About a week ago, I made the joke that things were starting to get ugly on the whole “Dr. Who” movie thing, but I didn’t realize that it was going to really heat up, and tonight on Twitter, things got very confusing very quickly.
This all began when Variety ran a story a few weeks back in which David Yates was named as the director of a “Dr. Who” bigscreen film. Yates talked about how they were looking for writers and just starting development on the project. “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,” he said. Those are some pretty specific quotes, and Yates also said he was going to be working with Jane Tranter, BBC Worldwide’s LA-based exec VP of programming and production.
The thing is, no one said anything to Steven Moffat, and that’s a problem.
Tonight at around midnight LA time, Moffat tweeted the following:
“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.”
He followed that up about ten minutes later with a second tweet:
“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.”
If that was indeed off-the-cuff talk from Yates, then that’s one thing, but the full Variety article, which is behind a paywall, had more than just one off-the-cuff quote, and it hinted at a much larger ongoing conversation that Yates has been involved in, even if Moffat hasn’t.
“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,” Yates was quoted as saying. Yates specifically said that they won’t be following the continuity of the series at all, which immediately set off shockwaves in fandom, and for good reason. “Who,” more than many shows, is built specifically to allow for recasting and different interpretations, and the show is nearing a point where a bigscreen reboot of sorts might make sense. After all, the Doctor has so far been played by eleven different actors, and the show’s mythology suggests that each of the Time Lords can regenerate a total of 12 times, so there can be 13 different incarnations of Dr. Who. If we’re at number eleven right now, it’s reasonable to think that these last two changes are going to be fairly significant ones.
I love the current actor playing the character, and I think Matt Smith, like David Tennant before him, has been incredibly great at carving out his own version of such a well-known character, and I love both Amy Pond (the intolerably cute Karen Gillan) and River Song (Alex Kingston), who has added some interesting wrinkles to the overall mythology of the show. I think the work that Steven Moffat is doing on the show is about as good as the show’s ever been, and series five is one of the best runs on the show ever. If they were to just throw everything out the window and try to do something that stands alone completely, it risks seriously infuriating fandom, and if they tie it directly into what already exists, it risks overwhelming casual viewers who are afraid to try to jump in and figure it out.
So who’s right? Did Yates misspeak? Should Moffat pull a Leno and hide in someone’s office to listen in on some conversations? What’s obvious right now is that there is a serious lack of communication between the different “Dr. Who” camps, and until they’ve got everyone on the same page, maybe no one should be talking to the press.
In the meantime, Moffat’s got a second series of “Sherlock” coming soon, and he’s one of the three credited writers on “The Adventures Of Tintin,” which hits theaters in the US in a few weeks.