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Published on February 18th, 2014 | by Drew Boynton

“Time Lord” Enters Its 51st Season: If Doctor Who Was American

History is full of “What Ifs”.  What if Germany had won World War II?  What if JFK had not been assassinated?  What if Tony Stark had been bitten by the radioactive spider instead of Peter Parker? (the answer to that, of course, is “The Amazing Iron Spider”!)

Well, the boffins over at Smug Mode have done a “What If?” to Doctor Who.  What if Sydney Newman’s ideas had somehow popped up in 1960s Hollywood instead of “back across the pond” in the UK… what if Doctor Who had been an American show (and yes, we know that for a few months in 1996, it was, but read on…)?

It’s almost hard to imagine, isn’t it?  A person almost needs a quick drink or a trip to the bathroom after thinking of how nightmarish this scenario could have turned out.  Risking their mental and physical health, the Smug Mode chaps went so far as to make an alternate Who history and a list of American actors who could have played each Doctor in their era.  Their list even includes fun mock-up photos of how each actor could be imagined in the show.

The full list and photos can be viewed on BuzzFeed.  I won’t repeat the whole list verbatim, but will say that it is an amusing “What If” of actors.  My first impression is that most of the men on the list probably would’ve been too famous at that point in their careers to do a lower-budgeted show like Doctor Who on television.  For instance, Jeff Goldblum would make a quirky Eighth Doctor, but he was at the height (no pun intended) of his movie stardom in the 80s and 90s.  On the other end of that scale would be Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks), who would have been totally unknown and barely 22 years old if cast as the Fifth Doctor.

As a certain black-wearing evil doer once said,  “A cosmos without the Doctor scarcely bears thinking about.”  Would that cosmos still include Nicolas Cage as the Ninth Doctor?  (shudder)  Or the sometimes-campy Vincent Price as the Third Doctor?

There are some other things to consider when it comes to a USA-based Doctor Who.  Would the Doctor travel in a Bill & Ted-style glass phone booth?   Would the show be known more for it’s car chases than it’s science fiction?  Would Chicken McNuggets have taken the place of Jelly Babies?  And just how soon would it have been revealed that the Doctor was half-human on his mother’s (Baywatch star Pamela Anderson) side?

And would all of the baddies still have cool British accents?

Kasterborites, do all of these “What Ifs” about an American Doctor Who amuse you, or just plain sicken and scare you?



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About the Author


Drew has been a fan of Doctor Who ever since he flipped through the channels late one night and saw a girl blowing up an army of funny robot men with nothing but a slingshot and some old coins. He currently lives somewhere in the woods of Missouri with his beautiful wife Barbara.

22 Responses to “Time Lord” Enters Its 51st Season: If Doctor Who Was American

  1. avatar vortexter says:

    I imagine an American version Dr Who to be similar to Lost in Space or any other similar Irwin Allen type sci-fi show. Fun, but glossy and glitzy and not as memorable or dare I say it, ‘real’. I would also like to say that a Brit version of Star Trek would not have worked either. Instead of a square jawed Kirk hero we would have had a skinny brit actor with wonky teeth and an upper class accent. Locations of our favorite shows have made our respective shows what they are. Classic and beloved sci-fi. Thank goodness for no parallel universes where we switched production between continents.
    Saying that, I did love the McGann version. Well most of it…

    • avatar An opinionated person says:

      … I agree with the majority of that. The only line I, and quite a few “Brits”, as you put it, would find a little… would be “a skinny brit actor with wonky teeth and a upperclass accent.”

      Skinny- it depends on your choice of actor. Not all of us are skinny.
      Wonky teeth- Please don’t listen to the stereotypes, friend, I have perfectly strait teeth and so do all of the people I know.
      Upperclass- Again, depends on where you look.

      Please don’t assume that we are all the same, and we won’t assume that you are all the same, yes?

      • avatar stlshawn says:

        skinny with defined 60′s hair was all the rage in mid sixties British movies that i’ve seen. That seems the thing, make the “sexy” lead skinny.
        Of course, look at 2000′s era American leads,,,, dark spikey over-gelled hair that did the funny little flip thing in the front. That’s just the way the wind blows for these times.

        If Star Trek was late 70′s Kirk would have been wearing a ball cap, had sideburns, while yelling on his communicator “Get my butt outta here Scotty, we got a smokey on our tail,, yeeeehawww!”

        I’m just saying that the definition of “leading man material” changes as times change, and somewhat drastically.

        Now that i think of it, I really do have a lot of respect for the Capaldi casting in the light of what i just said. They could have gone “hunky”, or “skinny little punkish”, or even “dark gothic style actor”, but they went went a definition of “male lead adventure character” that you just don’t see anymore.

      • avatar vortexter says:

        I should say that I am a skinny Brit myself although my teeth aren’t wonky in any shape or form! No offence meant but what I was trying to say is that American Sci-fi is usually set in a different mould than British. Would Patrick Troughton or Bill Hartnell have been cast in the role of a starship captain? Alternatively, would our fave show have survived if William Shatner had been cast as the enigmatic and mysterious Doctor with his matinee good looks etc? Who knows.
        American Sci-fi and fantasy lead the world stage in TV in recent years, something that Dr Who is just starting to embrace. Our respective shows have a lot to learn from each other.

