Published on September 28th, 2008 | by Christian Cawley
This Ends Now
In one eye, I’ve got Gary Gillatt in Doctor Who Magazine #400 telling me why Doctor Who needs to be produced in the USA in order for it to go mainstream there.
In the other, I’ve got the news that Jane Tranter’s move to the US is to do just that.
The self same issue of DWM recalls the relative travesty that was the 1996 TV Movie. Designed for an American audience, the Paul McGann and Eric Roberts starring adventure which also starred the delicious Daphne Ashbrook is much loved here at Kasterborous.
We all know it wasn’t perfect, but 12 years on, do we really need to be attempting to sell Doctor Who to a mainstream US audience?
So what if Heroes gets 12 million viewers on NBC? It gets around 5 million tops in the UK. Doesn’t make it less of a show.
Doctor Who pulls in 1.5 million or so on Sci Fi on a Friday evening in the USA. Now I don’t know what American kids are like, but I expect most of them smuggle booze out to parties at houses, parks, beaches – and so on – on a Friday night.
So this is my point: if the BBC are truly (and it is only a rumour thus far) looking to mount a US production of Doctor Who which is both parallel and seperate to the UK version – and couldn’t be anything but – then they need to stop what they’re doing, and consider for a moment the impact and implications.
Take Life on Mars. All but identical scripts have been filmed for the US version of the show – but consider how different 1970s UK was to 1970s USA. This makes sense as far as selling the show to an audience buying into a narrative based on a degree of nostalgia.
If the BBC are so intent on Doctor Who being a hit in the USA, for a start off they need to push Sci Fi into showing it at the right time of day. A Friday night isn’t the time for building an audience for a family drama, and that is after all what Doctor Who is. I don’t know if there are any mad media myths about family viewing in the USA that are ready to be squashed as those same myths were back in 2005 and the broadcast of Rose, but seriously, if the BBC want Doctor Who to succeed Stateside then the timeslot is paramount.
A parallel production is of course doomed to cause confusion (while the whole issue of continuities is for a different article entirely). A new Doctor, new companion… new monsters, perhaps, a different attitude to adventure… there really isn’t anything wrong with Doctor Who now, is there? After becoming at long last TV’s Number One drama, why on earth consider a US production of a technically different show?
Doctor Who is about adventure, life, it’s optimistic, thrilling and fantastic and scary at times.
If American broadcasters cannot see how these qualities might attract their audiences then Tranter’s (perceived, for the purposes of this argument) job is over before it begins.
An alternative reason to Tranter’s US move could be a lot simpler – she’s there to begin work on producing a Doctor Who movie. Such a production would require a certain amount of investment, and there’s no reason why the various portions of the BBC and those with interests in it shouldn’t be looking to get the biggest investors involved.
Yet… I have a bad feeling. There’s a bitter taste in my mouth. This isn’t about a Quinessentially British show being remade for a foreign audience. I’d welcome a manga version for the Japanese; Doctor Who is chocka full of insane creatures and plots that would be more than suitable for such an adaptation.
No, my issue is with the need, the why, the what’s the point? If mainstream American audiences are unable to stomach Doctor Who then to hell with them. Their Faux News diet of sanitised bull and fascist rhetoric is all that they deserve.
Watching Doctor Who would open their eyes to so much more.
So – give them Doctor Who, our Doctor Who with David Tennant and Billie Piper, or Freema or Catherine Tate; give them Russell T Davies’ clever writing and storylining, give them the bloody Slitheen if you have to.
Don’t though, don’t give them their own Doctor Who without all of this. There’s no magic there. The BBC might as well give them Crime Traveller.
Let this end now.