The news that the Hollywood actor Johnny Depp had signed up to star in a big-budget movie version of Doctor Who has the Internet rumour mill into warp drive.
The current series of the BBC’s popular long-running science-fiction drama, Doctor Who, had barely reached its UK Big Bang climax before rumours started to appear regarding the future of the BBC Wales-produced science-fiction show.
A few days ago, Tor broke the news concerning Depp by publishing a piece saying, “Earlier this week, the news of Johnny Depp starring in Doctor Who appeared on article mill PubArticles”, but added that it appeared that the article had been moved and then removed from the site.
Certainly, by following the two links that Tor give, the reader is greeted by a 404 error: “Sorry, bur we can’t find that page. We seem to have lost that page!”
However, by typing “Johnny Depp” into the search box, we found the “missing” article at this PubArticles web address.
Sure enough, the article claims that Depp “has been confirmed to play the part of time traveling Doctor Who [sic] in the big screen treatment of the same name” and that the film is “slated for a Summer 2012 release”.
The article also claims that Russell T Davies – who, as head writer and executive producer, oversaw the period that starred, first, Christopher Eccleston and, then, David Tennant as the Doctor – moved on from the television show in order to transform Doctor Who to the big screen.
Davies, the article quotes, says:
Bringing the Doctor Who franchise to the theaters is a regeneration for the character beyond the usual one. A theatrical release has a greater range and can reach millions of more people than just the fans. There will be brand new concepts and the film will be just as adventurous, scary and humorous as the television programme. But none of us working the film will forget what makes the character great and interesting and the long-time fans will not be disappointed because yes, the Daleks make an appearance.
The article then claims that Depp gave a brief telephone interview confirming his involvement in the project:
The Doctor will absolutely have a serious romance. I can not reveal who my co-star is yet but I’m told she is a strong, lovely actress that everyone knows and is perfect for the part. The Doc is always portrayed as this mysterious Demi-God. Russell has penned this wonderful, exciting script that humanizes this all-powerful alien. The Doctor is actually given a name in the film, I'm told he never really has one. He also acts like a Physician in more than just his title. He's called The Doctor for a reason. His mission is to journey through time and space with a crew of volunteers treating humanity's illnesses brought on by invading aliens. He cures the bubonic plague and then goes to Africa to fight Ebola. The film will be very human and relevant and have a great message.
Initially, there was a mixed reaction from fans of the show, many dismissing the story as a complete fabrication. However, media and Internet speculation went into overdrive. Then, yesterday, io9claimed that the BBC had told them that ‘there are “no plans” for a Who movie, and any talk is “pure speculation”.’
Grains of truth
Depp has been suggested as a future possible Doctor on various occasions over the years, due, to his ‘eccentric’ performances in such films as Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland and Pirates of the Caribbean.
It’s certainly doubtful that, if a movie is in the pipeline, it would be announced in the way that PubArticles claimed. Proper publicity statements would be made and press conferences held. And an A-list Hollywood actor would hardly have an informal chat on the phone!
That said, rumours do sometimes have a habit of being true, or, at the least, a grain of truth in them.
In 2008, rumours started to circulate that the pop superstar Kylie Minogue (Neighbours) was being lined up to appear in the show. Though initially denied, the BBC later confirmed that the singer would indeed be joining David Tennant’s Doctor as his companion, Astrid Peth, for the 2008 Christmas special, Voyage of the Damned.
At around the same time, it was also rumoured that the late Dennis Hopper (Easy Rider) was to appear, too. And, sure enough, Davies later confirmed in the book The Writer’s Tale that the Hollywood actor had approached them and that he was due to appear in the same story as Minogue. In the event, however, time constraints meant that this didn’t come to fruition.
Other Hollywood actors were subsequently linked with possible appearances in Doctor Who, including Nicholas Cage (Face/Off), Brian Cox (Manhunter) and Timothy Dalton (James Bond). In November 2009, while on a visit to Wales, where the series is produced, Cage dismissed the rumour concerning himself, telling WalesOnline: “I’m here for a private business meeting. I like Dr Who but it’s not what I’m here for.”