  2. avatar TimeChaser says:

    Considering how American TV networks viewed sci-fi for so many decades, I doubt an American Who would have lasted as long as the real one has.

    Assuming it did survive though, and this was the result, its nothing if not interesting. I think they made some decent choices – Gene Wilder in particular, and I often think he would make a good Doctor when I watch Willy Wonka – and managed to reasonably equate each American actor with their British counterpart. That is up until the new series, at least after Nic Cage.

    But Harrison Ford as the War Doctor? I can totally see that.

    • avatar TimeChaser says:

      In addition: I have no idea who their choice for 11 is. As an alternate, I nominate Matthew Gray Gubler of Criminal Minds fame. His character Reid is a quirky young man, just as Matt Smith was. He dresses very Doctor-ish sometimes on his show, and I’ve even seen him dress Doctor-like off the show.

      • avatar Simon Magellan says:

        I seem to remember seeing a internet campaign for MGG to be the first American Doctor! – Probably because his character is a DW fan and in one episode attends a SF convention dressed as Tom Baker’s Doctor (with Nicholas Brendan dressed as Matt Smith!). It does, however, depend on how you view the Doctor – his “Reid” persona might suit some, but we’ve also had more Authoritarian types – Hartnell, Pertwee (and possibly Capaldi) amongst the eccentrics.

        • avatar TimeChaser says:

          To me at least, MGG fits in with the young eccentric type along with Matt Smith, if the list of American Doctors is trying to match up as much as possible with the real Brit Doctors (Gene Wilder as 4? Totally can see that).

  3. avatar Paddy says:

    Tony Shaloub would have been a very good call if this had been real. I could see him as a Seventh-esque incarnation.

  4. avatar mrjohnm says:

    Having not looked at the original list, I don’t know if Dustin Hoffman is on it, but I always said he’d make a great Doctor. TimeChaser mentioned Harrison Ford as the War Doctor. That would be brilliant!

    The author of this piece mentions Bill and Ted’s phone both. But I always assumed the phone both in that film was a tribute to Dr. Who, so if the show was originally American, something a little more iconic for the U.S. would have been used. Maybe a cherry-red ’55 Chevy?

    But the truth is that Dr. Who has lasted so long simply because it is British. The very idea, if it had originated in the U.S., would have never left the drawing board.

    • avatar drewboynton says:

      I read an interview years ago with the makers of “Bill & Ted” (maybe in an old issue of Starlog magazine?), and they claimed to have no idea what Doctor Who was. They were shocked that they had picked a phone booth-style time travel machine that was so close to the TARDIS idea. I’ve always remembered that interview–and never totally really believed that they weren’t somehow familiar with DW…

  5. avatar rickjlundeen says:

    Over all, a great an inspired list with the mist brilliant choice being Wilder as the 4th Doctor. I’ve often thought wilder was really the only American actor who really kind of DID portray the Doctor in Willy Wonka. The two problems I had on the list was Kyle McLachlan as the 5 the Doctor only because I think he would gave been in his teens at the time……and Donald Glover as the 11th Doctor?!? Please, he’s barely an actor, let alone a good one. The rest of the list was quite well thought out though.

  6. avatar Justin Walker says:

    James Cromwell as the War Doctor.

    • avatar craigt68 says:

      James Cromwell as the War Doctor? YES!!! Spot on casting in some Inferno-esq parallel dimension!

  7. avatar Chris Hughes says:

    If Doctor Who Was American… it would have been cancelled years ago.

    • avatar Drew Boynton says:

      I agree! It would have either gotten a quick “trial” of a couple seasons or so (like the original Star Trek) or would have burned out and fizzled away like Lost or X-Files.

      • avatar vortexter says:

        I would also argue that if Doctor Who was American, there would be a good chance that every episode would be held in the archives…

  8. avatar tinorozzo says:

    We already had Time Tunnel

  9. avatar Geoff says:

    I’d love to hear “Doctor Who is filmed in front of a live studio audience” at the beginning of each episode a la Happy Days!

    • avatar Elvis says:

      That would be hilarious! Oh someone has to make this a parody because it could be epically funny!

  10. Honestly america would ruin it, is what I think. ..And I’m american. Just wouldn’t be the same.

  11. avatar Elvis says:

    Now that Moff says it’s insane, someone HAS TO DO IT ~ as a parody of course. Not like the Inspector Spacetime or whatever, but full on with American accents and slang, perhaps even remaking some of the best or even better worst episodes as though they were American. “Idiot’s Lantern” for example or “Fear Her” would be ripe for such a parody. Or a Rose who wears an American flag shirt instead of a Union flag one. The TARDIS would have to become one of those old wooden BELL TELEPHONE wooden phone-booths like there used to be in lobbies indoors and The Doctor would have to explain what they were to a cell-phone generation.
    The sillier the better and it would be great camp fun to laugh with while we wait for proper Who.

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