There has been a lot of buzz and rumors about a possible Doctor Who movie for a few years now. The BBC has been very tight-lipped about the subject, but they are certainly, at least in theory, trying to test the waters and see how viable of a concept a big budget theatrical Doctor Who adventure could be. There are no waters to test, the concept is extremely viable. Russell T. Davies, who had been the showrunner on Doctor Who from 2005 until 2011, and who was the man responsible for reviving the character after it had lay pretty much dormant for 16 years, has recently stated that he would be up for returning to Doctor Who if the job were to write a screenplay for a feature film. Apparently, Steven Moffat, who took over as showrunner when Davies left, has asked the writer to pen an episode every year since he took over, and Davies has always declined. The thought of a Doctor Who movie is an intriguing one, and I hope to see it one day come to fruition. BBC, it seems, is already testing the waters by releasing both the 50th anniversary special, "The Day of the Doctor" and the series 8 premier, which introduced the world to Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor, theatrically for limited engagements. There is interest in a possible film from the fans, and I for one hope to see it come to fruition. There is one problem, however.
Steven Moffat has gone on record as stating that a Doctor Who film is in the negotiation stages and that if everything can get ironed out the film would be made by the current Doctor Who production staff and that it would star the current Doctor, whoever that may be at the time the movie officially gets rolling. I have issues with that statement. First of all, I think a Doctor Who film will be a wonderful and delightful thing no matter what form it takes. Current Doctor and continuity? Cool! Rebooted continuity and new completely non-canon Doctor? I'm down with that too. But, as I sit here wondering at the vast possibilities and the plethora of ideas that could be (maybe) coming our way, is using the current staff and the current Doctor the best thing to do? I mean, Doctor Who is already a very cinematic television series. They do a great job of telling stories and having them be like little movies in themselves, so would making a Peter Capaldi film be really any different than just doing a bonus extra long episode of the series? Don't get me wrong, with only 14 episodes a year including a Christmas special (and sometimes we don't even get all 14), I will eat up any and all extra Who you throw at me. But I can't help but think that there may be potential here that is being overlooked.
First of all, you need to understand (if you don't already) that this wouldn't be the Doctor's first time in a theatrical motion picture. Peter Cushing starred as an alternate version of the First Doctor in two theatrical motion pictures in the 1960s, way back when William Hartnell was still starring in the television series. The two films, Doctor Who and the Daleks (1963) and Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966), when watched today by current Whovians seem to leave a whole lot to be desired. In fact, I would venture to say that if you became a fan of Doctor Who with the 2005 revival the odds are pretty good that you are going to hate these movies. They are basically just re-tellings of two First Doctor television story arcs, "The Daleks" and "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" and they don't really follow the mythology of the Doctor Who we know today at all. First of all, Dr. Who is is actual name in the movies, and he's a human not a Time Lord. He's sort of an eccentric old tinkerer who invents the TARDIS literally in his back yard, and the control room pretty much just looks like a garage with Christmas lights strung around it. It is still bigger on the inside, though.
The movies really aren't terrible movies, but in order to enjoy them you have to watch them in the original context of when they were made, which can be hard with something you've come to know so well. First of all, they were pretty much made just to introduce Doctor Who to an American audience, as Doctor Who was a BBC show and we didn't get it over here back then. The United States didn't start getting Doctor Who until 1972, and then it was only in a few select local markets. PBS, which was where most Americans first started watching the series, didn't begin airing it until 1978. So in 1963, America had never heard of it, so these movies were a way of introducing the series across the pond. Also, keep in mind that Doctor Who was brand new in the UK as well in 1963. It was still in its first season. Most of what would now be considered to be continuity errors weren't then, because they were things that hadn't even been established yet. The Doctor wasn't even revealed to be a Time Lord until the last serial of the Second Doctor, "The War Games". A lot of things that we take for granted these days were things that weren't always true to the character when he was originally created. Originally, he was just a mysterious old man with his teenage granddaughter and two sidekicks, and all of those qualities were present in the films. Yes, the original television serials are better, but these movies are still worth watching and they have one advantage over the original television stories, they're in color. But I digress. This isn't about those old movies, this is about the possible new one and why Steven Moffat might not be going in the right direction with what he wants to do with it.
I really don't think any Doctor Who film should involve the current television Doctor. There is no reason for doing it at that point. There really isn't a story you could tell on film that you couldn't tell in the series if you're going to do it that way. There is, however, a story that we have only had glimpses of and heard tale about, but have never actually seen. Yes, I am talking about the Clone Wars of the Whoniverse, the fabled Time War. This is a story you really couldn't tell on television. I mean, you could in like a miniseries or something, and I would be completely cool with that too, but a good Who Trilogy that starts with the Eighth Doctor in the first movie and ends somewhere with the War Doctor in the last movie, and all the awesomeness that would be contained in the middle, it really makes my heart leap for joy at the thought of it. The Time War is the story that everyone wants to see, and I think, deep down, that the writers want to tell. They keep tip-toeing around it, just show it to us for Pete's sake! Also, there is a very good reason, other than the supreme badassness of the idea, to do the Time War as the Doctor Who feature film (or feature film series): it would feature every aspect relevant to the character.
Much like the original Peter Cushing films, one of the biggest reasons to make a Doctor Who feature film is to introduce the character to a wider audience. The Time War is a really easy way to do that, especially since there is over 50 years of continuity, because it features pretty much everything that makes Doctor Who what it is. Daleks, Time Lords, regenerations, time and space travel, all of it in one story. I can see nothing but up sides to making this picture using this storyline. To me, it's a bit of a no-brainer, and while I love Doctor Who in its current television form, and while I have slowly warmed up to Peter Capaldi's version of the Doctor (isn't that always the way, though?), I still firmly believe that using him (or whomever the current Doctor may be) for any feature films is just the wrong direction to go in. I'm not saying they would be bad movies doing it with the current Doctor, I'm not saying I wouldn't be the first in line at the theater if it was the current Doctor. But I sincerely think that it would be a lost opportunity to do something uniquely special. To tell a story every fan wants to see, one that would require the budget and feature the action worthy of a major motion picture, and to bring back a beloved Doctor (Paul McGann) who, unfortunately, got a raw deal by being featured in only one television movie. He never got the chance to shine as the Doctor, and I think this film (or series) could be the chance for both he and John Hurt to truly leave their marks on the franchise, and judging by the one each story of each of them that we have now, I think those could potentially be marks that would stay with the franchise for another 50 years.