The rumours surrounding both Cox and Dalton, on the other hand, turned out to be true. Both actors appeared in Tennant’s swan-song episodes, The End of Time, last Christmas/New Year – with Cox playing the Elder Ood and Dalton the Time Lord President Rassilon.
Time Lord GaGa
A couple of weeks ago, headlines screamed that another singer, Lady GaGa, was going to appear in the show. The Daily Star likened the singer’s sartorial attire to that of the alien creations that appear in the programme, saying that she had already sported costumes that resemble the Cybermen, Yeti, Ood and Tree People.
The paper claimed that “a source” had told them that Lady GaGa was “no stranger to dressing up and would be more than a match for the Doctor. It would be a great coup to get her.”
That all turned out to be drivel, and was based on a throwaway remark made by one of the show’s writers, Gareth Roberts, during an interview he gave to Doctor Who Magazine.
Following the UK broadcast a week ago today of the series finale, The Big Bang, Matt Smith wowed his fans with a surprise appearance alongside Orbital on the stage at the 2010 Glastonbury Music Festival. Since then, all manner of stories about the series have appeared in the press, including claims that Depp is to play the Doctor in a new big-budget movie and that Smith has suggested that the former soccer star, Eric Cantona, appear in the TV series in a bad-guy role.
At the movies
Since 1963, Doctor Who has appeared in many other formats, spawning literally hundreds of books, comics, audio plays and cartoons. However, despite the show’s longevity as a TV series and its mega popularity since being revamped in 2005, the only theatrically released movie versions were produced way back in the 1960s.
These two movies starred Peter Cushing (1984) as “Dr Who” and Roberta Tovey (Touch of Death) as his granddaughter, Susan. Both films also featured the Daleks, the Doctor’s oldest and most popular adversaries. The first film, Dr. Who & the Daleks, was released in 1965, and also starred Jennie Linden (Women in Love) as the Doctor’s eldest granddaughter, Barbara, and the late Roy Castle (Record Breakers) as Barbara’s boyfriend, Ian. In the second film, Daleks – Invasion Earth 2140 AD (1966), two new companions were introduced – Tom Campbell, played by Bernard Cribbins (She), a police officer who inadvertently stumbles into the Doctor’s time machine, and the Doctor’s niece, Louise, played by Jill Curzon (The Champions).
Once derided because they diverge so spectacularly from the TV series, these films have long adopted cult status among Doctor Who fans and movie aficionados alike. However, at the time, due to the under-performance at the box office of the second film, a planned third, again involving the Daleks, was never produced.
It wasn’t until 1996 – 30 years after the Cushing movies and seven years after the original TV series had ended – that another Who film was to see the light of day. This time, the role of the Doctor went to Paul McGann (Withnail & I), in the straight-to-television movie, Doctor Who. Unlike the previous films, this one is classed as cannon, and carries directly on from the original TV series. The film actually begins with the seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy, who is gunned down during a gun battle, dies and regenerates into the eighth Doctor. Then, when the TV series was revived in 2005, the narrative of the first story, Rose, makes it clear that the new Doctor, as played by Christopher Eccleston, is the ninth incarnation.
The Depp/Who-movie story sent the media and Internet discussion groups into a frenzy of argument and counter-argument. Could it be true? Is there to be a Doctor Who movie? Is Johnny Depp going to play the Doctor? While the possibility seems unlikely, talk of another movie version of the TV show have surfaced and resurfaced for decades.
In between 1966 and 1996, a number of films were proposed. The one that probably came nearest to fruition was Doctor Who Meets Scratchman, which was written by the actors Doctor, Tom Baker, who plays the fourth Doctor, and the late Ian Marter, who played his companion, Harry Sullivan. Other proposals included The Last of the Time Lords, The Jewels of Time and Fathers and Brothers.
In 1993, BBC Enterprises announced that they would be making a movie to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the series. Called The Dark Dimension, it was written by Adrian Rigelsford, was to be overseen by the veteran Who director, Graeme Harper, and would have seen Baker return as the fourth Doctor. In the event, however, the project was shelved.
Whether the latest movie rumours are genuine, wishful thinking or mischief making, only Time will tell!