The Future of Doctor Who (possible spoilers for S7 finale)

Predicting Doctor Who finales is a high-risk strategy. I remember sticking my neck out a long time ago and declaring that Lucy Saxon was Rose or Romana in disguise. But the promises that “The Name of the Doctor” will be a game-changer of epic proportions does invite such speculation.Image

Will Matt Smith be quitting? Who will the mysterious Clara turn out to be? Theories abound.

I don’t propose to get metatextual about this. Instead, my predictions are based on commercial realities. Doctor Who seems to be on the verge of making it big in America. Mainstream, not cult, big. That kind of thing attracts big money and all the associated strings that come attached.

In the ill-fated but spasmodically brilliant Torchwood series ‘Miracle Day‘ we’ve already had a test run for a DW- universe series with a production team spanning the Atlantic. Some things about it were terrible, but the production values and writing input definitely had potential. Julie Gardner and Jane Espanson spring to mind as two high-profile people who could conceivably be very interested in a Stateside relaunch of Doctor Who. I’d also be willing to bet a significant sum on John Barrowman being involved. Glee, love it or loathe it, has blasted a trail for gay-friendly primetime TV. It would explain many things, including his vagueness on his involvement in the Anniversary Special and the future of the show as a whole.

But if I was a network executive having that pitched to me, I’d have real concerns. Too quirky, too English, too much weight of backstory, poor production value history, format not ideal for the one-hour-minus-commercial-breaks slot, insufficient movie potential and stories that are way too complicated. Then there’s the problem of the target audience. Kids or adults? Fans or mainstream?

So are we talking reboot? Quite possibly yes. If you buy the 12-regenerations theory, the Doctor’s coming to the end of his natural life cycle anyway. He’s gone most places, done most things, and it’s hard to think of anywhere further to go with him. Except back to square one. In fact, it seems to me that the main evidence in favour of my theory is the increasingly tired, desperate and played-out character of the current over-hyped Series 7b.

My money is on that happening, somehow, on the Fields of Trenzalore. And in the fullness of time, there will be a relaunch, with a lot of American production talent on board. Quite possibly a US show-runner. In a perfect world, Neil Gaiman would be offered the job. We can dream.

It’s even conceivable, likely indeed, that the BBC input will be minimal. And there will be movie deals on the table, you can bet on that.

But what about the English fanbase? What about the Anniversary Special, and the fact that as recently as this week, a new Executive Producer has been appointed by the BBC? Will he be moving to LA?

I think the key to that dilemma lies in the carefully timed clip released this week from the S7 Finale:

“The path I carved through time and space, from Gallifrey to Trenzalore. My own personal time tunnel, leading back to every moment I ever lived. Every step, every tear, every kiss. Even the days I haven’t lived yet.”

In those words lies the answer. It’s the perfect set-up for the British market. Even by the standards of recent DW publicity, the public setpieces of the filming of the Anniversary Special have been extremely staged. It’s a promotion, a reassurance if you like. David Tennant does not have a good track record of success on American TV, but the British public still can’t get enough of him. Matt Smith doing a Boris-type hanging stunt in Trafalgar Square – how British can you get? Filming with Tennant, a Zygon and a Queen Elizabeth I lookalike in a castle. Not to mention the high-profile announcement of Tennant and Piper’s return.

The main action reboots and crosses the pond (parden the pun). The BBC continues to make occasional crowd-pleasing Specials for the domestic market. More committed fans, who are willing to put their money where their mouth is, could have access to further material online. Big Finish have been doing it with audio, on subscription, for years. Don’t tell me the BBC haven’t been looking at that model. Put it together with House of Cards on Netflix, and you have a winner.

The potential is huge. For a start, you could get Tennant back. Heck, you could even get Tennant and Billie Piper back – just nip down the Time Tunnel and turn first left. You could find ways, digitally or otherwise, to revisit other eras, too. CG animation is pretty close to the point where Baker or Hartnell could be recreated, and CGI monsters look a helluva lot better than people in lame plastic suits. Matt Smith could stick around if he feels so inclined. . The possibilities are endless, the purists are kept content and a lot of people in Cardiff get to keep their jobs.

It would be nice if decisions like this were made on the basis of artistic integrity, but in fact that is rarely the case. It usually boils down to money. The Doctor will survive, in some form. And often, whatever the hardcore fanbase claims, these things work out better than you think.

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3 thoughts on “The Future of Doctor Who (possible spoilers for S7 finale)

  1. Okay, so I gave in! HA! And it seems that most of this you have already shared with me on LJ. So, the only thing I will add here is that the quote, which I hadn’t heard, does also reflect what I’ve been saying all along about this season and Moff’s plan for it. That it is a way to explore the Doctor’s memory of who he is, every story, every kiss, etc. So, to me, it doesn’t portend much in and of itself.

    It is possible that you are just, like me, becoming fed to the back teeth with the story as it is unfolding and are longing for the reset. And instead, they are going to explore the history of the Doctor and then let it go, for the future on British TV only.

    I think your idea is a great one, but it might not be the solution Moff plans. I do like the idea of splitting Doctor Who in two. And I love the idea of bringing Tennant and Piper, both of whom have been in talks with someone in America recently, back to the show on a permanent basis. We could very easily have a Rose/Ten franchise on American TV. Or we could have a left turn situation where they are the history of the show…and only they reappear for the American audience.

    No matter how you slice it the show must address perpetual regeneration in canon. Though, it is possible that all our our hope will be dashed on that score as well. The show could simply shrug off the Old School rules as “no longer relative due to the Time War” and go on forever. I would not put any of these developments in S7 outside the loop of Moff simply explaining that the Doctor is being forced to recall his former selves so that another entity…say The Great Intelligence…or the Zygons…can recreate him for their own purposes. And once they have his name, they have the key to his life. Hence, River seeks it and Clara seeks it…and now it is a full episode…leading to the 50th where we learn how the Doctor was taken captive or copied or whatever in the first place. And possibly we have a slight reboot of Eleven. Again, taking us to a normal English S8 with Clara and rebooted Eleven or the next Doctor and a new show runner.

  2. Obviously I have an advantage in being from the future etc. but… really? Where’s the upside for the BBC in sending one of their biggest moneymakers off to go make money for someone else?

    1. They wouldn’t be the first people to sell a golden goose to Hollywood. They don’t have the resources to make DW movies themselves, and they could make an awful lot of money out of selling a property they have nurtured, particularly if they retain the spin-off rights as I suggest in my post.

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