‘Harry Potter’ Director David Yates Developing ‘Doctor Who’ Movie (Updated)

Posted Monday, November 14th, 2011 05:01 pm GMT -4 by

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With the end of the ‘Harry Potter’ film franchise and ‘The Stand’ no longer on his plate, director David Yates has revealed that his next project is a full length feature film of the long running British show ‘Doctor Who.’

Yates directed the last four ‘Harry Potter’ movies and according to Variety, he is about to start work on developing a ‘Doctor Who’ movie with Jane Tranter, Executive VP of Programming and Production of BBC Worldwide.  With the teaming of Yates and Tranter, this represents the biggest budgeted attempt from high powered names to bring The Doctor to the big screen.david yates

According to Yates, this movie version will be not be associated with the current series on TV and would have a completely fresh approach to The Doctor and his adventures. “Russell T. Davies and then Steven Moffat have done their own transformations, which were fantastic, but we have to put that aside and start from scratch,” he said, “The notion of the time-travelling Time Lord is such a strong one, because you can express story and drama in any dimension or time.”

Why not have a continuation of the TV series? Nothing official has been said, but what is known about BBC funding rules is that if a show is funded by the license fee that citizens of Britain pay each year (which ‘Doctor Who’ is), then they can’t be forced to pay to see a movie in order to enjoy the show. That might explain the “start from scratch” approach Yates is taking.

Currently, Yates and Tranter are looking for writers to scribe the screenplay and although this is a British show, they are open to finding writers on both sides of the Atlantic. “We want a British sensibility, but having said that, Steve Kloves wrote the Potter films and captured that British sensibility perfectly, so we are looking at American writers too,” he explained.

Fortunately, Yates will be taking his time with this project. “We’re going to spend two to three years to get it right,” he said. “It needs quite a radical transformation to take it into the bigger arena.”

So far there has been no reaction from Steven Moffat or Russell T. Davies regarding the news.

tardis interiorThe announcement of a big screen adaptation can be taken as both good and bad by Whovians. Russell T. Davis did an excellent job in rebooting the franchise which sounds like what Yates is planning to do with his version. He would have to make a wide appeal movie that would introduce new viewers to The Doctor while not ignoring the canon of almost 50 years of history. That’s a tall order that can go wrong if not treated properly (as seen in the 1996 Fox movie ‘Doctor Who’).

Yates also said it would take 2-3 years before the movie is out so optimistically, the movie could be released during the 50th anniversary of ‘Doctor Who’ in 2013. Wouldn’t that be grand?!

No actors have been mentioned as to who will play the beloved Time Lord as the project is still in development. And with the whole clean slate approach, it’s doubtful that Matt Smith (the current Time Lord) or the ever popular David Tennant (the 10th Doctor) will be cast.

As a Whovian, I’m approaching this news with excited apprehension and hope the film version will be as successful and entertaining as the ‘Harry Potter’ franchise has been. It would be wonderful, though, to see the TARDIS in 3D and marvel how it’s bigger on the inside. So what do you think of the news and who do you think should play The Doctor? Let me know in the comments below!


Since posting this news about a ‘Doctor Who’ movie, these two tweets appeared.

One from the Doctor Who Magazine:


Later, this appeared from BBC America:

BBCAmerica Tweet

So what are we to believe? Here are my thoughts – and I preface again that these are my opinions.

BBC seems to like to control the type of information that comes out when it comes to Doctor Who. They previously said that the delay in airing ‘Doctor Who’ next year is because Steven Moffat wanted to concentrate on his other show ‘Sherlock’ which Moffat has emphatically denied via his Twitter account. They also put out that Karen Gillan would return as a companion in season 7 but she has since stated that she will not return as a full time companion.

BBC could be playing a semantics game as “in development” can also mean that it’s still an idea and nothing concrete is happening. So even if Yates is going forward, BBC still could say the news is just a rumor until there is a concrete script and pre-production has started.

The fact that it came from the director David Yates with quotes leads me to believe there is some truth in the story. BBC in the past has given the impression that it wants to control the timing and content of ‘Doctor Who’ news which is understandable since it’s their show.

What are your thoughts?

  • I think we will see the Doctor hit the big screen and in a big way. 

    BBC has protected the character the same way Marvel Comics Spider-Man, in that they will not allow anything to move until it is perfection. The special effects of today’s cinema can give the Doctor the rich imagery everyone has dreamed of for the last 49 years. The remaining piece missing is a story line that would not disappoint. 

  • I don’t think the idea to make it a stand alone from the TV series will work. Part of what makes The Doctor so great is his accumulated history and mythology. Without that, he’s just another witty time-travelling hero. That said, I’d still give a stand alone a chance. I just don’t have high hopes for it.

  • Janice Kay

    I think what people fail to remember is that technically the first episode in 2005,  “Rose”, was considered a reboot that had a fresh approach to the history of Doctor Who. As a stand alone episode it brought in new fans who knew nothing of The Doctor while keeping the basic premise of who and what he is for those who grew up with his history. One did not need to know the background of The Doctor to enjoy that episode.

    I think a movie with the same approach could work but a lot has to do with the writing. One of the reasons the series works so well is that the head writers and producers (Moffat and Davies) are big Whovians and respected the canon. You will need a team with the same enthusiasm and knowledge in order not to muck up the movie.

    • Oh! I know the 2005 series was rebooted for new viewers. However, it was still canon and, whether the viewer needed to actually watch the old episodes or not, the new Who did follow those… hence it starting with the 10th Doctor.

      If the movie throws that out altogether, it wouldn’t be the Doctor that fans have come to know and love. 

      Of course, if they want the new film to be a stand alone while acknowledging the original, they could always link it to the current Doctor Who by going for the “split timeline” premise that J.J. Abrams used for his Star Trek reboot.

      • Janice Kay

        Yes the series itself follows canon but what I was trying to get at was if you look at the first episode alone, it gave a new Doctor and not a lot of backstory. A Time War occurred and ended and we were introduced to an alien that travelled in a blue box. In that aspect, Davies took a fresh approach to Doctor Who. The basic character of The Doctor was left intact but new viewers who watched the first episode didn’t need to know he originally lived in a junkyard with his granddaughter or that he’d regenerated 8 times before. Expand the episode another hour and you would have had a great movie.

        There really isn’t anything in Yates statement that says he is going to change who The Doctor is ~  just that he is giving the franchise a “fresh approach” which I liken to what Davies did with the first epsiode. I’m a bit optimistic only because I find it hard to believe a British subject who I can only assume watched the show as a kid (only because he seems old enough to do so) would be so stupid as to completely change this iconic show without repercusions.

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