the BBC and BBC Worldwide.  As I've already said that's still at some variance from the Variety article so either meetings have been had and Moffat's now grabbed back his sash of Rassilon or we're going to get a very interesting quote from Yates soon offering his side of the story.

Updated! 20/12/2011  Well this is fairly unequivocal.  From BBC Breakfast this morning:

It's an imaginary film. David Yates - a very brilliant director - was talking off the cuff and slightly off-message. We're not going to do a film of the nature that he described, which would be rebooting the story and having a different Doctor and being in a different continuity - that would never happen, that would be insane and that would be insulting to the audience. I hope one day we will do a film, maybe even soon, but it will be very much an offshoot of the television series with the same Doctor and all that. (and you doing it?) Yes.

Move along.  Move along.

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