Home > Geek, Movies > Doctor Who, the other movies

Doctor Who, the other movies

With all this talk of a potential new Doctor Who Movie, I think it’s time to talk about the Timelord’s previous trips to the big screen. By which I don’t mean the 1996 TV movie featuring Paul McGann. I mean the big screen.

In the Sixties, Doctor Who was a new and exciting show, having first reached our screens in 1963. By 1964, Dalekmania was sweeping the nation. The pepperpot dictators where new, exciting and nothing of their like had been seen before, especially on national television. By 1965, Amicus Studios 1 had released Dr. Who and the Daleks and would later release Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. in 1966.

They planned to release a third, but it never got made. This is probably because the first two movies where terrible. They where panned by critics at the time and modern viewers have a lot of difficulty with them as well. When they were made, Doctor Who was still in its infancy as a show; The First Doctor, William Hartnell, played The Doctor as an unpredictable and crochety old man with a mysterious past. In the movies, the horribly underused Peter Cushing looks like Hartnell, but the character is entirely different. For a start, he’s called Doctor Who (as in his surname is “Who”), and he’s clearly cast as a kindly old white-haired genius.

All mystery is stripped from the titular hero in the first five minutes of the movie. To modern viewers, Cushing’s character is mortal and bland, and an elderly, doddery cliché at that. Action sequences are pretty much handled by younger characters2 , and we don’t really care about any of the cast. Compared to even the earliest episodes of the classic series, it pales in comparison. (This is quite a feat, as the movies are in colour).

On the other hand, the classic movie posters look fab

The plots are stripped down versions of Dalek stories from the original series. This improves the pacing, but also makes the whole thing less engaging. Even the pleasure of seeing multi-coloured Daleks and the oddly painted Thals does not make up for intense boredom the movies produce.

As family-friendly action movies made in 60’s go, they aren’t that bad. But because it features Daleks and a TARDIS, we expect more. I can remember watching both these movies as a child, and being very disappointed. They are the Doctor Who equivalent of being promised chocolate and getting carob.3.

If I was producing a new Doctor Who movie today, I would give these movies some repeated viewings. Their greatest flaw is that they imitate the elements of the original series without any of the charm. Even though there is now a greater body of lore surrounding the show, the Peter Cushing movies should serve as an example as to why one should not re-invent the wheel when one is playing in someone else’s creative sand-pit.

1: Interesting studio, Amicus, often mistaken for Hammer Films as they also tended to make movies starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Dr Terror’s House of Horrors is one of theirs.
2: Roy Castle in the first one, Bernard Cribbins in the second. They play characters of course, but it really doesn’t matter, because both actors don’t have any real chance how talented they are. Both Cribbins and Castle are charming of course, which is why both went on to become much loved celebrities. (In the UK at least).
3: Carob looks like chocolate, and sort of tastes like chocolate if you don’t have taste buds. It used to be billed to concerned parents a healthy, vegetarian alternative to chocolate, but I suspect it was actually produced to instil into children a deep seated mistrust of vegetarians

Categories: Geek, Movies
  1. November 17, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Pretty much had the same conversation last night before you arrived… 🙂

    I find it interesting that Bernard Cribbens has been a companion twice to two different doctors as two different characters, even if one of them was in a different canon (because as far as I am aware, the 60s movies are not considered canon in the TV show…)

    And this is where I think there is a major bone of contention with the new movie… comments about ‘starting fresh’ imply that they do not seek to acknowledge the canon. Casting a new Doctor is fair enough, it can be done easily, but to ignore all that has gone before and try to create a standalone storyline may be a mistake fans will not forgive…

  2. November 17, 2011 at 11:57 am
  3. November 18, 2011 at 3:21 am

    My suspicion is that the new movie plans are REAL and the comments were made because the movie will come out of the conclusion of the TV Series in 2013.

    Perhaps the BBC has decided, without announcing it yet, to wrap up Doctor Who at the 50th anniversary and then allow for a complete reboot of the whole franchise post-2013. That’s what Star Trek (Paramount) did and what BSG did – rebooted the franchises post-tv series. After all, what better time to end a series would their be than on it’s 50th Anniversary. How many other shows can say they’ve been around that long short of Corrie Street or other American Soaps.

  4. November 18, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    Re: footnote 3
    I fee exactly the same way.

  5. Morgan Hamilton
    November 18, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    I read the ‘ No Canon’ blog post & what a bunch of hogwash for the most part. While there may not be an ‘official’ BBC canon bible there IS at least a basic framework of one.
    Yes, the very nature of DW makes it impossible to have a canon that is set in stone. Does that mean there isn’t one? No. How important it is & what is included is up to the individual. For some that means pouring over *every* scrap of information available. For others, like myself, the basic framework is enough. I will admit I just don’t understand the concept that there is no canon at all because if there wasn’t at least that basic frame work I mentioned then none of the episodes would have anything to do with any other episode. And that just isn’t the case is it? A show’s (or book/movie series or whatever) canon is something that is built up over time, piece by piece & just by the nature of the beast is a patchwork. Sort of like those slider puzzles we had as kids. The difference being those puzzles had a fixed number of parts while an ongoing series is continually expanding & mutating is subtle (and occasionally not so subtle) ways.

    As for my thought on Yate’s version of DW? Just an all around bad idea. Of course I think any DW movie done in the vein of today’s action movies is most likely a crappy idea because DW has always been about the story & the characters not the special effects, CGI or otherwise.


    • November 18, 2011 at 10:57 pm

      You mean consensus, continuity and framework. The show has these things. Storytelling needs these things. It doesn’t need a canon, a canon is when the person in charge tells you what stories you are allowed to accept as more real than the others.

      By the strict definition of canon, it is something dictated from the top. There is no ‘Pope’ of Doctor Who, and those who could claim such a title deny it. Quite rightly. The show is an infinite, constantly shifting arabesque of ideas, all featuring a single hero with a few easy to define traits. Everything else changes. To give it a canon is entirely wrong.

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