I considered two questions recently: Should the Indiana Jones films ever be remade? Could there be an American version of Doctor Who? The answers were radically different.
I’ve enjoyed the Indiana Jones films. Earlier today, I saw the IMAX re-release of Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was pretty good, although I’m still not sure that it or any of its sequels (I also liked Last Crusade) would be among my fifty favorite films. I like the series, but would not consider it to be a sacred cow.
That said, I still don’t think it would be a good idea to remake the films with a new director or actor. The series was essentially derivative of 1930s Republic Serials, pulp heroes like Doc Savage, and older Lost World characters like Allan Quartermain and Professor Challenger. What distinguished Indiana Jones from his predecessors was mainly the performance and charisma of Harrison Ford.
If there’s ever any interest in introducing a new version of Indiana Jones, I think they should just go with a new character, or use an existing one. The series is grounded in history, so you could do a similar character without violating any copyrights. Allan Quartermain and Professor Challenger are now public domain, so they’re available as protagonists. From an entirely financial perspective, I could appreciate that Indiana Jones is a bigger name than either of those, so an Indiana Jones remake would get more attention, although it requires profiting on the love people have for the original Spielberg/ Lucas/ Ford films.
I’m a bigger fan of Doctor Who, and I would like to see an American version of the series. I’ve written before about how a film series could work, and who the villains could be.
The Doctor currently on TV is technically the same character introduced in “An Unearthly Child.” And I can understand a desire to keep that unique. This one character has survived changes in casting (thanks to the ingenious concept of regeneration) and showrunners. To a degree, it just wouldn’t be the same if there’s a different version of the Doctor running around on movie screens, or in American television.
On the other hand, the show is far removed from its origins. Creators Sydney Newman, C.E. Webber and Donald Wilson are all dead. As are the first three actors to play The Doctor. There was also a film version in the 1960s with a different Doctor played by Peter Cushing. I’d argue that there isn’t anything authoritative about subsequent performances or writers, aside from the quality of their work. Douglas Adams (of Hitchhiker’s Guide fame) was a terrific showrunner, but this shouldn’t prevent anyone else from telling their version of a rather unique story.
Many of the things we associate with Doctor Who came later. The people writing the 1960s childrens show didn’t know what they were doing, and had no clue that the series would be populat fifty years later. A remake, either in film or American television, could have a more definitive plan, incorporating later additions to the series, such as Galifrey, the Master and the Weeping Angels.
Current showrunner Stephen Moffat is opposed to any film series, or American remake. And I can understand his concerns. A new character that may reach a wider audience could temporarily overshadow the original, and result in some short-term decisions that are ultimately harmful to the series. These are things comic book fans worry about, whenever there’s a new adaptation of our favorite hero. Someone in charge could have the wrong impression about what works best about a protagonist, and ruin the character in the eyes of others. Or they could give the story a definitive ending, and make it seem as if this would be the ending for the original series as well. Though the format (an immortal time traveler explores the reaches of space with one or two human companion) is one that doesn’t encourage any sort of conclusion to the adventures.
There are two significant differences between the two series. One is the sheer number of stories to draw from. There have been four Indiana Jones films. There have been about 226 stories on Doctor Who. You could argue that Indiana Jones has had peripheral adventures, in various novels as well as The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. Though, I wouldn’t object if anyone wanted to adapt the latter into a prequel series.
The Doctor is a different type of character than Indiana Jones. It isn’t limited to one performance, thanks to the concept of regeneration. I would also argue that the Doctor is more distinctive than Indiana Jones, so it’s shadier to rip-off the series. Jones’s enemies are Nazis, tribesmen and Asian cults. The Doctor can fight those guys as well, but he also has the Cybermen and the Daleks. Someone owns copyrights on those.
The Doctor’s like Sherlock Holmes. I have no problem with other writers, actors and directors reinterpreting the character and the series. Though I could understand that Moffat is also miffed that his series about Sherlock Holmes in the 21st Century was quickly followed by an American version.