Doctor Who At The Movies
With news that the BBC show could be on its way to the big screen, Cameron takes a look at Doctor Who on film. Get ready for Daleks, Peter Cushing and Tom Baker at his bonkers best.
As we all know, Doctor Who is, and always has been, the world's greatest television show (take that Star Trek! Take that The Wire!! Take that Eastenders!!!) but the Time Lord hasn't always been restricted to the small screen. With news slowly bleeding out that an official bona fide movie is in the works (well the script is "in development") my thoughts turn to the adventures of The Doctor on the big screen. Some that were, some that might have been and some still to come...
DR. WHO AND THE DALEKS (1965)
This was the very first movie outing for Gallifrey's finest, way back in 1965 though referring to it as a 'Doctor Who' film could have the trade descriptions act people on alert. The poster for the film has the petrifying pepperpots disproportionately huge compared to The Doc and his chums. Even the title will make some Whothusiasts quake with rage, his title being reduced to 'Dr.' as opposed to the widely accepted 'Doctor.' What's more, everyone's favourite Time Lord wasn't played by William Hartnell, instead Peter Cushing was drafted in to pilot the TARDIS.
The unique selling point, if I may use such a disgustingly modern and hideous phrase, is that for the first time the Daleks were in colour. Sorry, in COLOUR! Yup, for 18 months or so the population of Britain had to endure the exterminating extra terrestrials in plain old black and white. Poor blighters. But then came along their cinematic outing, with flashy reds and blues; not to mention a new design. Of course, the story was a tad familiar to those who flocked to see it, being based on the second televisual story for The Doctor, The Daleks (or whatever you pedants want to call it!).
It's a cracking yarn with Cushing making a delightful addition to actors who have portrayed the Doctor. Best viewed on a rainy Saturday afternoon, though what you'll make of our hero being an Earth-born scientist may have some fans reaching for the cloister bell...
DALEKS' INVASION EARTH: 2150 A.D. (1966)
And so Dalekmania came to an end. The British viewing public were subjected to the sight of plungers and the sounds of "EXTERMINATE!" continuously for over two years (and you think they're on telly a lot now!) but this outing was to be the last big screen outing for the Daleks and The Doctor (so far). Box office receipts weren't as high for the sequel (perhaps to due to oversaturation of the little guys) and so the franchise returned to the small screen. And books, comics, toys, etc... A pity really as Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. is, for my Cyberman-battling gold-dust, the better of the two movies.
Again it's based on a previous outing for Skaro's finest, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, though this time The Doctor has been removed completely from the title of the film and barely makes an impression on the poster. New Who fans will delight in seeing Bernard "The Guv'nor" Cribbins in fine form as the 'assistant' and, though the world of London 2150 is very similiar to 1966, the sign IT IS FORBIDDEN TO DUMP BODIES INTO THE RIVER still chills. Not as chilling, however, as hearing the word "Watford." Now that's creepy...
AT THE EARTH'S CORE (1977)
Whaddaya mean 'whaa???' Sure, this film doesn't have The Doctor, the TARDIS or even the flippin' Daleks but it does have Peter Cushing playing a Doctor. This oddity sees a Victorian-period scientist (cough, cough) and a companion drilling into the Earth's core (surprised?) where they meet giant telepathic flying-reptiles, prehistoric monsters and cavemen. Curiously this movie was to have been a genuine Doctor Who movie with the producers of the first two films, Max Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky, on board to continue the Time Lord's adventures on celluloid. But the BBC weren't happy to continue so Rosenberg and Subotsky made some changes and banged out At The Earth's Core. It's well worth a watch, especially with the knowledge that it was to have been a Doctor Who story. Not forgetting Doug "You Might Remember Me From The Simpsons" McClure...
DOCTOR WHO MEETS SCRATCHMAN (1970s)
And here's another 'what could have been.' This outing was originated by a certain Tom Baker along with Ian Marter (who played the Fourth Doctor's companion Harry Sullivan) inbetween filming scenes fighting off Sontarans and Cybermen. Doctor Who Magazine beautifully detailed the Scratchman saga in issue 379 after the script turned up in paperwork donated to the British Film Institute on behalf of the late producer John Nathan Turner. Twiggy and Vincent Price were linked with roles and Baker described the tale as "Worzel Gummidge horror" and "extremely violent." The story itself could best be described as "interesting" but if any proof was needed of Baker's utter bonkersness, then this was it. The Doctor and his companions getting balls fired at them? Daleks in a pinball machine?? Ding ding! But terrifying scarecrows? Come on Tom, that would never work.... *coughs*
LAST OF THE TIME LORDS (1990)
Incredibly, before Russell T Davies came along, the notion of The Doctor being the last of his kind had been kicking around for some time. A movie project launched in the early Nineties went under the title, Doctor Who: Last of the Time Lords. A poster (see pic above) was even produced as a tool to sell the film and included the tagline: "The Man. the Myth. The Movie." (The early Nineties were a difficult time.) In the wilderness years a number of ideas, producers, directors and actors were involved at various points and at differing degrees which all culminated in the 'TV Movie' starring Paul McGann in 1996. An extensive account of these projects can be read in the excellent reference book, The Nth Doctor by Jean-Marc Lofficier.
THE UNTITLED DOCTOR WHO MOVIE PROJECT (2011)
Since 2007 the BBC have publicly been tied to a movie. Jane Tranter, controller of fiction at the time, mentioned in an interview with The Guardian that a film version was in no way ruled out and she even hinted that David Tennant would play The Doctor. The Scotsman himself has recently added fuel to the fire stating that he would like to be involved. Although not confirmed officially it would appear that Russell T Davies is preparing a script after his agency's website stated that Doctor Who - The Movie was on his schedule (though this info has since been removed). Could this be the "Special Project No. 3" that the outgoing showrunner mentioned in this month's Doctor Who Magazine?
But what can we expect? With Steven Moffat & Co. too busy making television adventures it would appear that a new production team would be employed. Due to the way the BBC works, any adventure could not impact on the small screen adventures meaning the movie would have to work on its own and avoid any potential confusion for those sitting at home paying their license fees. So a Tenth Doctor 'missing adventure' (a story set between onscreen stories) would seem like the most likely bet and, given the writer's love for the character of Rose Tyler, I don't think I'm assuming too much to suggest that Billie Piper would be tagging along for the ride too. Maybe we'll get to see them battle that Mortgage of Doom after all...