How quickly times can change. I’m not referring to the rapidly changing time-zones that are the cornerstone of the British time-travel series, Doctor Who. I’m referring to the fact that in the relatively meager amount of years I’ve been a Doctor Who fan (my first Doctor was Peter Davison, the Fifth Doctor in 1984) there have certainly been some highs and lows in the life of the program.
From 1984 to 1990, I could count the number of real people I interacted with on a daily basis who were also Doctor Who fans on one hand. About halfway through college, I met several other like-minded folk (I feel obliged to name-check fellow Word of the Nerd writer, Mark Driscoll) and even converted a few new fans, myself. From 1993 to 2005, you could up the count to between twenty to thirty other people I knew who shared a love of the show and the characters.
It’s quite a different story, today. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting someone wearing a Doctor Who t-shirt, or seeing a display of books and coffee mugs and keychains in the mall, or hearing teenaged girls in line at the pharmacy talking about how River Song HAS to be The Doctor’s wife, “for realz”.
I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Doctor Who has never had a higher public recognition factor than right now, today, at this very minute. That’s not to say that it won’t change tomorrow, and again the next day, but if you’ve ever poorly tried to explain the series to a non-fan, take a moment and feel proud that we have “arrived”. We are living in that moment where the “guilty-pleasure” we’ve greedily held to ourselves, much like Smeagol and his magic ring, has become an award-winning, critically acclaimed, can-do-no-wrong, must-see television series. For crying out loud, it was the most downloaded television on iTunes last year! Look around you at all of the young, new fans and have a private “I told you so” moment, to validate the times people thought you were strange for being a Doctor Who fan!
Last week, in a volley of interviews with a New Zealand newspaper, The Waikato Times, Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith basically dropped an indirect invitation to Peter Jackson to direct an episode of Doctor Who, set in New Zealand. Jackson then responded saying,
“I’m a huge Doctor Who fan, and I think Matt’s fantastic. Just name a time and place, and I’ll be there!”
Since then, Doctor Who Executive Producer, Caro Skinner has replied to Jackson,
“It is beyond wonderful that Peter is a fan of the show and it’s beyond flattering that he’d even think about it… I’m absolutely sure that we couldn’t afford him but, you know, we can always negotiate. His enthusiasm is just fantastic of course.”
With the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who rapidly approaching in 2013, I can’t help but think that a marketing genius like showrunner Steven Moffat could do no wrong in letting Peter Jackson helm an important episode. In fact, according to The Waikato Times, Neal Cross (the creator of Luther) has already public volunteered to pen Jackson’s episode. Cross also lives in New Zealand, and has already scripted a Doctor Who story, set to air in the second half of the seventh series.
Even more recently, Looper director Rian Johnson (Breaking Bad, Brick, The Brothers Bloom) has revealed on Reddit during an Ask Me Anything feature, that he would love to apply his twisted perception of time-travel to Doctor Who. Having already directed two episodes of Breaking Bad for television, Johnson was asked what other television shows he would like a crack at. He replied,
“I’d love to do a Game of Thrones.
But what I’d really kill to try, although it would be terrifying because I’m such a big fan of it? Doctor Who.”
Again, we’re faced with a very popular creative individual who is associated with another big science fiction/fantasy property that would make for some fantastic marketing synergy. If advanced word about Looper proves correct, any man who can do time-travel right with Bruce Willis can surely produce a kick-ass Doctor Who episode.
With this caliber of talent stepping up to say that they not only want to enjoy Doctor Who, but also want to play in the timey-wimey sandbox, doesn’t it start to seem like 13 episodes (plus a Christmas Special) might be too few? Doesn’t it make sense to take advantage of this creative boom and rise in popularity of the show to put some extra dollars in the budget to produce a higher episode count featuring big names to draw in even more viewers?
More importantly, should all of these pressures and and decisions rest squarely on the shoulders of one man? With well-versed writers and producers in fringe “Doctor Who” team players like Neil Gaiman, Chris Chibnall, Mark Gatiss and Gareth Roberts, couldn’t several production teams be set up to produce more frequent, higher-caliber Doctor Who? It would require an almost Tom Baker (Fourth Doctor) level of commitment from Matt Smith or the Doctor who follows after him, but knowing that all tides change and every peak quickly morphs into a valley, I wish the BBC would strike while the iron is hot. Throw out a few new spinoff shows (the Victorian-Era adventures of Madame Vastra and Jenny, along with Jackson Lake, Rosita, and original series characters Jago and Litefoot, or possibly a future-space-archeology adventure series featuring River Song, please!) and really soak up the entirety of just how big Doctor Who has gotten in the last fifty years. I really trust these people to make the 50th Anniversary of my favorite show a very special time for all of us. I just hope they realize just how many of us are waiting on the edge of our seats to see what happens!
No series can keep getting as exponentially popular as Doctor Who is at the moment. The fall of more than just the Ponds and the Eleventh has got to be looming in the next half a decade, so would it really hurt to let just a little pride come, before the fall?
Please comment below and let Word of the Nerd know which “A-list” creative types in television, movies, books and comics you would like to see get a chance to produce some official episodes of the good Doctor!